Tryst Bar: Beer, Wine & Spirits Basics
Beer is made by fermenting starches from boiled, sprouted cereal grains and flavoring it with
hops. Fermentation occurs when yeasts eat up the sugars converted from the grain starches and release
heat, CO2 and alcohol (ethyl alcohol or ethanol) as byproducts. Beer is composed mostly of water.
Regions have water with different mineral components; as a result, different regions were originally
better suited to making certain types of beer, thus giving them a regional character. Hops gives beer
bitterness and dryness as well as citrus, herbal, floral and fruity aromatics. It works as a preservative
and balances off what would otherwise be a yucky, bread-yeast tasting substance. Yeast are live
cultures which generate carbonation and alcohol by consuming sugars. Yeasts add subtle flavorings,
particularly if added to the bottle for a second (or third, or fourth) fermentation. Malt is barley
(sometimes, corn, wheat, or rice) that has been steeped in water, germinated , then kilned to convert
insoluble starch to soluble substances and sugar. This provides the food for the yeast and gives beer
caramel or chocolate characteristics and sweetness if not eaten by the yeast.
Beer may be categorized into two main types based on the yeast used during fermenting. Lagers (top
fermenting yeast) are of Germanic origin and universally popular. Ales (bottom fermenting yeast) are
Lager –Beers produced with bottom fermenting yeast strains, Saccharomyces uvarum (or
carlsbergensis) at colder fermentation temperatures than ales. This cooler environment inhibits the
natural production of esters and other byproducts, creating a crisper tasting product. It comes from the
German word for storage. Refers to maturation for several weeks or months at cold temperatures
(close to 0°C /32°F) to settle residual yeast, impart carbonation and make for clean round flavors.
Pilsner (Pils) implies strict temperature controlled fermentation ensuring that the yeast eat all the malt
and don’t produce by-products other than alcohol. Makes for a crisper, cleaner finishing beer with
straw to golden color and pronozd hop spice and bitterness. Pilsner can be traced back to the Czech
city of Plzen (or Pilsen) which was previously part of the German speaking Bohemian Kingdom.
German Pilsners tend to have a bit more citrus-like zest.
Bock are a full bodied strong lager, heavily malted dark with chocolate and dark malts (some modern
bocks use lighter malts) that are usually 6-7% abv. They were traditionally brewed for special
occasions, often religious festivals such as Christmas, Easter or Lent. It has a complex malty, toasty
flavor, low hop bitterness and a slight sweetness to linger into the finish, a creamy, off-white head, and
moderate to moderately low carbonation.
Ales – Beers distinguished by use of top fermenting yeast strains, Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The top
fermenting yeast perform at warmer temperatures than do yeast's used to brew lager beer, and their
many byproducts are more evident in taste and aroma.
Pale Ale is big in Belgium. They are less bitter than other pale ales with sweet to toasty malt
overtones, pale straw yellow to amber hues and thick, clinging, rocky white heads.
Dubbel is a rich malty beer with some spicy / phenolic and mild alcoholic characteristics, mild dark
fruit aromas and flavors may be present, mild hop bitterness with no lingering hop flavors, a steely
caramel flavor and a medium to full body with an expressive carbonation.
Triples are bright yellow to gold and light bodied with a be big, dense and creamy. Aromas and
flavors are complex and often spicy, phenolic, yeasty, fruity, estery, bitter and sweet. Belgian candy
sugar lightens the body ands adds complex alcoholic aromas and flavors. Small amounts of spices are
sometimes added as well.
Saisons (Farmhouse Beers) were traditionally brewed in the winter to be consumed throughout the
summer months, using whatever ingredients were available which makes for a diverse style.
Flanders Reds are typically complex, light-bodied, reddish-brown and infamous for their distinct
sharp, fruity, sour and tart flavors which are created by special yeast strains. They blend old and new
beers and are aged.
Lambic – naturally fermented using sour, wild yeasts. Other organisms such as Lactobacillus bacteria
produce acids which also contribute to the sourness. Old and new beer are often blended together and
with fruit. Gueze is blend of young and old Lambics aged for 2-3 years to produce a dryer, fruitier and
more intensly sour style.
Witbieren (White Beers) are very pale from light malts of wheat and oats and cloudy from yeast.
They’re spiced, generally with coriander, orange peel and other spices or herbs. The crispness and
slight twang comes from the wheat and the lively level of carbonation.
Session – Less than 5 percent ABV beers featuring a balance between malt and hop characters and, typically, a
clean finish. The purpose of a session beer is to allow a beer drinker to have multiple beerswithout
overwhelming the senses or reaching inappropriate levels of intoxication.
Pale Ale – a hoppy, lighter colored ale. American pale ales tend to be hoppier.
IPA – India Pale Ales were made to withstand the voyage around Cape of Horn from England to India. The
addition of a ton of hops (and higher alcohol) preserved the beer and typically results in a bitter but aromatic
Bitter – this style uses paler malts and more hops than English Mild ales. Most are gold to copper, light bodied,
with low carbonation and alcohol. Bitters are not really all that bitter. Traditionally served cask conditioned.
ESBs (Extra Special/Strong Bitter) are essentially more aggressive and more balanced Bitters.
Brown Ale – Spawned from the Mild Ale, Brown Ales tend to be maltier and sweeter on the palate,
with a fuller body. Color can range from reddish brown to dark brown. Some versions will lean
towards fruity esters, while others tend to be drier with nutty characters. All seem to have a low hop
aroma and bitterness.
Scottish Ale – a long boil produces deep copper to brown color, a rich mouthfeel and malty flavors
and aromas. Overall hop character is low and smoky characters are also common.
Stout – like Guinness, have light-ish body and are highly drinkable. Nitro tap systems provide creamy
texture. Bitterness comes from both roasted barley and hops. Oatmeal Stouts are generally smooth
and medium to full bodied. The oats also give a touch of sweetness. Milk / Sweet Stouts have a larger
amount of residual unfermented sugars that give the brew more body and a sweetness. Russian
Imperial Stouts are high in alcohol, plenty of malt character and low to moderate levels of
carbonation with huge roasted, chocolate and burnt malt flavors.
Porter –heavily roasted malts make the beer dark with chocolaty, bittersweet flavor.
Barley Wine –as strong as wine (8-12%) which allows some to be aged for years. Most barley wines
range from amber to deep reddish-browns, though British barley wines were always dark.
Weissbier – Hefeweissen is a south German style of wheat beer. "Hefe" means "with yeast", hence
the beers unfiltered and cloudy appearance and unique phenolic flavors of banana and cloves. It is
often dry and tart with some spiciness, bubblegum or notes of apples. Orange peel is often added.
Serving it with a lemon wedge is an American thing. Dunkelweissens are dark weiss beers. Kölsch –
is almost pilsner-like, light bodied, very pale, with a medium to slightly assertive hop bitterness.
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American Ales and Lagers:
Adjunct Lager – Adjunct cereal grains, like rice and corn cut costs and produce a light body, pale color, low
bitterness, thin malts, low to moderate alcohol and less flavor.
Light Beer –generally a lighter (lower in alcohol, calories and carbohydrates) version of a breweries premium
adjunct lager. Very low in malt and hop flavor with a light and dry body. For the most part this style has the
least amount of flavor than any other style of beer.
Steam Ale – a uniquely American style lager, brewed with yeast that works faster at warmer
temperatures. Today's examples are light amber to tawny in color, medium bodied, malty, mildly
fruity with an assertive hop bitterness. Anchor Brewing Co. trademarked the so other beers must be
legally referred to as "California Common."
Red/Amber Ale/Lager – A catch all for beer red and amber hued beers that tend to focus on the malts, but
they’re generally balanced.
West Coast IPA – A hoppy take on British India Pale Ale.
Bottle-conditioning Secondary fermentation & maturation in the bottle, creating complex aromas & flavors.
Cask ale or cask-conditioned beer is the term for unfiltered and unpasteurised beer which is conditioned
(including secondary fermentation) and served from a cask without additional nitrogen or carbon dioxide
pressure. Cask ale may also be referred to as real ale, a term coined by the Campaign for Real Ale, often now
extended to cover bottle-conditioned beer as well.
IBU (beer) International bittering units.
Plato, degrees (beer) Expresses the specific gravity as the weight of extract in a 100 gram solution at 64°F
(17.5°C). Refinement of the Balling scale.
Specific gravity A measure of the density of a liquid or solid compared to that of water ((1.000 at 39°F (4°C)).
It is an indirect measurement of the amount of sugar, and thus ethanol, present in a given alcoholic beverage.
The gravity of a beverage is measured using a hydrometer.
Terminal gravity (beer) Synonym for final specific gravity.
Wine is an alcoholic beverage usually made from grapes. Wines made from grains, such as
barley wine and rice wine, resemble beer and spirit more than wine. In these cases, the use of the term
"wine" is a reference to the fact that their alcohol content is higher than most beer, rather than
production process. Red wine is made from the must (pulp) of red or black grapes that ferment with
the skins, while white wine is usually made by fermenting juice pressed from white grapes, but can
also be made from red grapes with minimal contact with the grapes' skins. Rosé wines are made from
red grapes where the juice is allowed to stay in contact with the dark skins long enough to pick up a
pinkish color, but little of the tannins contained in the skins.
Crushed grapes can ferment without added sugars, acids, or enzymes. All that is needed are the natural
yeasts in the air that settle on their surface. Yeasts consume the sugars in the grapes and produce
alcohol during primary fermentation, which often takes between one and two weeks. After the primary
fermentation, the liquid is transferred to vessels for the secondary fermentation where remaining
sugars are slowly converted into alcohol and the wine becomes clear.
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The main things that winemakers have to decide are the sourcing of their grapes, when to pick them,
what temperature to start fermentation at (most tanks have glycol jackets to cool them as fermentation
puts off heat), when to remove the skins from the juice, whether or not to age in French or American
oak, glass or stainless steel, and when to bottle and sell their wine. The time from harvest to drinking
can vary from a few months for Beaujolais nouveau to many years, however, only about 10% of all
red and 5% of white wine will taste better after five years.
With sparkling wines, additional fermentation takes place inside the bottle, trapping carbon dioxide
and creating bubbles. Sweet wines still have some residual sugar after fermentation. Late harvest
wines have even more sugar. Ice wines concentrate sugars by removing frozen water. The yeast can
also be killed before fermentation is completed; for example, by adding high proof brandy. In other
cases the winemaker may choose to hold back some of the sweet grape juice and add it to the wine
after the fermentation.
Wine Classifications: European wines tend to be classified by region (e.g. Bordeaux and Chianti),
while non-European wines are most often classified by grape (e.g. Pinot Noir and Merlot). More and
more, however, you can’t make this generalization as market recognition of particular regions outside
Europe increases as does the intense popularity or some varieties. Some blended wine names are also
marketing terms, such as Meritage which is generally a Bordeaux-style blend including Cabernet
Sauvignon and Merlot.
Vintages: A "vintage wine" is one made from grapes that were all or mostly grown in a particular
year. A wine's character varies from year to year but vintages are mainly important only for higher end
wines and collectors. Non-vintage wines blend more than one year’s production for consistency.
Tasting Wine: The sweetness of wine is determined by the amount of residual sugar in the wine after
fermentation. Dry wine has only a small amount of residual sugar. Inexperienced wine drinkers often
mistake the taste of ripe fruit for sweetness but almost all the wines we drink have zero residual sugar.
Many flavors come from the specific type of grape. Other flavors are imparted by aging in oak casks;
chocolate, vanilla, and toffee flavors almost always come from the oak and not the grape itself. Yeast
metabolism produce some aromas such as barnyard and and bready. Wines are also affected by terroir.
Some may have a mineral flavor, because some salts are soluble in water (like limestone), and are
absorbed by the wine. Wine aroma comes from volatile compounds that are released into the air. This
can be enhanced by twirling the wine glass or serving the wine at room temperature.
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Beaujolais Typically light, fresh, fruity red wines meant to be drunk soon after bottling. They come
from an area south of Burgundy, near Lyons, in eastern France. The wines are the ultimate example of
this is Beaujolais Nouveau which is made from Gamay.
Cabernet Franc is one the five Bordeaux varietals and a cousin to the more well known Cabernet
Sauvignon. 100 percent Cabernet Franc tends to show dark berry/cherry flavors and chalkiness but it’s
normally blended in small parts.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the king of red wines. It has the ability to mature into a complex and full-
bodied red wine with depth and the ability to age. It’s full-bodied and intense, with cherry-currant and
sometimes herbal flavors and noticeable tannins. Great Cabs can be found in the Napa, Sonoma,
Australia, Chile, and especially Bordeaux.
Gamay is a fruity red that is low in alcohol with relatively high acidity. It is famously used in
Beaujolais. It is also grown in the Loire valley and the Swiss blend it with Pinot Noir.
Grenache is originally from Spain and the second most widely grown grape in the world, used for
rosé in California and blended to make Chateauneuf-du-Pape. It’s fruity, spicy, and medium-bodied.
Malbec is huge in Argentina and produces big, spicy, often leathery wines with a lot of ripe red fruit.
It was important in French blends but the not-very-hardy grape has supplanted by Merlot and Cab.
Merlot has herbal and fruity flavors similar to Cabernet, but a smoother and supple character in the
mouth without the bite of tannins and intensity. It complements the same types of food that Cabernet
does, albeit less distinctly. Top producers hail from Bordeaux, Chile, Argentina, Napa, Sonoma and
Washington State. It’s also done pretty well on the East Coast.
Pinot Noir is considered by many to produce the most complex wines but the need for increased
production has put many subpar pinots on the market. Lighter bodied than most reds, Pinots have a
richness and intensity of fruit that is unparalleled. The best of them drink like velvet. Burgundy is the
most famous region for pinot. In America, considerable success with this Burgundian varietal has
come in cooler regions of Napa, Sonoma (Carneros), Santa Barbara and Oregon’s Willamette Valey.
Sangiovese is a red variety that is best known for Chianti and Tuscan wines. It often boasts a
distinctively smooth texture topped with spice, raspberry and licorice flavors.
Syrah (Shiraz) The great grape of the Rhone Valley has become more widely planted in California,
Washington and Australia. It's known as Shiraz in Australia and South Africa. New world shiraz is
highly aromatic with meaty, smoky, spicy and peppery flavors. European Syrah is subtler.
Zinfandel "Peppery," "briary," "brawny" and "chewy" are a few of the adjectives used to describe Zin.
It was one of the first varietals that Italians propagated when they came to California where it is now
popular. Italian Primitivo is essentially the same grape but is less jammy.
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Albariño is a Spanish grape that makes crisp, refreshing, and light-bodied wines.
Chardonnay is the most popular wine in America. Winemakers have divided into two camps. One
emphasizes the high-toned, steely, fruitlike qualities of the wine with little or no use of oak, while the
other emphasizes barrel and malolactic fermentation in addition to the fruit characteristic, which lends
the wine a round, buttery taste. Benchmarks for Chardonnay are (rich and extracted) white Burgundies
and (steely and crisp) Chablis.
Chenin Blanc has fresh, delicate floral characteristics. It is native to the Loire where it's the basis of
Vouvray. South Africans call it Steen, where it is their most-planted grape. California uses it mainly as
a blending grape for generic table wines. It can be a pleasant wine, with melon, peach, spice and citrus.
Gewürztraminer "Gewürz" translates as "spice." The wine is also very aromatic and floral. The wine
is a good counterpoint for spicy dishes when made with some residual sweetness. It does better in
cooler weather and is famous in the Alsatian region of France
Pinot Blanc is grown in Champagne, Burgundy, Alsace, Germany, Italy, California and the
Northwest. It can be intense, and complex, with ripe pear, spice, citrus and honey notes.
Pinot Gris is a pinkish-white variety producing a very crisp white wine. Grown in Oregon, the
Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, and more and more in California, it shows promise for other
cool climates. It is very light and subtle in flavor. It’s also known as Tokay d'Alsace in France,
Rulander in Germany, and Pinot Grigio in Italy.
Riesling is another "aromatic" wine but has less spice Gewürztraminer, relying instead on delicate
aromas and subtle flavors for its special niche. Great reislings are very complex and vary in sweetness
although many are quite sweet. The Riesling is a mainstay of German and Alsace.
Sauvignon Blanc (Fumé Blanc) has a number of identities ranging from a clean, slight grassy white
wine to an herbaceous, full-bodied wine backed up with oak aging, to very minerally, highly acidic
(graprefruity) wine. Excellent examples come from Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé in the Loire Valley.
Viognier is a highly aromatic varietal, with peach, apricot, nectarine, lichee, musk and flower blossom
flavors. It’s the most acclaimed white wine grape in the Rhône Valley and the "Rhône Rangers" in
California have done an excellent job promoting this varietal despite being one of the most difficult
grapes to grow.
Champagne/Sparkling Wine - Champagnes and sparkling wines range in style from very dry
(Natural), dry (brut) and slightly sweet (extra Dry) to sweet (sec and Demi-Sec). Many sparkling
wines are also identified as Blanc de Blancs (wines made from white grapes) or Blanc de Noirs
(wines produced from red grapes). Asti Spumante is the Piedmont Region of Italy, A semidry
sparkling wine produced from the Moscato di Canelli grape in the village of Asti. Italians also drink
Prossecco which is light and has small bubbles. Cava is a Spanish sparkling wine produced by the
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Distilled Spirits For nearly 3,000 years people have been making potent spirits for
medicinal and recreational purposes. Aristotle gave the distilled product the name spirits because he
thought that spirits entered the body when they were consumed. Spirits also served a more utilitarian
purpose as well. Beer and wine doesn’t keep very long, but concentrate it, and increase the alcohol,
and it will. The catch is that it takes a lot of beer and wine to make a little spirit, so it takes an
organized society to produce a surplus grains and fruits in order for there to be spirits. What follows is
an overview of the evolution and classification these products.
The Distillation Process: All spirits are basically made the same way. Alcohol is not "created" by
distillation, just concentrated. Wine or beer (the wash) is heated in a still. Since things like water, and
ethyl, methyl, and isopropyl alcohols vaporize and condense at different temperatures, they may be
selectively extracted to create a new mixture which may then be further aged and/or flavored by the
distiller. Different stills function differently, resulting in different tastes, but the basic process is the
same: slowly boil the liquid and keep the vapors you want. Quality is determined by the quality beer or
wine, controlling the temperature, and most importantly, by making the “cuts” at the right time. The
first vapors coming off the wash are the “heads.” They are the lightest and contain unpleasant aromas
and poisonous methyl alcohol. Once it reaches 173˚ the good staff – “the hearts” – are vaporizing.
Once the alcohol starts to run out of the wash, the pungent “tail” vapors come out.
Still Types: A pot still consists of a pot which contains the wash and a tight fitting top that catches the
vapor and directs it away to cool. Alcohol vapor rises up and out, into a tube or back down the walls
where it is cooled, collected, then re-heated and further purified. It is the design of the top that is really
important. Newer column stills are more efficient but pot stills are known to yield a product with more
character. They are usually the choice of small batch operations today. Column stills were created later
on in the early 1800s to avoid the process of draining and cleaning the pot still between batches. They
are also known as the patent still, Coffey still or continuous still because it can be run constantly,
without need for maintenance between batches. A higher proof may achieved with column stills,
producing a lighter and purer spirit. In some cases it lets the distiller to use cheaper ingredients since
less of the original ingredients' flavor is preserved.
Freeze distillation - Since water freezes at zero degrees Celsius and ethyl alcohol at -114, a fermented
beverage is cooled and solid chunks of ice removed. Freeze distillation is rarely used because it isn’t
efficient and illegal in many countries due to an increased risk of high concentrations of the poisonous
Softening and Maturation
Early spirits were heavily flavored to tone them down but barrel aging has become the most
important method of softening them. It alters spirits’ flavors, aromas and textures over time. Heat
expedites the process. Two years of aging in Jamaica are very different than two years in Scotland.
The type of barrel is important too. New barrels impart a lot more character than old. American oak
has a tighter grain than French oak and the staves can be cut against the grain. French oak has looser
grain and the staves are cut with the grain and dried and mellowed for much longer. Therefore, French
oak imparts vanilla, cocoa and spices while American oak imparts greener wood characteristics of
coconut, tropical fruit, toffee, and butterscotch.
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Bourbon, by law, can only be aged in new, charred, American oak barrels. The charring imparts
distinct flavors that we associate with whiskey. Lots of other types of whiskeys use old Bourbon
barrels because there are so many of them. Of course, other woods can be used to age spirits as well.
Cachaça is aged in all sorts of native Brazilian woods, even balsa. Also, keep in mind that a lot of time
in wood isn’t necessarily better. Older spirits are more expensive due to evaporation loss (as much as
15% can be lost through the pores of the oak each year – the “angel’s share”) and taxed each year that
they rest but they aren’t necessarily better.
Filtering also softens spirits. The Russians and Poles took filtering to a new level in high end vodkas.
People use everything from diamond dust to gunnysacks for this purpose.
Vodka is neutral spirit distilled at high proof, filtered and cut with water. Main Cocktails:
Martini, Cosmopolitan, Bloody Mary, Screwdriver, Vodka Tonic. It’s hard to know where vodka
originated (Persia?), but Poland and Russia, where vodka is still heavenly consumed, are likely
candidates. The word vodka comes from the Russian word voda which means water of life. It was
used as an anesthetic and disinfectant before becoming widely consumed in the 14th century. Usually
made from the cheapest available starch, vodka was originally a rye-based liquor, then potato became
more common. Today most vodka is distilled from rye, wheat, barley, and corn. The US defines vodka
as a neutral spirit without “distinctive characteristics.” That doesn’t sound too exciting but vodka is an
excellent way of detecting the base ingredients – yeast, water and grain because it isn’t masked by
barrel aging or additional flavors.
Gin Holland. Ingredients: juniper berries, citrus peel, coriander, cassia, botanicals, various grains.
Triple distilled and cut with water. Primary cocktails – Martini, Tom Collins, Gin Rickey, Gimlet, Gin
and tonic. The word comes from the Dutch "genever" which means juniper. Botanicals (fruits, spices,
and herbs) are used to flavor gin either in the wash prior to boiling or (usually for premium-brand
gins) placed at the top of the still so that the alcohol can pass through in vapor form.
Genever: Holland. Very malty/sweet and oily.
Old Tom Gin: England. A sweeter gin style popular in 19th Century England and used pre-prohibition
cocktails like the Tom Collins and Ramos Fizz.
London Dry Gin: England. Juniper and citrus dominate. This is the most popular contemporary style
and includes Beefeater, Tanqueray, and Bombay.
Plymouth Gin: Plymouth, England. A well balanced rich style. Lower ABV than London Dry.
New American Styles: Vary a great deal but usually have less pronounced juniper than London Dry.
Rum: Americas. Ingredients: molasses, sugar cane or its production byproducts. Main cocktails:
Daiquiri, Mai Tai, Rum Punch, Cubre Libre, Caipirinha, Mojito. Rum varies a great deal by style and
from island to island from clean styles like Bacardi Silver (filtered like vodka) to dark and funky like
Meyers. Process: Distill in continuous still to about 85% ABV, filter, blend, and leach through
charcoal for "silver" rum, age for 1 year (light-bodied) to 6 years (heavy), add caramel (if desired) to
deepen color and flavor. For Jamaican Rum ferment longer and pot distill to lower purity. Rhum (the
French spelling) Agricole is made from cane, not molasses just like cahcaca.
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Cachaça: is a 38%-80% liquor distilled from sugar cane (most rum is made from molasses) and often
aged in native woods. It’s mainly made in Brazil and is the 3rd most popular alcohol in the world. It is
usually light in body and aged but not dark in color.
Mezcal: Oaxaca, Mexico. Ingredients: juice of any agave plant (a.k.a. maguey, pronounced muh-
GAY, which is not a cactus). Agave hearts are cooked for days or weeks in charcoal pits with rocks
and the agave fronds. This gives it its unique smoky taste.
Tequila: By law Jalisco, Nayait, Guanajuato, Michacan, and Tamaulipas, Mexico only. Ingredients:
juice of blue agave (agave tequiliana). By Mexican law all 100% agave or aged Tequila is bottled in
Mexico. All 100% agave tequila is labeled as such otherwise it is a "mixto." Piña are steamed in an
autoclave (oversized pressure cooker), or preferably baked, until all starch is converted to sugar. Good
tequilas and mezcals are pot stilled at a low proof which results in a lot of flavor.
Mixto: sugar is added to the agave juice and neutral grain spirit and caramel color is added
Plato/Blanco (silver/white): Aged less than 60 days.
Oro/Joven (Gold/Young): Usually a mixto (blended with neutral spirit). Blanco tequila blended
with aged or with caramel coloring, sugar-based syrup, glycerin, and/or oak extract added so as
to resemble aged tequila.
Reposado (rested): Age in wooden tanks or casks for legal two months (three to nine months
for better quality brands). Best-selling tequila in Mexico.
Añejo: Age in wood at least one year (one and a half to three years for high-quality mixtos, up
to four years for high-quality agaves).
Extra Añejo ("extra aged" or "ultra aged") – aged a minimum of three years in oak. Aging
tequila more than four years is controversial; most Tequila producers oppose it to protect the
distinctive earthy and vegetal agave flavor.
Whiskey Spelled "whisky" in Scotland, Wales, Canada, Japan, and New Zealand.
Ingredients: barley, corn, or rye and water and yeast. In a sense, whiskey is just aged vodka. The
smoky, spicy notes of aging are what define whiskey for most of us.
Scotch is the king of whiskeys. If you order a a whisky outside the US, you will probably be given a
scotch. Most scotches still roast their malted barley over peat which produces a lot of smoke. Despite
many people pining over scotch’s character from the salty sea air, the smoky-peaty character is what
sitinguishes scotch from other whiskey. People give a lot of weight to the town that a scotch comes
from but this is a bit over played. All spirits are affected by where the starches/sugars are grown and in
some cases which yeasts naturally grow and which native waters flow however the real difference
between Scottish distilleries, as Paul Pacult asserts, is proximity to the sea. Whether the scotch is aged
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in cheaper, smokier bourbon barrels or more expensive and subtler sherry barrels also can have a big
affect on the scotch.
Single malts are 100% barley malt, double distilled. Process: Under the Scotch Whiskey Act 1988:
pot distill to no more than 94.8% ABV, age in oak (usually sherry or bourbon casks) in Scotland for at
least three years, diluted with water and add nothing but caramel for color. Vatted Malts are blended
malt whisky made by blending two or more single malts. Blended scotches are vatted or single malt
scotch (30-60%, usually 35%), and usually continuous still distilled grain alcohol (from corn).
Lowland three distilleries: Auchentoshan, (excluding Islay): Arran, Jura, Mull, Orkney and
Bladnoch, and Glenkinchie. Skye with their respective distilleries: Arran, Isle of
Speyside has the largest number of Jura, Tobermory, Highland Park and Scapa, and
distilleries, which includes: The Glenrothes, Talisker.
Aberlour, Balvenie, Glenfiddich, Speyburn, Campbeltown once home to over 30 distilleries,
The Glenlivet and The Macallan currently has only three distilleries operating:
Highland distilleries: Dalmore, Dalwhinnie, Glengyle, Glen Scotia and Springbank.
Balblair, Old Pulteney, Glenmorangie, Oban Islay distilleries: Ardbeg, Bowmore,
(coastal), Ord, and Aberfeldy. Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila, Lagavulin
The Islands an unrecognized sub-region and Laphroaig
includes all of the whisky producing islands
Irish Whiskey: Irish distillers use really big pot stills and dry the malt rather than roasting it
which makes it milder than scotch. Irish whiskey has to be aged for 3 years but other than that,
the rules for production aren’t strict. It is often triple pot distilled from a combination of malted
and unmalted barley but Bushmills make several whiskeys from 100% malted barley. Jameson
soften their whiskey with continuous distilled corn or wheat.
Bourbon: By law: distilled from at least 51% corn (usually 70%) at less than 80% ABV, only
cut with distilled water and age for at least two years in new white oak charred barrels (in
practice, aged at least four years). Named after the county in Kentucky, there are actually no
working distilleries there now. Bourbon was named America’s native spirit by congress in 1964.
Tryst, Inc. 2009 Page 10
Rye: North America. Ingredients: rye (minimum 51%), usually with corn or barley malt, distilled
to less than 80% ABV and aged for at least two years in new charred barrels. Some rye is bottled
and marketed directly, but most is blended into other whiskies for character and structure. It has
become popular recently in cocktails because it is drier and spicier Rye was prevalent in the
colonial era because it grows on the east coast. Corn took over as we moved west to warmer
climates and were introduced to corn by the Native Americans.
Tennessee Whiskey: Ingredients: corn (minimum 51%), barley malt, distilled at less than 80%
ABV, filtered through bed of sugar maple charcoal, age for at least two years in new charred
barrels. Predominantly corn based.
Bonded & Straight Whiskey: Whiskey bottled in bond wasn’t taxed until it was sold opposed
to made. It has to come from 1 distillery and be aged for 4 years, but the big difference is that it
is traditionally bottled at 100 proof. Straight whiskey can’t be distilled at higher than 160 proof,
bottled at less than 80 proof and contain at least 51% of one grain and be made from sour mash,
so many American whiskeys of different types fit the bill.
Blended (Canadian) Whisky: Ingredients: corn or wheat with rye, barley, or barley malt.
Usually a blend from different whiskies of different ages; by law: aged in used oak barrels for
minimum three years (four to six in practice). There must be at least 50% neutral grain spirit in
the blend, and usually there is much more, results in a duller product.American versions of the
spirit (Seagrams and Crown) remain the largest category of whiskey sales in the U.S. but the
numbers have been falling for decades and there are few quality brands.
Brandy: Italy, 1000s. We in the U.S. call low proof, sweetened, fruit flavored neutral grain
alcohol, like apricot brandy, “brandy” but what we’re talking about here is barrel aged distilled
fruit wine. The word comes from the Dutch "brandewijn" meaning "burnt wine." Grape brandy
was likely the first Western distilled beverage. Brandy is 36%–60% abv.
Cognac: Cognac, France, 1500s. Ingredients: wine (7.5% ABV, high acidity). Process: Small pot
double-distill to 70% ABV, diluted to 40-50%. According to French law, Cognac must be
distilled twice in copper pot stills and aged in French oak barrels. It must be made from at least
90% Ugni Blanc (Trebiano) which, being grown in chalky limestone soil, stays fruity decades
after being bottled. The region of grand champagne has great chalky soil for producing cognacs
that age. Cognac prizes particular sub-zones. These include Bois a Terroirs, Bons Bois, Fin Bois,
Borderies, Petite Champagne and Grand Champagne. Borderies Cognacs tend to be fat and nutty.
VS (Very Special) or Three Star must be aged at least 2 years. VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale)
or Five Star must be aged 5 years or more. XO (Extra Old) or Napolean or Extra and Hors d’Age
must be aged for at least 6 years. Popular brands include Hine, Martell, Rémy Martin, Hennessy,
Armagnac is a region (south Bordeaux), France. It was first mentioned in 1411. Distilled only
once in a copper still and aged in sappy, strong black oak casks from Gascony or Limousin.
Armagnac is generally more rustic, herbal, a little citrusy, drier and less smooth than Cognac.
Armagnacs from the region Bas Armagnac are the freshest and those from the region of
Tenereze age well. The aging designations for Armagnac are the same as Cognac with the
exception of Hors d’Age Armagnac which is aged at least 10 years.
Brandy de Jerez: Jerez de la Frontera, Spain. Ingredients: primarily the Airen grape of La
Mancha and Extremadura. Process: Column distill (often elsewhere in Spain, then shipped to
Jerez) and aged in sherry casks for minimums of 6 months, one year for Reserva, three years for
Gran Reserva (quality Reservas and Gran Reservas are aged 12-15 years).
Fruit Brandy: Ingredients: non-grape fruit wine Process: Age minimally, and rarely in wood
(fine calvados is an exception). Not to be confused with fruit-flavored grape brandy.
Eau-de-vie: Alsace region, France, 1553 (first mention). Unaged, colorless non-grape fruit wine.
"Water of life" in French where it refers to brandy in general.
Calvados is made from the local small, tart apples in Normandy, France. Pays d’Auge is
considered the best region and requires twice distilling in pot stills. Fine, Three Star or Original
is aged a minimum of 2 years. Vieux or Reserve are aged at least three years. VO or VSOP are
aged at least 4 years. Hors d’Age, Extra, XO or Age Iconnu are aged at least 6 years.
Applejack: United States, colonial period. Ingredients: hard cider (fermented apples). The word
comes from "jacking," a nickname for the freeze distillation procedure originally used. Laird’s is
America’s oldest distillery (1698).
Grappa: Bassano del Grappa, Italy. Unaged or aged less than 4 years. Early grappas were pretty
rough and made from the remnant grape materials from wine making. They’ve become quite
refined though since the 70s. Good ones are expensive but take skill to make.
Pisco: a colorless, unaged brandy that is produced mainly in Peru (generally pot still) and Chile
(generally continuous still) from local grapes. Pisco is smoother than grappa because it’s made
from distilled fine wine rather than rougher grape alcohol.
Liqueurs (a class of spirit that is usually sweet and often served after dinner. It is
produced by either mixing or redistilling spirits with natural ingredients such as fruits, plants,
flowers, or chocolate. Sugar must be at least 2½% of the contents by weight), AND OTHER
Absinthe - an alcohol containing wormwood
Akvavit - from Scandinavia, made from rye with an infusion of caraway
Angostura aromatic bitters - is a blend of rare tropical herbs and spices that is used to flavor
and season dishes and drinks. It was created in 1824 in Angostura, to improve the appetites and
well-being of the troops. Angostura is now the most widely distributed bar item in the world.
Anisette - licorice -flavored liqueur made from anise seeds
Aperitif - A refreshing drink typically served before a meal to stimulate the appetite.
Aperol – an Italian aperitif created in 1919, now produced by Campari. Its ingredients include bitter
orange, gentian, rhubarb, and cinchona. It’s kind of a lighter, slightly less bitter version of Campari.
Arrak - a popular ingredient in early cocktails and used to make Swedish punch which was a poplular
sweetner in punches. Arrack should not be confused with the middle eastern spirit called “Arak”, which is
an anise flavoured distillate. Genuine arrack is made from palm sap and is closer in flavor to rum.
Benedictine - an herb liqueur made from a formula by the Benedictine Monks in France. Mixed
with brandy, it’s sold as B&B.
Bitters - a mix of extractions of aromatic plants, usually spirit -based; used to flavor mixed
drinks or consumed for as a digestive or aperitif
Campari - a bright red type of orange bitters named after its Italian inventor
Chambord - a sweet French liqueur made from small black raspberries
Chartreuse - an herb-based cordial that comes in yellow or green varieties; created by
Carthusian (silent) monks in France in the early 17th century who still guard the secret recipe.
Cointreau - a high -quality orange -flavored liqueur made from the skins of Curacao oranges;
the generic term is Curacao which if redistilled clear is called triple sec
Cordials - sweetened spirits distilled from fruits, seeds, herbs and peels; also known as liqueurs
Curaçao – an orange flavored liqueur named for the island from which the oranges come
Drambuie - a Scottish liqueur that is a concoction of Scotch, heather honey and herbs.
Dubonnet – brand of vermouth.
Falernum - a West Indian syrup made from almonds and spices.
Frangelico - an Italian liqueur flavored with hazelnuts and herbs.
Galliano - a sweet Italian liqueur that is based on up to 80 herbs, roots, berries, and flowers from
the Alpine slopes to the north of Italy. Flavorings include anise, licorice, and vanilla.
Goldwasser (Goldschlager) - a sweet colorless liqueur that is based on the drink kummel and to
which gold specks are added.
Grand Marnier - a sweet Cognac-based liqueur that is flavored with oranges.
Grenadine - a thick, red syrup used in cocktails, traditionally made from pomegranate juice
Harveys Bristol Cream - well known blend of old olorosos, finos and amontillados sweetened
with Pedro Ximenez wine, this amber-colored sherry has smoky orange rind and caramel
aromas, with flavors of vanilla bean, toasted caramel and toffee.
Lillet - an aperitif wine produced from a blend of Bordeaux wines, enhanced by liqueurs. Blond
(Blanc) - has subtle flavors of honey, orange, lime, and mint. Rouge - an aperitif wine that is
spicy and flavored with essences of vanilla and berries.
Madeira - a wine resembling sherry traditionally produced in the Madeira Islands, a chain of 8
islands off the northwest coast of Africa.
Maraschino Liqueur - a cordial distilled from a bitter wild cherry called the marasca.
Midori Melon - a sweet and syrupy melon liqueur that comes in a green bottle. It is close to
banana in both taste and aroma. It is the most popular melon liqueur.
Neutral Grain Spirit – made in a continuous still at 190 proof or higher. Most of us call it
Orange Flower Water - a particularly fragrant distillation of orange petals that is used sparingly
to accent mixed drinks.
Orgeat - almond syrup usually with orange blossom water.
Pastis/ouzo/ojen – an anise flavored European liqueur that clouds up when mixed with water,
hence the name pastis.
Pernod - French pastis.
Pimm's - English in origin, this liqueur has a base of London Gin and flavored with fruit
Port - a dark dessert wine fortified with brandy from Douro, a Northern region in Portugal.
(Other places can label their product “port” in the US. Port from Douro is labeled “Porto” or
“Vinho do Porto.”)
Punt e Mes – a French Sweet Vermouth
Rye - a whiskey distilled from a mash containing not less than 51% rye grain, traditionally
produced in the United States.
Sake - Rice-based fermented beverage.
Sambuca - an Italian licorice-flavored liqueur made from elderberries.
Schnapps - a European spirit. Popular flavors include apple, peppermint, peach, black cherry,
cinnamon, and wild berry.
Sherry - a fortified wine from Jerez, Spain (Sherry is an Anglicization the word Jerez). Fino is
the driest and palest. Manzanilla is a variety of fino sherry made around the port of Sanlúcar de
Barrameda. Amontillado is a variety of sherry that has been aged first under a cap of flor yeast,
and then is exposed to oxygen, which produces a result darker than fino but lighter than Oloroso.
Oloroso ('scented' in Spanish) is an aged and oxidized for a richer and darker variety. Sweet
Sherry is created when one of the preceding varieties of dry sherry is sweetened with Pedro
Ximénez or Moscatel wine and Cream sherry is a common variety of sweet sherry made from
Sloe gin - a cordial or liqueur whose characteristic flavor is derived from sloe berries.
Southern Comfort - a fruity American whiskey liqueur.
Tia Maria - a deep brown coffee-flavored drink that has a base of Jamaican rum.
Tonic Water - a carbonated beverage containing lemon, lime, and quinine, an alkaloid obtained
from the cinchona bark.
Triple Sec - a type of curacao liqueur.
Tuaca - a unique blend of brandy, vanilla, and citrus fruit essences. It is produced in Italy.
Vermouth - an aperitif wine of fortified grapes wine.