My Glossary

Bourbon: is a type of American whiskey distilled primarily from corn and barrel aged. It has been produced since the 18th century, although the name “Bourbon” was not applied until the 1850s. While it may be made anywhere in the United States, it is strongly associated with the American South in general, and Kentucky in particular.

Brandy: is a spirit produced by distilling wine. Brandy is typically taken as an after-dinner drink. Some brandies are aged in wooden casks, some are colored with caramel to imitate the effect of aging, and some brandies are produced using a combination of both aging and coloring.

Cachaça: is a distilled spirit made from sugarcane juice. Also known as aguardente, pinga, or caninha, it is the most popular distilled alcoholic beverage in Brazil. Outside Brazil, cachaça is used almost exclusively as an ingredient in tropical drinks, with the caipirinha being the most famous cocktail.

Champagne: is a sparkling wine produced from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France following rules that demand secondary fermentation of the wine in the bottle to create carbonation. Some use the term champagne as a generic term for sparkling wine, but many countries, notably France, reserve the term exclusively for sparkling wines that come from Champagne.

Cognac: is a variety of brandy named after the town of Cognac, France. It is produced in the wine-growing region surrounding the town from which it takes its name. For a distilled brandy to bear the name Cognac, its production methods must meet certain legal requirements. The brandy must be twice distilled in copper pot stills and aged at least two years in French oak barrels. Cognac matures in the same way as whiskies and wine when aged in barrels, and most cognacs are aged considerably longer than the minimum legal requirement.

Gin: is a spirit predominantly flavored by juniper berries. From its earliest beginnings in the Middle Ages, gin has evolved from an herbal medicine to an object of commerce in the spirits industry. Today, gin is one of the most popular and widely distributed range of spirits, and is represented by products of various origins, styles, and flavors — all using juniper as the dominant flavor ingredient.

Irish whiskey: is whiskey made in Ireland. Most Irish whiskey is distilled three times. Peat, common in Scotch distillation process, is rarely used in the malting process, so that Irish whiskey has a smoother finish as opposed to the smoky, earthy overtones common to some Scotches.

Mocktails: are non-alcoholic cocktails for young people, adults who don’t want alcohol, and designated drivers. The frequent use of fruit juices, sparkling water, and other bubbly combinations such as sparkling apple juice (Martinelli’s is a good example), tend to make Mocktails great thirst-quenchers.

Pisco: is a colorless or yellowish-to-amber colored grape brandy from winemaking regions of Peru and Chile. Pisco was developed by Spanish settlers in South America in the 16th century. It now appears more frequently on the North American cocktail ingredient list.

Port: is a fortified wine produced exclusively in the Douro Valley in Portugal. While sweeter, red port is often served as a dessert wine, it is also produced in dry, semi-dry, and white varieties. Fortified wines in the style of port are made outside of Portugal, notably in Australia, South Africa, Canada, India, Argentina, and the United States. Under European Union guidelines, only port from Portugal may be labelled as port or Porto. In the United States, wines labelled “port” may come from anywhere in the world.

Rye: can refer to either of two types of whiskey: American rye whiskey, which must be distilled from at least 51 percent rye grain; or Canadian whiskey, which is often referred to (and labelled as) rye whiskey for historical reasons, although it may not actually include any rye in its production process.

Rum: is a spirit made from sugarcane byproducts, such as molasses, or directly from sugarcane juice, by a process of fermentation and distillation. The distilled liquid is aged in oak barrels. Rhum Agricole is a type of rum distilled only from sugar cane juice.

Scotch whisky: often simply called Scotch, is malt whisky or grain whisky made in Scotland. It is “whisky” without the “e.” Scotch whisky must be made in a manner specified by law. Scotch whisky was originally made from malt barley. Commercial distilleries began introducing whisky made from wheat and rye in the late 18th century. All Scotch whisky must be aged in oak barrels for at least three years.

Sherry: is a fortified wine from white grapes grown near the town of Jerez de la Frontera in Andalusia, Spain. Sherry, an anglicized pronunciation of Jerez, is produced primarily from the Palomino grape. After fermentation, the base wines are fortified with grape spirit in order to increase final alcohol content. Wines from different years are aged and blended using a solera system, so that bottles of Sherry do not usually carry a specific vintage year, yet can contain a percentage of very old wine.

Simple syrup: is water and sugar heated together and used to sweeten drinks. Because it is in liquid form, it blends more smoothly than sugar crystals. While the amount of sugar to water varies, My Daily Cocktails recipes use the following ratio:

1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup cold water

Mix together in a sauce pan over medium high heat until it nears a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Allow to cool completely before pouring into a clean bottle or jar with a good lid. Keep refrigerated.

Vodka: is made by the distillation of fermented substances such as grains, potatoes, or sometimes fruits or sugar. Today, the standard Russian, Ukrainian, Estonian, Polish, Latvian, Lithuanian, and Czech vodkas are 40 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) or 80 proof. Products sold as vodka in the United States must have an alcoholic content of 30 percent ABV or greater. Vodka is traditionally drunk neat in the vodka belt countries of Eastern Europe and around the Baltic Sea. It is also one of the most popular spirits used in cocktails and mixed drinks. Most major vodka producers also offer a range of flavored vodkas.

Vermouth: is a fortified wine flavored with various roots, barks, flowers, seeds, herbs, and spices. Vermouths are common cocktail ingredients. There were two principal types of vermouth, sweet and dry. Vermouth is produced by mixing grape wine bases with additional alcohol and a proprietary mixture of aromatic ingredients. The vermouth is sweetened with either cane sugar or caramelized sugar. Today, vermouth makers also produce extra-dry white, sweet white, red, amber, and rosé.