Bartending Terminology You Need to Know

woman sitting at bar smiling while male bartender mixes cocktail

Are you ready to dive into the world of bartending terminology? Whether you’re a seasoned bartender looking to brush up on your knowledge or a newbie eager to learn the ropes, understanding the language of bartending is important. In this blog post, we’ll take you on a journey through the exciting world of cocktails, highlighting key bartending terms along the way. Grab your shaker, and let’s get started!

A Lesson in Bartending Terminology

The Essentials: The Classic Martini 

Let’s kick things off with a classic cocktail: the Martini. Customers who order a Martini might specify whether they want it “dry” or “wet.” These terms refer to the amount of vermouth used. A “dry” Martini contains less vermouth, while a “wet” one has a bit more. Additionally, some customers might prefer an “in and out” Martini, which means the vermouth is briefly swirled in the glass before being poured out, leaving just a hint of its flavor. Knowing these variations ensures you serve the perfect Martini every time!

Imagine a customer walks in and asks for a “dirty” Martini. This doesn’t mean it needs a good cleaning; it means they want olive brine added to their drink. Customers who like it extra briney will ask for it extra dirty or filthy if they’re being cheeky. 

Bartending Terms: Dry, Wet, Vermouth, Dirty (in cocktail context), In and Out

Download Free Glossary: Alcohol Industry Terms to Know

Layering Like a Pro: The B-52 Shot

Next up, let’s explore layering using the famous B-52 shot as an example. Layering involves carefully pouring different liqueurs so that they create distinct, colorful layers in the glass. To do this, you’ll need to master the art of “floating” one liqueur on top of another.

In the case of the B-52 shot, it consists of three layers: Kahlúa, Baileys Irish Cream, and Grand Marnier. The order in which you pour these matters, as the heaviest liqueur goes on the bottom. So, it’s Kahlúa first, followed by Baileys, and finally, Grand Marnier. Using a bar spoon can be immensely helpful in this process, as it allows you to gently pour the liqueurs over the back of the spoon, ensuring a smooth and precise layering effect. With steady hands and a little practice, you’ll become a layering pro. 

Bartending Terms: Layering, Floating

Muddling and Building: The Mojito

Muddling, a fundamental aspect of bartending terminology, involves crushing or gently mashing ingredients, usually fresh herbs, fruits, or sugar, at the bottom of the glass to release their flavors.

On the other hand, building is the process of adding ingredients directly to the glass in a specific order to create the cocktail. In the case of the Mojito, you’ll start by muddling fresh mint and sugar to release their aromatic essence. Then, skillfully build the drink by adding lime juice, rum, ice, and a refreshing splash of soda water. It’s a delightful dance of techniques, all while keeping bartending terminology in mind. 

Bartending Terms: Muddling, Building

Mastering the Double: The Old Fashioned

Let’s move on to another essential bartending skill – making doubles. When customers order a “double” of their favorite spirit, they ask for twice the usual amount. This typically means two ounces instead of the standard one.

The Old Fashioned is a classic cocktail often served as a double. This cocktail is as timeless as it is delicious. To make it, you’ll need to know how to muddle sugar with bitters and correctly express the citrus oils of an orange peel before adding ice and your chosen spirit. Properly expressing these oils involves gently twisting the peel over the glass, releasing a burst of citrus aroma and essence that enhances the cocktail’s overall flavor profile. Whether it’s whiskey or rum, mastering the Old Fashioned is a must in the world of bartending.

Bartending Terms: Double, With a Twist (the right way)

Download Free Glossary: Alcohol Industry Terms to Know

Shaking vs. Reverse Shake vs. Dry Reverse Shake: The Whiskey Sour

In the world of bartending, the debate between shaking and reverse shaking is a classic one, especially when it comes to cocktails like the Whiskey Sour. The method you choose can significantly impact the taste and presentation of the drink. Traditional shaking with ice creates a well-diluted, frothy cocktail, while the reverse shake, also known as the “dry reverse shake,” offers a unique twist by creating a velvety, egg-white froth. Identifying and correctly using bartending terms will ensure you craft the perfect cocktail for your guests. Understanding when to shake and when to reverse shake is essential for crafting the perfect Whiskey Sour.

Bartending Terms: Shaking, Reverse Shake, Dry Reverse Shake

Putting It All Together

This top-level exploration of bartending terminology equips you with the knowledge needed to navigate the industry more effectively. Whether you’re a seasoned professional seeking to stay updated or a newcomer eager to be in the know, mastering the language of bartending is key. With these key terms at your disposal, you’re well-prepared to communicate with bartenders on a level that demonstrates your understanding of the craft and your commitment to being informed.

So, as you delve into the intricacies of the industry armed with this newfound knowledge, remember that speaking the language of bartending is just the beginning. Effective communication spans across all sectors of the alcohol industry, from distilleries to bars and everything in between. To further enhance your industry vocabulary and ensure you’re well-versed in the terminology that matters most, download Overproof’s Alcohol Industry Terms to Know glossary to elevate your understanding of this dynamic field.

Featured Resource: Speaking the Language: Alcohol Industry Terminology You Need to Know

Download Free Glossary Now

FAQ’s on Bartending Terminology

1. How to layer liqueurs like a pro?

Layering liqueurs is a bartending technique that can be used to create visually appealing cocktails. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Chill the liqueurs in the refrigerator.
  2. Place a spoon in the glass, with the back of the spoon facing up.
  3. Slowly pour the heaviest liqueur over the back of the spoon.
  4. Allow the liqueur to settle before pouring the next layer.
  5. Continue layering the liqueurs, lightest to heaviest.

Here are some tips for layering liqueurs:

  • Use chilled liqueurs.
  • Use a tall glass.
  • Pour the liqueurs slowly.
  • Use a spoon to help guide the liqueurs into the glass.
  • Practice makes perfect!

2. What is the difference between muddling and building?

Muddling and building are two different techniques used to make cocktails.

  • Muddling is the process of crushing or mashing ingredients, usually fresh herbs, fruits, or sugar, at the bottom of the glass to release their flavors. This is often done to make a mojito or a margarita.
  • Building is the process of adding ingredients directly to the glass in a specific order to create the cocktail. This is often done to make a martini or a Manhattan.

3. When to shake vs. stir a cocktail?

The decision to shake or stir a cocktail depends on the ingredients and the desired outcome.

Shaking is a technique used to mix ingredients together and chill them quickly. It is often used for cocktails that contain fruit juices, dairy, or egg whites, as shaking these ingredients helps to incorporate air into the cocktail, creating a frothy texture. Shaking also helps to chill the cocktail quickly.

Stirring is a technique used to mix ingredients together without incorporating air. It is often used for cocktails that are primarily alcohol-based and clear, as stirring helps to combine the flavors of the cocktail without clouding it.

Here is a table that summarizes the key differences between shaking and stirring cocktails:

TechniqueIngredientsDesired Outcome
ShakingFruit juices, dairy, egg whitesFrothy texture, chilled quickly
StirringAlcohol-based, clearNo air incorporated, combined flavors

4. How do I know when to muddle vs. build vs. shake vs. stir?

The decision of what technique to use when making a cocktail depends on the ingredients and the desired outcome.

  • Muddle herbs and fruits to release their flavors.
  • Build cocktails with clear spirits to avoid clouding them.
  • Shake cocktails with dairy or egg whites to incorporate air and create a frothy texture.
  • Stir cocktails with other ingredients to combine the flavors without clouding them.

5. What are the 5 P’s of Bartending?

Pride, passion, preparation, professionalism and presentation.

6. What’s the 50% rule in bartending?

The proper time to serve customers the next cocktail is once they’ve consumed 50% of their drink.

7. What is “up” in bartending terms?

The term “up” refers to any drink that is shaken, stirred, or combined with ice and, therefore chilled, but it is served without ice.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest Posts:
Subscribe to


Stay up to date with the latest in marketing, sales, service tips and news for the beverage alcohol industry.

Related Posts

Tales of the Cocktail: Things to Know Before You Go

Tales of the Cocktail is a non-profit organization with local, national, and international chapters that work “to educate, advance, and support the bartender community.” Learn about their annual conference.


Non-Alcoholic Cocktails

For those trying to maintain sobriety due to personal and health reasons or to address a substance abuse disorder, replacing alcohol with non-alcoholic beverages in social settings is typically limited to options like tea or decaf coffee. Fortunately, the beverage industry has stepped up with delicious non-alcoholic cocktail recipes and ready-to-drink brands that will provide people with the experience they enjoy but without the alcohol.


Corkage Fees: Meaning, Cost, Pros & Cons

There are some pros and cons to permitting BYOB, including profiting from corkage fees. Find out whether this practice is right for your business.