Basic Spirits & Liqueur 101

This is a quick overview of the differences between the various spirits and liqueur options those you of age will come across at your local ABC store or next gathering with friends at the bar.

Spirits: Distilled lquidis that must contain at least 35% alcohol

Liqueur: Spirits with at least 2.5% sugar content like Kaluha, Baliley’s Irish Cream, Limoncello, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey, etc.

Neutral Grain Spirit: clear, colorless, flavorless high-ethanol content liquid distilled from cereal grains. This is your vodka, Everclear, etc.

Gin: A neutral grain spirit that is redistilled after being flavored with juniper berries giving it a botanical essence. Most popular style of the London dry gin flavored with juniper berries and citrus botanicals like lemon and bitter orange peel.

Whisky: Where do I begin with whisky? There are several styles depending on location produced, type of grain utilized, ingredients, and preparation/aging methods. Generally, all whiskys are distilled from fermented grain mash and aged in oak barrels giving whiskys their caramel hue.

Scotch — must be distilled in Scotland, aged for at least 3 years + 1 day in oak casks, and the grains have been smoked with peat moss. Single malt is the more expensive style, the distillate originates from a single distillery while blended whiskies are, as you might infer, are mixtures from different distilleries.

Bourbon —  made form at least 51% corn, aged in new charred oak for 2  years, produced in the U.S.

Tennessee Sippin Whisky — filtered through maple charcoal

Sour Mash Whisky — distilled from previously fermented mash

Tequila: Distilled from Blue Agave plant in the Tequila, Mexico, the multiple types depend on the aging time

Rum: Distilled from sugarcane by-products — molasses and sugarcane juice, the clear distillate is then aged in oak barrels, there are 3 types – light, dark, and overproof.

Hope this clarifies any curiosities you have had about spirits and liqueurs!



Bartender in the Making

Last Wednesday, I started Principles of Beverage Service, I did not have any negative or positive expectations of the course, I honestly did not have any idea what sort of course work and discussions this class would involve. I heard from several students who had already taken the course that I would learn some bartending techniques and participate in a guided tasting of wines and beers… well those activities certainly do not fill up nine days of class.

This course combines several elements related to bar management — SerSafe Alcohol education, product identification, mixology, tastings, and my favorite aspect — case study discussions based on real scenarios that our instructor personally experienced or has read/heard about throughout his extensive career in the hospitality management.  Our first discussion debated the Darm Shop Liabilities Law, that is whether or not a bar/restaurant/alcohol retail establishment can be held responsible for wrongful damages cause to a 3rd party by a patron of the establishment. In other words, if an intoxicated patron leaves my bar and decides to drive home, but on the way home hits another car and hurts that 3rd party driver, that victim can and most probably will, file a civil suit against my establishment. This brings up the issue of where responsibility is drawn. Clearly, I cannot control the personal choices of that patron to drive home but I must prove that I exercised reasonable care in preventing the patron from leaving in an intoxication state. Some of those actions include training the serving and bartending staff to recognize signs of intoxication, keeping count of the patron’s drinks, offer a cab or to call for someone to pick the patron up, and most importantly recording in an incident report the attempts to prevent the patron from leaving without reliable transportation home.

Today, we had another interesting conversation about “Ladies Night” promotion utilized by bars and restaurants to increase their patronage. The issue posed was whether or not these promotions were gender discriminatory. Until today, it had not dawn on me that, well technically on legality terms yes, it is discriminatory. But the issue is fairly minute based on  what our current culture deems is socially acceptable. It serves to benefit both the establishment’s sales and the patrons — ladies get discounts and gentlemen will most likely be in the outnumbered company of ladies. Of course, that’s is not sound reason. During discussion, I raised the point that no business establishment today would ever have a race-specific promotional…so is gender any different? My curiosity about this issue sparked some research — some states such as California, Maryland, and Pennsylvania recognize this promotion as unlawful gender discrimination while other states who have seen the suits do not. Some creative way establishments have circumvent this civil issue is having promotions like “Lipstick Night” and “High-Heel Night.”  What are your thoughts?

In my next post, I’ll share the mix drinks and techniques I have been learning from behind the bar!


P.S. My biggest pet peeve is drunk driving. It’s illegal. It’s irresponsible. It’s dangerous for you and those in your community. I don’t care if you”sobered” up for the past few hours. Call someone, they will come get you at 4am.