Bar Language

A.B.V.: Alcohol by Volume. Measurement of a beverages alcohol content.

Absinthe: Spirit distilled primarily from Wormwood and botanicals. Usually served by dripping ice water over a sugar cube. Has a nasty, but greatly exaggerated, reputation of having hallucinogenic properties in addition to alcohol’s usual effects. Modern derivatives contain trace amounts of Thujone – a chemical found in wormwood and known to cause seizures. Right or wrong, this ingredient is likely responsible for the Absinthe’s interpretation as a storied drug  and subsequent banning for many years by several countries. French poets Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine, and their portrayals in the movie “Total Eclipse,” staring a young Leonardo DiCaprio, added significantly to the legend.

Ale: Warm fermented, top fermented beers.  Quickly fermented resulting in higher sugar content. Usually contains hops which give them varying bitterness.

Apperitif: Drink served before a meal to stimulate the appetite.  Popular ones include: Campari, Dry Vermouth, Pernod, and Ricard based drinks. Aperitifs are usually dry.

B.A.C.: Blood Alcohol Content

Backbar: Upper area of bar behind bartender. Often against a wall unless the bar is of an island type. Backbars are used to display liquor, and store glasses, cash register, and other supplies.

Bitters: @45% alcoholic herbal essence most often based on the Gentiana flower and herbs.

Blended Malt: Usually refers to Scotch. Scotch created by mixing malts from different distilleries.

Boston Shaker: 16 oz clear mixing cup – usually made of glass (pint glass).

Bourbon: Spirit fermented then distilled primarily from corn. In the United States, the law requires 51% Corn for it to be called as such

Brandy: Spirit distilled from wine (grapes).

Bridge and Tunnel [Crowd or Set]New York City [Manhattan island] reference to weekend customers from (1) New Jersey (2) Staten Island (3) Long Island and (4) Westchester. Often stereotyped as unruly, unusually dressed and lacking taste.

Bruise: To overmix with ice (highly subjective), causing too much meltage – water content – and dilution of flavor.  Does not affect alcohol content.

Buyback: Free drink given by bartender – usually as a result of tipping well and coming in regularly.

Call: Drink ordered with specific spirit – usually, better than well brand. High-end/high-priced establishments may use traditional call liquor in their wells.

Chargeback: Result of a disputed credit card transaction – days or weeks afterwards. The result of a customer disputing a statement charge. Often the result of intoxication at transaction date, illegible signature, second thoughts on gratuity, or server/bartender closing out check unscrupulously.

Cocktail: Many will argue it’s true meaning.  However, a Cocktail = Alcohol, a lot of it.  Very little mixer is invoked.  More often than not, a Cocktail is served up.

Cognac: Brandy made and exported from only the town of Cognac, France.

Comps: [Complimentary] Free of charge. On the house. Usually given by management. Used frequently for guest recovery, VIPs, celebrities, management, family, and friends.

Costing: The process of breaking down a beverage (or dish) into it’s component’s costs. The goal is to price the drink appropriately in order to generate sufficient profit.

Course: Food equivalent of a round of drinks. For example, diners may start with a soup/salad course, followed by an appetizer course. A first course may then be served, followed by the main entree, then dessert.

Cover: How many guests you have dining. Usually stated in terms of days or evenings. For example: “We had 300 covers last night.”

Dash: About 1/32oz.

D.D.: Designated Driver.

Deep: A measure of how busy the bar is. For example, “3-deep.” Meaning: three rows of customers are packing the bar waiting to be served.

Digestif: After dinner drink.  Usually a bit sweeter than Aperitifs. Cognacs, Sambucca, Sauternes,  and Pimms are common.

Dirty: Add olive brine.

Distillation: Process of heating fermented mixture to separate alcohol from water content. Alcohol is condensed from vapor and concentrated in a “still.”

Doghouse: Lower area of backbar where backup liquor bottles are stored.

Double: Twice the amount of alcohol. The custom here is to charge double the price as well. Many inexperienced drinkers are unaware that they can significantly reduce drinking costs with certain spirits by ordering specific cocktails instead of Doubles.  For example, a Gin Martni contains 3oz of gin but can cost a fraction of ordering a Double Gin & Tonic.

Down: On the rocks (ice).  Deprecated term – almost never heard anymore.

Dry: (1) In reference to cocktails: very little Dry Vermouth [e.g., Martinis] (2) In reference to wine: low sugar content, often as a reselt of a long fermentation/high-alcohol or lacking sugar/sweetness (3) In reference to Champagne, it’s exactly the opposite. Dry = sweeter. Brut = low sugar. I know… it’s stupid.

D.U.I.: Driving Under the Influence. Usually .05 or .08 BAC. Varies from state to state. 2 drinks within an hour will put the average male at or slightly over this limit.

Dupe: Abbreviation for duplicate (paper receipts).  Most common reference is to orders for drinks at the Service Bar or Kitchen printers.

Drop: Nearly synonymous with “Ring.” However, the drop refers only to the total cash sales turned into the house at the end of a shift.

D.W.I.: Driving While Intoxicated. Usually .10 or .12 BAC. Varies from state to state.

Easy: Little of…

Eurotrash: Stereotype of Western European tourists, or recent ex-patriots, who have particular ways about them – primarily in terms of gratuities. This group is often associated with (a) not tipping (b) tipping very little (c) tipping in coins and finally (d) pretending not to know about local tipping customs. Other characteristics include: (1) overuse of hair product and cologne (2) bad teeth (3) incessant smoking – most often, Marlboro Reds (4) loud and obnoxious (5) poor or no attempt at communicating in host language (6) sweaters tied around necks (7) excessive gold (8) Brand Identity Disease – BMW, Mercedes, Gucci, Prada, Coach, Fendi, Hermes, Cartier, etc.  Never caught publicly displaying, shopping or speaking of any label not in upper crust.

Fifth: About 750ml or 1/5 of a gallon.

Fire: Order a course for an order that already been taken.

Flat: Missing sufficient carbonation.

Flair: Showy display of well practiced drink preparation.  Uses techniques such as speedy throwing, catching, rolling, and flipping of mixers, bottles and other bar equipment. Competitions have become popular. Specifically designed flair bottles are available for sale.

Float: Pour liquor on top of finished drink without mixing.

Following: A specific bartender’s regular clientele. Often, certain regular customers will come into a bar only when said bartender is on duty. Seasoned bartenders can potentially make a significant dent in a business if they develop a large enough, dedicated Following, simply be relocating that following to their next place of employment.

Freddy: Heineken

Froth: Micro-bubble type texture created by shaking drinks. An agent is required – typically, a small amount of raw egg whites, or chemical substitutes.

Frottage: Non-consensual rubbing. It happens a lot at bars – usually, creepy men on women. The women have no idea it’s happening most of the time.

Frosted: Frozen glass. As the glass hits room temperature, micro crystals will form giving it an opaque appearance.

Grat: Gratuitize a check [include the tip on the bill].  Typically done for parties of 6 or more or Europeans anticipated to be problematic tippers.

Hair of the Dog: An alcoholic drink consumed in an attempt to fight a hangover.

Hawthorne Strainer: See Spring Strainer.

Head: Froth on top of a drink. Most often associated with draft beer or poured out bottled beer. A decent “head” is a hallmark of a good pour – beer which is not flat and whose maximum flavor has been released.

Highball: Mixed drink.  Typically a spirit base on the rocks, with a substantial amount of mixer (soda, juice, etc.)

I.B.U.: International Bitterness Units. Measure of a beverages bitterness scale. Usually used to rate hop-heavy beers such as IPAs.

In and Out: Refers mostly to Dry Vermouth in Martini and Gibson preparation. A call for  an “In and Out” Martini refers to placing a few drops of Dry Vermouth in a mixing glass, then dumping it out. The customer wants an extremely dry drink – one with nary a detection of Vermouth.

Infusion: Flavored spirit. Usually prepared at off-hours.

In the Weeds: Very busy.

Julep Strainer: Used to filter drinks [usually stirred drinks] from glass or Boston Shaker.

Lager: Bottom and cold fermented beers.

Layer: To pour a drink with 2 or more visually distinct lines of separation.  Requires knowledge of which ingredients float on top of which.  Chrome pourers with an easily thumb-covered air hole work best [slowing down the pour]. Spoons or forks are typically used to further slow down the pour and avoid mingling.

Magnum: 1.5 liter bottle

Muddle: To crush fruit and/or herbs using a pestle type device.

N.C.R.: National Cash Register. The grandfather of mechanical registers. Today, the company makes electronic registers.  However, their older registers are highly coveted and command extremely steep premiums.  The mechanical systems are highly reliable, require little maintenance, were created by craftsmen (as opposed to modern mass production). Many models were highly ornate and unlike today’s P.O.S. systems, actually add aesthetic value. The downside, is that they do not provide the same feature set. In addition to simplicity and beauty, many small bars seek NCRs as they allow for easier illicit revenue reporting and thus, tax fraud.

Neat: Refers to service of Spirits. A “neat” pour is one with no ice – most often in a Rocks Glass. Frequently used term when ordering Scotch and Cognac.

Perfect: Equal parts Dry and Sweet Vermouth.  Used when ordering Manhattans, Rob Roys and Martinis.

Pool: Tip sharing as opposed to Every Man/Woman for Himself. Tips can be divided evenly when there is a shift change (taking into account yet to be received credit card tips) or an hourly rate can be determined.

Porter: Beer made from roasted barley and other ingredients. See also: Stout.

P.O.S.: Point of Sale. Electronic cash registers with advanced inventory, accounting, clock in/out, and reporting features. Today, they’re ubiquitous in most restaurants and bars. Micros, PosiTouch, Aloha, and Squirrel are all very popular.

Premium: Spirit higher in quality [usually] and price than Call.

Press: Spirit + Soda and 7-Up.

Punished: Slapped. Usually refers to mint leaves. Punishing releases essence without releasing bitter chlorophyll usually released when over muddling.

Rickey: Spirit + Soda and Roses Lime Juice.

Rimmed: To line the edge of a glass with a substance – commonly salt or sugar. The rim of the glass must first be wet with lime, lemon, orange, etc., then dipped.

Ring: (v): place computer or register order. (n) total sales.

Round: An order of several drinks for two or more guests – often, repeated.

Rye: Spirit fermented then distilled from primarily Rye grains. In the United States, the law requires 51% Rye for it to be called as such.

Screaming: Add Vodka.

Shandy: Beer and Sprite or 7-Up.

Short: Light on the alcohol or light on the mixer.  Often used when ordering (non-alcoholic) Espresso.

Shot: 1 serving of a spirit in a small (shot) glass.  The intent is to consume the contents quickly – in a single gulp.

Shrinkage: Loss due to theft, spoilage, and waste.

Single Malt: Usually refers to Scotch. Whiskey using malt from a single distillery.

Skim: To steal money off the top.

Skinny: Leaving out high calorie additives – usually, sour mix.

Splash: About 1/8oz.

Split: 6 – 7oz bottle.

Sour: Spirit shaken with Sour Mix.

Sour Mash: Term used for spirit production.  A certain amount of the previous batch of fermented grain, water, yeast, etc. is used in the following production process.  The theory is that this custom leads to a more consistent product.  Note: Jack Daniels whiskey is often associated with term as it is their custom to use the sour mash method. Although made of a high percentage of corn, technically, Jack Daniels is notBourbon.

Sour Mix: Equal parts fresh lemon juice and Simple Syrup, along with a frothing agent.  Raw egg whites are most commonly used for frothing in house/home made concoctions. Lemon-X commercial mix is far more popular, saves time and is cheap. Lemon-X contains chemicals.

Speed Rack: See Well.

Spill: Check accounting for bar screw-ups.  Attempt at accurate inventory control.

Slice: Fruit [usually citrus] cut in such a way as to accent wedges.  Drink garnish used for decoration. See Also: Wedge.

Spotter or Shopper: Current or former bartenders/waiters/managers who are hired to pose as fake customers and later provide a written evaluation to management.

Spring Strainer: Used to filter drinks from metal shaker.

Super Premium: Spirit higher in quality [usually] and price than Premium.

Stout: Very strong Porter.  See also: Porter.

Straight orStraight-Up: A cocktail served with no ice – usually in a cocktail (Martini) glass. This does not necessarily mean there is no ice in the preparation.  In the modern era, Straight-Up and Neat are often used interchangeably although their meanings can differ.

Stiff: Withhold completely. Usually associated with not giving gratuity.

Super-Premium: Spirit higher in quality [usually] and price than premium.

Tab: Open check maintained by bartender to avoid having to pay for each drink individually. Almost always maintained by holding a credit card.

Tall: Using a larger than normal glass to accommodate extra mixer [highballs]. The intent is to reduce the taste of alcohol without reducing the amount.

Tannic: Containing significant levels of Tannin. Tannins have an astringent or puckering affect on the mouth – usually on front gums/lips area and the roof of the mouth. Highly Tannic wines are usually Dry as well but not necessarily so. Tannic wines are those whose grapes are crushed and left to sit with the grape skins for a significant time. Tannins are also present in wood barrels used for aging/storing.

T.I.P.S.: (1) To Ensure Proper Service – Gratuity (2) Training for Intervention Procedures [handling drunkards].

Top: How many guests can fit at a table (e.g., 4-top or 6-top).

Top Shelf: Highest quality [and usually price] of particular spirit.  Usually stored on highest display shelf.

Training Wheels: Side items ingested after a shot in an attempt to soften the “blow.” E.g., limes, salt, pickle juice, tomato juice, etc.

Twist: Lemon [or sometimes orange] peel.  Twisted to release essence [lemon oil].

Up: See Straight or Straight-Up.

Up Against the Wall: Refers to Galiano liquor – typically, the tallest bottle at any bar (approximately 2 feet tall).  Galiano is yellow, syrupy, and sweet.  It has many botanical hints – but is dominated by Anisette.  Ordering a drink “Up Against the Wall” means add Galiano.

Upsell: Recommend a guest a call, premium, super-premium, or top-shelf spirit or drink component resulting in additional revenue.

Vodka: Spirit consisting of Ethanol and water. May contain trace amounts of flavorings and impurities.  Can be distilled from corn, potatoes, fruit, grains or even beets. E.U. dictates vodka must be 37.5% alcohol or higher. The U.S. dictates vodka must be 40% alcohol or higher. In the U.S., “clear” or unflavored vodka is supposed to be tasteless, odorless, and colorless. Much like tofu, vodka [clear] is generally bland – taking on the flavors of the ingredients with which it’s mixed. Many myths surround vodka including (1) a suggestion that consuming it leads to lesser or no hangovers (2) it contains little to no calories (3) it does not leave you with “booze breath.” These are all inaccurate beliefs. Typically, the more times a vodka is distilled, the purer and stronger it becomes. However, while doing so removes impurities, it also removes “flavor” other than alcohol.  So, distillers must strike a balance. Responsible for those flavors are Congeners: Ethyl Acetate and Ethyl Lactate (heads) and Fusel Oils (tails). Vodka is normally cut with water to achieve the legal/desired concentration of alcohol (ABV).

Wedge: Fruit [usually citrus] cut along axis into triangle shapes.  Provides for ease of squeezing, releasing a few drops of fruit juice into beverage. 6 – 8 evenly sliced wedges per lemon/lime are ideal.

Wet: More than usual Dry Vermouth. Used when ordering Martinis that call for Dry Vermouth.

Well: Stainless steel, low-mounted holder for commonly used, or house liquor bottles

Wheel:  a.k.a, “Slice.” Fruit [usually citrus] cut perpendicular to axis. Used as garnish or decoration. Not ideal for actually squeezing into drink. A “whole wheel” is fully circular. A “half wheel” is sometimes used as a garnish as well.

With a Bang: Add Bacardi 151 – usually floated.

With a Zing: Add Peach Schnapps.

Wounded Soldier: Abandoned, partially drunk beer.

or Z-out: Run evening batch or sales report and close register. N.C.R. electro-mechanical register origins.

I.D., 10-T: Code for Idiot.

86: (adj): Menu item no longer available. (v) to throw out [customer].  Originated with Chumley’s bar in Greenwich Village as that is their address.

110: Scribbled on resumes during cattle-calls (mass interviews) to identify unsuitable candidates without alerting them to that fact. “110″ is a “NO” without the diagonal line completing the “N.”

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