Styles of drink
Cocktails generally come in one of two styles: shaken with ice in a cocktail shaker (drinks made with juice or dairy) or stirred with ice in a mixing glass (spirits only drinks such as martinis or manhattans).
If a cocktail is served in a stemmed cocktail glass without ice, it is served up; in a short non-stemmed glass without ice it is neat; with ice cubes it is on the rocks. The word straight usually refers to unmixed spirits. Long or tall drinks have soda or tonic water added to them, for instance, a gin and tonic.
The sour is a family of drinks featuring spirits, sweetener and citrus, such as the Margarita. Punch typically has five ingredients (sweet, strong, sour, spicy and weak) and a cup is a smaller portion of the same. A highball comprises spirit and mixer in a tall glass, as in a rum and cola. A toddy is liquor and hot water, sometimes with spice and sweetener. A cobbler is served in a tall glass over crushed ice.
Virgin or unleaded means a drink made without alcohol, aka a mocktail.
A Martini is a stirred drink of gin, dry vermouth, occasionally orange bitters and its own terminology. A perfect one is made with equal parts sweet and dry vermouth. A burnt Martini features a peaty scotch rinse, a swirl of liquid inside a glass. A dirty one is made with olive brine. A Gibson is a Martini garnished with two pickled onions, in honour of the voluptuous women drawn by artist Charles Dana Gibson in the early 1900s.
Fun fact: A Martini made with vodka is technically known as a kangaroo.
Stemmed glasses include the V-shaped cocktail or Martini glass or the shallow, rounded coupe, as well as tall narrow flutes, and the Nick & Nora glass, an elegant vintage shape that’s making a huge comeback.
Stemless glasses are either short and stubby (rocks or Old Fashioned) or tall and narrow (Collins). There are also a number of specialty glasses, such as tiki mugs and julep cups.
As a unit of measurement, a jigger is typically about 1½ ounces; the word is also used for the tool for measuring spirits. A finger is an informal measure of about an ounce; so is a pony. In Canada, a double is a drink made with two ounces of spirits; in the U.S., it is typically made with two jiggers (three ounces). A dash is an eighth of a teaspoon.
Then there’s the word cocktail itself. Its historic definition is a “bittered sling,” that is, spirits, sugar, water and bitters; it’s the presence of bitters that elevates a mixed drink to a cocktail.
But how did the name originate? It’s been suggested that it was named for an Aztec princess, or maybe the egg-shaped measuring cup called a “coquetiere” in old New Orleans, or perhaps a drink spout made from a rooster feather.
The truth may not be so romantic. A few years ago, the great cocktail historian David Wondrich discovered a 1785 English reference to horse dealers who would use ginger, or sometimes pepper, as a suppository to encourage a horse to cock its tail jauntily, making it show better.
“Cock-tail” thus entered the lexicon as a piece of slang that was “used figuratively for encouraging or spiriting one up” – and referred specifically to a drink with ginger or pepper added to it. Eventually the spice was replaced by bitters, and the origins were (thankfully) forgotten.
—by Joanne Sasvari