Queen Bee Mixology

Your Guide to Understanding Every Bartending Term

Your Guide to Understanding Every Bartending Term

Welcome to the vibrant and exciting world of bartending! Whether you’re a newbie cocktail enthusiast or a seasoned bartender, the language of mixology can sometimes feel like a secret code. Fear not, though, because in this article, we’ll dive into the terms you’ll encounter on your journey through the world of craft cocktails and mixology. Let’s dive right in!


What it means: To gently crush or grind ingredients, often fruits or herbs, in the bottom of a glass using a muddler. This releases their flavors.

Usage: “Muddle the fresh mint leaves and sugar in the glass before adding ice and rum for a Mojito.”


Shaken, Not Stirred

What it means: Mixing ingredients vigorously in a cocktail shaker with ice to chill and dilute the drink.

Usage: “James Bond prefers his Martini shaken, not stirred.”


What it means: To gently pour a small amount of a liqueur or spirit on top of a cocktail to create layers or add an aromatic finish.

Usage: “A classic way to finish a Margarita is to float a bit of Grand Marnier on top.”

The Purple Crown


What it means: Serving a spirit straight from the bottle into a glass without any ice, water, or mixers.

Usage: “I like my bourbon neat to savor its full flavor.”


On the Rocks

What it means: Serving a drink over ice cubes.

Usage: “Could I have my Scotch on the rocks, please?”


What it means: A cocktail with double the standard amount of alcohol.

Usage: “I’ll take a double shot of espresso in my White Russian, please!”


What it means: Decorative elements added to a cocktail, often fruit slices, herbs, or twists of citrus peel. Check out my article on Elevating Your Garnish Game.

Usage: “A Maraschino cherry is the perfect garnish for a classic Manhattan.”


What it means: Concentrated, aromatic liquids infused with herbs, spices, and fruits, used to add depth and complexity to cocktails. Check out my article on Understanding Cocktail Bitters: An In-Depth Guide

Usage: “A few dashes of Angostura bitters can transform an Old Fashioned.”


What it means: Non-alcoholic liquids like soda, tonic, or juice used to dilute and flavor cocktails.

Usage: “A Moscow Mule is a refreshing mix of vodka, ginger beer, and lime juice.”


What it means: A measuring tool used by bartenders to ensure precise amounts of liquid are added to a cocktail. In my article Home Bar Essentials with Queen Bee Mixology under “Essential Accessories”, you’ll find a link to my go-to cocktail Jigger.

Usage: “Use a jigger to measure out 1.5 ounces of gin for your Negroni.”


What it means: Liquor crafted to perfection, distilled multiple times for exceptional quality.

Usage: “Tonight, let’s savor premium vodka in our cocktails.”

Top Shelf

What it means: The finest liquor, often showcased on the top shelf of the bar.

Usage: “Our top-shelf whiskey is worth savoring.”



What it means: Soaking an ingredient in a drink to let its flavors meld before removing it. For more information and infusion ideas read my article on Mixing Magic: Infusions and Homemade Syrups for Memorable Cocktails.

Usage: “Infuse your gin with herbs for a botanical twist.”


What it means: Sweet, flavor-packed liquor that elevates cocktails with oils and extracts. Common Liqueurs include: Baileys Irish Cream, Kahlúa, Grand Mariner, Amaretto, Frangelico, Cointreau, Chambord and Triple Sec.

Usage: “A splash of coffee liqueur makes your White Russian dreamy.”


What it means: The strong stuff distilled from grains or plants, like brandy, gin, or whiskey.

Usage: “A fine bourbon is pure, unlike sweet liqueurs.”


What it means: Using a blender to create a silky, smooth concoction.

Usage: “Blending fruit with ice makes a refreshing cocktail.”


What it means: Letting ice and water cool your glass while you prepare your cocktail.

Usage: “Chill your glass for a refreshing sip.”


What it means: Adding olive brine to your cocktail, especially a Martini, for a savory twist.

Usage: “A dirty Martini has a bold, briny kick.”

Free Pour

What it means: Pouring liquor without using a measuring tool, relying on skill and intuition.

Usage: “Experienced bartenders can free pour with precision.”


What it means: Creating cocktails with distinct layers of ingredients that don’t mix.

**Usage:** “A well-layered cocktail is a visual delight.”

Pictured: New York Sour


What it means: Not to be confused with tequila, it’s a smoky Mexican spirit made from the agave plant.

Usage: “Mezcal is the soul of a true Margarita.”


What it means: Storing spirits or wine in wooden barrels to transform and refine their flavors.

Usage: “Aged whiskey develops character over time.”


What it means: A non-alcoholic cocktail, delivering flavor without the buzz.

Usage: “A well-crafted mocktail is a refreshing choice.”

Pictured: Blue Lagoon Mocktail


What it means: Coating a glass’s rim in sugar or salt for added flavor and style. Chocolate, chamoy, caramel and other sauces can also be used as a rim.

Usage: “Rim your Margarita glass with salt for a zesty kick.”


What it means: Cleansing a glass with a small amount of alcohol before preparing a drink.

Usage: “A rinse of absinthe adds mystique to your cocktail.”


What it means: Removing unwanted particles from your drink, ensuring it’s silky smooth.

Usage: “Strain your cocktail for a pristine pour.”


What it means: Adding citrus zest as a garnish, releasing fragrant oils.

Usage: “A lemon twist gives your cocktail a zesty pop.”

Pictured: Smoky Negroni


What it means: Alcohol by volume – the percentage of alcohol in a spirit or drink.

Usage: “Check the ABV of your spirits for balanced cocktails.”


What it means: A tiny amount of an ingredient, no specific measurement.

Usage: “Add a dash of bitters for depth.”


What it means: The alcohol content measurement in a spirit, twice the alcohol percentage.

Usage: “This bourbon is 90 proof.”


What it means: A drink enjoyed before bed, thought to aid sleep.

Usage: “A nightcap for sweet dreams.”


What it means: Cocktails with lemon or lime juice, delivering a zesty punch.

Usage: “A whiskey sour is a tangy delight.”

Pictured: Rum Sour

Straight Up/Up

What it means: Chilled by shaking or stirring, served in a stemmed glass.

Usage: “Serve your Martini straight up for elegance.”

Aperitif & Digestif

What it means: A pre-dinner drink believed to stimulate the appetite. A drink consumed after dinner to aid digestion. Check out my article on The Allure of Apéritifs and Digestifs: Pre- and Post-Dinner Drinks.

Usage: “Start your meal with an aperitif and end with a digestif”.

Now that you’ve got the lowdown on these bartender terms, you’re well on your way to becoming a mixology maestro. So, go ahead and impress your friends at your next cocktail party with your newfound knowledge. Remember, the world of mixology is all about creativity, experimentation, and having a blast while crafting delicious drinks!

Whether you prefer your libations shaken or stirred, neat or on the rocks, understanding these bartender terms will elevate your cocktail game and make you the life of the party. Cheers to your mixology adventures!

Author Meet Kelly Sparks, the creative mastermind and cocktail influencer behind @QueenBeeMixology. While mixology may not be her day job, it is her passion. As the Founder and CEO of VMG Studios, a successful and award-winning creative agency and video production studio, Kelly brings her expertise and creativity to the world of cocktails. As a self-taught and dedicated do-it-yourselfer, Kelly makes the journey to amazing cocktails accessible to everyone. And when she’s not hard at work, you can find her sipping a delicious drink with her husband.

To mix drinks like a pro, check out my go-to bar tools and glasses.