20 Spirits and Cocktails You Secretly Can’t Explain

Bone up on your boozing vocab so that you can decipher the cocktail menu sans a smartphone.

spiritsyoudontknow

Photo: Liz Barclay

The cocktail revolution is an exciting and mainly awesome phenomenon. These days, drinking at a good bar is like the education you never got in college—one where you're supposed to get drunk while learning about antique cocktail recipes, obscure spirits, and funky house-made syrups. However, it can also be mentally exhausting, and sometimes you'd rather just order a whiskey neat than figure out what the hell Demerara is, and what it's going to do to your Old-Fashioned. (Don't worry, it's just fancy sugar.)

With the cocktail scene becoming increasingly competitive, bar programs continue to find new ways to stand out—from shock-and-awe theatrics to often unrecognizable ingredients and booze. Often, you don't feel like asking for someone to decode the menu for you, especially when the bartender is already dealing with a packed house (or, worse still, appears to be a douche). Consider this your handy cheat sheet—20 mixed drinks, spirits, and cocktails ingredients that you might vaguely recognize when you see them at the bar, but kind of need a refresher to remind yourself what they really are.

Study up, then order with confidence rather than just blindly asking for a cobbler and wondering what's going to show up in front of you.

See also: 20 Foods You Secretly Can't Explain

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