Essential Cocktail Terms | Valet.

Have you ever looked at a cocktail menu or recipe and felt like you needed a translator? No one loves that feeling. After all, you might think that “neat” and “up” mean the same thing when there are subtle but distinct differences about the two terms. Get in the know and bone up on some next level drinking jargon so you can speak like a seasoned connoisseur. That way, you’ll feel comfortable experimenting and your next drink order can be made with confidence.


The process of soaking an ingredient in a liquid, usually spirits or syrups. Infusions add a whole new variable to tweaked classics or allow for new creations.

Fat Washing

The process of infusing a spirit with a liquid fat source such as melted butter, melted animal fat or an oil. The mixture is infused at room temperature for a period of time, then placed in the freezer where the fat hardens at the surface and can then be removed and discarded. The result is a unique flavor enhancement that also adds a silky texture and richness.


Whereas bitters can be made up of a wide array of ingredients, a tincture is an infusion of a single ingredient into a spirit.


The key difference between tinctures or bitters and a shrub is the inclusion of vinegar, and often honey. Shrubs add an acidic and savory element to a cocktail.


A dash is a splash of an ingredient from a dasher bottle, measuring somewhere around 10 drops or just shy of a quarter of a teaspoon.

Muddler illustration


The act of pressing herbs or fruit with a pestle, as with mint in a Mojito.


The swizzle is both a type of cocktail and a method of mixing. If a drink features crushed or pebble ice, such as the Mint Julep or many tiki cocktails, stirring or shaking is not an optimal method of incorporating the ingredients. Instead, a swizzle stick cuts through the crushed ice without over-diluting.


The act of pouring a small amount of an ingredient into an empty glass and gently rolling it to coat the inside, thereby imparting a touch of that ingredient’s flavor to the cocktail. The Sazerac, for example, features an absinthe rinse in most recipes.


A small pour of a single spirit without ice.

Up cocktail illustration

Up cocktail illustration


A shaken or stirred cocktail served without ice, usually in a stemmed glass. The elevated structure of the glass inspired the term.


A strip of citrus that is squeezed over the surface of a cocktail, expressing its oils to add a trace of flavor.


Translating to “bitter,” amaros are bitter-sweet Italian liqueurs that are produced by macerating and/or infusing herbs, barks, roots and fruits into alcohol. It’s typically consumed after a meal as a digestive, but they also add wonderful depth and nuance to cocktails.


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