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What 7 of the most confusing terms you see at a bar actually mean


As a bartender, I sometimes see a sense of panic in the customer’s eyes as they scan the menu.

That unsettling feeling isn’t because of the prices either. The anxiety often stems from having absolutely no idea what half the words on the menu mean.

Before I was a bartender, and just a cocktail server, I was often perplexed but too afraid to ask for clarification. Bartenders, after all, can be quite judgmental.

Read more: I’m a bartender, and these are the drinks that we secretly judge you for ordering

And even if you request and get your explanation, those can be equally meaningless. If a customer asks, “What is Fernet?” and as a reply, they get “Well, Fernet is a digestif,” that still doesn’t help most people.

The whole bar-going experience could be made much easier if it were clear what all these crazy cocktail ingredients are, what they taste like, and why we bartenders use them.

With that in mind, here’s a bartender’s guide to seven of the most confusing ingredients and terms that will boost your cocktail game and make ordering your next drink a breeze.



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