Bartending Guide Study – Lesson 4

bartender_lesson 4


Drinks can be ordered either by generic name or brand name. For instance, a customer may order ’Scotch and Soda’ or ‘Johnny Walker Black and Soda’. For the ’Scotch and Soda’ you will use bar scotch in the speed rail, along with the other house brand liquors. This is generally a value brand and relatively inexpensive. For the Johnny Walker Black, a premium label would be on a back bar. This is a “call” brand, which means one that is only poured when the customer orders that specific brand, and usually charged extra for it. The other category is top shelf brand. These products are kept often on the shelves of the back bar, and are often expensive spirits such as eighteen-year-old scotch and Cognac XO.


For each of the liquor categories you will have a bar brand and one or more call brands. This will be true for vodka, gin, whisky, scotch, tequila, brandy, and rum. Many businesses will also have a bar brand and a call brand for liqueurs (cordials). It is not necessary for a bartender to know in depth about how spirits are made, but a short description of the basic types might be helpful in keeping them distinct in your mind.

Vodka is a clear rectified spirit (distilled three times) produced from grain or potatoes or other sources. More details at  the Bartender Guide.

Gin is a clear spirit that is distilled a second time with botanicals (herbs, spices, plants) such as juniper berries and coriander seeds or aromatics such as angelica root, orris root or licorice root. Gins will differ depending on the amounts of botanicals used in preparing them. More details at the Bartender Guide.

Rum is distilled from sugar cane or from its by-products: sugar cane juice or molasses. There are four basic types: light rum (white), gold rum (amber), dark rum, and flavoured rum. More details at the Bartender Guide.

Tequila is the national drink of Mexico. It is made from the pulp of the blue agave plant. The main categories are: blanco (white or plata), joven (gold, oro), reposado, and anejo. More details at the Bartender Guide.

Brandy is a broad term, encompassing a large family of spirits that includes distinctive types. The word brandy when used alone on a label denotes a distilled grape product. Grape brandies are produced in many countries and in many styles. The most famous brandy is Cognac and the second most famous is Armagnac, both produced in France. More details at the Bartender Guide.

Non-grape brandies are made from fruit other than grapes such as Calvados (apple), Poire Williams (pear), Kirsch (cherry), Mirabelle (yellow plum), and many others.

Whisky can be spelled two ways: whisky which is a product of Scotland or Canada; and whiskey which is a product of Ireland or United States. All whiskies are made from grain of one sort of another. The basic types: Scotch, Irish, Canadian, American (bourbon, Tennessee, rye), and Japanese. More details at the Bartender Guide.


Liqueurs, also called cordials, were originally produced as medicinal remedies for all ailments known to man. It is the inquisitiveness of the alchemists that eventually led to the creation of the flavoured, sweetened spirits we today call liqueurs. As the distillation process became better understood, and sugar and spices were added, these medicines were transformed into modern, rich, flavourful, sweet liqueurs. They are defined as spirits which have been infused, macerated, or distilled with flavourings such as extracts of plants, fruits, fruit juices, or essential oils. The amount of sugar determines the density of the finished product. Liqueurs also differ in their alcohol content and are generally lower than distilled grain spirits. It is possible to differentiate them by their ingredients into categories such as fruit, cream, herbal (spice), coffee, nut, chocolate, and grain spirit based liqueurs. There are over five hundred commercial liqueurs, so too many to list here. Download the most popular Liqueurs Of The World pdf file for home study.


You will find thousands of recipes for mixed drinks plus an enormous number of variations on them. New drinks are constantly being created and a few will become standards. I have included 50 standard cocktails that a bartender should be familiar with in the following list. All of the recipes can be found on Cocktail Hunter recipe pages. The amounts in the recipes may vary to fit the pouring policies of the bar where you will be working. After tending bar for a while, you will come to know most of the old standards and  the currently popular regional favourites.  Download the Top 50 cocktails pdf file for home study.