Tuesday Tools & Tricks #3: We Need To Talk…


Hi readers. Welcome to Tuesday’s Tools and Tricks. Could you take a seat? There is something we need to get off our chest.

See, everything has been going so great, you’re so smart and we love spending time with you, but there is this thing…and if we let it continue it may cause this whole relationship to crumble to the ground. But look, we are self-actualized enough to realize that we are not blameless in this, so we want to apologize for our carelessness. Hopefully we can work through this and come out stronger on the other end, okay?

What is it that we are talking about? Well, it’s about this word we all keep throwing around. A word you faithful readers are probably pretty familiar with. It’s “cocktail.” The thing is? WE ARE ALL USING IT WRONG! 

Oof, okay, glad that we got that out of the way up top.

Here’s the skinny, guys: you know how you go to a bar or a restaurant and they show you the “cocktail” menu? Or how you decide, after a long day at work, to make yourself a “cocktail?” Or, maybe, I don’t know, you go to a mixology website run by a pretty fabulous lady and read all about making “cocktails?” ….Well, here’s the thing: most of the drinks you see on a cocktail menu, make for yourself at home, or read about here are not actually cocktails.

WHAT?! We can here your gasps through the internet’s series of tubes.

Yes folks, you heard it here first, we have all been using the word cocktail wrong for years. YEARS! We here at The Woman At The Bar are just as guilty as the rest of you, but in our defense, we knew we were doing it all along — it just sounds more fun to say “quickie cocktail” rather than “quickie grog,” you know?

The reality is, a cocktail is a very specific type of mixed drink, not a blanket term for all drinks themselves. There are actually six basic types of mixed drinks, and because we here are sticklers for proper usage of terminology, we have created our very own listicle to tell you about them!

1. Ensembles

Def: ensembles are multiple alcoholic beverage products put together, but not made into other types of mixed drinks.

In other words, ensembles are made by layering two or more liquors and/or liqueurs but not mixing them together, shaking them, or combining them in any other way. You don’t see these too often (outside of the oh-so-patriotic American Flag Shot). The order in which you pour the alcohol is very important here, as these drinks really are meant to be experienced in layers. In all honesty, these are not drinks that we tend to spend too much time with, but you are free to google to your heart’s content!


2. Slings 

Def: slings are made by slightly diluting, sweetening and aromatizing a traditional portion of an alcoholic beverage product (or the same total amount of multiple products).


Now we’re getting to the good stuff! Although you don’t often hear the word, you are very, very familiar with slings. These are drinks that prominently feature the alcoholic base, and are only slightly altered by small amounts of water, sweetened syrup, bitters etc. Traditionally, each of these drinks contains 2 ounces of alcohol total, and usually only a teaspoon or so of syrup. There are several different types of slings, generally distinguished by the aromatic element used in the drink.

  • Traditional Slings: aromatized with spices (usually nutmeg)
  • Toddies: aromatized with a citrus zest
  • Juleps: aromatized with herbs
  • Cobblers: served over crushed ice and topped with fresh fruit and/or berries
  • Cups: wine-based slings

and last but not least in the list of sling variations: our good pal The Cocktail. A Cocktail is actually a bittered sling, meaning a sling that is aromatized with, you guessed it, bitters. There are plenty of examples of true cocktails (yesterday’s drink The June Cleaver is one!), but the ones you are probably most familiar with would be the Old Fashioned or Manhattan.


3. Punches 

Def: punches are made by souring, sweetening and diluting a traditional portion of an alcoholic beverage product, and are also often accented with an aromatic element.


These are the most popular type of mixed drink, and probably what you think of when you think of cocktails. These are made by combining sour, sweet, strong, and weak elements using specific proportions to balance the flavor. Margarita? Punch. San Francisco Pisco Punch? Duh, punch. Daiquiri? Punch. Bloody Mary, Mojito, Sidecar, or Mai Tai? Yep, all punches. These drinks still prominently feature the alcoholic beverage used as its base, but are balanced by the other elements to the drink.


4. Succulents

Def: succulents are made by juicing a traditional portion of an alcoholic beverage product with succulent juice.


Very simply, a succulent is alcohol + fruit juice. The juice-to-alcohol proportion can vary, but these are pretty straightforward drinks. The most common succulent is probably the Screwdriver.


5. Grogs

Def: grogs are made by using the traditional portion of an alcoholic beverage to fortify a larger amount of the weak element. Originally, grog was made to rum-cure water on seagoing vessels so that it was safe to drink.


Like succulents, these are pretty straight forward. Take 2 ounces of alcohol and pour it into 4+ ounces of non-fruit juice and you’ve got yourself a grog. Rum&Coke, Vodka Tonic, G&T — all grogs. Our Ginger Snap is also one!

and last but not least:

6. Possets 

Def: possets are made by thickening and sweetening a traditional portion of an alcoholic beverage, usually with eggs or a dairy product.


Although you are likely most familiar with possets of the dairy variety (White Russians and Eggnog), these are actually incredibly varied and interesting drinks to delve into. There are both hot and chilled varieties, and if done well (aka, not just an alcoholic milkshake), they can be really delicious. Okay, alcoholic milkshakes are pretty delicious too, but you get what we mean…


So there you have it! Now you can show off the next time you are at a bar, or simply join us in our silent seething rage when we see a “cocktail” menu.

That’s all for now, folks! Join us back here tomorrow for our Hump Day Quickie Cocktail!

(We mean Quickie Grog! No, nope, not doing it. Screw it, we’re still calling it a Quickie Cocktail, terminology be damned!)




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