Bartenders Guide: Types of Liquor

"There is nothing more irritating than an ignorant bartender, except perhaps an ignorant and ugly bartender. Ugly and knowledgeable will kick ignorant and cute's ass when the chips are down. Know thy liquor." - Frost

Ah, sweet liquor. The foundation of all things bar. A subject with all the intrigue of History, the science of Chemistry and the deadly seriousness of Pharmacology. Add to that a palette of flavorings that would bewilder most Culinary graduates coupled with an industry constantly expanding its repertoire of new and dazzling sensations, and you can see why I'm crazy about it.

Walk behind even the most mundane bar and you're gazing at Human Evolution. Joe's Pub down the road probably has liquors whose recipe has remained unchanged for decades, if not hundreds of years. Sadly, Joe's open bottles have probably racked up a few milestones, themselves. Bleh.

On this page, you will find all the basic types of liquor as well as lesser-known varieties. You can look them up by category or alphabetically on the left. Because this already-huge subject is constantly growing, I am always happy to receive your submissions and suggestions. Let's make this the best resource out there.

Cocktail Shaker

Liquor is produced by distilling fermented grain, fruit, or vegetables. This excludes beverages like beer and wine, which are fermented but not distilled.

Liquors typically have no added sugar. Liquors with added sugar and flavorings are known as liqueurs. Grand Marnier, Frangelico, etc. are liqueurs.

All home and professional bar setups are centered around a core group of liquors known as the "well". These are:






No bar is complete without these core liquors in some variation. If you do not have them, you do not have a bar, end of story. For more information on setting up a home or professional well, click here.