Drink Basics

Alcoholic Drink Basics

You don’t need to have one of everything for a well-stocked bar. Start with a few liquors, beers and wines, then build from there. Keep nonalcoholic beverages on hand, too. Other items useful to have are below.

  • Mixers: Club soda, tonic water, ginger ale, Bloody Mary mix (or tomato juice), fruit
    juices, sweetened lime juice, margarita mix and soda (regular and diet colas and lemon-lime).
  • Garnishes: Celery stalks, cucumber and pickle spears, fresh fruit, fresh herb sprigs, lemon and lime wedges, maraschino cherries, mint leaves, olives, coarse salt and pepper, granulated and decorator sugar.
  • Gizmos and Gadgets: Blender, bottle opener, coasters, cocktail napkins, corkscrew, ice bucket, ice tongs, pitcher, martini shaker, shot glass, mini measure, muddler, stirring sticks and straws.


  • Liquors (spirits, hard liquor) are distilled alcoholic beverages made from a fermented mash of ingredients such as grains or plants. Favorites include bourbon, brandy, gin, rum, tequila, vodka and whiskey.
  • Liqueurs are sweetened flavored liquors made with ingredients such as barks, flowers, fruits, herbs, leaves, nuts, roots, seeds and spices. Liqueurs include amaretto, coffee-
    flavored liqueur (Kahlua), crème de menthe, and Irish cream liqueur. They are used sparingly, so purchase small bottles.

Simple Syrup

To use this syrup to sweeten drinks, add 1 teaspoon per drink instead of 1 teaspoon sugar (add more for a sweeter drink). In 2-quart saucepan, stir 2 cups sugar and 2 cups water. Heat over medium heat, stirring frequently, until sugar dissolves. Store covered in refrigerator up to 1 month. Makes 3 cups


Types of beer - All about beer

Basic beer ingredients are water, malted barley (or other grains such as corn, rye or wheat), hops and yeast. Hundreds of styles of beer are crafted using these building blocks.

Types of Beer

Ale: The fermenting yeast in ale tends to gather on the surface for several days before sinking to the bottom. Ale is usually fuller, more complex and higher in alcohol than lager.Lager: The fermenting yeast in lager sinks to the bottom, with the resulting brew being lighter in color, less complex in flavor and lower in alcohol than an ale. Pilsners, porters and stouts are lagers. Lager is the most common style of beer sold in the United States. Lagers are best served around 45°F; colder temperatures can make the beer cloudy and might dull the flavor.Specialty Beer: These beers include ales, lagers or a hybrid of the two and contain other ingredients that don’t fit neatly into those two styles. Nuances can include ingredients like fruit, vegetables, herbs, coffee, nuts, chocolate and the processing of the malt over a fire for a smoky flavor. Serve specialty beers at about 55°F so the complex flavors can be fully enjoyed.



Wine has been enjoyed across the globe for centuries. Three things determine the flavor of wine: the type of grapes, where the grapes were grown and how the grapes were crafted into wine. Picking out a bottle of wine doesn’t have to be intimidating. Wine stores can offer great selection guidance and advice. For in-depth knowledge, look to the bookstore or online. In the end, the only thing that matters is what you like!

Varietal Wine

Varietal is a term describing wines primarily made from one variety of grape. The most common white and red varietals, along with some of their common aromas and flavors, are listed below. Generic wines are made from a blend of grapes.

White Varietals

  • Chardonnay: apple, buttery, creamy, lemon, melon, nutty, oaky, pear, pineapple
  • Chenin Blanc: fruity, peach, spicy
  • Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio: apple, crisp, pear
  • Riesling: apple, grapefruit, green grapes, melon, peach/nectarine, orange
  • Sauvignon Blanc or Fumé Blanc: citrus, herbaceous, grassy, melon

Red Varietals

  • Cabernet Sauvignon: black currant, blackberry, black cherry, chocolate, fig, plum
  • Merlot: blackberry, black cherry, chocolate, plum, vanilla
  • Pinot Noir: berries, blackberry, black cherry, currant, spicy
  • Sangiovese: blackberry, cherry, plum, spice
  • Syrah (Shiraz): blackberry, chocolate, plum, pepper, spicy
  • Zinfandel: berries, cherry, earthy, pepper, spicy

Other Wines

  • Sparkling Wines are effervescent wines, such as Asti Spumante and Champagne.
  • Fortified Wines have added liquor, such as brandy; they include Madeira, Marsala, port and sherry
  • Aromatic Wines, inluding vermouth, are wines flavored with ingredients, such as herbs and spices

Pairing Wine and Food

No hard and fast rules exist, but the general philosophy is to serve like with like. Light-bodied, light-tasting white wines pair well with mild-flavored foods such as chicken and fish. Full-bodied, full-flavored red wines pair well with rich, robust foods like lasagna or steak. Pairings can cross over because both white and red wines have lighter to more full-bodied varieties. Look for pairing suggestions on labels.

Storing and Serving Wine

  • Store wine in a cool, dry location away from light. Lay bottles on their sides, not upright, so corks don’t dry out and shrink, which can allow air to enter and spoil the wine.
  • Serve white and sparkling wines at about 45°F to 55°F and reds at 55°F to 60°F. If served too cold, wine has little flavor.
  • Wine glasses are specifically designed with shapes that maximize the aromas and flavors of individual wines. A set of all-purpose glasses for both red and white wines is a good starting point.
  • To store leftover wine, push the cork back into the bottle or seal using a vacuum-pump device (rubber corks are included).

Sparkling Spritzers

To make wine spritzers, mix 2 cups chilled dry white wine or nonalcoholic wine, 1 cup chilled cranberry-apple juice drink and 1 cup chilled sparkling water. Serve over ice. Garnish with fresh fruit or mint leaves, if desired. Makes 6 servings (about 2⅓ cup each).

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