These days, reading a cocktail menu can sometimes feel like reading the “Y” section of the dictionary with “sage-infused this” and “barrel-washed that.” So with London Cocktail Week in mind, we’ve created a handy little cocktail glossary so you can order a drink knowing full well exactly what’s in it. Knowledge my friends, is power.
Falernum – A sweet syrup originating from the Caribbean and typically made from almond, ginger and cloves. Charles Dickens mentions it in 1892 in his travel account “All the Year Round.”
Eau de Vie – A clear, colourless fruit brandy that is produced by means of fermentation and double distillation. The fruit flavor is typically very light and it’s similar to Raki or Schnapps in origin.
Shrub – sweetened vinegar-based syrup, from which the cocktail is made; the syrup is also known as drinking vinegar. It first appears in 17th century England as a way of preserving fruit and was popular in colonial America as well. The acidity of the shrub makes it well suited as an apéritif or as an alternative to bitters in cocktails. Unlike cocktails made with citrus, vinegar-based drinks remain clear when shaken.
Bitters – botanical ingredients used in bitters usually consist of aromatic herbs, bark, roots, and/or fruit for their flavour and medicinal properties. Most bitters contain both water and alcohol, the latter of which functions as a solvent for botanical extracts as well as a preservative. The most popular for cocktails is Angostura Bitters, originally created in 1824 in Venezuela.
Punt e Mes – An italian vermouth which translates to “a point and a hald” in Piedmontese. It can be used as a substitute for rosso vermouth and tastes halfway between rosso vermouth and Campari.
Chartreuse – Created in 1734, this is a French liqueur made by the Carthusian Monks since 1737 It is composed of distilled alcohol aged with 130 herbs, plants and flowers. It is very sweet, but becomes both spicy and pungent.