January 31, 2017 at 4:05 am

Three Common Spirits Every Bartender Should Know

Bartending is a lot of fun.  It can also make you a lot of money.  It combines the intelligence of the culinary arts (memorizing recipes, understanding presentation, creating a menu, etc) with the social aspects of customer service.  There is more to it, of cousre, then just mixing a few liquids in a glass, though much of the time this is the job.

Indeed, getting good at École du Bar de Montréal bartending and making a career out of it requires a lot of work and even some study. And to get you started, here are three types of spirits you absolutely need to understand in the food and beverage industry.  These are fundamental alcohols that can be consumed straight or often mixed with other things.


Dating back as far as the 2nd millennium, whiskey is now distilled from grain mash.  The grains—sometimes malted—can include corn, barley, wheat, or rye.  Whiskey is probably the most strictly regulated spirit across the globe, with a liquor only qualifying as such if it meets grain fermentation, distillation, and aging requirements. For example, it must be aged in wooden barrels.  But even with these tight regulations, there are many different classifications of whiskey.


While whiskey is distilled from a fermented grain, rum is distilled from a byproduct of sugarcane production. In some cases (the Brazilian cachaca) it can be distilled directly from sugar cane juice.  Like vodka, rum is clear but unlike vodka, rum is typically aged in oak barrels, which is how it gets its color.  This makes it similar to tequila, as well, since fresh tequila is clear until it starts aging in barrels.  And, like tequila, this gives rum its many grades.

  • Light Rum: purified to remove impurities and, most of the time, not aged
  • Gold Rum: slightly aged, probably only a few months
  • Dark Rum: aged much longer (like anejo tequila). But dark rums can also be “young,” just distilled from molasses (instead of sugarcane)

You can also find premium and flavored rums, which are also slightly different in production.


Finally, we have vodka. This is a pure, clean, spirit.  In fact, it may be the most pure spirit you can drink.  It is typically made from neutral grains (like wheat or rice) or potato.  You can drink it “neat” if you like, but because the liquor is so pure, it is an excellent way to add alcohol to your favorite soft drink; or a great base component for many mixed drinks.

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