Life Behind the Stick

Want to talk like a bartender? Try out these colorful terms.

ABV: alcohol by volume; ABV equals half of the spirit’s proof
back: a small non-alcoholic drink sipped alongside a straight spirit
behind the stick: serving behind a bar
bruised: overshaken to the point of being too murky and watery to enjoy
burnt: martinis made with Scotch
chaser: a small drink imbibed quickly after a straight (neat) shot
dirty: containing olive brine
drain pour: a beer so distasteful it must be sent down the drain
dry: very little vermouth in a martini
finger: an informal measurement, usually about an ounce
flame: a drink set on fire
float: to layer one type of liquor on top of another
highball: any spirit served with ice and a mixer in a tall glass
jigger: a steel, hourglass-shaped measuring device; one side holds 1 oz. of liquid (a “pony shot”); the other side holds 1.5 oz.
legs: what the French call “tears,” the streaks of wine that run down a glass after it’s swirled
lightning: unrefined whiskey straight from a still, AKA moonshine or white dog
muddle: to crush ingredients with a muddler (as in a mojito)
neat: two oz. of spirits, served straight from the bottle, no ice
one and one: A liquor plus a mixer—no specific brand named (like gin and tonic)
over: poured over ice
pony: one-ounce shot
rinse: small amount of liquid used to coat the inside of a glass and impart flavor
rocks: two oz. of spirits served over ice
shooter: a drink (either straight or not) meant to be drunk in one gulp
sling: any cocktail without bitters
speed rack: the rail behind the bar where the most frequently used bottles reside
squeeze: a piece of citrus squeezed over a drink, then added
toddy: a sweet drink that includes hot water; often spicy
top: a half ounce of something atop a drink
topless: no salt on the rim of a margarita
tot: small amount of a liquor
unleaded: non-alcoholic, AKA “virgin”
up: two oz. of spirits stirred over ice, then strained into a chilled stemware glass
well: a cheap drink made with house liquor


“Alcohol may be man’s worst enemy, but the Bible says love your enemy.” —Frank Sinatra. Photo by Rachel Adams

“I invented this rye-based, spirit-forward, stirred cocktail and needed a name for it. I read that Fez was an early capital of Morocco, and that the old city center, Fez Medina, is home to traditional open-air Moroccan markets, which sell cedar wood carvings. We started smoking the cocktail’s glass on a charred cedar wood grilling plank, and the drink got its name.”

Fez Medina 
1.5 oz. rye whiskey
.75 oz. CioCiaro
.5 oz. Aperol
3 dashes Strongwater Sweet Riza bitters (a local, Denver-based bitters producer)
1 lemon twist

Burn a cedar grilling plank to smoke. Place empty Old Fashioned glass upside down over plank, allowing smoke to fill inside of glass for 60 seconds. Combine first three ingredients, stir, and strain into the glass over a large rock. Garnish with lemon twist.


“Alcohol is the anesthesia by which we endure the operation of life.” —George Bernard Shaw. Photo by Rachel Adams

El Five Martini
2 oz. Spanish olive oil fat-washed gin (recipe follows) 
1 oz. manzanilla sherry 
.75 oz. herb-infused olive brine (recipe follows) 
1 lemon twist 
3 green olives

Combine first three ingredients, shake, and fine-strain into a chilled coupe glass. Squeeze a lemon twist over the glass to release the oils, and discard. Garnish with three olives.

Spanish Olive Oil Fat-Washed Gin
1 bottle gin 
2 oz. Spanish olive oil

Add to a container with a tight-fitting lid; shake to combine. Store in a cool, dark place for at least 24 hours. Place container in freezer for several hours or overnight until the olive oil has separated and is easily removed. Using a coffee filter, strain gin to remove any remaining olive oil.

Herb-Infused Olive Brine
12 oz. olive brine 
1 Tbsp. sherry vinegar 
1 Tbsp. kosher salt 
2 ea. lemon zest 
2 Tbsp. peppercorns 
2 bay leaves
2 rosemary sprigs

Combine all in a deli and shake until salt is dissolved.


Photo by Rachel Adams

“I like to have a rum and tiki drink on every menu. This recipe is very close to the original 1934 Zombie created by Don the Beachcomber, one of the founding fathers of the tiki drink. I made one small substitution—replacing grenadine with passion-fruit simple syrup—because I love rum and passion fruit. It’s a really boozy cocktail. We have a limit of two Zombies per guest at El Five.” 

1 oz. Bacardi 4-year aged rum
1 oz. Smith & Cross Jamaica rum
.75 oz. Hamilton Demerara 151 Rum
.5 oz. Taylor’s Velvet Falernum
.75 oz. lime juice
.5 oz. Don’s #4 (equal parts grapefruit juice and cinnamon simple syrup)
.25 oz. passion fruit simple syrup (equal parts passion-fruit purée and simple syrup)
Dash Angostura
6 oz. crushed ice
1 spritz Absinthe
1 grapefruit twist
1 cinnamon stick
1 mint sprig

Combine first eight ingredients in a blender and pulse the blender a few times to mix. Pour into a julep cup, top with crushed ice, and spritz the surface of the drink with Absinthe. Wrap a grapefruit twist around the base of a cinnamon stick, burn the top of the cinnamon stick with a lighter, and place into drink. Garnish with a mint sprig.

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