10 Classic Cocktail Terms Everyone Should Know

First and foremost, the primary cocktail term that you should know is just that: cocktail. The earliest reference to the drink was in an American periodical called The Balance, in which cocktail was described as “a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters.” Following this strict definition, many of the “cocktails” we drink today are misnomers, as every true cocktail should have four components. We no longer make that distinction, though; today basically all mixed (alcoholic) drinks are considered cocktails.

The following 10 terms describe other common beverages that were siblings of the cocktail between the 17th and early 20th centuries. These terms are still used on menus and in cocktail books today, so you should learn to use and recognize them! The more familiar you become with them, the more comfortable you’ll feel making your own “twists” on these on the fly at home, as well as ordering at a bar or restaurant.