The San Francisco Chronicle’s “Cracking the Bar Code” by The Joy of Mixology author Gary Regan offers an entertaining introduction to drink lingo for amateur lushes like me who are flummoxed by the arcane distinction between a “straight shot” and “neat.” They mean the same thing, says Regan, but:

[A] straight shot is most often served to people who want to throw some whiskey down their throat after a harrowing experience, or perhaps right before they take a swing at someone at the bar. A neat single-malt Scotch, on the other hand, usually reaches the lips of someone who wants to relax after dinner and discuss esoteric stuff. God versus quantum physics versus they’re the same thing, for instance.

Regan also parses such mind-benders as: Do you call it a cocktail glass or a martini glass? How much difference does shaking versus stirring a drink make? Does it matter if a cocktail is served shaken in ice and then served straight up, versus said cocktail being served over ice? What does a citrus twist add to a drink, exactly, and if someone asks you if you’d like your orange twist flamed, should you answer in the affirmative? What’s a float, and what’s a sink? What’s a stick drink?

It’s good reading. As blogger Rick Dobbs over at Martini Groove says, “Most people that walk in to a bar know how to order their favorite drink, but the fact that they might stumble upon themselves on trying something new is often a reason that people don’t branch out.”

Yeah, that and being sneered at by a bartender.

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