Ten Bar Phrases You May Not Know

By Zac Kvas


“A medium-dry vodka martini, lemon peel, shaken…not stirred.” You may have heard this quote from your favourite Bond film, but do you really know cocktail lingo?


  1. Behind-the-Stick: This literally means “working behind the bar”. If you have spent five years working as a bartender, then consequently you have spent five years behind the stick.
  2. Wet-Shake & Dry-Shake: A wet-shake is a shake with ice, a dry-shake is a shake without ice. This is most often used in frothy egg-white cocktails. The egg white creates foam in a cocktail and silky mouthfeel.
  3. Single Malt: All Scotch, by law, must be made from 100% malted barley & be made in Scotland. The ‘Single” in Single-Malt simply means the whisky was made at a single distillery and not several. It does not however indicate that it is from a single cask or barrel. For this, it would be labelled ‘Single-Malt, Single-Cask’.
  4. Cask Strength: This is a whisky that is in bottle at the same strength as it was in the barrel. From barrel to bottle…nothing has changed!
  5. Devil’s Cut: When a whisky ages in barrel, the barrel itself will breathe the whisky in and out of the wood as the temperature gets warmer and cooler. The whisky that remains trapped in the fibres of the oak after the barrel is emptied is known as the devil’s cut.
  6. Angels’ Share: Think of a whisky barrel as having its own weather system. As water and alcohol evaporate, a whisky in barrel will lose about 2% of its volume per year. This evaporation is known as the angels’ share…those thirsty angels!
  7. Neat Vs. Straight Up: Neat means in a rocks glass with no ice & nothing else but the spirit. Straight-up, or ‘Up’, means chilled. A dirty martini straight-up would mean a dirty martini chilled down, but not served on ice.
  8. Scotch, Rye & Bourbon: Scotch means it is a whisky made in Scotland. Bourbon means it is made in the USA. Rye, however, is simply a varietal of whisky. Many people think Rye is Canadian whisky but this isn’t true.
  9. Highball: Spirit + chaser. Rum & Coke, Vodka & soda…both highballs!
  10. Two Fingers: When a bartender holds two fingers on a glass and pours to the top of the second finger. Best find a bartender with big hands. 


Now get to it and get creative!

Zac Kvas has been working as a mixologist for almost a decade. He created the cocktail program at Wayne Gretzky Estates and currently owns and operates his own cocktail syrup & garnish company, Kvas Fine Beverage Co.  with his wife & business partner Amy Kvas.