Liquor Terminology

A Quick Word About Bottle Sizes: Liquor is usually bottled in seven (7) different sizes, using the metric system. The sizes available in ascending order are: 50ml (miniature); 200ml (1/2 pint); 375ml (pint); .750ml (fifth); 1 Liter (Quart) and 1.75 lt (half-gallon). Not all brands and varieties come in all sizes. In an attempt to make liquor less confusing, listed is a brief description of each major type of Spirit. Please call the location nearest you for availability of the Spirit you wish to savor in the comfort of your own home.


Brandy: Brandy is distilled white grapes, but not always (apple brandy is known as Calvados), and is usually 80 proof (40% alcohol by volume). Most Brandies are mainly from California, but again, not always, it can be grapes grown in France or Germany. Remember, all cognacs are brandies, but not all brandies are cognacs (see cognacs for more information on that statement). Flavored brandies are considered cordials, and can be found in the Cordial Section of our stores.


Cognac: Cognac is white wine which is double distilled, and then aged in oak barrels for two to fifty plus years (basically it is French Brandy). The grapes are grown in a strictly controlled area of Southern France, the Cognac growing region, and it is divided into six growth ares. Cognac is the result of the blending and aging of different vintages and is usually 80 proof (40% alcohol by volume). An unblended, straight vintage cognac is very rare. The age of cognac is listed on the bottle and it is as follows: VS (Very Special) – two and a half years old; VO (Very Old),VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale), RESERVE – must be at least four and a half years old; XO (Extra Old),RESERVA EXTRA,HORS D’AGE,NEPOLEON – must be at six and a half years or older.


Gin: Gin was born in Holland in the late 16th Century. This potion became known as “genever” which the English shortened to “gin”. Gin is distilled from neutral grain spirits (vodka) and flavored with a variety of botanicals such as berries from the Juniper tree, coriander, orange peel or angelica root. A distilled gin is usually 80 proof (40% alcohol by volume)and must, according to the law, be distilled in a gin still in the presence of botanicals or other natural ingredients, of which the predominant ingredient must be Juniper berries. The term “London Dry” refers to the fact that quality gin does not need to have added sugar or sweetness.


Vodka: Vodka (neutral grain spirits), by law, is supposed to be colorless and tasteless. Most Vodka’s are now made from grains, but some are still made from potato’s and some are even made out of soy beans or grapes; the end result is a product that is 80 proof (40% alchohol by volume)and mixes well with about most anything. The impurities present in Vodka’s give each brand it’s distinctive taste and aroma. Now there are many flavored Vodka’s offered. What you gain in sweetness and taste, you lose in alcohol content. Most flavored Vodka’s are 50-70 proof. For those who care, NO CARBS in Vodka.


Rum: Rum is distilled from the fermented sugarcane juice or molasses. The resulting concoction is almost crystal clear in appearance. Often, the end product will be put into oak barrels for aging, and acquire some of its color from the aging process. Other times, extra color is gained by adding caramel, molasses or a combination of both. Light or dry versions of Rum were originally meant to compete with Vodka, Gin and other light alcohols. The use of “light” applies only to the body, color and taste. In either case, Dark or Light Rums may have been fermented from the same sugarcane, distilled the same, and aged for the same amount of time. Interesting Note: most of the Spice and Flavored Rums in the market today are not real Rums. The alcohol, in most cases is not refined and is aged only for a minimal amount of time. What Spiced and Flavored Rums really are is young alcohol mixed with flavoring agents. Who would’ve thunk?