Know Your Alcohol and Popular Liquor Brands

As a new bartender, you need to know the basics of the below liquors. For the first nine (9) liquors below, I’ll give a brief description, a few popular “Call” types of that liquor, and a few popular drinks – without the recipes as that will be discussed in the next section – Section 6, Cocktail Recipes.

Following these first nine, I’ll list other liquors and alcohols that you will run across quite frequently. YOU DON’T NEED TO KNOW ANY MORE THAN THREE – FIVE POPULAR “CALLS” OF EACH OF THE MAIN NINE TYPES OF ALCOHOL! For the rest of the liquors/liqueurs, just know the name and what it tastes like.

This is fairly straightforward stuff – and don’t sweat it! Read through it a few times and practice/memorize through the Anki Deck (Coming soon), or my “Cheat Sheets,” and you’ll do just fine. Honestly, you could just copy and paste this lesson into a Word doc and study from there. Easy.

The first nine liquors below are usually found in the “Well.” Directly in front of the bartender. Some bars will have either a “blended whiskey” or a “bourbon,” but usually not both in the “well.” Most all bars will have the Triple Sec in there as it’s used frequently. All bars are different!

Remember that many bars will have these first nine liquors on a liquor gun. No big deal – it just leaves the “well” for the more popular “Call” liquors. Also – most bars will have an “extended well” that is in line with the first well – probably to the left of the bartender station. This extended well may include popular call liquors, grenadine, Rose’s Lime Juice, and other mixers.

Here we go…The 9 Liquors Found In The Bartenders “Well”


Basics: Clear, 80 proof, quart or liter. Made from almost anything these days: Grain, potatoes, even fruit. Your boss will buy it by the case.

Popular Brands: Grey Goose, Smirnoff, Stolichnaya (Stoli), Absolute, Ketel One

Drinks: Screwdriver, Vodka Collins, Vodka Martini, Cosmopolitan (Cosmo), Moscow Mule


Basics: Clear, 80 proof, quart or liter. Made from grains and Juniper Berries

Popular Brands: Bombay, Beefeater, Tanqueray, Seagram’s, Gordon’s

Drinks: Gin ‘n Tonic, Tom Collins, Martini, Gimlet


Basics: Can be clear, flavored, or dark. 80 proof and higher. Made from sugar cane, sugar, and/or molasses

Popular Brands: Bacardi Light and Dark, Myers, Captain Morgan’s, Bacardi 151

Drinks: Daiquiri’s, Cuba Libre, Pina Colada, Mai-Tai, Hurricane

Whiskey (Usually Blended)

Basics: Golden brown, amber. 80 proof and up. Made from cereal grains (corn, barley, rye, wheat)

Popular Brands: Canadian Club, Seagram’s 7, Crown Roya, and cheap “well”: whiskey

Drinks: Manhattan, Old Fashioned, Whisky Sour, Lynchburg Lemonade, Whiskey Coke

Remember: ALL bourbon is whiskey, but NOT ALL whiskey is bourbon!


Basics: Amber colored. 80 Proof. Made from 10 – 20% malted barley plus some unmalted cereals.

Popular Brands: Cutty Sark, J&B, Johnny Walker Red (and Black), Dewar’s, Glenlivet (a single-malt)

Drinks: Rob Roy, Scotch Sour, Rusty Nail, Godfather


Basics: Clear or amber. 80 Proof. Made from the Blue Agave plant. And other stuff.

Popular Brands: Patron, Cuervo Gold, Cuervo 1800, Don Julio (Very Expensive), Hornitos

Drinks: Margarita, Tequila Sunrise, Tequila Sour, Bloody Maria, Tequila Collins


Basics: Amber colored. 70 – 120 Proof. Made by distilling wine and grapes and other stuff.

Popular Brands: Traditional – Christian Brothers, Korbel, E & J, Paul Masson. Cognac’s – Remy Martin, Courvoisier, Hennessy, Martell

Drinks: Side Car, Brandy Alexander, French Connection, B & B (Brandy & Benedictine)

Remember: ALL cognac is Brandy, but NOT ALL Brandy is Cognac!


Basics: Amber colored. 80 Proof, but all over the place these days. Must be at least 51% corn mash.

Popular Brands: Jack Daniels, Maker’s Mark, Jim Beam, Wild Turkey, Evan Williams

Drinks: Same as whiskey, above.

Triple Sec

Basics: Orange Liqueur. 30 – 80 Proof. Made from orange skins, and base is usually some type of sugar instead of grains.

Popular Brands:  Cointreau, Bols, Grand Marnier (A blend of cognac and orange liqueur). Almost all liquor distributers have their “generic brands.”

Drinks: Margarita, Cosmopolitan, Side Car, Long Island Iced Tea, Kamikaze

Below are the Liqueurs and other popular liquors. You just need to have a general idea of these liquors as the interviewer most likely won’t ask you anything about liquor other than the basics.

All bars are different, of course, but most will carry the below liquors and liqueurs.

Popular Liquors and Liqueurs

  • Amaretto (almond)
  • Absinthe (Black Licorice)
  • Anisette (Black Licorice)
  • Blue Curacao (Orange)
  • Chambord (Raspberry)
  • Creme de Banana (Banana)
  • Creme de Cacao (Chocolate, Both White and Dark)
  • Creme de Menthe (Mint, Both White and Green)
  • Frangelico (Hazelnut)
  • Galliano (Herb, Vanilla, Very Sweet)
  • Goldschlager (Cinnamon Schnapps)
  • Godiva (Chocolate)
  • Grand Marnier (Orange)
  • Jagermeister (Herb)
  • Kahlua (Coffee)
  • Midori (Melon)
  • Rumple Minze (Peppermint Schnapps)
  • Sambuca (Anise)
  • Schnapps (Various Flavors – Over 50 Types)
  • Southern Comfort (Peach Based)
  • Tia Maria (Coffee)

That’s it! It shouldn’t take you too long to memorize this stuff.

If you’re following along in the Basic Bartending Course:

Next Lesson: Introduction to Cocktail Recipes

Previous Lesson: Introduction to Liquor

Back to the Course Start Page: Basic Bartending Course