Whether you’re an aspiring bartender or simply looking to explore new territories at your local bar, knowing a bit about the liquors available to you can really heighten your experience. Familiarizing yourself with clear liquors is a great place to start your journey. They’ll give you the knowledge base to develop your own sense of taste, make essential cocktails, and impress your friends with your expertise!
Having a good grasp of these 4 colorless spirits will put you on the path to being a true connoisseur.
Most people have at least one tequila story. You’re certain to find several brands and varieties anytime you walk into a bar, restaurant, or liquor store. Since tequila is so common and has such a fiery reputation, you may be surprised to learn that it is actually one variety of mezcal.
You see, mezcal refers to any liquor distilled in Mexico from any of the 30 species of the agave plant. Tequila refers to any mezcal that is distilled from blue agave plants inside the Mexican state of Jalisco. Tequila is also unique because the agave leaves are roasted in an oven prior to distillation rather than over a fire pit as is the case with other mezcals.
Typically, you will encounter clear tequilas in the United States. Also called Blanco tequilas, these colorless spirits are aged for less than a year. This gives them a relatively harsh essence. While off-putting to some, tequila is a wonderful complement to citrus flavors like lime, orange and grapefruit. This makes it perfect for mixing in iconic cocktails like margaritas and palomas. Still, many prefer to enjoy their tequila with no chaser or in a round of shots with salt and a dash of lime.
If you ask someone to name a clear spirit, vodka is likely the first one they’ll name. Produced by household names like Absolut and a number of smaller distilleries, vodka very well may be the most popular spirit in all of the world.
Traditionally distilled in Russia and Poland, vodka is the spirit with the fewest legal specifications. It is commonly associated with potatoes, but it can be distilled from practically anything. This includes grains, fruits, wheat, and corn. Vodka is relatively neutral. This makes it perfect for serving chilled, neat, or on the rocks. It is also the base liquor for some of the world’s most beloved cocktails including martinis, screwdrivers, and Bloody Marys.
Distilled from sugarcane molasses, white rums are the sweetest of the usual clear liquors. Most commonly produced in the West Indies, rum has a fascinating history associated with pirates and the British empire.
Today, it is an essential part of Caribbean island culture and can be found in a variety of regional cocktails and dishes. While rum can be consumed neat, chilled, or on the rocks, this is typically reserved for the darker varieties. Instead, clear rums make great foundations for cocktails like daiquiris, mojitos and, Pina Coladas.
For many people, gin is an acquired taste. First distilled in the 11th century by Benedictine monks, this herbal spirit is distilled from juniper berries. Unlike most of the other liquors on this list, gin is pungent and very distinctive. The primary varieties one is likely to encounter include London Dry, Plymouth, and Genever.
Most people will describe each of them as varying degrees of bitter and spicy. For this reason, it is less common to see gin consumed neat or on the rocks. You’re more likely to find it in classy cocktails like gin martinis, negronis, and French 75s. It’s the perfect spirit for when you’re feeling fancy.