A Guide To The Different Types Of Alcoholic Beverages

If you've ever been to a bar or liquor store, you probably noticed different alcoholic drinks available beyond your typical white wine and craft beer. From liqueurs to apéritifs, each type of alcohol has unique characteristics, flavors, and purposes. Here is a guide to the different types of drinks and how they are used.

Liquor or Liqueur

The first distinction that needs to be made is the difference between liquor and liqueur. Liquor is an umbrella term for distilled spirits, such as whiskey, vodka, gin, rum, and tequila. These are usually clear or amber-colored with high alcohol content. Liqueurs, on the other hand, are alcoholic beverages that have been flavored with herbs, spices, fruits, nuts, or cream. They typically have a lower alcohol content than liquors and are much sweeter due to the added ingredients. Popular liqueurs include coffee-flavored liqueurs, like Kahlua, or orange-flavored liquors, like Cointreau.

Apéritifs and Digestifs

Apéritifs and digestifs are alcoholic beverages that serve a purpose. Apéritifs are light drinks typically served before dinner as an appetizer and are meant to whet the appetite. Vermouth and sherry are both apéritifs.

Conversely, digestifs are served after dinner as a way to aid digestion and often contain herbs to settle the stomach after a heavy meal. They are typically stronger alcoholic beverages, considerably less sweet than apéritifs, and meant to be sipped slowly, preferably accompanied by good conversation.

Digestifs come in different categories, including the following:

  • Herbal. These digestifs are made from herbs and spices, like absinthe or fernet.
  • Bitter. These digestifs are made from fruits and herbs and have a bitter flavor, like Cynar or even limoncello.
  • Aged. Aged digestifs have been aged in oak barrels for several years or even decades. Cognac, brandy, and whiskey are all aged digestifs.

After-Dinner Drinks

Like a digestif, after-dinner drinks are served post-meal. However, they are very sweet and often served in lieu of dessert. If you're looking for something sweet but not too strong, an after-dinner drink is an ideal choice. They typically include cream, chocolate, coffee, or sweetened liqueurs. Dessert wines can also be served as an after-dinner drink. In fact, dipping biscotti into a glass of sweet Italian wine is a fantastic way to end a meal.

With so many different types of liquor, it can be difficult to know which one would best suit a particular occasion. Hopefully, this guide will help you navigate the world of liquor, from apéritifs to after-dinner drinks.