Alcoholic Beverage Industry Glossary Terms

General Terms for Alcohol


ABV is an acronym standing for Alcohol by Volume. You'll see it illustrated on a label indicating how much alcohol is present in the bottle. All beers, wines, and liquor ABV can vary. Beer usually comes in around 5%, wine somewhere around 12%, and spirits are 40%.


The terms can be used interchangeably as they both mean the same thing. It's considered the hardest alcohol made from distilling with an ABV of 40% minimum.


Lower proof alcohol made from liquor. Traditionally, it is sweetened and flavored. Typical flavors would include chocolate or almond.


An ingredient rather than a stand-alone drink, bitters are used in cocktails. Again, they are made from liquor, but they are more intense in flavor than a liqueur. They don't have to be "bitter" in taste as some are citrusy, spicy, etc.


Ethyl alcohol, the colorless primary alcohol in spirits, wines, and beers.


A spirit that originated in Russia and Poland, vodka is made from grains. Most people think it's only made from potatoes, but it can be made from fruits as well.


A Mexican liquor made from the blue agave plant. To be called tequila, it must be made in the city Jalisco. It's available in three types: Blanco (no wood aging), Reposado and Anejo.


Available in light, medium, and heavy bodies, rum is distilled from cane sugar. Rum is often flavored or spiced for mixing into cocktails.


Neutral alcohol flavored with the juniper berry.

Terms for Distilling


Extracting the ethanol from the water to turn the liquid into an adult beverage. Distillation is commonly used when talking about spirits and wine rather than beer.


The person or entity who is creating an adult beverage. The term applies to both start-ups and global brands.


It's the unique combination of grains, water, or fruit to create a spirit. Some things like bourbon, Scotch, and whiskey need to adhere to specific ratios. The mash is also where distillers get creative.


Proof has a lot of historical meaning, but today it is a formulation to help buyers understand the strength of the alcohol. It is twice the alcohol percentage by the fluid volume. A 40% ABV would be 80 proof.

Pot Distilling

Maybe one of the earliest forms of distilling, pot distillers utilize one large vat to produce a single batch. The alcohol evaporates and condenses back down to a liquid.

Column Distilling

Spirits with a higher ABV are probably distilled in columns. The mash is continuously pumped into the column allowing the steam to separate the ethanol.


Cask Aging

Aging a spirit by using a barrel. The barrel is made from wood, but it can be any kind of wood. Cask aging refers to both unused and previously used barrels and ones that are charred or not charred. The purpose is to impart color and flavor to the liquid.

Cask Strength

Usually reserved for whiskey, cask strength articulates to the consumer that the spirit is a much higher strength than a traditional spirit. Sometimes distillers might add water to dilute the whiskey. Seeing cask strength means no water was added after it was aged.


Imparting a new flavor to a spirit with a fruit or vegetable. It's often completed by putting the ingredients directly into the liquid to let it steep. The method works best on lighter spirits to allow the drinker to taste the infusion.

Whiskey Terms


Whiskey is the umbrella term for liquors made from malt, rye, or corn mash with an ABV of 40%. Bourbon and Scotch also fall under this umbrella.


Whiskey that is made using malt barley only and no other grain in the mash. Malt is a cereal grain and aids the fermentation process.

Grain Whiskey

Not all whiskeys are made from malt barley. Any liquor that combines different grains together like rye or corn would be classified as a grain whiskey.

Single Malt Scotch

A malted Scotch made from one distiller would be called a single malt whiskey. "Single" is referring to the one distiller who makes this particular case.

Single Grain Whiskey

Similar concept to the single malt, "single" grain is grain whiskey made from one distiller. They would utilize the same idea of combining different grains to create their mash.

Corn Whiskey

Corn whiskey is made from 80% corn.


When a brand either produces or sources malt and grain whiskey and blends them together. The result must be at least 40% malt whiskey to be considered "blended."

Single Cask

Any whiskey that makes it to the bottle from the barrel without blending would be considered single cask. Sometimes it's also called single barrel, but they mean the same thing.


Bourbon must be made from 51% corn-based distilled to an ABV that is no higher than 80%. It must be aged in new, charred oak barrels.

Tennessee Whiskey

Whiskey produced in the state of Tennessee. It follows almost the same steps as bourbon, but it is required to filter through charred maple to smooth the flavor profile.


Scotch is made from either malt or grain and must be produced in Scotland. The whiskey needs to age twice and mature in oak barrels for a minimum of three years.

Wine Terms


A natural component of wine, the acidity level will tell a drinker the perceived sharpness of the beverage.


Air oxidizes all alcohol. Opening a bottle of wine and letting it breathe means you are calling on oxygen to alter the flavor profile of the wine before consumption.


Wine's are fragrant and lend much of their flavor to the smells of the liquid. This collection of fragrances are called aroma.


Wine drinkers notice a difference in the weight of their drink on the tongue. The heaviness is called "body" and usually classified as light, medium and full.


When a wine is made from red grapes, but the skins are removed just before their color can impact the final product.


The opposite of sweet wine, dry might pucker the mouth. The characteristics are derived from the tannins in the wine.


Phenolic compounds found on plants that are located on the skin of the grape. The more tannins in the wine the harsher the flavor.


A wine made from a red grape. It might be one of the most famous wines in the world.


Removing the skins, seeds, and yeast in the wine means it needs to go through filtration. It is a process that clarifies wine before it's bottled and consumed.


Opening a bottle of wine and transferring the contents to another container is called decanting. While we listed it under wine, it can be done for spirits as well.


Beer Terms


Fermented at warmer temperatures with yeast on top, Ales sometimes are mistaken for alcohol strength. The beverage is often served warmer than other beers.


Similar to wine, bitterness in beer is a byproduct of the tannins and hops. Some beers use bitterness to define their style.


An essential component of brewing, yeast is an enzyme that helps transfer the natural malt sugar into alcohol.

Pale Ale

A beer made from malt with the addition of hops. It's lighter in color than other bears. Brewers can change the amount of malt and hops to craft a unique recipe.


Hops is a plant used in brewing to add bitterness to beer. Hops will also add flavor and aroma. It's added at the end of the boiling stage or later. Using hops dates back to 7000 B.C.

Brewers Association

An organization of brewers by brewers for brewers. It's made up of allied trade, beer wholesalers, retailers, individuals as well as brewers.


When brewers add carbon dioxide to the liquid, it's called carbonation. The carbonation will change the texture of the drink.


The chemical changing of sugars into alcohol. Fermentation results in carbonation because of the reaction to yeast. Top fermentation brews ales and the bottom brews lagers.

Craft Brewery

Being considered a craft brewery means you are a small operation with a production that is less than six million barrels.  


Fermented in colder temperatures and uses bottom yeast. Lagers are described as crisp or clean and served cold.

Investing and Financing Terms


A merger is two companies becoming one. Companies might choose to merge to expand their reach or to improve finances. During a merger, both companies are working 50/50, and both businesses are created equal. Gaining market share is a huge contributor for companies to combine efforts. You can think of it as like a consolidation process.


An acquisition is when one company purchases all or some of another. The buyer typically obtains at least 50% ownership of the purchased business. The buyer gets other assets in the deal like stocks and helps the acquired company make decisions moving forward. Acquisitions have numerous financial benefits to businesses.


An investor is a person or entity that commits a certain amount of capital (money) to a project or business. They can sometimes be called venture capitalists. When they give the money, it's in agreeance with business terms addressed between the investor and investee. Each contract looks different, but you could expect the investor to claim a percentage back on the investment and ask for a seat at the business to help make decisions.

Angel Investor

Angel investors are individuals rather than firms with deep pockets. They invest somewhere between one hundred to two thousand dollars. These individuals don't always ask for a seat at the table and invest simply because they take an interest in the market.

Raising Capital

Any entrepreneur needs to raise funds before they can start a business. Sometimes the money comes from their own savings, but if you don't have deep pockets raising capital means you are researching financial growth options from investors, loans, or other means.

Seed Money

The term associated with the finances you need to get up and running. Investors perceive seed money as too risky and often invest more in businesses who have a portfolio or who have a product.


Sometimes called shareholder equity, it's the amount of money returned to shareholders if all the assets were sold and the business was free from debt. It's a metric seen on many balance sheets.