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Liquor Types

How Liquor is Made

Before we get into the types of liquors you should know a little about how liquor is made and categorized. Liquor is produced by distilling fermented grain, fruit, or vegetables. This excludes beverages like beer and wine, which are fermented not distilled. Another distinct fact about liquor is that liquors have no added sugar. Liquors with added sugar and/or flavorings are known as liqueurs. A couple liqueurs include Grand Marnier and Frangelico.

The amount of alcohol in liquor is described by alcohol proof. In the US proof is exactly double the alcohol content. Therefore if the liquor bottle is 80 proof, it contains 40% alcohol. The term originated during the 18th century in Britain when sailors would "proof" their rum rations by dousing gunpowder in them to see if it would ignite. They did this to make sure their rations had not been watered down.

If you’re setting up a bar the basic must have liquor’s include: Vodka, Rum, Gin, Tequila, Whiskey, and Brandy.


Vodka is a clear and basically odorless liquor usually distilled from grain or potatoes. Vodka is also famous for its neutral flavor. This neutrality allows this liquor to be easily mixed with a variety of mixers. Vodka should be at least 80 proof but not over 110 proof. Vodka is not only the most popular liquor in Russia, it’s the most popular liquor in the world.

A Few popular drinks made with Vodka include: Jell-O Shooters, Cape Codder, Screwdriver, Bay Breeze, and Lemon Drop.


Rum is usually portrayed as the favorite liquor of the Pirates of the Caribbean. Produced prominently in the Caribbean since it is not easy to replicate that climate or the molasses that come from the sugar cane it promotes. Rum is distilled from sugar and aged in oak barrels. Light rums are the most popular and are used in cocktails such as daiquiris. Dark rums are distilled through a slower process which allows them to develop a stronger, bolder character.

A Few popular rum drinks include Piña Colada, Rum and Coke, Mai-Tai, Mojito and Daiquiri.


Gin is a very dry spirit made from grain and flavored with juniper berries. Gin is usually found with a proof around 80 and is clear in color, although some varieties can have a yellow color due to being aged in barrels. It includes both the malty-flavored and full-bodied Netherlands types and the drier types, characterized by distinct botanical flavorings, produced in Britain and the United States.

Popular Gin Liquor drinks include the Gin and Tonic, Gin Chiller, Gin Rickey, and some Martinis.


Tequila is made from the blue agave plant in Mexico and is normally around 80-100 proof. The spirit itself is a pure, clear liquid with colored tequilas acquiring their amber or yellowish cast predominantly from added caramel. That additive is not necessarily a sign of poorer quality and a small tint may be the result of aging in oak casks, which, like whiskey and other liquors, lends overtones to the drink. Contrary to popular belief, there is no worm at the bottom of a real tequila bottle. Worms are only found in some bottles of mescal, which started as a marketing ploy.

Aside from shots a few popular drinks made with this liquor are a variety of Margaritas, Gold Rush and Tequila Sunrise.


Whiskey is distilled from grain mash and aged in oak barrels. First distilled by monks in Ireland around 1400, whiskey now has the image of belonging to the cowboys of the wild west. There are many different types of whiskey but the most popular types are below.

Scotch whiskey is from Scotland and is normally distilled at least twice. It is aged in oak barrels for at least three years and is usually a blend of both malt and grain whiskies. Single malt whiskies are the most sought after of the Scotch whiskies.

Irish whiskey is distilled at least three times and is always aged in wooden barrels for at least three years, often much longer. Irish whiskey is distilled in single malt, single grain, and blended varieties.

American whiskey is comprised of three main categories. Bourbon whiskey which is at least 51% corn, Rye whiskey which must be at least 51% rye, and corn whiskey which must be at least 80% corn. American whiskey is aged in oak barrels which can be as brief as six months for corn whiskey.


Brandy is a spirit distilled from mashed fruit, often grapes. Known as "fire wine" it has been popular for hundreds of years. Brandy is aged in oak casks from which it derives its rich color. Normally 80 proof, brandy is a traditional after dinner drink and is used frequently in cooking. Fine Brandy can be very expensicve. Cognac is one of the most popular forms of brandy and gets its name from a region in France. Cognac is double distilled using pot stills, also used in the production of Whiskey.

A few popular brandys include Hennessy, Remy Martin, Courvoisier, Applejack and Asbach.


As mentioned above a liqueur is an alcoholic beverage that has been flavored with fruit, herbs, nuts, spices, flowers, or cream and bottled with added sugar. Liqueurs are typically quite sweet; they are usually not aged for long but may have resting periods during their production to allow flavors to marry.

A few popular liqueurs include Amaretto, Kahlua, Jagermeister, a variety of chocolate and coffee liqueurs and Chambord.

Bradford's Liquors offers a full selection of fine liquor and liqueurs.

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