Gin

Gin is typically clean in flavor, but with fruity and herby overtones. It is a dry, white spirit distilled from various grains, and flavored with juniper berries, herbs and spices. It is the juniper that gives gin its distinctive flavor. Imported gins tend to keep more grain character than American gins.

Rum

Slightly sweet, fermented and distilled liquor made from sugar cane. Almost all rum today is aged in oak barrels and the longer it remains in the barrel, the darker the color will be. In general, rum is aged for at least a year, however standards for ABV/proof and aging vary from one rum-producing country to another.

Vodka

Vodka is produced from grain (mostly rye and wheat), potatoes, molasses and other plants. Russian and Swedish vodkas are usually made from wheat, whereas Polish vodkas are usually made from rye or potatoes. All vodka comes out of the still as a clear, odorless spirit. It is sometimes flavored and/or colored with a variety of fruits, herb and spices.

Tequila

Tequila is distilled from the blue agave plant in Mexico. Usually un-aged – and even when it is, it’s nothing like the aging other spirits are renowned for. Reposado, for example, is aged at least two months, but less than a year. Anejo? One to three years. Mixers [for tequila gondola]. Margarita? Tequila Sunrise? Shooter? Whether you’re mixing it up, or keeping it simple, here’s what you need.