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Wine and Liquor 101

Updated on March 21, 2010

Basic Server Knowledge

So I am a server at a high end restaurant in Las Vegas and wine and liquor knowledge is necessary but no one ever teaches it to you, you usually have to learn it for yourself. So after going to many websites and taking bits and pieces of knowledge from each one I have put together what I think is a great introduction to the most common Wines and Liquors



· Cabernet Sauvignon – red meats, barbequed steak, grilled and smoked foods.

· Chardonnay – grilled chicken, salmon, shellfish, and grilled fish

· Merlot – pasta, red meat, duck, smoked or grilled foods

· Pinot Noir – light meats, chicken, grilled anything, salmon

· Sauvignon Blanc – white or light fish, mild cheese, fruit

· Syrah – red meats, spicy pizzas, herbed sauces on red meat, turkey

· Zinfandel – tomato pasta dishes, pesto, red meats, chicken with heavy sauce


differences first. Grapes don’t ripen as fully in cooler climates as they do in warm climates. A cooler climate, produces wine with high acidity and low to moderate alcohol The resulting wine will tend to have lean, crisp flavors like grapefruit, lemon, and grass. In a warmer climate like California, grapes achieve a greater degree of ripeness, which means more alcohol and less acidity in the wine. The flavor profile for this warm climate wine is richer, with pear, melon, fig, and, if oak is used, toast flavors.


It is considered the finest white grape in the world,and 60% of Rieslings are from Germany.Germany and Alsace, France.In these cooler climates, it has subtle aromas and flavors, often lemon, green apple, and floral notes. Grown in moderate climates, like Australia, New Zealand, and the United States, Riesling ripens a bit more and has fuller, richer flavors, including peach, apricot, tangerine,melon, and honeysuckle.

Pinot Grigios

Are dry whites with crisp acidity that easily accompany food and are quite popular. harvesting the varietal prior to full ripening in an effort to preserve maximum flavor. On occasions a good rendition will be deliberate, with focused minerals, floral, and bright with citrus or stonefruit flavors to spare.


is successfully grown in the Burgundy region of France. The grape has been widely planted here in the states. It runs the whole gamut style-wise. On one end you have the crisp, fruity, acidic chardonnay.The other flavor profile on this style ranges more baked apple, caramel, buttery toast, vanilla and popcorn.

Sauvignon Blanc

This crispy clean citrusy wine carries the banner for dry whites. It evokes tautness with a medium body that appeals with juicy fruit, herbal tones, mineral bits and bright acidity. It's broadly found worldwide but sparkles in France's Loire Valley and Bordeaux (where it's usually blended with Sémillon), New Zealand's Marlborough, Austria, South Africa, Washington and in most of California's wine regions.


The thin-skinned dark berry blue grape. Merlot doesn't lend itself to aging like Cab, either, and most are ready for consumption on release. In the United States, California and Washington lead the pack in producing Merlot.Duckhorn Vineyards and Pride Mountain Vineyards are two noteworthy Merlot producers from California. In Washington, Merlot stands second to no other state. The best places commanding attention are wines from Columbia Valley and Walla Walla.

Pinot Nior

It’s the wine that people move to after only drinking white wines. On the "drinkability" level, its lower tannins and lighter body made it a nice transition wine to go to. Pinot can take on a velvety texture and smoothness that brings the whole wine together.Generally Pinot Noir falls into one of two basic styles: Old World and New World.

An Old World style of Pinot Noir is light-bodied and complex, earthy with a subtle fruit flavor. The New World style of Pinot Noir is fuller-bodied and fruit-driven. This wine gives the illusion of being sweet on the nose, with juicy, ripe fruit aromas that jump out of the glass.


These berries for this wine are rather small, sometimes not much larger than a big pea, and are a dark blue color versus the expected purple tone of many red wine. with dark black fruit like plum or berry flavors with layers of spice, herbs, or savory qualities like leather or tobacco. A well-made Cab will show amazing depth of character in fruit and tiered components, being balanced in acidity and tannins. While Cabernet Sauvignon is produced all over the state of California, it is from Napa that the famous "Cult Cabs" are produced.


The aromas and taste of zinfandel are blackberry, boysenberry, raspberry, and dark cherry.. These fruit flavors are oftentimes laced with black pepper, herbs, and warm spices such as clove.



 Bourbon – Made from at least 51% corn and aged in charred oak barrels.

 Whiskey – A type of basic liquor made from at least 80% corn or 51% rye in aged oak barrels.

 Blended Whiskey – Mix of whiskeys and neutral spirits. Light and mild.

 Scotch – A basic type of liquor distilled from barley mash. The barley is first dried over a peat fire creates a smoky flavor.

 Irish Whiskey – Made from barley and is similar to scotch but the barley is dried in kilns without a smoky flavor.

 Brandy – Made from fruits (mostly grapes but can be any fruit) and aged in oak barrels.

 Cognac – A brandy produced and bottled in the Cognac region of France.

 Vodka – A basic type of liquor made from corn, wheat,rye, or potato mash and is filtered through charcoal to produce a flavorless, odorless liquor.

 Gin – A basic type of neutral grain liquor which is distilled with juniper berries and white grain to give it its distinct flavor.

 Rum – A basic type of liquor made from a mash of sugar cane. Rum can be light and dry or heavy and pungent depending on region it comes from.

 Tequila – A basic type of liquor made from 100% Agave plant in Mexico


Vodka can be traced as far back as the 8th century in Poland and the 15th century in Russia. Vodka is a colorless liquor generally made from grains such as corn, wheat, or rye. Vodka goes through a filtration and distillation process to get rid of impurities and make sure the vodka has no aroma, character, flavor, or color. Vodka is between 80 and 100 proof.


Gin originated in the Netherlands in the 17th century. Gin is a clear liquor with a smooth texture. The taste of gin is very dry and is usually mixed with other beverages. The most common type of gin is “London Dry Gin” which refers to the distillation process, not a brand. Gin is made from the distillation of white grain spirit and juniper berries which provides its distinct flavor. Gin is produced in a column still and is redistilled after the botanicals are added to the base spirit. Gin is between 80 and 90 proof.


The first distillation of rum took place on sugarcane plantations in the Caribbean in the 17th century. Rum is made from sugarcane by-products like molasses and sugarcane juice through a process of fermentation and distillation. After distillation, the clear liquid is aged in oak casks or barrels. Rum can be clear, gold, or a dark brown color. The color depends upon how long the rum is aged. Rum is usually 80 proof but some rum can actually be over proof at 151 or 160 proof.


Whiskey refers to a broad category of alcohol that are distilled from grains and aged in oak casks or barrels. Whiskeys are produced in the United States, Ireland, Canada, and Scotland. There are many types of whiskeys and each is distilled using different ingredients such as corn mash, barley, rye, malt, or blends. Each type has a distinctive flavor and color. Whiskeys are usually 80 proof.


Scotch is a kind of whiskey that comes from Scotland. Scotch has been around since the 4th or 5th century. Scotch is made from water and malted barley. Scotch is aged in oak casks for exactly three years and one day. No whiskey other than Scotch can be made in Scotland. The distillation process depends on whether the Scotch is a single male, blended malt, or grain. Scotch is made between 60 and 80 proof.


Tequila was first produced in the 16th century near Guadalajara Mexico. The Aztecs were the first to distill Tequila. Tequila is made from the Blue Agave Tequilana plant native to Mexico. Tequila must be at least 51% agave. Many types of Tequila are 100% agave. Tequila runs between 70 and 110 proof.

I hope you found some of this helpful and if there is anything anyone has they want to add please let me know. I am always looking for new tips and new ways to remember some of the most important facts.

Please Leave me a Comment if this was helpful :)


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    • profile image

      sanjay gurung 

      2 years ago

      Had a great experience...going through it....i need more easy way to remain all it...all the basic has been mentioned well...

    • profile image

      kyaw sann oo 

      5 years ago

      Iwould like to known about wine and beverage knowledge

    • profile image

      6 years ago

      I will use this for my bartenders to have as a quick reference thank you very helpful

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      this was really helpful information. however, i need to know more about port wines and dessert wines and wine blends. thanks though, this was great

    • profile image


      6 years ago


    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I just started working at a liquor and wine shop and I was looking for basic knowledge and this article helped me SO much - Thank you! I'm printing it out, studying it and I'll keep it in the shop to refer to as needed. :-)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Definitely very helpful information. Nice Job!!!

    • profile image


      6 years ago


    • profile image


      8 years ago


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      8 years ago

      Very helpful! I just hope I can remember it next time I order a shot!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Very helpful, my friend...I have a second interview at a new 5 star restaurant tomorrow...thank you very much. tcj

    • Leandraluv profile image


      9 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I definitely learnt stuff from reading this hub. Thanks for sharing! I heard from the Russian that vodka belongs in the freezer - it doesn't freeze and when it is cold it's the best. So maybe you can add that to the vodka section if you wish. Great hub!


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