The Beverage Bible All Young Professionals Need: Whiskeys, Gin, Vodka, Tequila


Paul the Professional is a mid-20s wealth management associate at one of the most well-known trust firms in the city.  With aspirations of quickly moving up the corporate latter, he’s a hard worker and highly motivated.  Yesterday, he was invited to accompany some of the senior members of the firm to a private happy hour on Friday at The Charlemagne. He’s excited, but nervous, because the extent of his alcohol knowledge surrounds scheduled games of beer pong that he and his fraternity brothers played in college. He doesn’t know the difference between cognac or whiskey, vodka or gin.  Ordering a Bud Light is out of the question, but that’s all he knows.  He needs help—he wants to make a great impression, but more importantly, choose a drink that won’t get him roasted.

This Beverage Bible is a resource for young professionals who might be a little intimidated and uninformed when it comes to the “art” of socializing with work colleagues, especially when it pertains to choosing a respectable beverage. A couple minute’s glance at this document will help in deciding what to order, as well as provide a few tips about drinking while networking.

Whiskey, Bourbon and Scotch

Whiskey: A dark alcohol that is made from grain; typically barley, corn, rye and/or wheat

Origin: All over. The US, Ireland, Scotland, Canada and Japan are the biggest producers. 

Whiskey is typically ordered neat (or straight), with a splash of water or on the rocks, which is a great introduction in developing an appreciation for the taste of whiskey.  At first, you might find it too strong, but let the ice/water dilute it a bit and grow from there! 

Scotch: It’s whiskey. But from Scotland

Origin: Scotland

Fun Fact: “Moonshine” comes from the time when Scottish distillers took to brewing their whiskey at night to avoid the English Malt Tax of 1725.



Bourbon: Also whiskey. But made from at least 51% corn, mostly in Kentucky

Origin: Attributed to Elijah Craig of Kentucky; however, it is said that Bourbon gets its name from an early distiller name Jacob Spears who lived in Bourbon County, Kentucky.

Learn more and get cocktail recipes for Whiskey, Scotch and Bourbon here 

Gin: A clear, neutral liquor like vodka, but primarily flavored with juniper berries

Origin: England

Fun Fact: Modern-day gin (and its name) evolved from a Holland-invented drink called jenever, which British troops drank during the 80 Year’s War. This practice also gave us the saying “Dutch courage.” (If you didn’t know, Dutch courage is the strength or confidence gained from drinking alcohol.)

Learn more and get cocktail recipes for Gin here


Vodka: A clear, neutral liquor made from fermented grains such as sorghum, corn, rice, rye or wheat

 Origin: Russia and Poland

Fun Fact: Most vodka isn’t made from potatoes. In fact, vodka wasn’t even originally made from potatoes (potatoes didn’t make it to the Continent until the 16th Century, when Spanish Conquistadores brought them back from Peru).


Tequila: A clear liquor made from blue agave

Origin: Jalisco, Mexico 

Fun Fact: Although Mezcal can be made from the 100s of different Agave varieties, tequila must contain at least 51% of blue agave. Actually, many believe it should be 100%. Tequilas consisting of less than 100% blue agave are called Mixto (mixed).

Mezcal: A distilled beverage made from any type of agave; a sibling of tequila

Origin: Mostly attributed to Oaxaca, Mexico

Note: This is a smoky drink.  We prefer that you enjoy this straight, as well.  Incorporating the ground fried larvae is up to you.

Learn more and get cocktail recipes for Tequila here

“Straight, no chaser, baby” and other must-know bar terms:

“Neat” or “Straight”
  • Single, unmixed liquor served at room temperature (usually higher-end Whiskey, Bourbon, Scotch. The stuff you want to ACTUALLY taste – or a way to pretend you know your liquor.)
  • Shaken or stirred with ice, then strained into a glass (think James Bond and martinis)
  • Poured over ice (commonly margaritas)
  • Crushed ice mixed in (also margaritas)
 “With a twist”
  • Adds a splash of citrus, with the rind as garnish
“Well” vs “Top Shelf”
  • Refers to price and sometimes quality of liquor, with “well” being lower priced and “top shelf” being more expensive. Well liquors are usually just fine for mixed drinks. If you’re buying a drink for a colleague and they’re within earshot – go for the top shelf. Your boss? Always top shelf.



Networking Tips

Beyond learning the beverage basics, here are some other tips to keep your business on point at the bar:
  1. Take a beat (relax).
When you enter the venue, don’t just head straight for the bar. Pause and take a few seconds to look around and think “Who should I greet first? Who do I know?”  After all, making and strengthening connections is the purpose for being there.
  1. Focus on the conversation, not the drinks.
Whether an informal happy hour with colleagues, or a more formal networking event with a host, pay more attention to what comes out of your mouth, rather than what goes in it. Limit yourself to one cocktail and make sure you’re spending more time chatting than drinking.
  1. Drink in the left, nametag on the right.
If you’ll be shaking hands, keep your drink in your left hand to avoid having a wet hand while shaking. If you think you might forget, (or if you suffer from from sweaty palms), put a couple of bar napkins in your right pocket to dry your hand discreetly prior to shaking. Wear your nametag on the right to facilitate left-to-right reading.
  1. Introduce yourself – all of yourself.
When introducing yourself, use your full name – first and last. You’ll be more memorable that way. If it’s a multi-company event, your company’s name is also appropriate. Have in mind the top 1-2 things that describe what you do for the company. What’s your biggest project? What efforts are you managing or leading?
  1. Ask questions.
Ever find yourself stuck for a conversation topic? Look no further than the person in front of you. Listen when they’re speaking. Most likely, they’ll say something that will spur a question in your mind. Ask open-ended questions and listen to their responses. Learn from them – what’s their ideal client or project? How do they motivate themselves to do more mundane tasks? “What do you do when you're not working?” prompts people to talk about their life outside of work. Make sure you have answers to these questions, too.
  1. Show Gratitude.
Before you leave, make sure to thank the event organizers or the people that invited you. If you came with colleagues, let them know you’re leaving.
  1. Follow up.
When you get back to your office, personally get in touch with each connection you made – whether that’s through email or Linked In. Make it personal and relate it back to your conversation. You can offer some assistance with a problem they’ve mentioned or send along an article that is related to a topic you were talking about. Invite them to coffee or lunch.