Things have changed at area bars in recent years, thanks to the craft-cocktail movement.

Things have changed at area bars in recent years, thanks to the craft-cocktail movement.

Ashley Landis

There was a time before bartenders wore fedoras. There was a time when nobody noticed particularly what bartenders wore. But the craft-cocktail movement has changed that. Here's what you need to know to fake your way through the current orthodoxy.

What's the difference between a drink and a cocktail?

About $4. Also, a cocktail is traditionally described as comprising at least three ingredients: a spirit, a sweetener and a bitter. A drink means pouring booze in a glass with some ice.

What is simple syrup?

It's sugar water, a key ingredient in many cocktails. Nothing to do with Aunt Jemima.

What are Luxardo cherries and why should I care?

Those bright red maraschinos of yore are about as welcome as roaches in cocktail lounges now. The brandied branded Luxardo cherries, darker, meatier and much pricier, are the current baseline product to plop into your Manhattan. Appear miffed if a bar doesn't have them.

"Infusions" sound painful. Are they?

No. They're the common chemistry of cocktailing. Many bars tout their infused spirits - vodkas and whiskeys for the most part - as well as house-made syrups altered in exceedingly clever ways.

Why do bartenders have a look anyway?

That's what subcultures do when they're feeling their oats. Craft bartenders pay homage to the retro- archival aspects of their vocation, with jaunty hats, studied facial hair and, in more extravagant cases, bow ties and galluses.

The liquid arts: Woodford Reserve rye

Woodford Reserve is a pinkies-out respectable brand renowned for smooth, mixable bourbon. It's entering the rye sweepstakes in earnest with the launch of Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey. That's only the third permanent extension of the line, after the original Distiller's Select and Double Oaked. Woodford Reserve dabbled in rye once before, with a limited release in 2011. So this is heady news for Woodford fans, of whom there are many.

Woodford Reserve tamps down the mash bill compared with most competitors. It's 53 percent rye, 33 percent corn and 14 percent malted barley. Balance and subtlety are prized here.

This tippler found it to be, like Distiller's Select, polite, even recessive, on the rocks and nearly anonymous in an Old-Fashioned. He might have had better luck with it in a Manhattan, the best crucible for judging ryes as cocktail-makers.

It's $37.99 a bottle and will be available in North Texas liquor stores, restaurants and bars on March 9.

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