What Does Dry Mean in Alcoholic Drinks? (With 3 Examples)


“Dry” is among the first descriptors beginners learn as a way to describe the flavor of an alcoholic drink. It is used in conjunction with other descriptors like “full-bodied” and “light,” but it can also be a stand-alone descriptor for drinks that are not sweet or fruity. But what exactly does it mean?

Dry is a term used to describe an alcoholic drink that has little or no sugar content. This means that the drink is high in alcohol and low in water content, making it more potent and less sweet. The word dry can be applied to wines as well as any other type of liquor.

However, you shouldn’t confuse dryness with lack of fruit. A dry wine is not a tart, sour or acidic drink. It simply means the sugar content in the drink has been reduced to below 5g per liter of liquid and falls under that category on a scale of dry to sweet wines. Here’s everything you should know about the meaning of “dry” in relation to alcoholic drinks.

What Does Dry Mean When Ordering a Drink?

The word dry is a term often used when ordering drinks at the bar. What does “dry” mean in this context? A drink with low water content or one that has been distilled to create a higher alcohol concentration, like whiskey, cognac and vodka, are considered to be dry. However, the term dry means different things depending on the alcoholic drink you’re ordering because they’re prepared differently.

Below is a list of three dry beverages you’ll find at most bars:

1. Martini

There’s a reason why the martini is a popular choice for most people. This drink is stylish, timeless, and highly versatile. So whether you’re taking it as an early evening aperitif or post-dinner digestive, the martini is a perfect choice for any occasion. 

However, to enjoy this drink, you need to know which kind of Martini best suits you. Do you like a dirty martini, dry martini, or wet martini? What’s the difference, and does it matter? Yes. These aren’t just fancy bar terminologies. They’re used to describe the type of drink you’re getting. Here’s what these terminologies mean.

What Does Dry Mean in Martini?

Dry martinis are a popular order in most bars. But how is this drink made? Dry martinis are made with gin and vermouth, both of which have low water content or one that has been distilled to create a higher alcohol concentration. However, very little vermouth is added to the cocktail. Therefore, gin is the primary focus of a dry martini. The typical ratio is 6 parts to 1 part.

Cool Fact: The opposite of a dry martini is a “wet” martini. This means that the drink is made with more vermouth than gin. The beverage isn’t as popular as a dry martini, but there’s no shame in ordering it. 

What Does it Mean When a Drink is Dirty?

Dirty drinks are typically a combination of vodka and juice. The drink is called dirty because it’s made by adding different kinds of fruit (or vegetables) into the glass. 

A dirty martini contains olive brine that’s derived from a jar of cocktail olives. An olive garnish is typically added to the drink as well. Most bars add equal parts of vermouth and gin, but you can specify extra dirty or filthy if you prefer your drink to have more brine.

2. Wine 

Wine is also often considered to be a dry drink. It can range from off-dry, like Champagne or Chardonnay, to very dry wines such as Riesling and white Zinfandel, which are best served chilled with spicy foods.

What is Very Dry Wine called? 

Very dry wine is still referred to as “dry” wine. These wines have little to no residual sugar and are often served chilled or at room temperature with spicy foods such as Indian curry dishes. Dry wines are typically white but can also be reds like Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir.

3. Beer

What does a dry beer mean? Dry beer is a style of beer that has little to no residual sugar. Dry beers are typically very pale, and the taste is often described as “light” or “smooth.” Apart from this, dry beer tends to lack an aftertaste and have a lighter body. Some examples of dry beer include:

  • Coors
  • Heineken
  • Corona Extra
  • Estrella Damm Inedit Gold (ES)
  • Budweiser Select 55 and Miller Lite.

What Does It Mean When a Drink Is Neat?

Neat drinks are just as the name implies – neat and clean. Neat is a term used to distinguish types of alcohol without any additions or mixers in them, such as beer and whiskey. The word neat means “without anything added.”

The glass also contributes to the drink’s overall neatness, so when someone asks for a “neat” drink, they expect it in an old-fashioned, neat glass.

What Is a Dry Drink mixer?

A dry drink mixer is a cocktail mixer with no sugar or only a tiny amount of it. Drink mixers add flavor and effervescence to the drink. They’re also inexpensive and make all the difference in the world between a good cocktail and an excellent one.

A dry drink mixer is not typically sweet, but there are exceptions to that rule, such as ginger ale or tonic water. These ingredients can be used in cocktails too, but they’re often more effective for adding flavor than bolstering it into something balanced and well-rounded. 

Wrapping Up

If you were confused about the meaning of “dry” when referring to various drinks, hopefully, this article has helped clear the air for you.  

The definition of dry in alcoholic drinks means that the cocktail is not sweet. However, the drinks are still often flavorful. Remember that the definition of dry in alcoholic beverages is not a synonym for unsweetened; it refers to a drink that’s balanced and well-rounded without adding extra sugar or other sweeteners. So, what are you ordering on your next night out? Put your newfound knowledge to the test!

For more, don’t miss 15 Best Alcoholic Drinks for Beginners or Lightweights.

Anne James

Hi, I'm Anne but my grandchildren call me Jelly Grandma. I have over 50 years of experience as a Southern cook and am a retired librarian. I love sharing what I have learned. You can find me on YouTube as well! Just click the link at the bottom of your page. I hope your visit here has been a sweet one.

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