Skip to main content

A dry drink is a drink (usually containing alcohol) that has little to no sugar. In other words, dry drinks don’t taste sweet.

Dry drink meaning

A dry drink means a drink is not sweet or contains little to no sugar.

It is usually used in reference to alcoholic drinks.

Wine, beer and cocktails can be described as dry when they are low in sugar.

Dry liquors or spirits

The following are dry drinks:

  • Vodka can be distilled from any starch-rich plant. The more traditional raw materials used to make vodka are grains like barley, corn, rye and wheat. Most vodkas are designed to taste as neutral as possible. The neutral taste (including a lack of sweetness) is what makes vodka so versatile.
  • Gin is made by distilling a neutral grain with juniper berries and other botanicals, giving it its characteristic flavor. The dryness of gin comes from the lack of added sugar, which allows the juniper and other botanicals to shine through.
  • Brandy is alcohol produced by distilling wine made from grapes. It is also a dry alcohol which allows fruity and floral aromas to shine through. It often had toasty or vanilla notes from being aged in barrels.
  • Whiskey is alcohol made from distilling fermented grain. It is also a dry alcohol.
  • Tequila is a liquor or spirit distilled from agave. It tastes sharp and dry.
  • Rum is made from sugar cane products, such as molasses, but it can be dry, off-dry (slightly sweet) or sweet. White rum is more common and the majority are dry and neutral in flavor, similar to vodka.
  • Beer is a bitter tasting alcohol that contains little to no sugar.

Dry wines

A dry wine is one that has little to no residual sugar, so it is not sweet.

Wine is made when yeast converts the natural sugars in grape juice into alcohol. When all the natural sugars are converted to alcohol it creates a dry wine.

When some natural sugars from the grape juice remain, it results in a slightly sweet or sweet wine.

Wines that taste slightly sweet are known as “off dry” wines.

As a certified wine expert, I often get asked about what wines are sweet or dry.

Wine comes in a range of sweetness levels. Some grape varieties, such as Riesling, can be made in a range of sweetness levels from dry to sweet.

Dry white wines

  • Pinot Grigio (Italian)
  • Chablis
  • Albariño
  • Muscadet
  • Soave
  • Gavi
  • Sauvignon Blanc (French)

Dry red wines

  • Tempranillo e.g., Rioja
  • Chianti
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Malbec (French)
  • Montepulciano
  • Nebbiolo

Dry Champagne

Champagne and sparking wines also come in a range of sweetness levels. Champagne with the lowest levels of sugar is labelled Brut Nature.


Dry cocktails and mix drinks

The following are dry cocktails and mix drinks that contain little or no sugar:

Dry Vodka Martini

Drinks that are NOT dry drinks

The following drinks are sweet and are not dry drinks:

  • Most liqueurs, such as Maraschino liqueur, contain sugar.
  • Fortified wines, such as Port wine, Madeira are also usually sweet.
  • Dark rum is generally sweet in style.
Colheita Port wine

Dry Martini

A dry martini has less vermouth than a regular martini.

A dry drinker

A dry drinker or someone who is ‘on the dry’ does not drink alcohol.

Why Canada Dry is called dry

Canada Dry, invented in 1890, is a Ginger Ale that was made with less sugar than its competitors, so the inventor labelled it “dry” so that customers would understand the difference.

Read with confidence: I am WSET L2 Award in Spirits & Diagio Bar Academy certified.