"Distilled alcohols are some of the most intensely flavored foods we have." - Harold McGee
I know far less about cocktails than my fellow bloggers, but I do enjoy making flow charts. I decided it was finally time to try to make sense of the language of mixology. The whole field is due to the inability of yeast to survive in alcohol concentrations higher than about 20%. To get around this biological limitation, people figured out how to heat up a fermented liquid to extract the components with a lower boiling point (especially ethanol). There's some danger involved, since methanol, a poison, has an even lower boiling point. Longer-chain molecules can give the final product an oily consistency. However, there are numerous substances with similar boiling points that give each distilled spirit its characteristic flavor.
What about flavor components with very different boiling points than the ethanol? It turns out that ethanol is a great solvent, so adding herbs, sugars, or other flavorings gives rise to the diversity of flavored alcohols, liqueurs, and bitters that go into making a cocktail.
I realize that this diagram is far from complete, since there is much more to add about the sources for the various base alcohols (e.g. corn, wheat, potato) and the psychology of balancing flavors. Any suggestions for future visualizations are welcome.