In today’s modern cocktail scene, Mixology has become a common word and practice. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary dates “mixology” to 1872 and defines it as, “the art or skill of preparing mixed drinks”. Mixology brings a new experience to cocktail drinking, a deeper look into the creativity, the ingredients, the history, and finally, the flavors. Mixology takes your favorite classics and adds depth, a spin, or simply introduces new flavors that can ignite your tastebuds with curiosity, delight, and educate you, all at once! The craft of mixology has taken the drink and the drinking experience to the next level. The passion of mixology lies in the creation of innovative cocktails, using unique, homemade, or historical ingredients and combining those to create unusual tastes in drinks.
Bartender or Mixologist?
Mixology has become a way of life for some career bartenders and while not all bartenders are mixologists, it is said by many that all mixologists are bartenders. While a bartender and mixologist both know how to create drinks, there are some differences between the two. A mixologist reimagines classic cocktails, studies the classics, and refines the techniques and drinks of past bartenders. They are a cocktail historian and explorer all in one. A mixologist uses drinks to tell a story and create an exclusive experience for you. It should be noted though, a mixologist generally focuses almost exclusively on developing creative cocktail ideas and then crafting totally unique drinks. In contrast, bartenders perform a wide variety of tasks that do not usually include diving into the history, creativity, and overall experience of the unique cocktail creation. It is true, bartenders make fantastic drinks, but in addition to creating delicious, well-crafted drinks, bartenders are also responsible for taking care of a bar full of guests.
In culinary terms, mixologists are like chefs, using fresh ingredients to create delicious flavors in their drinks. Many mixologists pursue consulting jobs, they work with distilled spirit companies, help to develop cocktails, and even promote the brand for the spirit companies. In comparison, bartenders not only keep the guests entertained, but they are also doing the shaking, stirring, straining, juicing, and muddling. While the Mixologist needs to know how to do those things in order to create unique drinks, they do not necessarily perform those tasks as part of their craft. Typically, the bartender is the one who fills the drink orders, cleans glassware, keeps the bar in working order, and juggles the constant exchanges between the guests at the bar. More often than not you will probably find a bit of mixologist in most career bartenders, even if they do not consider themselves such.
Many believe a Mixologist is just a pretentious way of saying Bartender, but as we have illustrated here, the differences are many. Both are a necessary part of the creative cocktail drinking experience, and both are essential to the success of a bar, and a distilled spirit brand staying relevant in our ever-changing modern times.
Next time you are out for a drink at your local watering hole, strike up a conversation with that friendly bartender and maybe you will learn a thing or two about the classic cocktail you are partial to, and maybe you’ll learn a little mixology.