The terms “Mixology” and “mixologist” have become regular parts of the bartender's vocabulary, increasingly used to describe the art of mixing cocktails and the individuals who practice it.
But what exactly is mixology? That's a good question.
Mixology is another term for bartending or mixing drinks, and a mixologist is another term for a bartender or bar chef.
Mixology is generally considered the comprehensive and refined study of the art and craft of mixing drinks.
Think of it as the scientific study of cocktails and someone who practices it professionally as a mixologist.
Merriam-Webster dates the term mixology back to 1948, defining it as the “skill in preparing mixed drinks.”
The definition and use of mixology are subjects of debate within the bartending community, often because of the impression it leaves: that a mixologist is superior and more skillful than a bartender. This isn't necessarily true. Neither is inherently “better” than the other; each requires a unique set of skills, and the titles are interchangeable.
Mixologist or Bartender?
Is a mixologist just a fancier, more scientifically sounding term for a bartender? Technically, yes, but there is generally an accepted distinction between the two job titles, and they can be used interchangeably. Still confused?
Mixologists apply mixology, and bartenders lean towards bar-tending.
In the industry, we tend to think of a mixologist as someone who:
- Studies and transforms the field of bartending
- Creates innovative cocktails, often using unique, house-made, or historical (and rare) ingredients to craft unusual flavors in beverages
- Examines and redesigns classic cocktails
- Explores and studies old bartending techniques and drinks
- Becomes a sort of cocktail historian and revolutionary
Mixology experts are also known for making a name for themselves in cocktail literature and industry-wide consultancy jobs. Some regularly work behind the bar, while others do not.
In contrast, the title “bartender” conjures up images of men and women who can whip up 20 mixed drinks and pour 50 drawn beers before anyone notices. These are skilled, multitasking individuals who keep a busy bar happy, lively, and flowing.
A bartender needs to have a variety of skills, some of which mixologists may not regularly develop or use.
Generally, a bartender should:
- Know many common and popular cocktail recipes
- Serve many people at once
- Handle cash and manage bar stock
- Maintain crowd control
- Be the ultimate ‘people person' and think qu
Discussion Continues (or Not):
The ‘Bartender – Mixologist' debates may resemble other professional titles: Are you a “secretary” or an “administrative professional”? A “garbage man” or a “sanitation engineer”?