Mixology vs. Bartending, from the Bartenders’ Perspective

Everyone who in in the bar industry, or who simply orbit it as I do, has some vision in their head of the difference between Bartenders and Mixologists. Yes, I know there has also been argument over the term Mixologist in the past. But let’s face it, we’ve all sort of settled on it as a term for craft bartender, at least in the professional context.

Most of the folks I talk with who think about the distinction, do some from the perspective of the Mixologists. It’s who we are, or who we most often are looking at over a bar. When we do talk about Bartenders, it often is in a lightly condescending fashion, as in this tweet of mine recently. The reason for this is simply that all Mixologists are pros. It is in the definition. (Not all are good, but all are over-trained pros.) Where as most Bartenders are not. Most Bartenders are transients, going with temporary employment on their way to somewhere else.

But not all Bartenders are inexperienced amateurs. A small minority are serious pros in their own, different, right. But since there are so vastly more Bartenders than Mixologists, that small minority is likely much larger than the whole body of Mixologists. And some of those pros blog too. And do it entertainingly, with plenty of valuable things to say. I recently highlighted Tales From a Bar as one of these Old Pro Bartender Blogs.

And that was all an over-long introduction to another of these Old Pro blogs, The Truth About Bartending. A recent post, Mixology vs. Bartending, is one of those funny reads I mentioned that has a lot to say.

The post breaks down a lot of the key differences between established professional Mixologists, and established professional Bartenders, both from a customer’s viewpoint, but also as a career choice for each. Each area he breaks down is a very valid point of comparison, and for his non-professional reader of either stripe, he has a good sense of which terms need definition to understand what he’s talking about.

I’ll add that, like CaveMan of the above mentioned Tales From a Bar, “Freddy” blogs anonymously. If you look around at the Old Pro Bartender Blogs, you’ll see that another difference Freddy doesn’t mention is that Mixologists blog under their own name, while Bartenders blog anonymously. Read Freddy’s About page for an in depth list of the practical reasons for this. Then read around his blog for lots more interesting stuff, including his excellent taste in cocktail pundits.

To be clear, I recognize that you can in some cases, and to one degree or another, meld the two species. Take some talent, subject it to enough pressure for 16 years (as of this week), and you get a diamond like this guy.

About the author

Doug

I am 48 years old, married with two young daughters. My interests are tennis, reading, computers, politics, and of course cocktails. I run a murder mystery party business that caters to both corporate and private events, Killing Time, murder consultants.

6 Comments

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  • The way I view it is that bartenders serve people. Some are exceptionally good at dealing with the public and others are not. To be a bartender, the liquidy skill set is being able to pop a bottle cap and pour a shot.

    Mixologists created and/or serve great drinks. Some are horrible with people and others are great, but the skill of the mixologist is evident. The mixologist doesn’t even need to work in a bar and can be a consultant or a home kitchen whiz.

    The only gripe I have is people calling themselves mixologists. It’s too much a self-assessment of skill and greatness. It seems fine to call someone else that as a complement, and thus self-calling is like self-complementing which is odd.

    And yes, you squeezed in boobies into your posts again. Bravo.

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  • Frederic,

    Heh. You said “Squeezed”.

    Mixologist of course is a newer word, and like most new words in English is subject to more open interpretation. Plenty of folks also call me a Bartender too, though I don’t deserve that label.

    For this discussion, I meant only trained pros behind mahogany. And therein is where “Freddy” provides a useful different perspective for us.

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  • A friend, both bartender and mixologist professionally, defined it this way: a bartender is one who mixes and serves drinks; a mixologist is one who creates drink recipes. Some are one, some are both.

    Ignorant me, I thought these was more generally accepted. I like them because they’re actually useful definitions that get around the baggage that seems to cause these fights.

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  • Bram,

    There is no escape from the baggage!

    That is a pretty good definition of bartender, but there are plenty concoctors of original drinks that I don’t think of as Mixologists, and a number of Mixologists who don’t really make much in the way of original drinks. I think some mixologists are more engineer than artist. They craft specialty ingredients. They improve drinks. They deconstruct them. In a few cases, they mess them up.

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  • Thanks for the love Doug! Yeah, Mixologists definitely have their own agenda when it comes to blogging. Most are out to highlight and publicize their drink crafting skills and showcase their beverage programs. That’s not to say that bartenders don’t, but bartenders bloggers typically are more aligned with story telling, ranting, and dishing dirt. Often, that doesn’t jive very well with where they currently work.

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  • Bartenders can serve and prepare beautiful and tasty drinks without being a mixologist but a mixologist can’t create a drinks without being a bartender. That’s the difference between the two. Great post anyway

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