“Mixology” and “mixologist” have become major buzzwords in the bar scene.
You’ve no doubt heard someone call themselves a mixologist or refer to wanting to learn more about mixology as a hobby.
But what is a mixologist?
Are they bartenders? Glorified bartenders? Something else entirely?
The answer isn’t immediately apparent.
…Which is why we want to nip this in the bud ASAP.
In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about mixology–as well as the difference between a mixologist and a bartender
What Is Mixology?
Mixology is the art of making new, innovative cocktails and mixed drinks.
The term “mixologist” refers to someone who has a deep admiration for the history, ingredients, and techniques used to make cocktails.
They’re people who know so much about creating great mixed drinks that they can make you the best thing you’ve had in your life with as few details as “I like rum and cherry-flavored things”.
Mixologists are like master bartenders. The title is an honorary one that signifies excellence and experience.
The term “mixology” dates back to the 19th century.
In the old days, people would drink beer, straight liquor, or shots, which is why it was referred to as the “cocktail dark ages”.
Fast-forward to the 21st century, and mixology as a craft is only gaining popularity (according to Google Trends). More and more people are becoming enamored with the art of making great cocktails, and professional mixologists are only getting better.
Mixologist vs. Bartender: The Subtle Differences You Need to Know
There is so much confusion on the difference between a bartender and a mixologist because they require a very similar skill set. But at the end of the day, they’re two different roles.
A bartender works at the bar making standard cocktails and interacting with customers. They have to know how to make all of the classics–ranging from old fashioned to mai tais.
This obviously requires a lot of booze knowledge. When someone orders a Margarita or Dirty Martini, they need to be able to make these drinks quickly without having questions.
But their responsibilities extend even beyond customer service and drink-making–they also usually play a role in inventory management.
Keeping all the key ingredients in stock is crucial to their job (and the success of the bar).
Mixologists definitely play the role of a bartender at times, but their main focus is on creating new cocktails.
They know so much about cocktail making that they usually work behind the scenes making new house cocktails and drinks that bartenders will serve to guests.
Think of it this way:
A mixologist is to a bartender like a chef is to a waiter.
They’ve acquired such incredible knowledge of spirits, flavor pairings, and ingredients that they spend most of their time inventing new “dishes” (continuing with the metaphor) rather than serving classics to customers.
How to Become a Mixologist
1. Learn the Craft
Employers and customers care most about one thing when it comes to a mixologist:
They don’t really care if you have a college degree–they care much more about your skills making great cocktails.
So, that means becoming a mixologist is mostly about memorizing recipes, learning what flavors pair well together, and innovating.
And there are tons of affordable resources at your fingertips, including:
- Mixology books
- Online courses
- Online certification programs
- Local mixology classes
- And more
Anyone who’s willing to put in the work can become a mixologist.
2. Get Certified
It helps a ton to get certified once you have an intermediate level of mixology knowledge.
Being a certified bartender or mixologist helps you get a job much faster since employers see they won’t have to provide a ton of training.
And some states actually require certification before you can get a job.
3. Gain Experience
You have to start somewhere–and most mixologists start at the bottom of the totem pole.
They start out as bar backs and slowly work their way up the ranks.
Many people want to jump straight to becoming a mixologist, but this experience is 100% necessary (and often required).
You will learn more from your on-the-job experience than you will from books, courses, or certifications.
So, it’s important to understand that you won’t become a mixologist overnight.
4. Continue Experimenting and Learning
As you rise in the ranks and become more skilled, more opportunities will open up for you.
But be sure not to rest on your laurels once you become a mixologist.
The great mixologists constantly look to hone their skills and invent new drinks.
Your level of industry recognition, compensation, and business opportunity will all rise as you move closer and closer to becoming a master mixologist.
Mixologists Are in High Demand
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest data shows that the demand for mixologists and bartenders is growing much faster than average.
The job market is expected to grow by 32% through 2030.
That means demand is high for great mixologists.
And while the starting salary isn’t great, master mixologists are often able to start their own bars or sell online training courses, which skyrockets their income potential.