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What is a Mixologist?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 19 November 2016
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A mixologist is a bartender who specializes in the creation of new drink combinations. Although they have many of the same duties as a regular bartender, a mixologist is highly knowledgeable about the composition of alcoholic drinks and may also have advanced flair or trick bartending skills. These cocktail virtuosos have become common in the 21st century, and many competitions involving drink inventions and flair contests allow them to pit their skills against one another.

Mixology is the science of creating cocktails. Although standard, simple mixed drinks had been around for decades, true mixology can be traced back to the end of World War II, particularly in America. The rise of tiki bar culture and flood of available liquor following the end of American Prohibition led to an ever-increasing roster of mixed drinks. Fierce fights ensued over credit for certain drinks, such as the Mai Tai battle between competing tiki bars Trader Vic’s and Don the Beachcomber.

As the amount of bars increased worldwide, and variations on standard liquors became available, bars began featuring signature drinks to attract customers. Additionally, as tipping became more widespread, bartenders developed flair or extreme tricks with bartending equipment, in the hopes of getting more money. The combination of drink creation and flair bartending eventually led to the term mixologist.

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Mixologists are often commissioned to create drinks for weddings, special events or restaurant openings. Sometimes, a mixologist will be hired to develop a drink menu for a bar or restaurant, taking into account the desired atmosphere of the establishment. If the drinks are good enough, a mixologist may bring higher reviews and a larger clientele. Alcohol manufacturers also frequently sponsor competitions to create drinks from their newest products, with prizes and fame for the winner.

Recently, the Food Network has featured mixologists on several popular shows. An Iron Chef battle featuring celebrity chef Mario Batali included a pair of mixologists creating appropriate drinks to go with each food course. The network also featured a special on the World Bartending Championships in Las Vegas, Nevada. On an episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay, the famous chef challenged master mixologist Tobin Ellis to a cocktail battle. Ellis also created a signature drink for the Food Network.

To be an at-home mixologist, try taking your favorite drink and mixing it up with a few new ingredients. If you are a fan of the cool, mint-lime mojito, try switching ingredients and use basil instead of mint, or splash in some pineapple juice. If you are knowledgeable about flavor combinations, try to invent a totally new drink and create a special name. Once you get the hang of it, you can create drinks for parties, anniversaries or special birthdays. Beginners may wish to exclude the bartending tricks such as bottle flips, unless they plan to use plastic bottles and do not mind repeatedly cleaning the floor, kitchen and possibly their clothes.

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