What is a Mixologist?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

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.
Mixology is the science of creating cocktails.

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.

A mixologist must know how to mix drinks correctly, like how to make the perfect martini.
A mixologist must know how to mix drinks correctly, like how to make the perfect martini.

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.

A jigger is used to measure alcohol to make cocktails.
A jigger is used to measure alcohol to make cocktails.

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.

A mixologist creates new cocktails.
A mixologist creates new cocktails.

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.

A mojito usually includes rum, mint leaves, sugar, soda water and fresh lime juice.
A mojito usually includes rum, mint leaves, sugar, soda water and fresh lime juice.

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.

A mixologist is similar to a bartender, although the mixologist specializes in creating new drink combinations.
A mixologist is similar to a bartender, although the mixologist specializes in creating new drink combinations.
The World Bartending Championships are held in Las Vegas every year.
The World Bartending Championships are held in Las Vegas every year.
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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