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Bartenders? Mixologists? What’s the Difference?

Drink mixing

Some will tell you mixology is just a fancy way to describe someone who mixes up alcohol and other ingredients to prepare a drink. But isn’t that precisely what a bartender does?

Let’s take a look at both job descriptions to help you understand the subtle (and sometimes ambiguous) differences between the two.

The Scientific Bar Chef (AKA Mixologist)

If you’ve ever furrowed your brow over the term mixology, you wouldn’t be the first. Simply put, mixology is the craft and skill of preparing mixed drinks (an alcoholic beverage consisting of liquor, and other ingredients).

A mixologist is someone who possesses those skills and works to design and invent innovative drinks based on a profound understanding of alcohol and other ingredients. Mixologists enjoy looking deep into unusual or unique ingredients to reinvent classic cocktails and transform them into artful and ingenious drinks.

Some mixologists go as far as working with distilleries to help design and develop cocktails and promote the companies brand. Some also work as professional bartenders, which brings us to the next topic: the differences between both careers.

Mixologist vs. Bartender

You’ll often hear the terms mixologist and bartender used interchangeably, but both of these job titles offer different skill sets. To keep it ultra-simple, a mixologist practices mixology and a bartender mixes drinks while also tending a bar.

A mixologist has a deeper understanding of the history of spirits and other alcohol and studies to contribute to the field of bartending by creating innovative drinks. A bartender knows many standard drinks and can serve many guests at the bar. Bartenders should be excellent multi-taskers, while also have the personality to help maintain crowd control, as they often serve several people at once—but you don’t need to be a mixologist, innovating new drinks and methods, to be a good bartender.

Emilee Unterkoefler Emilee Unterkoefler
Emilee Unterkoefler is a freelance food writer, hiking enthusiast, and mama with over ten years of experience working in the food industry. Read Full Bio »
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