Mention the term “mixologist” nowadays, and most people will give you the side-eye. For many, mixologists are merely glorified bartenders, as if the two terms could always be used interchangeably. Perhaps this aversion stems from the overuse of the word, especially in media and self-promotion. However, that’s not to say there is no difference between a bartender and a mixologist.
Both roles revolve around customer satisfaction, and they overlap in many ways. A bartender could be a mixologist, too, and a mixologist could be a bartender — although due to the differences in how they work, a mixologist might feel a bit out of his element in the bartender role.
Generally, mixologists put more emphasis on the creation of a drink and its preparation. They do customer service before a customer even walks into the bar. Mixologists are the ones that design a cocktail menu, making sure it’s all about the season-appropriate drinks, and they also prepare the house-made ingredients. Those might be syrups, bitters, tinctures and anything else that might be needed to make any of the cocktails from the menu. So, in short, they make sure that the bar is stocked with the high-quality ingredients required for the drink menu that they designed, and they do most of their work before the customers arrive.
Bartenders, on the other hand, have guests as their primary focus. Their number one mission is to make the guests feel welcome and attended to. They entertain them, talk to them, make sure their glasses are full and that they find the service satisfactory. Bartenders also prepare drinks, but if there is a mixologist in the house, they don’t design them. Instead, bartenders will use the ingredients and recipes developed by the mixologist to create drinks. Their drink-making process is usually a little faster, as customer satisfaction depends significantly on the speed of service.
Even though people regard mixologist as a relatively new term, it’s been around for a while. It was revived by Dale DeGroff during the 1980s, as the now famed author and bartender wanted to draw some attention from the press for the cocktail revolution he was starting at the Rainbow Room in New York. The term, however, dates back a hundred years, when it was used to describe bartenders at high-end establishments. Those were the people who both tended the bar and had responsibilities that modern mixologists do.
The main takeaway for you as a guest is that a mixologist will prepare you that one drink you’ll remember from your night out, while a bartender will make sure you had a night to remember. The difference may be subtle, but it exists.
Here at Rent a Bartender, we got you covered whether you need a bartender or a mixologist — make sure to check out our offer. We’re also hiring, so don’t hesitate to join our team if you’ve got what we’re looking for!
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