Is ‘mixologist’ a pretentious job title?

7th April, 2014 by Amy Hopkins

Chris Tunstall, founder, abarabove.com

Debate-1The debate regarding the terms “bartender” and “mixologist” has been going for my entire bartending career, and there seems to be no end in sight. The term mixologist conveys different messages to different people. To some people, it means “bar chef”, while others use the term to identify a bartender who has superior knowledge about cocktails. To others, it conjures up an image of a narcissistic and patronising bartender who treats his guests as inferiors. I still hesitate to answer when guests ask me if I’m a mixologist – because I’m not exactly sure what preconceived notions they have with the term.

But, for me, mixologist is a perfectly acceptable term. The goals of the bartender and mixologist are the same, but their roles are different. A bartender’s role is to be completely focused on the guests, to make them feel comfortable and ensure they have a great time. They make them feel welcome, appreciated, and build relationships with them. They are the friend a person needs after a rough day. Bartending is a very social role, and the skill set of a good bartender is aligned with this.

For mixologists, our role is customer service before the customer ever arrives. This means choosing the best products that match our establishment and creating signature cocktails that help to reinforce the atmosphere we are looking for. We have a deep understanding of engineering drinks: how to extract flavours and make them work together. We use this knowledge to create recipes then put those recipes in the hands of our bartenders who help keep the guests coming back. As a mixologist, our focus is on the drink, but always keeping the guest in mind. I feel like mixology is a key part of our business and that’s why I’m proud to call myself one.

Whatever we call ourselves, we need to recognise that our goal is customer service and both are important to create a memorable experience for the guest. Mixology creates the recipes while bartending creates the mood. People shouldn’t shy away from calling themselves a mixologist if that’s their job.

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