A mixologist is a person who has studied the history and techniques of making cocktails. They know the importance of each ingredient-like types of rum-in a cocktail and understand why certain combinations produce the best cocktails. A good mixologist can boost bar profitability by making drinks that keep customers coming back.
A mixologist can work in the bar area, and will likely work closely with the bar manager. If they’re in a hotel business or similar hospitality setting, they’ll work with the beverage director. The average mixologist is a mix between a bartender and a voice of knowledge and expertise in the bar business of mixing drinks.
What are the responsibilities of a mixologist? How many mixed cocktails will you learn to make? How much can you earn working as a mixologist? What is the most likely salary estimation? It sounds like a nice gig, but what does a mixologist actually do in their daily work? Read on to learn everything about the role and how to become a mixologist.
Mixologist Job Description
Mixologists serve cocktails, wine, beer, and other drinks to bar and restaurant guests. They follow classic recipes and create signature cocktail drinks. A mixologist should also ensure their bar runs efficiently and that all patrons are satisfied with their drink orders. It’s a wide array of responsibilities.
When hiring a mixologist, employers like to see plenty of experience bartending. They also want to hire someone with knowledge of the hospitality industry and possibly some experience with hospitality software. That can make it easier for the mixologist to step into beverage management responsibilities.
Mixologists might start as barbacks to learn basic bar skills before becoming servers or bartenders. They use a mixology set to create exciting cocktails, including tools like a cocktail muddler and a cocktail strainer.
They may enroll in mixology classes to earn a mixology certification. This boosts their understanding of the chemistry and theories of mixology, which helps them experiment with the craft.
A mixologist oversees their employee’s bar supplies, including glasses, garnishes, and drink mixes. They also get enough ice to prepare cocktails. These responsibilities help them keep up with drink orders and ensure customer satisfaction.
A barback might assist a mixologist in keeping track of bar inventory, and they might use a bar inventory system like BinWise Pro to save time and stay organized. In some establishments, the mixologist contacts vendors and orders the supplies they need. They play a role in inventory management for alcohol and supplies.
Mixologists also need expertise in using a bar POS system to accept and process customer payments. They keep the legal drinking age in mind and check that all guests meet the minimum drinking age requirement for service. Drinking responsibly is the responsibility of both bar patrons and mixologists and bartenders.
It might be necessary for the mixologist to follow a bar opening checklist to ensure that everything is ready for their shift. Likewise, a mixologist should keep the bar clean and organized as possible to avoid extra cleaning tasks at their shift's end.
Guests at the bar want to order food, including an appetizer and other snacks, so a mixologist delivers their food orders with drinks. All these responsibilities will become second nature with time. When a mixologist is starting out at a bar or restaurant, these tasks should be kept in mind to make work go smoothly.
A mixologist often works in a nightclub, resort, or cocktail bar. Indeed.com states the average annual salary for a mixologist in the United States is $32,440 per year (April 14, 2022). ZipRecruiter has seen some average salaries as high as $82,500 and Glassdoor says Master Mixologists earn an average of $98,039. It can vary depending on the cost of living in different locations.
It's possible to earn an excellent salary as a mixologist in many countries. Some even achieve international fame for their innovative ways of creating and serving cocktails. Here are a few mixologists who have gained recognition for their skills:
1. Dale DeGroff
Nicknamed "King Cocktail," DeGroff is recognized as one of the world's best mixologists. He worked at the Rainbow Room in New York City during the 1980s, where he developed his skills. His methods and knowledge have established him as a true talent behind the bar.
2. Bannie Kang
Kang earned a degree in Hotel Management in her native South Korea before moving to Singapore to begin her career. She won the World Class bartending competition in 2019 and opened a restaurant in Taipei called “Mu” with her husband in 2020.
3. Colin Peter Field
Field has been ranked among the best mixologists in the world by Forbes and Travel & Leisure magazines. He's a successful mixologist who has mastered the art and chemistry behind cocktails.
4. Natasha Mesa
Based in Portland, Mesa is the head bartender at Deadshot PDX where she sets trends in the mixology industry. She successfully competes in national competitions and has experience bartending at high-profile bars abroad.
5. Eryn Reece
Reece has been featured in numerous publications, including the New York Times, Cosmopolitan, and Imbibe. She's a Speed Rack national champion and promotes the recognition of female mixologists.
History of Mixologists
The Founder of Mixology
Most people consider Jerry Thomas, a 19th-century bartender and saloon owner, the founder of mixology. He owned and managed a collection of saloons in the New York City area and published The Bartenders Guide: How to Mix Drinks, his guide to making cocktails. It was the first mixology book ever published in the United States and is one of the best cocktail recipe books to this day.
Thomas’ nickname was "The Professor" due to his analytical approach to creating and experimenting with cocktails. These innovative methods helped popularize the practice of inventing cocktails in America.
He experimented with different flavors by trial and error with the help of some taste testers. His early research and practice established some of the rules and conventions that mixologists still use today.
The Blue Blazer
Jerry Thomas' signature cocktail was the Blue Blazer. He first mixed it in San Francisco's El Dorado saloon and gambling hall.
He used sugar, scotch, and boiling water, which he lit on fire before transferring the concoction back and forth between two glasses. This created a spectacular incandescent rainbow of flame to entertain his patrons.
Thomas invented an early version of the Martini, called the Martinez. He was a true pioneer in mixology and the first of many mixologists who embarked on their mission to create perfect cocktails. That is the end goal of many mixologists: to create drinks that have a balance of flavors to delight the taste buds.
The popularity of cocktails was booming in the early 20th century when the 18th Amendment passed in 1920. This prohibited the manufacture, transport, import, export, and sale of all types of alcohol in the United States. Naturally, a great deal of people in the US weren’t thrilled about this development.
Facing this challenge from the government, cocktail lovers headed to their local speakeasy for their favorite drinks. The 1920s became the golden age of cocktails in the United States as they became a forbidden fruit that people wanted more than ever. There was drink experimentation and the perfecting of many cocktails we now consider staples.
Many of today's popular cocktail recipes appeared during the Prohibition era, which lasted from 1920 until 1933 in America. Legal distilleries closed, and common ingredients weren't widely available, so mixologists had to get creative. They had that in common with the rum runners.
It was necessary to come up with recipes that made alcohol more palatable. Bartenders added honey to gin and lemon juice to invent the Bee's Knees cocktail. Citrus fueled the creation of mixed drinks like the Gin Rickey and Sidecar. Sugar cubes and simple syrup became common ingredients in cocktails served during Prohibition.
Americans' passion for cocktails reached its pinnacle in the 1920s, but it continued to remain steady in the years after Prohibition. The 21st Amendment wiped out the restrictions on alcohol in 1933. The joy of finding unique ways to enjoy alcoholic beverages, however, remained.
After WWII, cocktails were the drink of choice for celebrations of all kinds. A booming economy and the emergence of the middle class meant that cocktail hours, happy hours, and entertaining guests at home became common. The mix of drinks available meant people could host and offer new types of drinks to their friends.
The Modern Age
One of the main characteristics of today's cocktail scene is the attention paid to detail. That's why earning the title of mixologist has increased in popularity since the dawn of the new millennium. Mixing drinks can be simple, but crafting unique cocktails takes care and appreciation for the different ingredients and flavor profiles.
Craft cocktails have seen a growing fan base, with cocktail lovers showing more interest in artisan and handcrafted ingredients. That also plays into the importance of sustainability which is seeing a bigger role in the bar and restaurant industry. Eco-friendly restaurants have been a pioneer in unique craft cocktails.
Many modern mixologists incorporate bitters and shrubs into their cocktails to add balance and depth to the flavoring. Another practice is the creation of small-batch brands that utilize regional flavors in their mixed drinks. All these practices come together to create new drinks and bring the delights of unique mixed drinks to anyone and everyone looking for something new.
"Key Takeaway: A mixologist is a person who has studied the history and techniques of making cocktails. They know the importance of each ingredient-like types of rum-in a cocktail and understand why certain combinations produce the best cocktails."
Frequently Asked Questions About What Is a Mixologist
What Is the Difference Between a Bartender and a Mixologist?
A mixologist has a passion for learning the chemistry and ingredients of cocktails and how they interact to produce a flavorful drink. A bartender serves drinks and ensures an enjoyable experience for their patrons.
The difference between a bartender and a mixologist isn't significant, but mixologists often create unique cocktails. Mixologists use their knowledge of the interaction between ingredients to craft original cocktails. Those cocktails then end up becoming drinks in a regular rotation used by bartenders to keep customers satisfied.
What Is the Role of a Mixologist?
A mixologist's exact role may vary between establishments, but generally, a mixologist supervises bar operations and ensures bartenders serve drinks properly and provide good customer service. A mixologist will also aid bartenders with making drinks and ordering supplies and ingredients from vendors. They often answer questions about cocktails from patrons, similar to how a sommelier or wine connoisseur answers questions about wine or a cicerone knows about beer.
Can You Call Yourself a Mixologist?
A mixologist earns their title by completing mixology classes at a bartending school. They study the molecular mixology aspects of the best cocktails, including reasons why ingredients fit together and why garnishes accompany cocktails. Simply knowing how to use a cocktail shaker, bar spoon, and cocktail jigger doesn't make you a mixologist.
Do Mixologists Make More Money Than Bartenders?
Overall, no, mixologists and bartenders make around the same amount of money across the board. There are certainly specific cases of mixologists and bartenders making more than each other in different locations and businesses. Overall, however, the two professions have a salary that is a similar ballpark to each other.
Is It Hard to Be a Mixologist?
It takes dedication and practice to be a mixologist, but it is an entirely achievable goal. There is a lot of information to learn, and there will always be new drinks you can mix up and different opinions you can listen to when you’re learning about mixology. It takes a lot of time and effort to become a great mixologist, like any work you care about, but it is completely worth the work.
Do Mixologists Only Make Alcoholic Cocktails?
Mixologists are known for creating alcoholic cocktails, but they can also craft non-alcoholic drinks to cater to customers who don't consume alcohol. A mixologist can make anything from alcohol-free versions of popular cocktails to completely new and unique non-alcoholic beverages.
Is Mixology Just About Creating Fancy Cocktails With Exotic Ingredients?
Creating elaborate cocktails with unique ingredients is part of mixology, but the primary focus is on creating well-balanced and flavorful drinks. A mixologist understands the principles of cocktail construction and how to achieve harmonious flavor profiles, whether the ingredients are simple or exotic.
The Modern Mixologist
Mixologists have always created cocktails to satisfy people's tastebuds and keep them interested in what they'll create next. Cocktails have been part of our history from the days of Jerry Thomas' experiments, through the days of Prohibition, and into the new millennium.
The modern mixologist faces the challenge of continuing the history of innovation that has defined cocktails over the years. It's difficult to predict what mixologists will come up with next. However, we know that future cocktails will come from the best minds in mixology, to continue to excite bar and restaurant customers and home connoisseurs.