What Is a Mixologist and How Do I Become One?

What Is a Mixologist and How Do I Become One?

Some people enjoy beer, and some people prefer cocktails. But others consider themselves mixed drink connoisseurs, artists that use liquid spirits rather than liquid paint. 

Mixology goes a step above simple cocktail making – mixology is the in-depth study of inventing, preparing, and serving extraordinary mixed drinks that are more complicated than a standard Old Fashioned. Mixology is tough, but with the right mix of dedication, practice, and education, you too can bear the title “mixologist.”

What Is a Mixologist? 

A mixologist is a bartender who specializes in the art of mixing cocktails. It’s also one of the many bartending terms to know

The earliest known use of the word “mixologist” comes from an 1860 article in the Raftsman’s Journal, but the term really took off once it was published in Jerry Thomas’ seminal 1862 book How to Mix Drinks or The Bon Vivant’s Companion. How to Mix Drinks was the first time many of today’s classic recipes were collected and published together, making Jerry Thomas one of America’s most famous mixologists.    

A mixologist must be well-versed in both classic and modern cocktail recipes and be able to improvise new recipes when needed.

Some bartenders may consider themselves mixologists because they make delicious cocktails, but it takes more than just mixing different ingredients to truly be a mixologist. Some individuals have studied their craft for years before gaining traction in the hospitality industry. It can take anywhere from a few weeks to several years of work before you're considered for a full-time position.

What Does a Mixologist Do? 

A mixologist is someone who studies the history of cocktails, holds a deep appreciation for their craft, and regularly designs fresh and exciting recipes. 

While mixologists may spend some time behind the bar serving drinks to patrons, their main responsibility takes place behind the scenes experimenting with recipes to come up with the perfect blend of ingredients or adapting classic recipes with a modern flair. 

The art of mixology has been around for centuries, and it’s something that takes time and practice to perfect. 

Isn't Mixologist Just A Fancy Word for Bartender?

Given all of the overlap between bartenders and mixologists, one wonders whether the terms are interchangeable. Mixologists and bartenders do similar work, but there are critical differences between the roles. 

Bartenders primarily create and serve existing cocktail recipes or in-house specials. 

In contrast, mixologists spend much of their time researching and inventing new cocktail recipes. They have a deep appreciation for cocktail history, watch global cocktail trends, and experiment with new ingredients. 

Mixologists focus on the cutting edge of alcoholic beverage development, whereas bartenders focus on mastering existing recipes. 

How to Become a Mixologist 

Becoming a mixologist starts by getting professional bartending training from an institution like the Beverage Alcohol Resource (BAR) course.

BAR’s five-day certification program teaches you everything you need to know about mixology, from the basic ingredients in cocktails to developing your own recipes. This kind of experience is crucial, as it can’t be learned from a book or online videos. 

It can take up to five years to become skilled at the craft of mixing cocktails. Throughout this time, you will discover new ingredients, test your recipes, and perfect your favorites.

Once you’ve completed at least one course, gain as much experience as you can behind the bar. Befriend other bartenders, too, as they may have opportunities for more work or could introduce you to future employers. Don’t be shy about asking for more hours or jobs to expedite your growth.

While collecting experience, you can take an online course or sign up for an apprenticeship program. The more opportunities you take advantage of, the more customers you’ll have the chance to serve. The more feedback you get from customers, the more you’ll see what types of cocktails are a hit! 

What Resources Are Required to Become a Mixologist? 

Becoming a mixologist may sound straightforward, but there are real sacrifices involved. Though no formal education is required to become one, you will need your bartender license and, ideally, one or more cocktail certifications.

Most states require you to have a bartender’s license from a reputable source to serve alcohol, so that comes first. Many aspiring bartenders go to bartending school to earn their licenses. These bartending schools or online courses must be approved by the state Department of Revenue or another authorized body. While in-person bartending schools typically charge between $250 – $500, online courses can cost anywhere from $100 and $150. Most bartending courses (whether online or offline) will conduct an assessment at the completion of the course.

You can find a list of bartending schools here

Second, a reputable mixology certification can also provide an advantage in your job search. This demonstrates that you've acquired knowledge of relevant ingredients and the hospitality industry and cocktails as a whole.

It’s All About the Right Mix

As a mixologist, you’ll have unlimited space for creative expression and adaption as you master the art of mixed drinks and cocktails.

Mixology is exciting but certainly isn’t for everyone. If you’re nervous about using the right ingredients in your next cocktail, we’ve got you covered – Demitri’s All-Natural Bloody Mary Seasoning and All-Natural Margarita Mixes make the perfect mixed drink every time. 

Contact us today to learn more.

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