What’s the difference between a bartender and mixologist?

bartenderbig.jpgDear BA Foodist,
I’ve seen the word mixologist being thrown around quite a bit these days. What does it actually mean, and how does a mixologist differ from a good old-fashioned bartender?
–Terri Kent, Palm Beach, FL

Dear Terri,
A friend of mine claims that the only difference between the two is that for the same drink, the bartender charges $8 and the mixologist charges $13. He’s kidding–sort of. The resurgence of the classic cocktail has led to a whole new generation of bartenders, many of whom have started making their own infusions, bitters, sodas, and more. And titles like bar chef and mixologist are now common.

However, while it’s easier to find a well-made cocktail, the art of tending bar is being lost. In the words of esteemed bartender Jim Meehan of the New York bar PDT: “A mixologist serves drinks, a bartender serves people–many of my favorite bartenders can’t make a good drink, while some of the best mixologists in America can’t carry on a conversation.”

I say, if you work behind a bar and serve drinks, call yourself a bartender; it is perfectly descriptive and free of any pretense. Would you call a skilled trash collector a trashologist?


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