Elements of Bartending: How to Become the Mixologist

Elements of Bartending: How to Become the Mixologist

In a presentation on Mindful Bartending by industry luminaries Aisha Sharpe and Dushan Zaric, they identified three elements of the complete Bartender: The Mixologist, The Sage, and The Rockstar.  This article is about the Mixologist.

What is a “Mixologist?”

“First you learn your instrument.  Then you practice, practice, practice.  And then, when you finally get up on that bandstand, forget all that and just wail.”

Charlie Parker

The Mixologist knows that Mastery isn’t possible. It’s impossible to know everything about a field, much less an ancient and venerable one in which the essential element of alcohol is fermented and distilled and bottled and infused and macerated and filtered and combined endlessly to the surprise and delight of the masses, so she doesn’t try.  Instead she dedicates her life to the mystery, to constant learning and refinement.  All Mixologists are profoundly skilled and knowledgeable, but the best of them possess a spontaneous exuberance, a love for their craft that is infectious.  For they don’t just study the drinks, the spirits, and the ingredients, but the drinkers, what men drink, what women drink, the seasons, the mood, the type of bar…

The secret of the Mixologist is that he studies the world, and you can taste it in his drinks.

Here are 5 ways to embody the element of the Mixologist:

  1. Surround yourself with other Mixologists- Sometimes the best way to learn is to join others who are in the same field.  Hang out at craft cocktail bars, join organisations like the United States Bartenders Guild.
  2. Step outside your comfort zone- Don’t be content with simply learning about drinks, or even liquor, the best Mixologists are well versed in Beer, Wine, Responsible Service, and Flair bartending.
  3. Have your own, unique tools- One of the hallmarks of the best Mixologists is that they have their own tools that reflect their personality, two good places to look are cocktailkingdom.com, for more traditional, sophisticated bar tools, and uberbartools.com, for more modern, durable barware.
  4. Technique-Ingredients-Recipes- The best way to learn is to focus on techniques first, how to swizzle, infuse, shake, stir, and muddle drinks properly and quickly.  Once that’s out of the way, researching ingredients, beer, wine, spirits, and seasonal mixers should be the focus.  Finally, recipes are learned, assimilated, and invented.
  5. Create and Invent- If you’re not inventing recipes and creating your own ingredients, it’s time to start.  The best way to begin are with simple infusions (fresh strawberries in vodka) and trying variations on recipes that already exist.

Being a Mixologist is not enough, the practical knowledge of the Mixologist must be tempered with the calm presence of the Sage and the fearless potential of the Rockstar.