Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"Mixology" and "Mixologists" are Words, Get Over it Already...

Seriously? What is with people from food writers to bar round ups knocking the word "mixology" or "mixologist?"

Let's start with "mixologist." First, I'd like to clear up any confusion about what a mixologist is, and how it is correctly used: A mixologist is someone who practices the art and craft of mixology. Just as a psychologist is someone who practices the art and craft of psychology. Or an optometrist is someone trained in optometry. Or a scientologist regularly practices scientology, for that matter.

I put the "bartender vs. mixologist" question on The Liquid Muse over a year ago, and even within the bar professionals, it opened a can of worms. As far as I'm concerned, "bartender" and "mixologist" are not necessarily synonymous, although they can be, and they are not necessarily different, although they can be.

Some bartenders sling crappy cordials and cheap booze, add a little sweet-n-sour and call it a "cocktail." While many misguided souls may refer to that as mixology, they are incorrect. That is scholcky bartending. Someone who invests the time to educate themselves, train their palate, learn the history and art of classic cocktails and has the know-how to create balanced cocktails with quality products - and makes a career from it - can call themselves a mixologist, in my opinion, whether they work behind a bar or not. They are practicing the art and craft of mixology.

Onto "mixology." The word itself goes back nearly 200 years - and while it may have been used humorously at times ... both back then and today ... I challenge naysayers to produce a better term for the art and craft of designing cocktails. The "mixology" backlash is a bit like the "vodka" backlash. When something becomes mainstream, there will always be some to try to up their own cool quotient by suddenly deciding to diss the term / fashion / trend / insert-cool-thing-here, deserved or not.

My very first mixology mentor is Tony Abou Ganim, who goes by the moniker The Modern Mixologist. Tony is one of the most inpsiring and inspired long-time professionals in the business. Dale DeGroff, aka: King Cocktail heads the Mixology section of the B.A.R. course (the most prestigious spirits training in our industry). Briget Albert's new book Market Fresh Mixology rocks and drives home the marriage of quality ingredients with skilled cocktail making. Yes, even my nonalcoholic book "Preggatinis: Mixology for the Mom-To-Be" strives to bring quality drinks to the world of 'mocktails' (now "mocktail" is a term I hate... but why turn my nose up a those who use it? Everyone relates to something new from their own frame of reference.)

Until the big dogs in our own industry "call a moratorium" on
the term and come up with a new word for professional cocktail making, I will continue to use and celebrate the term "mixology," all it stands for, and those who practice it.

Ok, this is the end of my rant. Got a problem with it? Leave a comment. This can be an open discussion...


camper said...

Every time I write a story for the SF Chronicle the user comments are full of "bartenders who say they're mixologists are so uppity." It's annoying. The fry cook at Burger King is no more a chef than a bartender at McDivey's is a mixologist. There's a real distinction.

Anonymous said...

I personaly like the term "mixologist" as long as it is used when actually referring to a capable individual deserving of the term. I work very hard creating 100% fresh, hand crafted cocktails, with only the finest spirits and produce. Myself and my colleagues definatly deserve a title that recognizes and seperates us from your vodka-redbull-cosmo-long-islandtini slingers at your favorite night club somewhere in the city. Anyway that's my take.

Joel (Comme Ca Bar)

Better Guy X said...

Those people trying to elevate the cocktail beyond gin and tonic; researching bartending manuals; using unique liquor and liqueurs and making their own mixers; they are mixologists. The rest are bartenders and there's nothing wrong with a good bartender.