Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mixologist Vs. Bartender

This from Francis Lam at Gourmet:

Dear Mixologist:

Imagine going into a busy kitchen on a Saturday night and not seeing any cooks. Instead, the sauteologist and the grillologist are working in perfect sync, behind the expeditologist. Over in the corner, the coldappsologist tosses salads. And keeping it all together are the unheralded, the unseen, the fearless of dirt and hot water: the dishwashologists.

Here’s a message to all the mixologists out there: Dude, you’re a bartender. It’s okay; it’s cool. Bartenders are cool.

Okay, so you’re the gal that found yourself a piece of fruit and some obscure booze and you want to set yourself apart from all the unemployed actors who pour vodka tonics all night long? Sure, but remember that the classic cocktails that inspire you were all invented by bartenders.

I get that you’re doing something seriously and you want to make that known. I’m into that. I’m into the pieces of fruit and the obscure booze. I’m into the work and creativity you put into it. It’s interesting. It’s dignified. But while you can be doing something unique, something intensive, you’re still not doing something new. If you’re not inventing a new profession, why do you insist on a new word for what you do? That’s just being pompous. Being pompous is not the same as being dignified.

And your actor friends aside, what’s wrong with being a bartender? Bartenders tend the bar. They take care of the whole thing, meaning both the liquor rack and the bar room. They pour drinks, they mix cocktails, they talk to people. They have regulars who come to see them, to drink their drinks. They give that broken-hearted bastard an ear and a dram and a kind word. They keep a birthday party happy. They lube up a first date. Some bartenders have the gift of pardon (which, by the way, is only one of the many phenomenal songs written about bartenders). They make a bar worth going to.

Why would you want to give all that up to sound like someone who’s just a nerd about mixing drinks? You’re never going to be heading home from work, the sun threatening to come up after another night at the bar, thinking about a song called “Some Mixologists Have the Gift of Pardon.”

One point I'd like to add to this. "Mixologist" does have one thing going for it: it's a good synonym for "bartender," and we journalists need as many synonyms as we can get, so we don't have to say "bartender" every other line.


Dr. Bamboo said...

This year at Tales of the Cocktail, a well-known media figure (who shall remain nameless) confided to me that he would like to put together a panel discussion next year to address the whole "bartender vs. mixologist" issue.

I hope it actually happens. I bet it would be a big draw.

Anonymous said...

awesome. from a bartender

Robert Simonson, "Our Man in the Liquor-Soaked Trenches"-New York Times. said...

Geez, were there any well-known media figures at Tales?

frederic said...

For the vast majority of people, a bartender is good enough. But for me to leave my well-stocked home bar to pay money to have drinks made for me, it better be someone with as much and hopefully more passion and knowledge about the art. Whether you want to call them a mixologist or not, I will tend to return to a seat at their bar again. Having them decide whether they're a mixologist is a separate story.

Anonymous said...

The terms mixologist and mixology have been recognized by Webster's for a long time. According to this online Webster's reference, it has been used since 1948.