Mixologist vs Bartender: What’s The Difference?

Posted by Shoes For Crews Europe on 08-Nov-2017 16:11:00

Customers on the other side of the bar probably can’t tell the difference between a mixologist or a bartender - or some of them don’t even know a mixologist is a thing. Either way, they’re getting their well-crafted drinks served to them to help them enjoy their night out. Little do they know that there’s a major difference between the pair. With both terms being thrown around so frequently, which route should you take if you’re wanting to work behind the bar? So, let the battle commence. Mixologist vs bartender: what’s the difference?


Bartender holding champagne glasses


You might be a bartender yourself but based on basic definitions between the pair, the work you’re doing might actually suggest that you’re a mixologist instead. So, what do they do? To differentiate between both roles, if you’re someone who is serving drinks at a bar and engaging in conversation with customers, then you’re a bartender. If you’re highly-skilled at mixing cocktails and other drinks to create incredible flavour combinations, then you’re a mixologist. When you take expert opinions from fellow drink makers in the industry to account, they admit that the term ‘mixology’ is on the rise.

Has Mixology Affected The Art Of Bartending?

You, as a bartender, might be slightly worried with the rise of mixology, with many believing that the role has undermined or undervalued the job title of a bartender. This is because it’s assumed that a mixologist has a more advanced role behind the bar, mainly because of skills involving drink-making.


However, this isn’t the death of bartending. You might be a bartender but in your workstation, you could be doing work which is associated with mixology. It can be seen as a natural extension to bartending, however, that’s not to say that it elevates the titleholder in the eyes of a customer or a manager looking to hire you to work behind the bar. There are skills a mixologist has that a bartender might not possess and vice versa.


Regardless of your title, both are important behind the bar.

A Mixologist in actionImage Credit

What’s The Same?

You might be scratching your head at what the difference is between yourself and whoever else is working with you behind the bar, but there is confusion between both roles. However, there are certain aspects of the jobs that are exactly the same, making the decision to go down the bartender or mixologist route a whole lot easier and it all starts with the customer service.


Either way, you’re going to be in the same business. You’ll be there to satisfy the guests and make them happy by fulfilling their requests. You’ll be delivering the amazing products you have on offer and making them feel comfortable in the environment so that they develop a bond with you and keep coming back because they love the drinks you’re making.


Regardless of if you’re a bartender or a mixologist - or you’re thinking about becoming one or the other - they’re both equally tiring roles, especially because you’re going to be on your feet throughout the lengthy shifts. There’s no time to take a break or sit down for a breather as it’s constantly fast-paced in what can be tough and gruelling hours. Don’t compromise the quality of your drink-making and mixing skills because of how tired you’re feeling. The only way you’ll be able to continue churning out high-quality products is if you’re comfortable and not in any pain. That all starts with your feet because of how long you’ll be standing up for. So, it’s crucial that you have the right footwear - comfortable, stylish and slip-resistant - as plenty of liquid will spill on the floor.


What Does A Mixologist Do?

Now is when you’ll need to decide whether you’re actually a mixologist or a bartender, or choosing which one you’d prefer to be as there are distinct differences between the pair that are noticeable. Mixologists are those that design cocktails that are seasonal and align the drinks with the style of establishment that you’re working in.


You’d take the season into account, as you won’t be creating a winter-based drink in the summer, would you? You’d look into the type of workplace you’re in and make sure that whatever you’re producing fits in with the tone, rather than throwing any old ingredients together.


If you’re preparing the house-made syrups, tinctures, bitters and any other ingredients that will be needed throughout service, as well as arriving well before time to prepare, then you’re a mixologist who goes to great lengths to select the highest-quality ingredients.

“I see a bartender as someone who looks to deliver an experience through their interactions with a guest, whether verbally or through the drinks they deliver. On the flip side, I see a mixologist as an individual who seeks to push the boundaries of said experience through careful and precise delivery of items that tantalise or affect the senses.”

- DiSean Burns, bar manager at Stoke, Charlotte, NC.


What Does A Bartender Do?

If you’re very guest-oriented and are completely focused on them and their needs, then you’re more likely to be a bartender. Or, if customer interaction is something that appeals to you more than quietly mixing drinks like potions, then focus on the bartender path instead of giving into the fancy temptation of having mixologist as your job title. You’d be expected to make the guests feel welcome, to entertain them and make sure they’re always tended to and that their glasses are always full, so you’d be the more vocal out of the two.


You’d be the friend or companion that guests need, the shoulder to cry on when they’re troubled or someone who listens to drunk guests telling their stories. However, as a bartender you’re still fully expected to create brilliant drinks for guests whenever they ask and you’ll often utilise the recipes and ingredients provided by the mixologist.


Put it this way, if you’re already or are planning to make drinks expediently, then you’re a bartender and should stick to that path. If you prefer going to greater pains and take more time to make every cocktail a masterpiece, then you’re a mixologist.

Is There Really That Much Difference?

Both roles revolve around customer satisfaction. However, you could argue that the big difference in both roles you’re considering is that the term mixologist puts a greater emphasis on the creation of drinks - artists with all of the flash and the dazzle of a great bartender but with a burning passion for creating inspired flavour combinations.


If you’re a bartender or want to be one, then the role implies a sense of hospitality and being more caring. You’d be a real people person that stops at nothing to put the guest’s needs before your own to provide a good experience, yet you’d have a solid understanding of creating drinks on a whim.


The reality is, a bar can still function without having a mixologist. As a bartender, you’ll be communicating with every guest, yet you’d still be filling their glasses with drinks all night and creating a great environment.


Stay Safe When Working Behind The Bar

Mixologist or bartender, the job title and the role might be different but the hazards remain the same. With slips, trips and falls being the most common injury in the workplace, it’s important to maintain safe footwear when spills are almost a guarantee. At SHOES FOR CREWS (EUROPE) Ltd., our shoes will get you home safe.

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Topics: Workplace Safety Tips, Workplace Footwear, mixologist, bartender, bar