Mixologist: How to Become an Expert in Cocktails

by | CAREER GUIDANCE, Career Paths

There is nothing worse than a poorly mixed cocktail. Whether it’s too sweet to tolerate, watered down with ice, or overloaded with liquor, there’s nothing worse than the bartender handing you a drink they clearly didn’t care about making. But, when you see a bartender putting some finesse into making your order, you know you’re in for a treat. When you take the first sip of a cocktail and your mind is immediately blown, that’s the work of a master mixologist.

Mixology and mixologists are a somewhat modern invention. The craft cocktail and spirits movement has blown up in the last two decades and along with that came a new type of expert. Anybody can throw some gin and tonic together and call it a cocktail. But mixology takes the simple job of pouring a boozy drink and elevates it into an art and science.

So, if you love working in a bar setting and know how to combine artistic flair with sophistication then working as a mixologist may be the right job for you.

What is a mixologist?

The job description for a cocktail bartender or mixologist will be similar to other types of bartenders. You will serve whatever drinks a bar patron orders. This may include alcoholic drinks like beer and wine or classic cocktails like an old fashioned or a martini. You may also have to serve non-alcoholic drinks, such as virgin cocktails or 0.0% beer.

However, the major difference between a traditional bartender and a cocktail bartender is their specific expertise in crafting deliciously unique signature drinks.

Mixologists can be found in a number of different settings. However, the main place you’ll find them is working in a bar that specializes in mixed drinks. Whether it’s a faux dive bar with a secretly killer menu or in a high class locale in a business district, the cocktail bar is their natural habitat. Other hospitality environments where you may find mixologists include cruise ships, fancy hotel bars, or at private parties and events.

What does a cocktail bartender do?

The primary responsibility of a cocktail bartender is to make and serve beverages to clients. Therefore, you will spend the most of your time at work ensuring everyone has a fresh drink in front of them at all times. This duty may be more or less difficult depending on the sort of bar setting you work in.

Some establishments are well-known for their cocktails, and working behind the bar, quickly making unique drinks on a busy night, necessitates a high degree of ability. You must be confident moving behind a hectic bar without losing your cool. You must take the next orders while you make the current drinks and also keep an eye on what's happening around the bar.

Other common duties of a cocktail bartender include:

  • Processing customer payments
  • Replenishing stock/supplies during and at the end of the shift
  • Taking and serving food or drink orders for guests sitting at the bar
  • Keeping the bar area clean and presentable

Top notch mixologists also spend a lot of time outside of their bar working on their craft. You should be studying trends, researching new recipes, and making connections with other cocktail bartenders in your city. To be a successful mixologist, you need to become a part of the local scene so you can find friends in the industry and learn from more experienced bartenders. You may even be able to find someone who is willing to mentor you to help build your skills up faster.

What is the career path of a mixologist?

If you want to work as a mixologist, you will need some prior experience. Many cocktail bartenders start off as barbacks or cocktail servers before moving into making drinks behind the bar.

You should build up some general experience and working knowledge as a traditional bartender before you take on mixology. It’s important to have a solid base of fundamentals that you can draw from before taking on the world of signature cocktails. You have to feel comfortable making a traditional mixed drink during a busy shift before you’ll be ready to use your mixology skills at full speed.

Once you’ve mastered your mixologist role, you’ll have some career options. You could become a cocktail bar manager, an expert industry consultant, or even open your own bar where you can let your creativity run wild.  

In terms of education, it’s not necessary to be formally educated to become a mixologist. Bartending schools do exist but they often fall short of truly providing their students with high level skills. Instead, the best education a cocktail bartender can get is by putting in shifts behind the bar and learning to make as many drinks as possible.

Working as a mixologist can be a dream job if you love interacting with people and have a creative streak. If you think your personality fits this profile, check out the open bartending positions available on Hosco and find your dream bar job today!



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