Customers on the other side of the bar probably can’t tell the difference between a mixologist and a bartender. Some may not even know what a mixologist is. 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 two careers.
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?
- What Does a Bartender Do?
- What Does a Mixologist Do?
- What are the Similarities?
- Is There Really That Much of a Difference?
- Has Mixology Affected the Art of Bartending?
What Does a Bartender Do?
Bartenders are very customer-focused. There’s an expectation that you make customers feel welcome and comfortable, with a friendly smile and upbeat attitude, while serving high-quality drinks with great customer service.
You’re there to listen to people or entertain a customer telling you 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.
Combining the knowledge of making drinks with the skill of keeping customers happy and entertained is the key to being a great bartender.
“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 Mixologist Do?
There are distinct differences between these two job roles. As a mixologist you design and produce cocktails which align with the style and ambience created by the establishment that you’re working in.
You look at the type of workplace you’re in and consider the season to make sure that whatever you produce is suitable - from fruity, summer drinks to festive Christmas cocktails.
If you’re creating the house-made syrups, garnishes and other ingredients that will be needed throughout service, as well as taking the time to prepare the bar for the shift ahead, then you’re a mixologist who is making a great effort.
What are the Similarities?
There are certain aspects of the jobs that are the same making the decision between becoming a bartender vs a mixologist a lot easier and it starts with customer service.
Whichever you are, you’re in the same business. Your aim is to satisfy the customers and make them happy by fulfilling their requests. You’ll be delivering the amazing drinks you have on offer and making them feel comfortable in the environment so that they keep coming back.
Another similarity is, regardless of if you’re a bartender or mixologist - or you’re thinking about becoming one or the other, both roles can be hard work. This is because you can be continuously on your feet throughout lengthy shifts. There’s rarely time to take a break as it’s constantly fast-paced and can involve long hours.
Don’t compromise the quality of your drink-making and mixing skills due to feeling tired. The only way you’ll be able to continue creating high-quality products is if you’re comfortable and not in any pain.
As you’ll be standing up for such long periods of time, this all starts with your feet. It’s crucial that you have the right footwear - comfortable, stylish and slip-resistant, due to the risk of drink spillages.
Is There Really That Much of a Difference?
Both roles revolve around customer satisfaction. However, you could argue that the big difference is that mixologists focus on the creation of drinks. They’re artists with all the flair of a great bartender but with a burning passion for creating inspired flavour combinations.
The role of a bartender is tied closely to hospitality. You’d be a people person who puts the needs of customers before their own to provide an enjoyable experience, while having a solid understanding of how to create classic drinks.
A bar benefits from having both - as a bartender and mixologist working together results in great customer service and high-quality drinks.
Has Mixology Affected the Art of Bartending?
If you’re a bartender, you might be slightly worried about the rise of mixology, with many believing that the role has undermined or undervalued the role. This is because it’s assumed that a mixologist has a more advanced role behind the bar, as a result of the drink-mixing skills they acquire.
However, this isn’t the death of the art. You might be a bartender by title, but you may be doing some of the tasks which are more associated with mixology. There are also skills a mixologist has that a bartender might not possess and vice versa.
Regardless of your title, both are important behind the bar. There are certain elements of bartending and mixology which overlap - such as customer service and skills in the creation of drinks.
For maximum success and efficiency behind the bar, it’s best to make use of both roles. When collaborating together, you have the professional skills in flavour combinations offered by a mixologist and the ability to create both fantastic drinks and a great atmosphere provided by a bartender.
Find Out the Five Steps to Bartending Success
Mixologist or bartender, there are always new tricks you can learn. So we’ve put together a Bartender Success Guide which will show you five key steps to winning at bartending - including the best ways to communicate, how to maximise your productivity and more.
We’ve also included some useful tips you can use throughout your career, to continually improve and develop your techniques and abilities.
Click the link below to download our Bartending Career Guide and start enhancing your bartending skills today.