There Actually Is A Difference Between Mixologists And Bartenders

Have you ever taken a sip of a craft cocktail or mixed drink while dining out and immediately thought to yourself, "Who came up with this masterpiece?" Though you could glance over at the bar, the person working behind it isn't necessarily the person who developed the drink recipe. And that illustrates the major difference between a bartender and a mixologist, with the former making a drink and the latter creating a drink.


Crafting cocktails can be just as complex as creating a food dish. There are plenty of types of alcohol to start with, as well as countless juices, syrups, and even herbs and other flavors that could potentially make their way into a drink — but ensuring every ingredient complements the others in way that creates balance can be difficult. A bartender might make drinks, but a mixologist crafts them. Although these are two different words, you've likely heard them interchanged at one time or another — and some would still argue that there isn't actually a difference.

A mixologist creates cocktail recipes

Mixologists do more than make drinks; they build them from the ground up. When you step into a restaurant and see a craft cocktail menu, it's usually a list of drinks that you can't get at any other bar. They're set apart from a standard gin and tonic or espresso martini because they include flavor twists and new elements that stray from what we know to be a typical cocktail — and the person behind the recipe is the mixologist.


Although you can't actually earn a degree in mixology the way you could for food-based culinary arts, you can attend bartending school, where you'll learn how to properly measure cocktails and understand which alcohol types work best with which add-ons. Craft cocktails have drastically risen in popularity in recent years, increasing the demand for unique drinks and potentially furthering the popularity of the term "mixologist." Mixologists can also craft mocktails, which don't involve alcohol and require a different balance, usually with a sweet element at the forefront.

A bartender serves drinks

Bartenders have a difficult job, too, although they aren't typically the ones creating cocktails. Bartenders learn how to properly make many different drinks, so when a patron orders a certain beverage, there is no confusion and it's made promptly and tastes as expected. Bartenders have to memorize a lengthy list of cocktail recipes, as well as any craft cocktails the restaurant might create.


While there are things that differentiate the two, some people do use the terms interchangeably. Some consider the term "mixologist" to be an elevated way of referring to a bartender. There are even Reddit threads discussing the truth behind the term mixologist. "If you say you're a mixologist I'd expect you to have a good grasp of the chemistry behind alcohol and citrus, very good knowledge of spirits, etc.," one self-described bartender wrote. "I'm a bartender, I'm good at memorizing recipes, pouring drinks, and making sure guests have a good time."