The Great Debate: Bartenders Versus Mixologists


As the bar industry continues to evolve, more and more customers are asking for a mixologist instead of a bartender.

But what’s the difference? Do we really need to make this distinction? The answer is yes!

After all, they both serve drinks, right? Wrong!

In this article brought to you by the experts at Local Bartending School, we will explore the difference between the two and why it matters for your bartending career, venue, or bar!

First, Meet the Mixology Masters

If there’s one thing that stands out among the most famous bartenders and mixologists in the USA, it’s their sheer love for mixology. Lynnette Marrero, for instance, has been recognized as one of the top female mixologists of our time, thanks to her passion for creating innovative and exciting cocktail recipes. From her early days bartending in NYC to her work with the Llama Inn, Lynnette has done it all – and she’s made a name for herself in the process. Whether it’s crafting new drinks or inspiring others to follow in her footsteps, there’s no denying that Lynnette is a true asset to the mixology world.

Another famous name in the world of mixology is Dale DeGroff, who is widely credited with bringing back the art of the cocktail in the 1990s. With his innovative approach to mixing ingredients and his love of history, Dale has made a lasting impact in the industry. His work has been recognized with numerous accolades, including induction into the Tales of the Cocktail Hall of Fame. Today, Dale continues to inspire new generations of mixologists with his impeccable attention to detail and dedication to the craft.

David Wondrich is another name that stands out in the mixology world, thanks in large part to his extensive knowledge of cocktail history. As a historian and writer, David has been instrumental in uncovering the stories behind some of the world’s most iconic cocktails. His work has been widely read and acclaimed, and his impact on the industry cannot be overstated. From old classics to modern innovations, David’s passion for cocktails shines through in everything he does.

Finally, Derek Brown is a mixologist who has made a name for himself with his unique approach to mixology education. Through his work as the owner of various DC-based bars, including Columbia Room and Mockingbird Hill, Derek has inspired countless bartenders to think differently about the art of crafting cocktails. He’s also a writer and educator, sharing his knowledge with aspiring mixologists around the world. With his contagious enthusiasm for the craft, there’s no one else quite like Derek Brown – and the mixology world is all the richer for it.

A Mixologist-Made Cocktail That’s Still Famous To This Day

Harry MacElhone may have been a Scottish-born bartender, but he made his mark on the cocktail world from his perch at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris.

And the French 75 just might be his most enduring creation.

Made with gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup, and topped with bubbles from Champagne, this cocktail is the perfect mix of citrusy and effervescent. Legend has it that the name comes from the powerful kick of the French 75mm field gun from World War I. That’s a great talking point and a fun fact to serve up when you’re serving your guest!


Bartenders and Mixologists: Where Do They Work?


The difference between where bartenders work versus where mixologists work is as stark as black and white, or should we say gin and tonic.

Bartenders are typically employed by bars, taverns, pubs, and restaurants as they are responsible for serving alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages to customers. They are the unsung heroes, crafting the classics like Margarita, Mojito, and Old Fashioned with precision and speed.

On the other hand, mixologists are the mad scientists of the spirits world, creating innovative and unconventional cocktails that often feature a particular spirit.

Their skills and expertise are sought after by spirits companies, high-end bars, and establishments that focus on craft cocktails.

Mixologists experiment with a wide variety of ingredients, from fresh herbs to exotic fruits, and are known to push the boundaries of traditional cocktail-making.

What’s the Difference Between Bartenders and Mixologists?

Mixologists serve drinks, but bartenders serve customers. Yes, you heard it right! While mixologists are busy creating unique and extravagant drinks, bartenders are busy making sure that their customers are having a great time. Bartenders are masters of multitasking. They not only serve drinks but also talk to customers, make sure everyone is comfortable, and handle difficult situations. A great bartender can diffuse tension, resolve conflicts and create a welcoming environment!

Mixologists can be employed by spirits companies to create special concoctions featuring their spirits, but bartenders are only employed by bars. Mixologists are hired to create new drinks, experiment with different ingredients, and promote certain brands. They have an advanced knowledge of spirits, ingredients, and techniques. However, their expertise is limited to the bar where they work at. Meanwhile, bartenders have a wider range of skills that can be applied in different environments. They can work in restaurants, clubs, and even private events.

According to popular opinion, all mixologists are bartenders, but not all bartenders are mixologists. This is a common misconception that needs to be corrected. Every bartender can make a basic cocktail, but not every bartender has the skills and knowledge of a mixologist. Mixologists are like chefs, while bartenders are like cooks. Sure, both can prepare dishes, but one has a more advanced skill set than the other.

With that being said, it’s essential to understand that both mixologists and bartenders have their place in the bar industry.

 Without bartenders, a bar wouldn’t have the same atmosphere and could never function at full capacity. Without mixologists, the bar wouldn’t have the same diverse and creative selection of drinks that separates it from others. So let’s not choose a side, but instead, embrace them both!

Do Bartenders and Mixologists Use Different Tools and Equipment?

When it comes to bar tools, bartenders and mixologists may cross paths, but their sets of gear are as different as night and day.

While mixologists may play with fire and ice, bartenders have their own arsenal of specialized tools that keep the party going.

Picture this: a bartender behind the cocktail bar, juggling liquor bottles with flashy tricks and pouring them to perfection with jiggers. These are just some of the tools that bartenders use those mixologists wouldn’t touch on a day-to-day basis. On top of these workaday essentials, bartenders also wield keg tappers, bottle openers, jiggers, muddlers, and shot pourers, and they know how to keep their glassware spotless with speed racks and strainers.

Whether it’s shaking up a round of margaritas for a bunch of boozy brunchers or pouring a chilled IPA for a sports bar crowd, bartenders need their tools sharp and their mixing game on point.

Now that we all know a bartender’s arsenal includes the usual suspects like liquor bottles, jiggers, and kegs. But what about our mixologist friends?

Oh, they’ve got some serious game when it comes to tools. Let’s start with the thermometer – a necessary tool for mixologists who take their cocktails seriously. They’re constantly checking the temperature of their drinks to ensure that the textures and flavors are just right. And you know what else they’ve got? Torches! Yes, these fire-starters are essential for mixologists when they’re looking to add a charred or smoky flavor to their drinks.

They’re no strangers to using a gas stove or oven either – it’s all about the right temperature and a little bit of heat to take their drinks to the next level. So next time you see a mixologist handling these tools, know that they’re not just making a drink, they’re crafting a work of art.

Do Bartenders and Mixologists Make the Same Drinks?

When it comes to cocktails, there’s a big difference between what a mixologist and a bartender would whip up.

Sure, both booze-slingers are experts at making tasty drinks, but mixologists take things to the next level. They’re like mad scientists, infusing their creations with all sorts of unusual ingredients and unexpected flavors.

Bartenders, on the other hand, tend to stick with the classics, pouring up tried-and-true recipes like Negronis and Manhattans. Don’t get me wrong, those drinks are great, but a mixologist will hit you with something you’ve never tasted before.

From molecular gastronomy to farm-to-table ingredients, these guys are on the cutting edge of cocktail culture.

So if you want to be wowed by a drink, seek out a mixologist. If you just want a beer or a simple Gin and Tonic, head to any old bar.

Choose Your Character: Bartender or Mixologist


To wrap things up, the difference between bartenders and mixologists must no longer remain a mystery or a great debate.

As you’ve learned, a mixologist specializes in crafting unique drinks and has advanced knowledge of spirits and ingredients, while a bartender caters to the needs of their customers, handles difficult situations, and ensures everyone has a great time.

Listen up, aspiring bartenders and bar owners!

If you’re looking to take your career to the next level, then you’ve come to the right place. Here at Local Bartending School, we’ve got the tools and training you need to become a top-notch mixologist or to train your staff to be the best in the biz.

As a new bartender, you might be wondering where to even begin. Well, let us tell you – it all starts with the basics. Our expert instructors will teach you everything from how to properly shake a cocktail to how to craft the perfect signature drink. We’ll also cover important topics like customer service, bar safety, and bartending etiquette. With our hands-on training and industry knowledge, you’ll be one step ahead of the competition.

But maybe you’re not a new bartender – maybe you own a bar and want to bring your staff up to speed. At Local Bartending School, we’ve got you covered there, too. We offer customized training programs that can be tailored to fit the needs of your establishment. From high-end craft cocktails to basic mixed drinks, we’ve got the expertise to make sure your staff is serving up the best drinks in town.

So don’t wait – come join the Local Bartending School community and up-level your bartending game. With our expert instruction, top-notch training, and industry connections, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a master mixologist or a top-notch bar owner. Cheers to that!

Carrie Jean Lipe

Carrie Lipe has been writing creatively since childhood but jump-started her professional writing after college. She's an Indiana native, Ball State Hospitality graduate, and a bartender with over 10+ years in the industry. You can find her making basil Moscow mules when she's not writing. Follow her professional journey on Instagram! @contentbycarriejean