Visually Oriented: The Alchemy of Mixology


-Emily Fraysse

Sitting on a leather and zebra-hair chair in a dark bar on the Hollywood Strip, rows of jars full of a variety of fruits, vegetables and herbs are placed in front of me.

“What do you like? Raspberries? Cinnamon? Honey?”

“I like raspberries and vodka gimlets.”

“Okay, I’ll add little twist to it.”

That was the conversation between the mixologist and I at The Library Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles. Perfectly blending classic and artisan cocktails, a mixologist’s skill  is expertly preparing mixed drinks. By taking common drinks and putting a twist to them, they create original, interesting concoctions. They are commonly commissioned for particular events, menus, and themes. While generally considered to be a “higher” study of mixing cocktails than the average bartender, neither bartending nor mixology is better than the other. The difference between the two lies in the skills.

A bartender needs to know how to make the common, popular cocktails, serve multiple persons at once, and be the ultimate “people person.” A mixologist focuses more on creating a unique drink by studying the classics and then concocting new, exciting combinations. Mixologists tend to have a greater knowledge of obscure and lesser known spirits and mixers. There are many fine mixing professionals who fall in both categories as well as many more who specialize in one or the other. Some dismiss the term “mixology” all together and others are the opposite.

I was lucky enough that I just happened to find a mixologist, but beware: the specialized drinks can get pricey, especially in Los Angeles. There are many courses and schools that you can enroll in to become a mixologist like the Columbia Bartending Agency and School of Mixology or through the PBSA, the Professional Bartending Schools of America.

Image by Dan4th.

2 thoughts on “Visually Oriented: The Alchemy of Mixology

  1. Jordan Sisk

    While I don’t necessarily consider the type of cocktail mixing I do to be mixology, it has fascinated me to find over the years that there’s a market for a level above “bartender.” I suppose I shouldn’t be a surprised that there’s a pseudo-heirarchy, but it’s not something that the average bar goer probably thinks about.

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