Mixology misconception: How the media influence the way people understand bartender

In this paper, I will illustrate three biggest major misconceptions about the bartending industry influenced by the media, including semantic, popular media, and job appeal. The bartender is a mixologist with more social skill and situational to deal with customer. Indeed, the bartender is a high status job. It’s an Art.

People usually come to the bar to either get drunk or to meet with friends. That’s how people are done in 1990. People don’t want to wait for their drink, they don’t care about fresh squeeze lime juice. Everything is mechanize and ready to serve without preparing. Bartending become a drink pourer job. However, between the 1870 and 1880, the golden time of the cocktail, the bar is the place for people to meet after work in a comfortable manner. In 1862, a bartender named Jerry Thomas was the first one to write down the recipe to make cocktail and soon became a trend.


Picture 1. A Jerry Thomas first book named “How to Mix Drinks, Or the Bon-Vivant’s Companion” 

The golden time of the cocktail is the time when the bartender is the important person in the town. You can go to the bar and get tons of information from the news to the story around the corner of the street. The foundation of the U.S is from immigrants. When they come to the U.S, they bring goods from an artisan in their home country include alcohol beverage. Each of these alcohol from a different culture and combine in one glass and we call it a cocktail (Robert Simonsson, 2013)


The prohibition between 1920 to 1933 makes the bartending industry decrease like a car without a break. Many bartenders have to leave the country to make a living or continue to pursue their dream. Recently, the industry tends to go back in the golden time and the new term “Mixologist” comes in. Then what does a mixologist mean? According to Behrendt’s article in 2010, the author mention that in “the Oxford English Dictionary also tells us that the suffix “-ology” means “the science or discipline of.” (Behrendt, 2010). Therefore, this term can apply to any other industry like music, film or food. In Wong’s article, he included one of his conversations between him and bartender Watanabe, the bartender expresses one point “calling yourself a mixologist doesn’t make your customer believes in you” (Wong, 2015).

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In the introduction, I’ve mentioned the term mixologist as a new term. In fact, mixologist is a new term for the modern industry not a new term. I understand that some dictionaries don’t carry this term definition, but believe it or not this term is not a new term. Mixologist refers to bartender using fresh ingredient and precise scientific technology to add a unique taste to it (Mitenbuler, 2013). According to Mitenbuler, the term was first discovered in 1860 from a newspaper. After the prohibition, the term seems to be carried away because most the bartenders have to migrate to another country to follow their dream until the prohibition was over and then come back to the U.S. Recently, this term comes up and has suddenly become the popular trend of TV shows and bartender guide books. Some people refer to themselves as mixologists, but don’t really understand the role or the difference between a mixologist and a bartender. I also want to include another perspective about the term mixologist from newspapers or magazines, which is also the origin of this trend. One cocktail’s expert name Colleen Graham explains the role of mixologist and bartender, putting them into two categories. But either mixologist or a bartender, they are both a service job and their target is making customers happy and relaxed (Graham, 2015). Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 11.25.23 PMTable 1 (Graham, 2015)

The second major misconception of customer about this peculiar line of work came from the popular media included movies, news and experience in bar and restaurant.  Back in 2000, the movies “Coyote Ugly” by David McNally staring Piper Perabo, the depiction of a bartender is improving, but still give the negative influence in the person’s mind (Coyote Ugly, 2000).  Back in 2000, the movies “Coyote Ugly” by David McNally staring Piper Perabo, the impression of a bartender is improving, but still give the negative influence in the person’s mind (Coyote Ugly, 2000).  In the movie, McNally played as Violet Sanford, an arrogant young woman leaving home to pursue her aspirations of becoming a songwriter in New York City. The climax of the story is when her apartment is robbed.  At that moment, she sees three girls which change her life, Cammie, Rachel, and Zoe. The incident lead to the story that she has to work at the bar named Coyote Ugly. Technically, the story has nothing wrong with the plot or the movies itself. However, the way it expresses can also be explained in another way. For example, if she isn’t getting robbed in the first place, will she agree to work at the Coyote Ugly. Furthermore, if she not fascinate when the three girls flaunting the money they earned every night. After that, the movie has nothing surprisingly get going anywhere. Violet meets a boy and start a relationship and she started to change her own image from a “New Jersey girl” to a “New York city girl”. In the end, Coyote Ugly also has a happy ending like any other movies. In short, Violet represents a group of girl that don’t fit in but want to blend into the society in the fastest way. She used the job bartender as a shortcut to fit in the society. Somehow, in my mind, Violet is naive and dreamy.

In the documentary Hey Bartender in 2013, Steve Schneider currently works at Employees Only state that “… people are calling themselves mixologist, those are the geeks…… they take forever to make a drink” (Hey Bartender, 2013). He also mentions that bartender is more aware of everything surround which is the same idea fit in one of the categories of Colleen Graham. Everybody come into the industry with a different story about their life. They could be a student majoring in a different major. Bartender expresses themselves in their product to add more value to it and make it alive (Ocejo, 2012). The reason bartender considers as a low-status form of manual labor because of the bar culture in 1990. Robert Simonsson at New York Times explain about this phenomenon. In 1990, the bar industry tends to tilt to a club and a Dj base bar where people want something fast and fresh or not, fresh ingredient not really matter (Hey Bartender, 2013). Because of that reason, becoming a bartender is not something anyone wants to have a career in. That is not art, pouring booze all night is not an art. That’s why some people’s misconceptions about bartending is a temporary job and not an actual job (Wong, 2015). However, bartending is not a trashy job, in Ocejo’s article, the author refers bartending as an artist, actress and singer.

A few years recently, people are more interesting about what they take in and they want to bring the old time back, where fresh local ingredients matter. Traditional Craftsmanship of cocktails. When people try to bring the traditional craftsmanship of cocktails back a conflict inside the restaurant industry happen. The different between cook and chef, drink pourers and cocktailians become a thing. It does not matter if he/she a cook, chef, bartender or mixologist, as soon as they bring their job to the level of art, that’s the most important point (Kazanchyan, 2012).


Dale Degroff at Museum of the American Cocktail said that cocktail is gift from America because people brought a different type of spirit and alcohol and we combine it and there we have it, cocktail (Hey Bartender, 2013). Degroff is also the first person bring the term mixologist to the media. It’s about fresh quality ingredients. Cocktail bartender is a cultural work. The reason I say it because every bartender will have their own signature drink and they put their soul into it.

The other aspect of this paper is job appealing. If you look up on YouTube the name Salvatore Calabrese, you probably find an old man making drinks and he looks classy in a suit and tie. He’s a great example of a mixologist and the way he talks and the way he fixes the drink takes time. I understand that recipe and technique are important but it is not about how the drink was made, it is how you treat and serve the customer. Salvatore uses a big ice cube from distilled water, sounds like an alchemist to me. It’s true that the purify ice will make your drink better (Kazanchyan, 2012).

In my opinion, a bartender is a person who can bring to the customer the best experience during the time they spend in the bar and after they walk out of the bar. Despite the work, life and tragedy outside, when they come inside the bar, they can finally find their destination. The bar is an important place of a community, where people have a place to gather for many occasions. Bartender is not only a guy mixing a drink but also a host. Bartender is a person bring people together and hear people share their own story. It’s an Art.

“A bartender is a rock star couldn’t be bothered to learn an instrument.” – Simon Ford




Coyote Ugly. (2000). Touchstone Picture.

Eats, S. (2013). The Term ‘Mixologist’: Trendy But Not New. Drinks.seriouseats.com. Retrieved 16 November 2015, from http://drinks.seriouseats.com/2013/08/history-origins-of-the-term-mixologist-nineteenth-century-drinking-bartenders-jerry-thomas.html

Graham, C. (2015). Are You a Mixologist or Bartender? Well, That’s a Good Question…. About.com Food. Retrieved 16 November 2015, from http://cocktails.about.com/od/cocktailspeak/g/mixology_define.htm

Haddow, G. (2005). The phenomenology of death, embodiment and organ transplantation. Social Health & Illness, 27 (1), 92-113. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9566.2005.00433.x

Hey Bartender. (2013). Omar Broadway Film.

Matejka, A. (2009). Mixology. New York, N.Y.: Penguin Books.

Mitenbuler, R. (2013). The Term ‘Mixologist’: Trendy But Not New. Drinks.seriouseats.com. Retrieved 2 December 2015, from http://drinks.seriouseats.com/2013/08/history-origins-of-the-term-mixologist-nineteenth-century-drinking-bartenders-jerry-thomas.html

Ocejo, R. (2012). At your service: The meanings and practices of contemporary bartenders. European Journal Of Cultural Studies, 15(5), 642-658. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1367549412445761

Morabito, G. (2011). Steve Schneider, Principal Bartender at Employees Only. Eater NY. Retrieved 2 December 2015, from http://ny.eater.com/2011/8/19/6659207/steve-schneider-principal-bartender-at-employees-only



2 thoughts on “Mixology misconception: How the media influence the way people understand bartender

  1. I think that this is an interesting topic. I think that most people who hear the word “Mixology” think someone is just making up a fancier way of saying bar tender and I used to be someone who did that. After reading this I actually realized what it takes to make some of these crazy drinks and the work that is needed to perfect them. I am assuming you are a bar tender and that is why you wrote about this but it seems like you know what your talking about and shows you are good at your job.

  2. Nguy,
    I thought that your article brought out an aspect about bartenders. Many people see them as cocktail makers or a another Sam Malone from Cheers.After reading your article, I’d like to think that the mixologist experience is similar to that of a gourmet dining experience. In theory, a mixologist is basically a master chef of making drinks. It would be ideal for the media to observe bartenders as creative mixologists, but we continue to see the dude pouring whiskey behind the pub height.

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