© 2012 nader Cheers

Master Mixologist

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“Master Mixologist”
“Liquid Chef”
“Bar Chef”
“Sorcerer of Shaken and Stirred”
What is this, Dungeons & Dragons? What ever happened to just “Bartender” and why isn’t the simple, truthful, self explanatory title enough?

There has been a global shift in the attitude towards the craft of Bartending. Charlotte Voisey and Tony Abou-Ganim on Iron Chef was a big “Fuck Yes” for the industry. Cocktails are finally beginning to be recognized as a culinary expression. Quality distillates and well made drinks are becoming the standard in bars and restaurants all over the world. Chefs need us now more than ever to ensure the front of house is balanced with the back. The more demand is generated, the more the role of the bartender is essential, and the further we can stretch our personas in the direction of creators, educators, artists and entertainers, be it small scale or global. But lets not forget, humility is at the very crux of Bartending, and seemingly meaningless titles, that may or may not have been made up by clueless PR people or the USBG Accreditation Program, are shaping us into victims of our own hubris.

So what is a Master Mixologist anyway?

Julian Cox is described by Fox news as “celebrity” mixologist.
Elayne Duke is described by Delta Airlines as “head” mixologist for Diageo.
Some could say a Master Mixologist is reached by commitment to training, years of experience, understanding operations, a wealth of knowledge based in spirits and history and time taken to educate others.
Or perhaps it is recognition based, i.e. publications and regional, national and international reach, or becoming a beverage director for multiple venues, like a hotel chain.
Maybe its working closely with a chef, like Julian Cox and John Sedlar or representing a portfolio as brand Ambassador, like Elayne Duke, which naturally every brand wants their guy or girl to be recognized as a Master for marketing purposes, wether or not they have the chops, like Elayne, to back it up.
Whatever the catalyst may be, bartenders are becoming like bottles, where marketing and packaging are the most important details, never mind if what’s under the label is of any quality.

In turn, no one really knows what a Master Mixologist is supposed to be. Chef like? Celebrity? Demi God? Occultist who requires the ritualistic sacrifice of Barbacks for the growth of their empire?

A YouTube search for Master Mixologist yields someone like Charlotte Voisey making spiked lemonade for the chain Carrabba’s Italian Grill, (incidentally for a charity event, I’m not talking shit) and at the other end of the spectrum is a bevy of bumbling buffoons wearing chef coats, who hold absolutely no merit in the industry whatsoever, talking ad nauseam in an uneducated manor about “adequate mixation.” Ummm, whatever you say, Master Mixologist.

While wading through all this rigmarole I found a little video by Dan Dunn taken at Tales of the Cocktail 2009. This is the only video I would accept with the title “Master Mixologists”, featuring the likes of Dave Wondrich, Dale Degroff and Jeffrey Morgenthaler, to name a few, casually making cocktails. They are all comfortable, having a good time, smiling and the words coming out of their mouths are simple “I’m a bartender from Portland”, “gin, sherry, orange bitters, done”, “I’m here in New Orleans making the Strawberry Nirvana, baby”, and my favorite by Morgenthaler “it’s nothing fancy, it’s not like, you know, a foam or you don’t inject it into your eyeballs, you just drink it”.

The greats will still be greats, even if they are not fighting to be ahead of the curve.
We all remember when Alex Ott dug himself a grave within the bartender community via a New York Times interview where he deemed bartenders “entertainers…that should never be people who come up with cocktails because they have no education.” But wait, I forgot, Ott’s cool because the cast of gossip girl hangs out at his apartment.

And if you really want to freak yourself out, take a look at Junior Merino aka The Liquid Chef’s promotional video “Introduction to Master Mixologist Junior Merino”. Nearly 7 minutes in length, with narration by a dude that sounds like “Coming-this-Summer” Don LaFontaine and music that must have been taken from The Neverending Story, this piece is riddled with looped sound bytes; “Mixology…OLOGY…OLOGY…the official Mixologist of the authentic Mexican flavors of Mexico…drink with all…drink with ALL…drink with ALL YOUR SENSES…Merino…Mixology…Merino…oh…oh…oh…”

Putting Junior’s massive amounts of accomplishments aside, this is the hardest sell I’ve ever seen. Is it necessary? Probably not, but hey, maybe Junior’s subliminal messaging is way ahead of its time…he’s got balls and that’s never a bad thing.
I also suspect he is secretly Optimus Prime in the form of the mobile Bartending School truck Alchemix.
Now everyone can become a Master Mixologist thanks to coupon culture. pinchit.com a city by city discount site offers a 4 hour Mixology class that will turn you into a Bartender and Master Mixologist. Man, I wish I would have known about this years ago, I wouldn’t have wasted so much time tasting and learning about spirits, studying other bartenders, refining my conversation, being taught proper syrup and garnish preparation, hauling ice, cutting the shit out of my hands, sustaining injuries and consequently physical therapy, getting yelled at, hating myself, loving my accomplishments, traveling, writing, memorizing hundreds of recipes, entering competitions, creating my own drinks, and learning enough about the craft and business to make sure I was not only good at it, but would enjoy it as a vocation.
I’m sure we will have the opportunity to enjoy many more imaginative and fascinating titles in the future, and in an industry that is rapidly expanding, there is always room for big and eccentric personalities that make statements like “I don’t bartend anymore, I create flavors” or introduce new verbiage like “Sprezzatura”(making difficult things looks easy and effortless). In the very least it provides us all with some comic relief.

I’m Lindsay Nader and I’m a BARTENDER who makes delicious drinks and my Sprezzatura when I’m three deep is a shot of Rittenhouse. Cheers.

7 Comments

  1. Chris
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 8:20 am | #

    Classic!

  2. Posted February 12, 2012 at 5:48 pm | #

    Good post, and great job of breaking down the word. It seems like mixologist is a term other people use to describe bartenders who also create drinks. That was actually a question I used to ask almost every bartender/mixologist I interviewed – Do you consider yourself a bartender or mixologist? – hardly anybody said mixologist, so I stopped asking the question.

  3. Bill Boothby
    Posted March 25, 2012 at 7:40 pm | #

    Thanks for this Lindsay! Especially for informing me of the hilarious “liquid Chef” video. That is priceless. Also the grossest display of narcissism i’ve ever seen in our line of work. He’s more a COCKtologist then anything.

    I’m looking forward to the day we can take a shot of Rittenhouse and laugh about it.

    Cheers!

  4. Beau
    Posted March 26, 2012 at 4:19 pm | #

    Well said.

  5. Posted March 26, 2012 at 7:06 pm | #

    “Cocktologist”?

    That’s a winnar.

    The other week, I saw a gent’s card showing “bar smith”, and I’m a bit taken by that. It’s just “nice”.

  6. Posted April 12, 2012 at 1:52 pm | #

    Hey Lindsay,

    I’m really diggin’ your message. Like me I make great drinks look easy but it sure took me tons of time and practice. Thanks for keeping it real

    ciao!
    Jennifer

  7. Shaun Daugherty
    Posted April 12, 2012 at 2:08 pm | #

    BRAVO!!! Being a bartender, (yeah…that’s right and proud to say it!!!), it’s good to see that someone is posting something up like this. It’s more than just the drink. You have to be more than a “Master Mixologist”, who goes to a two week bar school, to get it.

    Thanks for posting your views. At least I know I’m not alone in feeling this has gotten way out of control.

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