By Brian Rae
Having been in the Bar and Drink Trade business for over sixty years,
I have experienced many changes in the trade, but in the last ten or twelve
years or so,
there is a change I find somewhat confusing. That particular matter is the
assignment of bartender job titles. Over the years I have come across some
of these self assigned titles, many of which have amused me, such as:
Cocktail Chemist, Sultan of Shake, Cocktologist, Liquid Savant,
Maitre de Bar, Master Mixologist, Bar Chef, Drink Consultant, Spiritual
Advisor, Bar Mistress, Cocktail Specialist, Mixmaster, Mixmistress,
Barartist, Cocktail Chef, Bartender Geek, Liquid Architect, Drink Demon,
Alchemist, Barmaster, Consultant Bartender, Mad
Mixologist, Liquidologist, Mixology Master, Consultant of Bar, Barfreak,
Liquid Libationist, etc., and last but not least, Irrigation Engineer.
Obviously we have some very creative titles here, but I wonder what
was the motivation to develop same?
Do today’s bartenders have an inferiority complex? Numerous visits to
various drinking establishments negated that thought, as rarely were the
traditional bartenders seemingly concerned with job titles. Was it because
a certain group of bartenders thought they deserved a more august title
due to their expanding the role as a traditional bartender?
Now I am aware of how innumerous bartenders have been expanding
that role by creating new cocktail recipes, unique garnishes, bitters and
syrups, foams and
Flames, infusions, molecular mixology, pates and purees, fresh juices,
organic vegetables, herbs and spices, and an array of other ingredients
and preparation techniques that have certainly expanded the diversity of
drink and cocktail selection. But does that development require a more
exalted title for the bartenders that are
engaged in the growth of this trend? Possibly.
I realize these creative bartenders also have to conduct drink research,
develop balance with different products, measure flavor intensities,
determine exact portions and sweet and sour scales, attempt to duplicate
products of decades ago, teat and taste, taste and test, select appropriate
glassware and garnish, method of preparation, etc., no less determine cost
factors and pricing. So….maybe a different title should be forthcoming.
But, many of these newly minted title holders may be well advised to
peruse those old 19th and 20th century bartender guides to understand
the complexities of tending bar in those days gone by. Not only did these
old time bartenders had to know hundreds of drink recipes, but they also
had to know the formulas for making dozens of different bitters, cordials,
fruit brandies, wines, syrups, etc., in an attempt to both maintain low
liquor costs, and have satisfied customers. And one of the reasons why
mainstream bar/saloons opened at 5 or 6 AM, was to facilitate the constant
blending process, pouring spirits from barrels to bottles, proofing, corking,
labeling, beer cellar management, wine storage, etc., no less the usual
morning bar set up duties. In addition most bartenders were also involved
with the stocking, selling and packaging of cigars and bottle goods. Yet
there didn’t seem to be a need, or desire, for bartenders to develop a new
Thus I am of the mind that some of the fore mentioned titles have
words that are not truly representative of their efforts. In my ancient mind,
once you add the word chef to your title, you are part of the kitchen staff.
Cocktologist and Liquidologist remind me of another profession. Savant
are a bit too much, and really seem apropos, and any word with mistress
or master in it, make me think about another profession. The word
mixologist at least has some history to it, and is familiar to most drinking
establishment patrons. But (again), is that title adequate for today’s
Far be it for me of eons ago to attempt to define what would be an
appropriate title for this generations creative and dedicated efforts.
Though if I was fortunate enough to be a member of this group in some
manner, I would use the fine title “Professional Bartender”, or from the
1951 “The Bartender’s Book” by Jack Townsend, the totle “Proficient
Practitioner of the
Noble Art of Mixology”. I am sure either title would result in customers
asking you to define same, as then you could enlighten them of your
special talents. Amen!