Folks calling themselves “Mixologists” are truly strange characters. The truth is that they almost all suffer from an elevated inferiority complex. They bend over backwards to have you identify them, not as the plebian “bartender,” no… but as something much more – someone who studiously and methodically “crafts” your “beverage.” They’ve gathered their Turbinado Sugar, Organic Basil, Candied Ginger, and Fennel Seeds and have them all on tantalizing display in the bar trough – almost always in fancy little mason jars. There’s just one major problem: these people are fucking retarded slow at making drinks.
The minor, relatively annoying problems, are numerous. “Mixologists” often claim to have – you know – gone to “
clown mixologist school” or have graduated from rigorous training programs that impart upon them knowledge not ever found in your pedestrian Bartender. In some cases, they even bring in actual chemists and slap bestow upon them the well-earned title of Beverage Director or Corporate Mixologist. These clowns know shit – shit like Moroccan Tea, Spring Flower, and California Watermelon infusions. They rattle off really, really important scientific beverage terms like (1) acidity (2) lactose (3) chlorophyll (4) distillate of blaa, blaa blaa and (5) essence of blaa blaa blaa. Corporate training-mandated marketing terms have been ingrained into their psyche to the point they can no longer speak like a human fucking being. They incessantly rattle of resume-words like (1) flavor profile (2) guests [as opposed to customers] (3) floral (4) bouquet (5) pairing and (6) hints of a, b and c.
Mixologists travel extensively, scouring the far corners of the planet for the most obscure liquors like Chartreuse, Dubonnet, Benedictine, Strega and Grand Mariner (all of which can be found behind your ghetto’s PlexiGlass laden counter). They fucking love to concoct some new “herbacious” cocktails based on one of these rarefied cordials. They’ll attract all kinds of unnecessary attention with some fanciful long-pour, and have everyone in the heezy sip, gargle, nod, and concur how refreshing and balanced the New Shit happens to be. That’s because the tasters are usually under duress and risk a swift beating with the Corporate Bad-Schedule Stick should they really speak their minds. in reality, what the staff really wants is a simple-ass beer and a shot.
Mixologists can not function without a Jigger. It’s their Linus Blanket. Sure, most of them are decent at free-pouring but they’d rather amputate their big toes with a blunt butter knife and no anesthesia than be caught making a cocktail without a measuring device. Exact consistency (something many well-experienced NYC bartenders should be able to perform routinely – free-handed) is paramount.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve been hitting Bar Rescue on DVR - hard. I think I’ve caught up with every episode at this point. Like much of reality television, there are points where – as my wife puts it – “I have to go into my office.” Meaning: I cringe and put a pillow over my head because what I’m witnessing is so horrendously awful and backwards. A lot of what makes me cringes is (a) how awful most of the bartenders they showcase are at measuring and free-pouring and (b) the utter lack of basic bartending knowledge most of them have. The show has a predictable structure and I’m sure at least some of it is Snooki-like scripted. But, whatever… I still enjoy the hell out of it – even if I seriously disagree with some of Taffer’s recommendations and beliefs about the “cool factor.” I don’t know if some of his choices are the result of limited production/renovation budgets or simply not having spent enough time in bars in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Paris or Milan. Just about every bar rescue target is in the Mid-West or some other rural, strip mall setting.
Anyway, Taffer loves to bring in his A-Team, usually consisting of a Chef, and secondly, our aforementioned Mixologists. Some of these guys actually have a decent combination of speed, attractiveness, cleanliness and food/beverage knowledge. Some of them however, do some really stupid shit. Things like pouring backhanded, sticking out pinkies, pouring from two bottles in each hand simultaneously, pouring backhanded into jiggers, etc. are much more flair than function. Originally, I guessed some of what they were doing was camera fodder. However, looking back on where I’ve worked and whom I’ve worked with over the years, it’s not. These guys love to fucking show off. Yes, bartending is partially about presentation. But, there comes a time when enough is enough – you have to bury your heard, perform flawlessly, refrain from spilling 25% of the profits, and simply fucking crank out drinks for an extremely busy bar. In other words, at those times, you cannot afford to take 1 to 2 minutes to make a god-damned drink. Mixology often instills narcolepsy.
In the end, making an inventive, original, popular cocktail is about 35% science and 65% vodoo arts (read: subjectivity). In other words, it’s mostly a matter of personal taste. What one person finds visually appealing and pleasing to the palate, the next person can find repulsive. Crafting a winner is not akin to alchemy and is not limited to the skills of a so called Mixologist only.