What’s in a name — Bartender or Mixologist?

Some folks I know are planning a multi-client research service to measure and understand the views of the key players in the alcohol industry – bartenders, wait staff, sommeliers, servers and on premise management.

The project will be run by Kevin Moran from MSS, Multi-Sponsored Studies LLC with extensive experience in the spirits and wine industry and Paul Braun owner of Braun Research Inc. a leading data collection company with a broad panel of people “behind the bar.” Together they are launching a syndicated extension to their powerful on premise multi-sponsored research and solutions service.

To start the ball rolling they polled the bartender database on a number of key and timely issues. The first one I wanted to share was the question of whether the term mixologist is taking hold.

Moran and Braun surveyed 500 bartenders from a national sample that reflected gender, geography, type of establishment and so on. They asked two questions related to bartender vs. mixologist – how do on premise people describe themselves and whether the term mixologist is here to stay or a fad.

Nearly half (48%) of the bartenders surveyed described themselves as a bartender. But, a third (33%) referred to themselves as a mixologist. Interestingly, the rest – 20% — saw themselves as bartenders who want to become mixologists. So while the self-descriptions split 50/50, it seems that the term mixologist has taken hold. For many, it’s becoming an aspiration.

If you have any doubts, here are the results of “Is the term mixologist a fad that will go away in the future or a real change in what bartenders do and will grow in importance?”

Nearly 2 out of 3 (64%) of those surveyed felt that the term mixologist is here to stay and reflects their changing role. By the way, those who live and work in the western States supported the permanence of the term at the 72% level.

My takeaway from this finding is that too often manufacturers think in terms of the “star” factor and feel that the creation of drinks and cocktails can only reside among a few. Guess what, more and more bartenders seem to be embracing the idea of creating a drink in addition to just serving it.

Maybe its just nomenclature, but I detect from these results and personal experience that bartending as a “way station” or day job while waiting to be discovered is giving way to a broader view of the profession. The idea of quickly making and serving drinks does not preclude the ability to create — quantity and quality of effort are not mutually exclusive.

I think suppliers might want to reexamine their notion of the power behind the bar.

Next: Views about the 3-tier system.

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