Mixology 101: How to Start a Career in Cocktails

Mixology 101

The world is home to thousands of distilled drinks, and thousands more non-alcoholic beverages to serve as mixers. Then you factor in various mixing techniques, serving styles and ratios. The potential combinations for a single cocktail are virtually endless – and it would take a supercomputer firing at peak capacity to understand all of them.

That’s where the mixologist comes in.

Mixology 101

No, the job of a mixologist isn’t to know every combination under the sun. (That’s impossible.) Instead, it is to plumb the wide variety of products and rich cocktail-making traditions to find examples of harmony. How can various combinations come together synergistically to create an entirely new, exciting cocktail? How can we push the envelope to find fresh perspectives on classics? And, perhaps most fundamentally, how do we channel that creativity to please bar patrons.

For mixologists, these are the big questions. If you’re interested in answering these questions, consider a career in mixology. The best mixologists enjoy secure positions at high-end establishments, earning solid wages and lucrative tips. Below, you’ll find some straightforward advice to get started.

Get Your Certifications

Before you start a career in mixology, there are two types of certifications to consider – one optional, the other mandatory.

Optionally, you can choose to earn mixology or bartending certification from a nearby vocational college or online school. These courses aren’t cheap (around $500 for industry-recognized courses), but they will fast-track your knowledge of mixology. It might take a barback or bartender years to learn what a course can teach you in just a month or two.

Next, you will need to complete Responsible Beverage Service (RBS) courses and certification. In many states, like California, these courses are mandatory for anyone serving alcohol or managing alcohol servers. Luckily, these courses aren’t nearly as costly as mixology training and can be completed in an afternoon. For instance, Userve’s online RBS training program is under $20 and is available on your computer or mobile phone.

Understand the Techniques and Tools of the Trade

Before you make it your career, experiment by making cocktails at home. If you’ve only ever mixed a gin and tonic in a rocks glass, now might be the perfect time to broaden your technical horizons.

To start, you can experiment with the fundamental mixing techniques:

  • Stirring – Just as the term suggests, “stirring” involves chilling spirits by circularly moving them in an ice-filled mixing glass with a spoon. It’s a common technique for spirits-forward cocktails, and when working with botanical-rich spirits like gin (whose herbal top notes disappear with agitation).
  • Shaking – Shaking is the “classic” bartender move, agitating a cocktail shaker full of ice to aerate, emulsify and chill a cocktail.
  • Muddling – Muddling involves bruising botanicals to release their essential oils. Think of crushing a sprig of mint into a mojito or bashing an orange slice into an old fashioned.
  • Layering – Layering involves separating beverages with different densities and gravities to create a stratified effect in the glass.

And consider buying yourself the essential tools of the trade:

  • A jigger or measured shot glass
  • A cocktail shaker
  • A mixing glass
  • A tall, teardrop bar spoon
  • A Hawthorne strainer
  • And various glassware suited to different cocktails

Crack the Books

On this page you will find a list of the books I have published to date. Each of them is based on a careful search for sources and contains many nutritional advice in a clear way and, often, accompanied by useful and tasty recipes.

Lastly, the best way to break into mixology is to learn voraciously.

Dave Arnold’s Liquid Intelligence is a fantastic overview of the scientific aspects of mixology. Dale DeGroff’s “The New Craft of the Cocktail” gives you a bird’s eye view of mixology in 2022. And the seminal 1930 guide The Savoy Cocktail Book will fill you in on the profession’s historical roots, complete with recipes that upscale establishments use to this day.

The only thing left for you to do is brush off your finest apron, comb back your flyaway hairs, and start printing resumes.

Abbas Jahangir

I am a researcher and writer with a background in food and nutritional science. I am the founder of Foodstrend.com, our reputable online platform offering scientifically-backed articles on health, food, nutrition, kitchen tips, recipes, diet, and fitness. With a commitment to providing accurate and reliable information, we strive to empower our readers to make informed decisions about their health and lifestyle choices. Join us on Foodstrend.com's journey toward a healthier and happier lifestyle.

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