Mixology…. Trendy? Yes! Cocktail bars are being replaced with ‘Mixology Studios’ (yes, really!), bartenders are calling themselves ‘Mixologists’, and even the new Girl Guiding programme allows a 7-year old Brownie to earn her Mixology badge – whipping up non-alcoholic cocktails, of course.
But is mixology new? Definitely not. In fact, the first reference to mixology is believe to have been made way back in 1856 in the Knickerbocker magazine, considered to be one of New York’s finest literary publications. It later appeared in the Montana Post in 1866, and in William Fraser Rae’s 1870 novel Westward by Rail, where he described a mixologist as someone who makes ‘delicate and fancy’ drinks.
Today, the old term ‘mixologist’ is very much back in style, and is used in pretty much the same way as it was used by Rae; to describe someone who invents new drinks, researches new ingredients, and comes up with innovative ways to serve up classic flavours; essentially, a bartender who cares about his craft. Ultimately, mixology is more about the art of cocktail making, rather than the act of cocktail making.
The Art & Craft of Mixology
Although some may feel that mixology is pretentious, it’s a concept that’s very much needed to rescue cocktails from the ‘dark ages’. Consider that many of our favourite cocktails were invented at a time when mixology was a highly valued craft; the recipe for a Cosmopolitan appeared in a 1934 publication; the French 75 was created in 1915 at a bar in Paris; the Gin Sling even earlier at a hotel in Singapore. Even those cocktails that we consider new, such as the Bramble and the Espresso Martini, were already around by the mid 1980s. Can you name any well known, notable cocktails invented in the last 10 years?
At some point, the art of mixology was thrown out, replaced with the efficiency of bartending. But now it’s back… with a vengeance! Part of that is because the way we drink is changing. Modern drinking isn’t about herbal healing or getting drunk; it’s a social event. We’re no longer looking for something that’s especially strong or effective; we’re looking for unusual flavours and tastes, amazing and unique combinations of spirits, liqueurs, wines, and mixers – and Instagram-worthy decorations and finishes.
This is what modern mixology is all about, and it’s leading to a growing trend for craft cocktails. If you fancy giving mixology a try, Girl Guiding suggests a pretty simple yet accurate 3-step process:
Taste: Experiment with different flavour combinations to see what works, and what doesn’t. Mashed banana with orange juice? Cinnamon with strawberries? The possibilities are endless.
Design: A good cocktail isn’t just about taste, it’s about appearance, too. Experiment with layering, and consider which colours work well together (and which turn into a horrible mess!)
Review: Hold your own cocktail party, serving up your new drinks. See which drinks go down the hatch well, and which could do with a little work to get them just right. It’s all about trial and error!