Welcome to the second blog of our new series. The topic is mixology. Why mixology? Well it is a simple reason; it generates a passion within our team that keeps our juices flowing! Literally! It is an area of the bar events industry that keeps growing and exploding, and bartenders are now mixologist, cocktail artists, flare specialists and mad scientists!
Years ago, there were no Espresso Martinis, Cosmopolitans and English Gardens. However, through the 20th century and into this millennium the boom of the cocktail market has come on leaps and bounds. For the events industry and its bartenders this has been an incredible journey with so much to explore and learn. Mixologists now have every opportunity to showcase their creative side.
There has been a lot of debate about the era cocktails were first invented, and it is nigh on impossible to credit any one individual for the concept or the use of the word for drinking purposes. Some evidence is in the form of a newspaper article originating in London, the year was 1798 using the word “cocktail.” The article was referring to the use of British punches which were large bowls of spirits, juices, herbs, and spices drunk by customers in the Punch houses.
Although the article points to where the word cocktail may have been first used (describing a combination of spirits and juices), punch itself dated back to the mid-17th century, matching tea, and coffee in the age stakes!
Drinking for entertainment was a very popular past time (nothing changes!) and the punch houses were becoming increasingly popular, so it came as no surprise when the concept popped over the Atlantic to find a new best friend in States.
There we find the pioneer bar saloon owner and bartender Jerry Thomas also referred to and considered ‘the father of American mixology’. It is thought that he popularised cocktails across the country and in 1862 he wrote the first cocktail book titled simply ‘Bartenders Guide’. There in were laid the principals for formulating mixed drinks across all categories.
Many world-famous cocktails today were thought to originate so far back it is hard to pinpoint where and when this may have happened. Mojito’s, Negroni’s, and the Old fashioned are all examples of drinks that are still loved now coming from very dated up bringing’s.
Prohibition and what came next
Sadly, this thriving industry was cut short by American prohibition and became a perfect environment for organised crime instead. The whole point of the prohibition was to cut violence and crime, but it did the opposite and criminal activity rose.
A drink similar to the now famous Long island iced tea was formulated and drunk in the speakeasies, they generally had whiskey and maple syrup and had varied amounts of 5 mixed spirits in them.
The Wall street crash would soon hit followed by the great depression which had a worldwide knock on affect. This did not stop ladies dressing beautifully with the silver screen in full swing and many screen idols rose to fame. Soft feminine glamour was fashionable and drinks like the champagne and gin based French 75 were popular as published in the 1930 Savoy cocktail guide.
This was a perfect time for bartenders to start travelling the world learning their trade on foreign shores. Talented mixologists of the time could try new and different styles of drink.
After World war 2 many bartenders hung out in the South Pacific and in turn started the TIKI style of cocktail. This new art of cocktail mixing used new herbs, spices, fruits, and rums originating from this area. Tropical flavours were in full swing and cocktails like the Mai Tai and Zombie were born.
After this dark era of history, the world took time to recover from the war but still some amazing drinks were being consumed especially at Rockabilly parties of the 50s. Although designed much earlier in the century classic like the Singapore sling, Mint Juleps, Sidecars and Tom Collins were all popularised and you will see these drinks in films set in this era.
Moving into the love parade of the 1960s one cocktail was quintessential to the class of the
decade and that of course is the Martini. Suave characters like the much loved 007 was a big advocate… Shaken not stirred by all accounts!
Although cocktails were still popular through the 60s and 70s, drugs were taken in social scenes and the cocktail industry was not as affluent in drinking circles, compared to the post war era. Some drinks were created and made famous however, with the Pina Colada making an entrance along with the Tequila sunrise.
Modern history of mixology
American style diners like TGI Fridays were also opening and becoming popular and moving into the 80s were all the rage. These soon crossed shores to the UK and New trends became popular like flair bartending, and an enhanced customer focused experience.
Flaring become such a massive part of the bar industry especially when the famous Tom Cruise film of the 80s Cocktail was released. The drinking experience became a full entertainment show which really made the customer experience exciting.
Since then flaring competitions have become the norm with bartenders regularly travelling the world competing in events with very enticing prize money. To some Flaring became an obsession and has often split opinion amongst bartenders.
Those who started as bartenders at TGI Friday’s would often go on and make fantastic careers in the bar industry as the training and wow factor taught to them made them industry leading figures. Many modern-day bars have been formed by ex-Friday’s employees.
The 80s should also be remembered for the ‘King of cocktails as described by the Guardian paper. Dick Bradsell is credited with such amazing and popular creations like the Espresso martini, the Bramble, and the Russian spring punch, taken sadly before his time his name is legendary amongst modern day bartenders.
In the 90s the industry had a massive renaissance and vodkas were being mixed with fresh ingredients to create a whole host of new drinks. The V shaped glass was a massive part of this era and bars were alive with the sound of the shaker!
Cranberry was an ingredient introduced to many a tipple of the decade and such famous cocktails like the Seabreeze, Woo Woo and most notably the Cosmopolitan found a home in the heart of the cocktail lover. It is though the health benefits of the cranberry had a big impact on this with people’s health perceptions changing.
Networking and competitive spirits
With the inception of social media, intense emphasis on image and people’s perception came, and new bartender skills coupled with thousands of different products created a flooding of the market, it is not hard to see why the cocktail industry went through the roof
It is unlikely that you will go into a bar today and there is no sort of cocktail menu, and quite often a specialised mixologist on the books shaking and stirring and creating new mixes and syrups.
There is a friendly and healthy competition between bars and bartenders to create the most amazing and beautiful drinks within the event industry. Each venue, mobile bar and night club has its own style and favourite spirits to create these stunning cocktails. Fresh ingredients, stunning glassware, imaginative blends, and delicate colourful garnishes are all part of enhancing drinks and enables businesses captivate their audience.
Company and industry incentives have been a key component in the growth of the cocktail scene. Large sums of money in winnings and luxury holidays abroad are prizes that are commonplace in today’s bar World. There is huge respect for top mixologists, press releases in drinks guides and fame on social media combine to make the best bartenders in this sector sought after for employment and inevitably can lead to a comfortable life financially, as well as being the coolest cats on the block!
Once hooked on bartending you will find individuals become very focussed on reaching the heights of the bar trade and quite often get wrapped up in the events industry. This can often be a gruelling job and tough on the liver!
Back to school
Learning new skills through peers, practicing flair moves seen on Facebook, watching mixologists shake on YouTube, attending seminars, spirit training, and showing off detailed techniques on Instagram all go towards self-betterment for a bartender. There are even degrees in certain fields and many fabulous bar schools to learn from.
Bar schools have been part of transforming the idea that a bartender is a now a completely skilled job warranting respect and better wages. Although pub employees still fall below a satisfactory living wage, the event industry can be rewarding for bartenders with very competitive rates paid in the corporate high-end market and the top festival bars.
To find a vast network of job searches relating to people’s skills and attribute is now commonplace along with media platforms to support this, and head hunting regularly occurs. Now a Fully trained bartender can travel the world creating new life experiences while learning their trade and earning a good income especially through tips.
Exciting new trends often occur at bar schools, like mad professor’s blowing up a lab!
Dry ice and smoke concoctions are going through a well-documented stage as they create the ability to capture fab film and photo shoots giving ia unique take on a drink making methods.
This is a fab way to make cocktails and really puts the wow into a drink! Having the ability and the mixologists capable of such fantastic creations, is a great way to really market any bar showing off new age ideas which will attract a new brand of customer.
Especially when these drinks get posted to Instagram and Facebook. You can scroll any cocktail pages and you are bound to find a few pics of mixologists using these methods in cocktail creations.
Smokes and Garnishes
In respect to cocktails and presentation dry ice and smoke guns really let the customer focus on the presentation first then comes the flavour and taste.
Basically customers “EAT WITH THEIR EYES”. It is true that a customer could have the best tasting drink in the world in front of them, but if the presentation is lacking, chances are they have given it a negative review in their head prior to it hitting their lips!
Not all smoke processes are made the same way as using a gun, smoking herbs are a simple but effective way of adding a burnt crisp flavour to a drink without adopting an expansive costly process like the smoke gun. Whiskey cocktails and drinks often work well with smoke methods, I recommend an Old fashioned for this process, but I’m biased, I just love drinking them period!
Simply burning your selected herb, popping it into a sealed container, and then adding it to your drink will really give a burnt aftertaste to any drink. Of course, this must be done in a safe way so make sure no flammable objects are around is probably a good idea. An Individual guest blog will be coming soon on garnishes from Barlogic.
This is more of a home bar process but has the same desired effect can be done with pretty much zero cost. By the way, burning hickory or cinnamon sticks to any whiskey drink tastes amazing! Give it a try and thank Barlogic after.
At Barlogic we care so much about every aspect of a drink we make sure the drink is in beautiful glassware, all syrups and infusions are created in the correct process guaranteeing fresh flavours and of course we use the most premium spirits giving the best flavour to our amazing drinks.
There is so much more to cocktails and we feel it necessary to discuss individual areas in greater depth. Please leave us feedback on any areas you would like to know about, and factual inaccuracies on our behalf and mostly please interact with us so we can chat more in the oven forums about our loves in the industry.
Look out for our next blog and keeping fighting the good fight industry peeps, we are down but not out! X