Mixologist, Bring Me a Beer
Sarah Deming has a longish column "Against Mixology," decrying both the use of that title by barkeeps and, more importantly, the snootiness which often attends those who do.
Sarah Deming has a longish column “Against Mixology,” decrying both the use of that title by barkeeps and, more importantly, the snootiness which often attends those who do.
When it’s a question of sin, however—and no matter how much we dress up drinking or call it by a fancy name, it remains just that—judgment is absurd. People want their sin the way they want it. This is something every drug dealer and pornographer knows, so why can’t today’s upscale bartenders understand? To the so-called mixologists, I say: Pour up and shut up.
The problems with mixology begin with the word itself, a clumsy cocktail of Latinate root and Greek suffix appropriated by a lunatic fringe within the bartending world. The word offends the ear and only seems acceptable after repetition. In fact, I’m sorry I’ve already used it so much; the healthy contempt you felt when you first read it is probably fading, just as an unpleasant odor will go away if you smell it long enough.
The last time my dad came to visit, shortly before he died, I took him to Smith and Mills, a tiny bar in Tribeca built of reclaimed industrial fixtures. As a city planner, Dad was sensitive to the beauty of architecture, and I thought he’d like the quality of the space.
In his broad Oklahoman accent, he ordered an Amaretto sour.
I’ll never forget the way the waiter smirked. “We don’t serve those here.”
“Why not?” Dad asked.
“The mixologist doesn’t like Amaretto.”
My father looked hurt and confused. He was probably trying to simultaneously parse the word “mixologist” and understand why it mattered whether he liked Amaretto, since it was my father who was going to drink it.
“Do you maybe want a whiskey sour, Dad?” I asked. “They’re really good here.”
He shook his head stubbornly. “How about a mojito?”
This time the waiter actually laughed. “We don’t have those this time of year.”
I forget what Dad ended up drinking. Whatever it was, the mood had been ruined. He felt like a hick, and I felt like a jerk for exposing him to such unkindness. This was an ongoing theme in our relationship. You can never make up for a childhood spent apart, and Dad and I were always out of step in each other’s world. We were always thirsty for something that wasn’t on the menu. A bar should be the kind of place that lubricates such tensions, rather than aggravating them.
The column is worth a read in full. I especially recommend the exchange about questions from the “mixologist” designed to make you reveal your lack of sophistication about the craft.
Thankfully, my problem has never been finding a barkeep who won’t serve you a mojito or proper martini upon request but rather those without the skill to render those concoctions properly.
On the subject of the silliness of the word “mixology,” which H.L. Mencken was deriding decades ago, I’m reminded of taking my nearly two-year-old daughter to a special “breakfast with Santa” a couple weekends ago and there being a “balloonologist” available. Naturally, a “balloonologist” makes balloon animals. Where one goes for a doctorate in that specialty, I can not say.