Mixology Drinks: A Comprehensive Guide to Mixing
Mixology drinks aren't just a trend that came out of nowhere; they have deep roots in bartending history. The Oxford English Dictionary dates the term "mixology" to as early as 1876 and defines it as the practice or skill of preparing mixed drinks.
This blog post will explore everything related to mixology drinks and a list of libations we recommend trying whether you're a professional or hobbyist.
Let's dive in!
What Is Mixology?
Mixology is both a noun and a verb. As a noun, it refers to an art of mixing drinks, but as a verb, it describes how one mixes these drinks. And if you want to learn how mixologists make their favorite cocktails—like how they create everything from Sidecars and Manhattans to Moscow Mules and Grasshoppers—the best way is hands-on experience "behind the stick."
Even if you're not looking for full-time work as a bartender, getting involved in your local bar scene can be one of the most valuable tools in learning about mixology and gaining more confidence in your cocktail-crafting abilities at home.
Asking your favorite cocktail maker some of their tricks of the trade can provide excellent insight into making mixology drinks of your own, too--even if you're simply looking to play around with what you have stored on your home's bar cart.
Bartender vs. Mixologist
A commonly asked question that arises when discussing mixology drinks is what is the difference between a bartender and a mixologist? In short, there isn't much of a difference. The two terms are often interchangeable.
Many professional bartenders also consider themselves mixologists—but what exactly does that mean?
The term mixologist refers more specifically to someone who has an in-depth knowledge of how different ingredients interact when mixed. This person can then use that knowledge to create new and unique cocktails based on specific flavor profiles or themes.
The Mixology Art of Precision: How to Measure
The key to mixing mixology drinks is knowing how much of each ingredient you need for a balanced and tasty concoction. When possible, use a standard measuring tool like a jigger; it's always better to measure ingredients instead of eyeballing or counting them, especially if you're a novice.
Using a tool to measure allows you to create more balanced cocktails and increases your precision, ensuring each drink will turn out the same time and time again.
Preferred Spirits in Mixology Drinks
It's safe to say that all spirits are essential to a mixologists' drink-making capabilities. Gin, whiskey, rum, tequila, mezcal, and modifying liqueurs are critical components in craft cocktails.
On the flip side, some mixology drink experts and craft bartenders argue against the use of vodka. Not only is it transparent, but it also doesn't add any distinctive flavor to a drink, so many experts can't comprehend the appeal. Mixology drinks often attempt to elevate and balance the flavors found in a cocktail's base spirit, so vodka doesn't consistently deliver inspiration.
Additionally, some recipes call for cocktail bitters (such as Angostura), vermouth, or niche liqueurs which you should probably keep around if you're looking to up your mixology drink-making skills. And don't forget about fresh fruit juices and simple syrups—these ingredients are essential to crafting well-balanced libations.
Balancing Mixology Drinks
When you get right down to it, flavor balance is the most critical factor in building crave-worthy mixology drinks. Acids and bases deliver this essential balance.
An acid is anything that tastes sour, such as lemon juice. Acids are sour, sharp flavors that act as an enhancement for other ingredients in a drink. They bring out flavor notes in spirits, make drinks more complex, and add necessary brightness when you take a sip.
Acids should be subtle enough so that they don't overpower their base partner (which is often sugar). There's nothing worse than sipping a drink that makes your mouth pucker because its acidic level is too high.
Conversely, bases are ingredients like simple syrup, honey, agave nectar, and liqueurs. These sweeteners help balance out acids to create harmonious flavor. You can have a lot of fun playing around with different acid and base component combinations.
Flavors, Flavoring Agents, and Accents
The earliest bartender guides, such as Jerry Thomas' Bartender's Guide from 1862 and Harry Johnson's New and Improved Illustrated Bartender's Manual from 1882, included recipes for dozens of different drinks using strange ingredients, including flavored spirits, liqueurs, and fortified wines.
By 1900 there were hundreds of companies producing flavorings for mixing at home. While not every recipe requires them (some just call for a shot or two of varying spirits), some popular ones might be hard to find if you don't have access to a well-stocked liquor store.
Dairy Products & Eggs
Dairy products and eggs can help you achieve a thick and creamy texture when building mixology drinks.
In cocktails, egg whites are commonly used in classics (such as sours) to create a frothy, silky texture.
Dairy products are also used in drinks to provide creaminess, including milk-based tiki drinks or creating unctuous cream atop an Irish coffee.
Another dairy-inspired mixology trend is clarified milk punch. In making clarified milk punches, mixologists mix citrus with milk to curdle it. This magical, scientific process produces a clear concoction containing subtle yet complex flavors with a velvety smooth texture.
Sugars, Syrups, Water, and Oils
To mix up a drink with complexity and depth, you'll want to start with four key ingredients: spirit, sugar, bitter, water. Think of each element as a painter thinks of color—it's up to you to combine them correctly.
Once you understand how each ingredient works in your cocktail shaker or mixing glass, you can begin pairing them together for a uniquely balanced mixology drink.
Mixologists create their sugar syrups, oils, tinctures, bitters, and more to showcase their firm grasp on the scientific melding of flavors required for extraordinary drink-making.
Mixology Tools of the Trade
You can't mix a cocktail without the necessary tools of the trade. In addition to measuring instruments like jiggers, you'll need muddlers, shakers, strainers, and bar spoons for making drinks at home. Check out our guide to building the best mixology toolkit for some in-depth inspiration!
While you can probably find most of these items at any local bar or restaurant supply store, we recommend checking out the Cocktail Kingdom. They have a superb selection of mixology tools and accessories and are the go-to brand for most modern mixologists. Their products are beautiful, but they're also incredibly well-made and durable.
Mixology Drinks Require Beautiful Garnishes
Ever heard someone say, "We eat with our eyes?" Well, the same sentiment applies to drinks! Mixology drinks are well-balanced not only in flavor but in appearance too. Nowadays, mixology experts are going wild with inventive garnishes like decorative lemon twists, smoked herbs, and edible flowers.
Honestly, the possibilities are endless! Garnishes leave space for creativity to soar, but you must always keep one thing in mind: the garnish must serve a purpose by elevating the drink; it can't just be there.
10 Mixology Drinks to Try At Home
Now that we've explored some critical aspects of making mixology drinks, it's time to jump into some incredible recipes!
Here are the top ten mixology drinks we are absolutely loving right now:
Created by Sam Ross, a famous bartender spearheading numerous mixology drinks that have grown into household names, the Penicillin cocktail is a whiskey sour variation utilizing the smoky qualities of Scotch. Ross created the tipple while at New York City's Milk & Honey in 2005.
- 2oz Scotch
- 0.75oz lemon juice
- 0.5oz honey syrup
- 0.5oz sweetened ginger juice
- 0.25 Islay Scotch
Add all ingredients except the Islay Scotch into a cocktail shaker. Fill the shaker with ice and shake. Strain into a glass over fresh ice and float the Islay Scotch on top.
Another Sam Ross contribution from 2008, the Paper Plane, is a mixology drink utilizing the equal-parts methodology--a mixologist favorite. Check out the recipe below!
- 0.75oz bourbon
- 0.75oz Aperol
- 0.75oz lemon juice
- 0.75oz Amaro Nonino
Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker, add ice, and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled glass and enjoy!
Many people are familiar with the bright red, bitter-forward classic known as the Negroni. But have you heard of the White Negroni? Credited to Wayne Collins, this mixology drink is a variation on a classic that delivers crave-worthy, herbaceous flavor.
- 1.5oz gin
- 0.75oz Suze
0.75oz blanc vermouthInstructions:
Add all ingredients into a mixing glass. Then, add ice and stir 5-6 times. Strain into a glass over fresh ice and garnish with a grapefruit twist.
Any mezcal fans out there? Well, this one is for you! Listed on Advanced Mixology's list, World's Best Cocktails in March 2022, this is a mixology drink we simply had to try. It was initially created in 2013 by bartender Ethan Armstrong.
- 2oz mezcal
- 0.75oz lime juice
- 0.5oz apricot liqueur
- 0.25oz falernum
- 2 dashes of Peychaud's cocktail bitters
- 2 dashes of orange bitters
Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker, add ice, and shake. Then, strain the drink into a glass filled with crushed ice and garnish with an orange wheel and a sprig of mint.
Thanks to the Cocktail Renaissance and famed bartender Audrey Sanders, the Old Cuban originated in 2001. This mixology drink now falls into "modern classic cocktails." It's balanced, refreshing, and well-loved by all who give it a try.
Check it out and see why for yourself!
- 6 mint leaves
- 1oz simple syrup
- 0.75oz lime juice
- 1.5oz aged rum
- 2 dashes of Angostura bitters
- 2 ounces of chilled champagne
In a cocktail shaker, muddle the mint leaves along with simple syrup and lime juice. Next, add rum, bitters, and ice and shake vigorously—double strain into a chilled coupe glass and top off with champagne. Garnish with a sprig of mint. Cheers!
In this mixology drink, tequila and cream combine with other fresh ingredients to deliver a libation with tropical vibes. From the mind of Elizabeth Weiss, a bartender from Lantern's Keep in New York City, this cocktail is another must-try.
- 2oz tequila
- 0.75oz lime juice
- 0.75oz coconut syrup
- 0.5oz cream
- 3 slices of cucumber
- 1 pinch of salt
Combine all ingredients into a cocktail shaker, add ice, and shake vigorously. Strain into a glass over fresh ice and garnish with a few cucumber slices.
The Charging Station comes from Sam Ross's time with the Electra Cocktail Club in Las Vegas. It's a unique, delicious alternative to another well-loved drink: the espresso martini. It's also a mixology drink where vodka makes a rare appearance!
- 2oz vodka
- 0.75oz cold brew coffee
- 0.75oz coconut syrup
- 1 dash of cream
- 2 dashes of habanero cocktail bitters
Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Dry shake (without ice) and pour into a glass filled two-thirds of the way with crushed ice. Add a straw and then top off the drink with more crushed ice. Garnish with a few coffee beans and get charged up!
This spritz-y, light, and easy-to-sip mixology drink come from (you guessed it) Sam Ross. Again, he created this bubbly beverage for the Las Vegas Electra Cocktail Club in 2018.
- 1oz blanc vermouth
- 1oz Amaro Montenegro
- 2oz champagne
- 1.5oz club soda
Add all ingredients into a glass with ice and stir five or six times. Garnish with a grapefruit twist, and enjoy!
Angostura cocktail bitters get all the love and glory they deserve in this mixology drink created by Giuseppe Gonzalez in 2009 while at the Clover Club in New York City. It's an unusual sour variation highlighting the tasty flavor notes found in cocktail bitters.
- 1.5oz Angostura bitters
- 0.5oz rye whiskey
- 0.75oz lemon juice
- 0.75oz orgeat
Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker, add ice, and shake. Strain into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with a twist of lemon.
We can't curate a list of mixology drinks without adding a unique one, which some may call bizarre. But that's what mixologists do! They create balance among unique flavor pairings to offer extraordinary drinking experiences. The recipe comes from Dan Greenbaum, a bartender at New York City's Diamond Reef in 2017.
- 0.75oz mezcal
- 0.5 tonic syrup
- 0.5oz ginger
- 0.5oz lime juice
- 2 slices of cucumber
- Negra Modelo beer
Combine all ingredients (except the beer) into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a glass and top off with beer. Sip and enjoy!
Mixology Drinks Bottom Line
There are so many ways you can mix drinks, and if you're just getting started in mixology, it can be a little daunting. We hope we've given you some advice on how to take that first step towards being a professional bartender, or at least feeling like one.