Mixologist Doesn't Fly

on 04/12/10 at 5:21 pm

Booze News

“When I walk into a SoHo gallery, I expect to be snubbed. One look at my shoe-handbag combo and even the intern knows I can’t afford the art. At an alt-rock show in Williamsburg, I am game for shame at the door. I’m not that young anymore, and all my piercings are hidden. Basically, if art is on the line, I’m okay with elitism.

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.

In his 1948 essay “The Vocabulary of the Drinking Chamber,” H. L. Mencken called the word “silly” and cited it as evidence of bartenders’ “meager neologistic powers.” It’s kind of sad to read this Mencken essay now. He obviously expected the word to die the quiet death it deserved, but for once in his life he was too optimistic. Not only did it survive, it bred. Modern drinking chambers resound with pretentious neologisms; if you want to learn some, just pick up an issue of Imbibe magazine. “Edible cocktail” and “solid” are two of my personal favorites, both of which mean “Jell-O shot.”

The insidious thing about words is that the act of decrying them promotes their usage. Mencken did just that: Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate gives 1948 as the first written record of the word “mixology.”

If you have never encountered a mixologist in the wild, consider yourself blessed.”

{Full post by Sarah Deming}

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