101 Series-A Beginner’s Guide to Mixology

Eileen Callahan of Champagne Travels at the Carlton Hotel in St. Mortiz Switerzerland

Who loves a good ole classic cocktail? Champagne is, of course, my go-to, and I always love a vodka or gin martini. But sometimes, after chatting with the bartender, I feel inspired to try a new cocktail.

Mixologist making cocktails

Hop on a stool

With so many bars and bartenders specializing in mixology, there are more chances to explore the world of mixed drinks. Open up your horizons to new ingredients and flavor combinations. But mixology can be intimidating, even if you’re not usually shy around the bar. So, I thought I would offer some suggestions to encourage you to forgo your standard gin and tonic the next time you’re out in favor of something new.

Mixology ingredients

Mixology-not as pretentious as it sounds

Although mixology has become a trend in recent years, the word dates back to 1948, and a large part of the scene is about playing with and refining techniques from times past. In general, mixologists aim to help evolve the field of bartending, sharing new possibilities with customers and developing strategies to elevate simple cocktails.

Mixologist making drinks for A Beginner's Guide to Mixology by Champagne Travels Eileen Callahan

Mixologists are skilled at creating innovative libations with inspired blends of ingredients. Still, in my opinion, mixology isn’t just about shaking drinks–a good mixologist is willing to share his knowledge with the customer and help them explore the world of mixed drinks without being arrogant about it. If you are imbibing at a high-end locale, the mixologist behind the bar will be more than happy to answer your questions and explain their process. I always learn something new when I chat with the bartender and ask about what he’s making or how she’s making it! Don’t be put off by the fancy title–most mixologists will be glad to discuss their craft with you.

Eileen Callahan of Champagne Travels shares A Beginner's Guide to Mixology

Ingredients matter

The revival of mixology has had a significant impact on the alcohol world at large. As bartenders became more focused on mixing refined, well-balanced cocktails, they sought out new and better spirits. A plethora of new products was created to meet that demand.


You might see ingredients you’re unfamiliar with on the menu at a mixology bar, from unique spirits to house-made syrups to unusual garnishes. For example, Experimental Cocktail Club in Paris, one of my favorite spots, uses a homemade orgeat syrup in the Ô Moritaké cocktail, a mix of sake, whiskey, orange bitters, and lime juice.

Bartenders making drinks

Mixology has even inspired some brands to revive old recipes–in one such instance, the book Imbibe! by David Wondrich is said to have inspired Bols to bring back their genever, a malted spirit that was the precursor to gin. Mixology is about more than just a fancy shake or lighting something on fire–the quality of the ingredients that go into the cocktail is of the utmost importance.

Eileen Callahan of Champagne Travels in Balthazar in New York City

I’m a purist, and I wouldn’t say I like sugary drinks. Thanks to fresh ingredients and natural sweeteners like agave, I can enjoy a mixed drink without worrying about a sugar headache the next day. The “Harlequin” at Death & Co Bar in New York City. It is very lightly sweetened with honey. If you’re like me, you should know that a mixed drink from a mixology bar will probably be far less sugary than a daiquiri from your local bar, thanks to its fresh, high-quality ingredients.

101-A Beginner's Guide to Mixology

Mixology can be budget-friendly

For many people, the word “mixology” conjures ideas of obscenely expensive cocktails, which can be a turn-off for more budget-conscious drinkers. But don’t let this idea deter you from the world of mixology altogether.

101-A Beginner's Guide to Mixology

If the bartender suggests a drink that’s not your price range, tell them it’s a bit over your budget. A good mixologist will know how to substitute a different brand of spirit to make a cocktail that’s more budget-friendly. For example, the “Dreams” cocktail at Beaufort Bar at the Savoy in London. It features Cristal champagne as one of its ingredients. Thus, the most expensive glass on the menu. It’s worth asking to see if your mixologist could substitute a more affordable sparkling wine instead.

Mixology Bar

You should also feel free to ask your bartender about discounts or happy hours. Specials are an excellent opportunity to enjoy a fancy cocktail without breaking the bank.

Ask for a classic-updated

Mixology isn’t just about creating unusual or surprising drinks. Visiting a mixology bar can be an excellent opportunity to see an old favorite through new eyes.

Eileen Callahan of Champagne Travels at The Carlton St. Moritz Switzerland

Many bars have imaginative interpretations of classic cocktails–Atlas Singapore, for instance, has a range of elevated gin and tonics. The “Gin Tonica,” made with modern American gin, yuzu tonic, rosemary, orange, and bay leaf. On the other hand, the Campbell Bar in New York has a selection of updated Old Fashioneds. Try the “New Fashioned,” made with Casamigos reposado tequila instead of the traditional whiskey.

While discussing drinks with the bartender, tell him your old favorites, and maybe they will create something new!

Eileen Callahan of Champagne Travels Atlas Bar Singapore

I hope this article has shown you that mixology doesn’t have to be intimidating despite the hype. The choices are endless! A good mixologist will know how to help you choose the perfect drink, whatever your taste or budget. I hope you’ll consider stepping outside your comfort zone next time you peruse a drink menu.

Cheers to trying new things!


Check out Digestifs around the world here and Aperitifs here.