Many people use the word bartender interchangeably with mixologist. They mean well. They are wrong.
What's the difference? Carrie Allan's recent article in the Washington Post (click here to read it) hits the nail on the head. While a mixologist can make a very good cocktail, a bartender adds the critical human element to the equation. Think of it this way-- all bartenders are (or at least should be) mixologists, but all mixologists are not necessarily bartenders. You may go to a bar for the quality of its cocktails, but you'll go back because of the quality of its people.
Even if I considered myself to be a mixologist, I would not be a good bartender. Knowing me, I probably would identify the 10 most interesting people at the bar and spend 90% of my time with them. Not a good model for job security.
I've had the luck of meeting many great bartenders over the years. Even though I could not hope to name all of them, here are a few from this year and last -- Rick, Dave, Jason and the crew at my favorite watering hole (Morton's), Marvin Allen at the Carousel Bar in New Orleans, Steve Schneider at Employees Only in New York, Bri at RF's in New Orleans, Bo at the Russian Vodka Room in New York, and Erik Lorincz at the American Bar in London. Whether I named you or not, thanks to all of you for what you do so well.