The History and Evolution of Bartending

The History and Evolution of Bartending

Ever wonder what made bartending what it is today and why so many people are using the Bartesian cocktail maker now? The history of bartending that led to today was heavily impacted by what was available to people during the last couple of centuries. Bartending has become increasingly respected and as it grows older, automated.

The history of bartending

In the mid-1800s, bartending was normally taken on by women and considered a working-class profession. This generally happened in inns where the innkeeper or their wife would serve whatever alcohol was available to them. One of the common drinks to serve at this time was sours or punches, which is to mix a drink with juice or sugar to mask the taste of the poor quality alcohol.

The first cocktail recipe book wasn’t released until 1862 by Jerry Thomas. Bartending evolved as people mixed in other ingredients to overcome the alcohol which resulted in original cocktails.

A few years later in the 1920s, bartenders were referred to as barmaids or barkeeps and were, for the most part, women. One of the most famous barmaids during this time was Ada Coleman who worked at the Savoy Hotel and invented the Hanky Panky cocktail which consists of gin, vermouth, and Fernet-Branca (the bitters).


The evolution of cocktail bars and bartending dramatically changed when the Prohibition hit. Prohibition started in the 1920s to the 1930s and meant alcohol was not to be bought, kept, or consumed. Of course, that didn’t go over so well with everyone, so people found their secret ways to drink.

Because of Prohibition, cocktail bars weren’t available, and neither was good quality alcohol. So people made do with what they could get. There weren’t very many ingredients or options to choose from, which encouraged creativity. Bartending found a new facet as cheap and distasteful alcohol was mixed with other ingredients to create something enjoyable.

Jerry Thomas: The Father of Mixology

Also called the Father of Mixology, saw his beginnings in bartending in New Haven, Connecticut. He began bartending and soon became famous for it. Many hotels and cocktail lounges wanted him to join them for his skill and the entourage he had.

Jerry Thomas spent time bartending in many American cities. This travel likely inspired parts of his bartending career. At the time, cocktails were made up of alcohol or punches mixed with sugar, but Jerry Thomas was the first to use bitters.

He later created the Bon-Vivant’s Companion, a recipe book and guide on bartending which became a necessity for other bartenders. Because of this book and his impact in the 1920s, Jerry Thomas is the Father of Mixology.

Harry Johnson

Harry was at first a student of Jerry Thomas’ but after learning from his craft, decided to pursue his bartending career. Harry Johnson took a more competitive approach to earn his fame. He went around the United States challenging other bartenders and would consistently win. The contests were based on cocktail quality and technique making them. In New Orleans, the five best bartenders challenged Harry Johnson and he won against all of them.

During the great Chicago fire, Harry’s cocktail bar burned down so he moved back to New York where he purchased one of Jerry Thomas’s old cocktail bars. This only spurred on the rivalry between Harry and Jerry. The story goes, Jerry went to Harry’s bar and ordered a glass of Tom and Jerry, a Christmastime cocktail of eggnog, rum, and brandy. Jerry took the cocktail and threw it onto the floor because this drink was supposedly only to be made in colder temperatures.

Theodore Proulx

Theodore is a lesser-known contributor to the evolution of bartending. He’s likely not as famous as Jerry and Thomas because he also wanted to pursue a career in law. However, he is credited with the first creation of the Old Fashioned, an immensely popular cocktail today.

Theodore wrote his bartending book titled The Bartenders Manual where there is also early mention of the Martini. While Theodore may not have been as known as others, it seems he also had a big impact on the history of bartending.

The Speakeasy

During Prohibition, Speakeasies became a popular outing. Underground cocktail bars offered a space for people to congregate where they could still enjoy a drink. Famous Speakeasies like the 21Club in New York opened during the Prohibition era. Many of these establishments sold liquor without a license which makes sense if these were underground places to cheat Prohibition.

To get into a Speakeasy, one would need to provide a code or password. Their secrecy became so inventive that they would be located beneath other businesses where a lever would allow them access through a secret door.

After Prohibition

The Prohibition era caused a lull in bartending since so many had taken it into their own hands by that point. For a few decades, bartending was experiencing a dip, but in the 60s and 70s, people began to open new cocktail lounges dedicated to well-crafted cocktails. Ingredients were easier to come by at this point so there were more variations available to bartenders.

For a couple of decades, bartending was on the rise again and people went out to cocktail lounges to have a nice cocktail because that was the only place they were available. Finding the best bartenders began to be a priority for many cocktail bars so they could serve the best new and improved cocktails. With so many bars popping up, the competition rose.

Bartending today: the cocktail machine

The Bartesian cocktail maker was created as a first of its kind prior to the pandemic but soared once customers realized its value. Bartending performed steadily for a while with classic cocktails being enjoyed on a night out, then the pandemic hit, and people began to search for safer ways of enjoying their favorite cocktails with their own preferred strength and high-quality ingredients. People weren’t comfortable going to cocktail bars anymore but with the rise of technology and automation, that wasn’t a problem.

The cocktail machine allowed for an at-home, upscale cocktail-making experience where people wouldn’t have to go anywhere for a great cocktail and pay high prices. They wouldn’t even have to have the skills of a bartender. The cocktail machine became a simple solution for premium cocktails at the push of a button.

That’s where we are today. Anyone can make their favorite cocktails at home or host successful parties with anyone’s choice of drink, easily crafted from a cocktail capsule and your choice of alcohol. Check out the Bartesian cocktail maker today.