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She is not your ordinary 'Mama Pima'

By Irvin Jalang'o | Jan 9th 2015 | 3 min read
By Irvin Jalang'o | January 9th 2015

Kenya: If you thought ‘Mama Pima’ is the only one inventing drinks, then you are wrong. The city is now benefiting from a crop of mixologists. Mixology is a term that describes the art of mixing cocktail drink recipes, which is now an interesting field of a study. A mixologist mixes and invents cocktails. High-end hotels, clubs and pubs within the city are now employing mixologists, besides the regular bartenders.

The difference is like that of a chef and a cook. While mixologists design cocktails, the bartender focuses on guests. The bartenders make guests feel welcome, attended to and entertained, but mixologists do their jobs before the guests arrive.

City Biz spoke to Mellisa Njiru, 25, a freelance mixologist. She is mainly engaged during Jameson events and won Sh25,000 as second runners-up in the ‘Absolut Mixology Challenge,’ which was held in November 2014. Mellisa, who does mixology at private corporate events and hotels, said she got interested in the profession in 2012. According to her, the cocktail culture was growing and she needed to tap into it. She went through training which she told City Biz helped her start her career.

“The duration of training could be as short as six months depending on your interest. Pernod Ricard Kenya invests heavily in training bartenders in Nairobi and ensuring that guests have a seamless experience across various outlets,” said Mellisa.

Mellisa says her job requires a lot of knowledge in the products, proper organisation skills, customer care and service. For Mellisa, after her family and friends accepted her line of work, things just started falling into place. She’s had numerous opportunities ever since. In her own words, the number of mixologists, judging from the competitions she has attended, has grown within the past year.

“Year after year, I have attended mixologist competitions and there are always new faces,” says Mellisa.

This year, Mellisa has won a nomination to participate in the Taste Awards 2015 from her participation in the mixology challenge.

However, no job is without its downside. “The worst part about being a mixologist was lack of support , I almost quit but I somehow made it. Being second runners-up in the Absolut mixology challenge proved that my efforts, hard work and practice were not in vain,” she explains.

How much does she make? “The ranges are between Sh40,000 to Sh100,000 for a single job. It depends on the experience and establishment that has hired you,” reveals Mellisa.

One such establishment that hires mixologists is The Bar Chef Limited, whose CEO, Samuel Nguyo, told City Biz that mixologists are important in this day and age. “With the ever-growing popularity of cocktail culture in Kenya, a mixologist comes in handy,” says Nguyo.

“Nairobi had very few mixologists and no mixology school. Today, with this growing cocktail culture, the need for mixologists has shot up and several mixology schools have been opened. The future of mixology is very promising with more mixology competitions being held each year. They are even getting brand endorsement deals, which has worked positively and more people are taking mixology as a career,” he adds.

Amongst the popular schools that teach mixology is The Nairobi School of Bartending and Mixology that operates from Nacico Plaza on Landhies Road.

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