Nkuli is a bartender with passion and her eye on the prize…

Nkuli is a bartender with passion and her eye on the prize…

Meet Nkuli Khanyile from Molecular bars who is in the running for the top spot in the BTA competition in Cognac this year! As we speak 10 bars in SA are mixing drinks for a chance to compete! (Julian Short won last year).

Nkuli has already earned her spot fair and square. As a young South African girl, Nkuli is fired with a passion for her craft that is based in a very male dominated industry, she is making some serious waves, and we hope that she will take the top honours this year in France!

We caught up with Nkuli to find out more about her…

Nkuli tell us how you wound up in bartending and where your passion originated from?

Like most students, I got into bartending just to find a part time job just to find some extra money that would soon add up help for travels and daily expenditure. Becoming part of the Molecular Bars industry filled with new and experienced people it was hard not to be amazed by some amazing cocktails that I never knew existed or was so flabbergasted by the flavours I said to myself I have to try that!

Most of my creativity stems from my job and watching numerous shows of MasterChef Australia, Chef’s Table, Hell’s Kitchen and Jamie Oliver on TV. I love to bake and, in a time, when things are forever changing, I tried to do some flavours that were common in baking but not so much in cocktails – that I thought I would try marrying the two worlds together.


Bartending is known to be a specifically male dominated industry – is this true, and if so, how do you deal with it?

Definitely true. When I first came into this industry there were only a handful of female bartenders that I had seen. I thought it was linked with work but the more I went to bars and took notice, it was evident that women were just quite scarce. How I’ve learnt to deal with this or combat this issue is to always let my friends know about the industry or about the many places that are hiring bartenders and that they should definitely try it out.

Now there’s a growing number of women in my workplace and that I am meeting along the way as I continue to become part of this industry. We encourage each other not to be afraid to go into even male-dominated spirits such as whiskey and go out and learn and show that we can be part of this different spheres.”

What is your favourite cocktail to make, and why?

My favourite cocktail to make is definitely my Remy Martin Twist on a sidecar – Back and Forth from the Garden. Cheesy I know. But this was definitely a cocktail that I had most playing around and infusing different flavours. It was definitely the most fun I’ve had and tying in my baking background by adding a spun sugar garnish was super cool. I had only seen it been done on TV as they try to make masterpieces such as the Croquembouche. It was cool but hard super frustrating at times.


What has been one of the biggest challenges you have faced in your career thus far, and how did you overcome it?

One of the biggest challenges thus far has definitely been the fear of entering my first cocktail competitions. Like most things I just assumed that you needed to be in the industry for years and just had to be pro at flavours and whatever spirit you’re working with. I overcame this fear by just doing it. The worst thing that could happen is that they say no thank and you try again next time. After entering I learnt that its nerve-wracking and scary, but you also learn so much about the spirit and meet new faces.


If you could meet and have a cocktail with one person (dead or alive) who would it be and why?

I would love to meet Chef Blumenthal. He has been an inspiration to me for so many years and has been part of the reason why I love to bake and occasional cook. His simplicity and focus on amplifying flavours is just amazing.


What makes you Proudly South African – in your eyes?

Being Proudly South African to me is my strong link to my culture and definitely my hair. I love what my hair can do and the diversity of it. One day it can be an afro and the next day it can have braids that make an amazing pattern.  It’s different tough and has been through a lot to make it what it is today much like this country.\

We are holding thumbs for you, Nkuli!

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