Profiles

Female bartenders changing the game

Bartender1

Angelique Rivera, a judge at Diageo World Class Competition .

Summary

  • For years, male-controlled roadblocks have hindered female influence on the drinking culture. But now women are changing how they serve and drink their alcohol.
  • BDLife spoke to Angeliqua Rivera, Josephine Muono and Redempta Muluka, finalists in the just concluded 2021 World Class Bartender of the Year Competition, on how bartending has changed.

Going out for a whisky or beer or working in a bar was not something that women were allowed to say out loud.

For years, male-controlled roadblocks have hindered female influence on the drinking culture. But now women are changing how they serve and drink their alcohol.

BDLife spoke to Angeliqua Rivera, Josephine Muono and Redempta Muluka, finalists in the just concluded 2021 World Class Bartender of the Year Competition, on how bartending has changed.

Angeliqua Rivera, 33

How did you get here?

I’ve been working in the alcohol industry for 12 years. I started as a waitress. I have worked at Four Seasons Hotel in Doha, Four Seasons Jumeirah Beach Hotel in Dubai, Beach Club Zero Gravity in Dubai, The W Lounge in the W Hotel in Dubai and I was Bar Supervisor in Big Chefs Dubai working hand-in-hand with chefs to mature my craft. I learnt new techniques and understood different flavours.

I then moved to dusit2 Nairobi as a mixologist where I realised I needed to compete against other bartenders to understand the culture in Kenya. After being a champion for World Class Bartender in 2019, I became the Bar Manager at Urban Eatery Nairobi.

I have realised that bartending is not just a job but a journey in which I am continuously learning.

How has the shift been from participating in the World Class competitions to being a judge?

It was truly an honour to be one of the judges for this year’s World Class Bartender competition. As a previous competitor, I know how the bartenders feel and sitting on the other side gave me a better view of what it takes to be a world-class bartender.

Ever thought your career would take this direction?

Being a bartenders’ judge has been an incredible opportunity. This is a direction that I wanted to pursue. I’m very humbled for the career growth.

What are your plans?

I’m looking forward to opportunities to grow, educate and share my experiences in the bar to inspire passionate bartenders to continue pursuing their dreams.

What's the easiest cocktail that one can make at home?

The most important factor in making a good cocktail is your palate. Good quality spirits also play a big role. I would recommend the ‘Perfect Gin & Tonic’ using Tanqueray No. 10 gin, tonic water over ice and a nice grapefruit wedge as a garnish.

Use the grapefruit skin to release some aromas. Thank me later. (Laughs).

What is one trend in the industry you are excited about?

Sustainable bars, creating cocktails that will stand the test of time, and also the use of Kenya’s incredible local ingredients.

Redempta Muluka, 38

Bartender3

How did you get here?

I started at the Diageo Bar Academy and grew to become a contender for the World Class Bartender when it was launched in Kenya in 2015. I was part of the top 10 finalists. I was top seven in 2016. I didn't participate in 2017 but I did in 2018 and I was among the top eight finalists. I became the second-best bartender in 2019.

What has your experience been like at World Class Competitions?

The competitions are intense and filled with sleepless nights. One has to know how to pair ingredients, have a clear understanding of alcohol brands and know how best to present the drinks. Research has been key in my preparations all these years. I would have loved to win, but the experience and the chance to be part of the top 20 finalists for four years in a row is an honour.

What’s the biggest challenge for women bartenders?

The emotional demands of being a female bartender never cease. I’ve been in six competitions and been a finalist for four yet I still get nervous. I always have to encourage and keep pushing myself.

Josephine Muono, 27

Bartender2

How did you get here?

I’ve been in the hospitality industry for five years but have been bartending for two.

I started as a steward and a waitress before moving to bartend. Many of my friends were bartenders and that rubbed off on me. I also wanted to turn my party life into a career. (Laughs). They taught me the basics of bartending and after some time, I went back to school to learn more about the craft. I decided to take part in the 2019 competition after seeing an advert and was elated to be part of the finalists. I was less nervous in this year’s competition as compared to two years ago.

What has been your experience like in the World Class competitions?

I do a lot of research before any competition. I’ve been watching the World Class competitions for the past years to learn how to present before the judges. Sustainability is the greatest influence on my concoctions.

The biggest issue for women in the trade right now?

There’s the common stereotype that it is meant to be a man’s job so people don’t believe in our skills. People also take advantage of us because we don’t have a voice.

What you do at the end of a shift?

Continue with the party. (Laughs).