From a mere bartender to South Africa’s top 25 mixologists

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By Nkosilodumo Ndebele

Being a bartender was not something that Bhekimpilo Khumalo would have envisioned as something he would be doing to earn a living for the rest of his life.

Bhekimpilo Khumalo
Bhekimpilo Khumalo

But when the opportunity knocked at his door while in City of Gold, Jozi, Khumalo welcomed it with open arms as he believed it would elevate him to greater heights.

And true to his beliefs, Khumalo who hails from the dusty streets of Pumula had his breakthrough when he partook in the 2017 Bacardi varsity cocktail competition where he emerged victorious and his life was never the same again.

“I have been bartending for the past 5 years and won the first ever Bacardi Varsity Cocktail competition in 2017, followed by being nominated as part of the top 10 mixologists in Johannesburg twice in row for 2018 and 2019.”

Not forgetting his roots, Bhekimpilo Khumalo has put his very creative mind to use, and created a cocktail which is now being served in many of the slickest bars in South Africa. Its name is derived from the emblem of the school he attained his secondary education, Gifford High School.

“This year I was also nominated as part of top eight mixologists in South Africa and I am doing a cocktail campaign to list my famous cocktail called Hinc Orior, with the name derived from the Gifford High School emblem, which means ‘from here we arise’.”

Khumalo says his next aim is now getting a global nod if he manages to make a classic cocktail that will be served in every corner of the globe.

“My motive is to make a classic cocktail to be served anywhere in the world. I am also famous for my skill behind the bar and using flavours that create nostalgia, links to childhood memories and also incorporating African flavours like umkhomo (baobab), umkhemeswane, chakalaka just to mention a few,” says Khumalo.

Fondly known as the Dapper bartender, Khumalo says he aims to transform how people view his trade. Bartenders, because of the nature of their trade, can sometimes be subject to derogatory remarks.

“I love wearing many hats hence they call me the dapper_bartender and also I am pushing to change how people view bartending as one of the first black mixologist.

“I want to make sure I train many black bartenders so that our creativity can spread all over the world,” added Khumalo. Sunday News

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