Popularly known as the Dapper Bartender his biological name is Bhekimpilo Khumalo he derives from the city of Kings and Queens in Bulawayo currently he is settled in South Africa.
Bhekimpilo Khumalo is recognised as one of the best bartenders in South Africa.
In an exclusive interview with him, he shares with My Afrika Magazine some of his achievements since he stepped into the industry. He further examples more about his own cocktail, called ‘Hinc Orior’.
TR: Take us on how your journey as a bartender/mixologist?
BK: It all began at home, I was raised by my grandmother who was a pastry chef and she would always want me next to her every time she bakes or cooks and she would make me taste each and every ingredients hence that’s where I learned flavour from a very tender age which made it easier for me on my tertiary education to pursue a diploma in bakery studies.
I later joined Holiday inn as a waiter and upgraded to a barista for 2yrs, but I always felt the void to explore.
That’s when I moved to Joburg where I worked for a few bars and restaurants then later was given an opportunity to enrol into Bacardi varsity 2017 where I accumulated vast knowledge in the alcohol industry as a whole and shockingly won the cocktail competition held by Bacardi, making me the first ever qualified mixologist to win a cocktail competition in South Africa.
From them it’s been all about gaining experience expanding knowledge and growing myself as a career mixologist.
TR: Many always mis define the two bartender and Mixologist can you define the two?
BK: To be honest, both titles serve drinks at the end of the day, but a bartender typically pours drinks that customers order, including beer, wine, and mixed drinks. In contrast, a mixologist focuses more on cocktails, with an emphasis on creating a unique or new drink rather than making classic ones.
TR: 2017 was a breakthrough of your career when you won the first ever Bacardi Varsity Cocktail and year after as you became part of the top 10 Best Mixologists in Joburg.
BK: For me, it meant I need to work hard to maintain and aim higher, strive to be unique, and try to share all the knowledge with the next generation. Also, it brought a lot of spotlights.
Hence, I couldn’t manage to drop the ball. The only way was to elevate and think 5 years later.
Create trends and flavors, hoping one day some of my work would be listed as classics for the next generation to learn from.
TR: You created the Cocktail called Hinc Orior, how did you come up with the name and what makes it unique?
BK: I went to Gifford boys’ high school and our emblem was HINC ORIOR which is Latin translated to English mean from here we arise which was basic terminology engraved to everybody’s heart that with knowledge you will arise, so that inspired me to say the knowledge I had acquired from Bacardi will be my ladder up in the industry.
TR: What has made you a successful mixologist?
BK: I have maintained the unique combination, i.e., mixology, gastronomy, and art in simple terms I have managed to add the kitchen elements, techniques and flavors into drinks making and made sure I would present it in an art form and in terms of flavour combination I always like to add a bit of nostalgia (the ability to connect at taste to a long lost memory) basically playing with childhood memories, flavours lost forgotten, reminiscing that way it creates a bond between my guests and my art. Also, I try not to follow trends but create them, so my mindset is always futuristic.
TR: What are two things that you love about your career?
BK: There’s quite a lot, hey, but the two that come in my mind are client satisfaction. That one moment when someone walks into my bar and is not sure what they want to drink and put you up to a challenge to create a drink that fit their palate and I over execute then the smile and appreciation is priceless. Also watching my protégés creating a masterpiece of a drink warms my heart, deep inside I understand my legacy won’t go unspoken of.
TR: Some people refer to you as Dapper Bartender, where did the name come from?
BK: I am fond to the 70s, 80s, and early 90s type of fashion, I personally believe that the vintage Era fashion defined a lady and a gentleman.
Hence I always made sure when am always behind the bar am dressed like a gentleman so customers would come in and compliment that I looked dapper to a point that they would walk in and ask for their drinks to be made by that bartender that always looks dapper hence I decided to build a brand around my fashion sense and also to stand out creating a persona that always stands out and easy to identify.
However, as a Nguni man, we believe a hat is a crown and must be worn with pride. That’s why I am always in wear a fedora, pork pie hat, docker, vintage cap to express Khumalo pride.
TR: If given a moment to establish your own wine, what name would you provide and why?
BK: To me wine is not that versatile but rather I would establish my own whisky .reason being I passionately love whisky and there isn’t much whisky distillers that are black and mixologists, my dream is to create a single grain peated whisky and would probably name it the ‘Khumalo’ peated single grain whisky , as my people believed there’s wealth and health is in the soil and maize/corn is a staple food in my culture and it will associate with our continent and our heritage would be spread in every corner in the world.