Bartender Nkuli opens up about challenges women face in the male-dominated industry

09 October 2019 - 14:06
By Karabo Ledwaba
Nkuli Khanyile
Image: Instagram Nkuli Khanyile

Award winning bartender Nonkululeko Khanyile has risen to the top despite the tough male-dominated industry.

The 22-year-old economics and politics student at Wits University signed up straight after high school to train as a bartender to make extra money as a new student.

“After high school I wanted to make extra money, so I applied to a mobile bar company and did my training. I then found myself still in this industry three years later,” she said.

Earlier this year, Khanyile won the Newcomer of the Year award at the 2019 South African BAR awards, she was also in the top ten internationally.

Despite her success and becoming a manager at Molecular Bars, she said that female bartenders face more challenges than their male counterparts.

“It has been good, but there has been some stereotype issues with me being a woman. For instance with whiskey, men look down on you and think you couldn’t possibly know what you’re talking about,” she said.

Khanyile also said men also sexually harass female bartenders particularly at open events.

“There's always people trying to get your number, but you’re just trying to work,” she said.

However, the bubbly spirits master said the industry is constantly changing and has become more welcoming to women.

“It has definitely grown, we even have women entering cocktail competitions. This is good because men can be intimidating. It is humbling to see that the industry has changed,” said Khanyile.

Khanyile said she wants to continue growing in the industry and eventually open her own restaurant.

“I wanted to become a chef or a pastry chef, but I think through this industry I can grow towards food,” she said.

Khanyile was the resident bartender at the US distilled spirits: Summer in the City cocktail and spirits tasting in Sandton in September, where new spirits that have not yet been introduced to South Africa where being tasted by experts in the field.