booming career

If you have ever watched Tom Cruise's movie Cocktail you will agree that the soaring of the bartending career has been a long time coming. They made it look like pie in the sky, but it has now even hit South Africa.

If you have ever watched Tom Cruise's movie Cocktail you will agree that the soaring of the bartending career has been a long time coming. They made it look like pie in the sky, but it has now even hit South Africa.

No more do you see the lofty kind bartenders behind a dingy smoky bar with nothing going for him but their good ear and intuitive eye.

These days, bartenders are in good demand and their skill even more so. They look good too.

Ben Ndumndum, 30, of Northcliff, Johannesburg, has seen this busting well and is fast becoming a brand name with many other little black Tom Cruise's under his wings.

He has started a company called Mix Masters and watching them do their thing is something of a phenomenon. They can steal the show with their flaring styles and people skills.

Yet, he argues that flairing is just the icing on the service cake. "All that is just for entertainment but the most crucial things are the customer and her drink," he says.

He says through thorough training he has honed his people's acumen and has mastered the art of bartending like he's never imagined. While mixing a few cocktails for us, he explains: "My favourite customers are the kind that come and ask for suggestions. This ignites something in me.

"I will look at things like the weather, their personal style, what they are going to be eating and when because all these matter. And if you give the perfect cocktail at the most appropriate time of day, you have found yourself a customer for life."

My friend Trudy Mofutsanyana is a femme fatale who vowed on a pile of Bibles never to be seen drinking from the bottle. Upon hearing this fact she concludes: "The days of beer are over. I am a new recruit for this lifestyle. Look at this drink, it complements my palate and my outfit."

To make this even more intoxicating, Ndumndum and his friends take the party to you, providing all the alcoholic necessities like the half bar, the bartenders and bar manager, alcohol, ingredients, glasses and all the drinks decorations.

Ndumndum tells me that almost all alcoholic cocktails have their sober version. He also gave an example by making us a Rose Cherry Tini, something straight out of Beyoncé's yacht. I have never tasted a cocktail so good. My friends and I agreed it was the best thing since alcohol itself. "It's fresh, it's delicious and it leaves your mouth smelling good," commented my friend Babalwa. But when he offered us the same drink's non-alcoholic version, we sang an oh, ah tune.

Ndumndum said 12 years into the business he is still amazed at the changing faces of bartenders. Like me he grew up thinking that people who served alcohol were mean spirited, unscrupulous scar-faced characters, who drenched themselves in make-up and bad attitude. "But when I realised the responsibility that comes with the nature of this business, I wonder how the old players managed to get away with their old school ways."

For training and an entry into the world of the buzz, Mix Masters are offering bartending courses.

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