Shake, rattle and stir – Let’s hear it for our bartenders

February 24, 2023 (Last Updated: February 21, 2023)
Bartender making cocktails

With World Bartender Day in February, ANGOSTURA® aromatic bitters asked two of South Africa’s leading bartenders to tell us their stories about how they add a dash to their favourite bittered cocktails.

Cocktail culture is hitting a new high in South Africa and bartenders are our new rockstars: shaking, rattling and stirring with generous measures of creativity, skill, cutting-edge technique, and panache. World Bartender Day (24th February) celebrates the talent, creative flair and hospitable aplomb that is the stock-in-trade of a good bartender. ANGOSTURA® aromatic bitters chatted to two of SA’s top bartenders to find out their perspective:

Alecs Powrie, head bartender at Art of Duplicity, found her way into bartending by serendipity. “It was never on my radar. I actually started as a florist, then I was a barista for 4 years. Coffee got me into hospitality, and then I started working in bars. I landed up in Cause|Effect Cocktail Kitchen and Cape Brandy Bar, and that’s where my passion for bartending started.” Her studies in musical theatre have proved useful however, she says,

“When I started to think of a bar as a stage of its own, that’s when my mind started to transform.”


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Besides skill, creativity, persistence, passion and pure hard work, there’s an elusive extra element to excellence in bartending, Alecs says:

“It takes a certain kind of personality to be behind a bar and to deal with customers, whether they’re at their best or at their worst. Reading their minds when it comes to making them a drink, knowing how to handle them. You can teach somebody skills, but you can’t teach them personality.”

A fast-evolving profession

The renaissance of a global cutting-edge cocktail culture over the last decade has put the industry on fast-forward in South Africa.

“Since my start in this industry roughly twelve years ago, the entire industry has changed. We have developed techniques, strategies, methodology and community that has revolutionised our industry,” says Jody Francis, co-owner of Fable.


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Jody grew up in the hospitality industry from the age of nine, he says, “however my path into the bar industry and passion for drinks started as a night-time side hustle while I was working in construction.” One memorable experience that determined his career trajectory was being part of the opening team of Lucky Shaker behind the legendary Michael Stephenson.

“Our team brought most of the modern drinks techniques to South Africa. The skill and knowledge curated behind this bar started a journey of success and passion.”

And there’s good news for women aspiring to get into the industry: “It used to be very seldom you saw female bartenders. I’m seeing a lot more support amongst and for women, and especially the guys standing up for us,” says Alecs. “It’s been great to see more females step behind the bar and take positions of power, whether in brands, front of house, bartending, or running schools.”

Spirit guidance

For those thinking of making bartending their career, Jody advises,

“Find multiple mentors that speak to different focus areas you want to learn and develop. Engage with these mentors regularly. Focus on developing all skills, as a well-rounded bartender beats a master of one area every time.”

Alecs adds, “It’s hard work. If you make it your passion, your career and your life goal, you really can get so much out of it. Be persistent and treat it like a career. Keep on picking up skills from other people, keep on being inspired by global bartenders. It doesn’t stop when you learn how to make a drink. It goes so much further than that.”


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The bitter truth

No bar is complete without the distinctive bottle wrapped in an over-sized paper label that is ANGOSTURA® aromatic bitters. “It’s the salt and pepper of every bar. Nothing else comes close to it,” says Alecs. “If a drink is missing that little something extra, just a few dashes of ‘Ango’ and it’s ready to go!”

Every bartender has a personal favourite way of using bitters and we asked our bartenders to share theirs:

Alecs: – “My favourite cocktail using ANGOSTURA® aromatic bitters has got to be a Trinidad Sour, probably in my top three cocktails ever, I’m absolutely obsessed, I love it so much!”

Jody: – “I love a Dark ’n Stormy cocktail, rum, lime, ginger beer, and ANGOSTURA® aromatic bitters – it’s for all seasons with not too much but enough depth of character. However my all-time favourite is a refreshing and all-day-drinking Rock Shandy: 8 dashes of bitters please, and mix it in thanks.”

So let’s hear it for all our talented SA bartenders, who are mixing up a (dark and) storm(y) and pushing the bar ever higher when it comes to cocktail creativity.

ALSO SEE: Cape Town mixologist set to represent SA in global Patrón competition

Cape Town mixologist set to represent SA in global Patrón competition

Issued by Paddington Station PR

Feature image: Rawpixel via Getty Images

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