After being awarded the title of 2016 Diageo World Class Bartender of the Year Joan Samia’s life has been a whirlwind of media attention and training for the finals in Miami.
I’m surprised no one ever asks me about my pin” Samia muses, “it’s my good luck charm”. Sitting on the top left of her apron is a shiny metal pin with the outline of a heart and a person sitting in it sideways. Joan Samia wears her lucky pin every time she gets behind the bar. The pin is the symbol of the 3E Love company that works to raise awareness for people with disabilities. Samia’s daughter has Cerebral Palsy and when Samia found out, she went from being an actress on shows like Makutano Junction and Tahidi High, to working in the hospitality industry. “I felt I needed to hide from the world” reflects Samia. Little did Samia know, being a part of the hospitality industry would lead her to find her passion in bartending.
Samia started her journey as a waitress at Onami in Westgate Mall. There she one day decided to try her hand at working behind the bar. At the time, she knew nothing about bartending & mixology. Samia spent six months behind the bar learning about ingredients, liquors and how the bar works. One day, Samia was standing behind the bar alone when a customer came in and asked for a mojito. She looked for a bartender to assist but when she couldn’t find one, she nervously decided to make it herself. The mojito was a success and it started her career in cocktail creation. After working at the bar in Onami, Samia spent some time at Kempinski where she completed the Utalii bartending course as well as learned more about spirits, ingredients and mixing. She returned to Artcaffe last year where she became the Head Bartender.
Today, Samia holds the title of the 2016 Diageo World Class Bartender of the Year. She received a lot of media attention after her win but has since been keeping her head down and doing research for the final event that will take place in Miami this September. “It’s a great feeling to be representing Kenya and I want to win [the competition] for Kenya and most importantly, for Artcaffe” says Samia. “I want people to want to come to Artcaffe because they’ve heard of me and how I won the competition”. Samia has been practicing her cocktail making at the Artcaffe Golden Shaker event that takes place at different Artcaffe branches every Wednesday. At this event, Samia showcases nine of the fourteen winning cocktails from the Diageo World Class competition. Samia has given Yummy an exclusive look into three of these cocktails and how they’re made.