Fresh for his ecstatic win at the Diageo World Class Kenya Bartender competition is Patrick Mutua, who can hardly contain his excitement at the thought of heading to Berlin for the next stage of the global competition. Leroy Buliro catches up with him at the Balcony Bar, his den of mixology, in order to immortalise his victory on the pages of Yummy magazine.
It is a cold chilly morning as the photographer and I set off for Villa Rosa Kempinski to meet up with the cocktail man of the hour, Patrick Mutua. Up the stairs we head to the softly-lit Balcony Bar. We walk through the door, past the lattice wood paneling and a table at which a group of three people are ordering mid morning drinks. Behind the large white bar we find Mutua, known to everyone at Pato, preparing for the interview. Dressed in a blue flat-ironed shirt with matching trousers and tie and a checked brown horseshoe waistcoat, he welcomes us with a warm smile, asking if we would like to have some tea before proceeding with the interview (unlike the people at the other table, some of us have work to do and cocktails at 11am on a Wednesday aren’t quite part of the job description).
I observe a small intriguing looking leather duffle bag placed to the side of the bar. Noticing my curiosity, Mutua explains that it contains the trophy cocktail shaker that he got for winning the competition. “Wherever I go, it goes. This is my baby,” he picks it up possessively, flashing us a large proud grin.
We walk outside to the balcony, make ourselves comfortable at the gazebo seats as he clicks open his bag and pulls out the shiny cocktail shaker which he gently places on the table.
He confesses that this is still all such a surprise and that he had never really imagined that he would be the winner. The competition lasted weeks and involved relentless trials and night time preparation sessions before the big day. He will never forget the feeling of elation that rushed through his nervous system when his name was called out loud by Douglas Duncanson, the Diageo East Africa Senior Brand Ambassador. Now he awaits his maiden trip to Berlin, Germany, where he will battle it out with the best bartenders in the world for the International title.
How did you family react to your win?
Funnily enough, my parents always thought I was a chef, so when I told them that I was a mixologist I had to explain to them what that actually was. For my dad it was easy, I just put on my mixology hat and whipped up a cocktail for him. As for my mom, all she said was, “Kumbe ni pombe!” (Roughly: “Oh it’s just booze!”). Nevertheless both are happy for what I have achieved.
At what point did you know that being a mixologist was your calling?
There’s this one time I was invited for a kids’ birthday party to make drinks [for the grownups]. The host loved what I did and from that day on I started receiving more requests to make cocktails at private parties. After a couple events, I could tell that this is going somewhere and that’s when I decided to take mixology seriously and take it to another level.
Who would you say inspires you and why?
Alex Kavita has definitely been inspirations. He’s one of the pioneers who took mixology to the next level among Kenyan bartenders. He goes an extra mile to make sure you have the basic information and skills to push your career forward. The Diageo team have also been instrumental in teaching me more about pushing the limits of cocktail making.
The most fun moment in your career so far?
It has to be when I upgraded from a bartender to mixologist.
A Keg at your local pub or beer runs in Berlin?
Beer runs in Berlin just for the curiosity of trying something new.
Cocktail or on the rocks?
That’s a tricky one. I know am failing my fellow mixologists but I’ll have to go with on the rocks, just because you get to sail in the mind of the distiller, you appreciate the craft and mastery they put in the drink.
If, hypothetically speaking of course, peaceful aliens were to come to Earth. What drink would you mix up for them?
This time round I would like to do something with champagne. Why champagne? Because I would like to celebrate them. I don’t know what their mission is, destruction or pleasure. I would just like to bring them that moment of joy.
Advice to a fellow mixologist who is thinking of giving up on the craft?
There’s nothing that doesn’t come for a reason, we as human beings sometimes tend to forget that we don’t determine our own destinations. These things are God given. Just because Patrick is making it and he just came the other day while you have been at it for years, doesn’t mean you should give up. My package is not the same as yours. Don’t give up yet! The word giving up does not exist in my world. The moment I discovered that I can bury giving up, is the moment failure stopped following me.
Follow Patrick on IG: @pato_tush