In the mix
A MIXOLOGIST isn’t just a job mixing cocktails and serving drinks. You are also an entertainer, doctor, psychologist and psychiatrist.
Phillip Antoine can attest to being all of the above. The 29-year-old past student of Alleyne School holds the title of Bartender of the Year, having won NIFCA (National Independence Festival of Creative Arts) gold last year and is also the current ambassador and poster boy for Claytons Kola Tonic.
He is also the lead mixologist on the Barbados culinary team in training for the annual Taste Of The Caribbean competition in Miami in June.
He started bartending when Club Extreme was the hotspot for partying. Being a regular in the club he was well known to the staff and one night with a shortage behind the bar he offered to help.
The manager didn’t take kindly to a stranger behind the bar and “he ordered me out from there three times. After each time I kept sneaking back when he wasn’t looking. The last time I saw him coming I was ducking out and he said ‘no stay since you are so adamant in helping’. At the end of the night he paid me $100 and told me if I wanted a job come back the next day.”
Phillip did and stayed there for four years, learning all he could on the job and yes making many mistakes.
When the club closed he moved onto TGIF, where “my passion for mixing cocktails began. That was in 2010.”
He has since changed a couple of jobs, moving from Lime Bar to Drift Lounge, with a couple months at the Boatyard and is now the lead bartender at the Red Door.
He said he is a harsh critic of himself and his drive and passion to succeed has placed him where he is now.
“I learnt a lot through hard knocks and on the job and I did a lot of seminars . . . every one I could attend. Then I met Jamaal Bowen, who is also my mentor on the culinary team. Jamaal has been an inspiration to me.”
One of his hard knocks has to do with the same culinary team where last year he was the “shadow” to lead bartender Rohan Hackshaw, but never made it to Miami.
He suffered a crushing blow – a broken ankle in three places three weeks before the team was to leave and spent three weeks in the hospital.
“That was crushing to me. I really wanted to go and represent the team. Hackshaw was the lead bartender and I was the back up so it didn’t really affect the team that much.”
This year it is the reverse as he is the lead and Hackshaw is the backup.
“I train three days a week for about four to five hours a day,” says the Food, Wine & Rum leading mixologist for the past three years.
Throwing the glasses and bottles around with ease, which gave me some anxious moments, he assured me nothing will go wrong.
“Preparations are going well. Jamaal is coming up with some good creations, working closely with me. We are competing in three categories: non alcoholic, rum and vodka. There is also a mystery basket round as well. So far we have our drinks ready, we are just tweaking them. I am doing my ingredients research and my reading, and basically just working on my presentation styles and my techniques.
“A lot of pressure is on me. I have big shoes to fill that being of Jamaal who won the competition already and Rohan last year had the best run and non alcoholic drink.”
He says a lot of people stop him on the street to congratulate him on his achievements.
His one go-to ingredient? A lime.
“Most balanced cocktails carry a citrus element and lime being common and Caribbean you can get many creations – from margaritas to rum punches.
“My favourite cocktail to mix is sours, which has in lime, and my favourite drink to make is what I won Bartender Of The Year with – Essence of Passion – (bayleaf, passion fruit, simple syrup, coconut essence and lots of love,” he said, laughing.
What does a mixologist order when he is out? “I order an Extra Old and Sprite with one ounce of angostura bitters on the side. The bitters keep me sober.”
What are his pet peeves? He dislikes rude people and also telling a customer who asks for a specific drink that they don’t carry the ingredients.
“I am happy that now people are seeing it [mixologist] as a career,” says the certified interior decorator and dad of son Cacique Antoine.