Nakita Cummins is creating a buzz
AT RED DOOR, Nakita Cummins is behind the bar, pulling various bottles off the shelves and creating recipes for guests. Nakita’s cocktail style is classic but not conservative – she goes on what she was trained but also pulls from the likes of her customer.
Just a year ago she was a hostess at Red Door, but all that changed one busy night.
“Last year around February at Red Door is when I started mixology and bartending. It’s just a year, not very long. Before that I was just a hostess . . . . It was actually a very spontaneous thing. It was a busy night at Red Door and there was a station opened behind the bar which was swamped.
“I just jumped behind the bar. Obviously I didn’t know how to mix any cocktails then, but I was just serving rum and cokes, vodka tonic, the fast and easy drinks to push off the crowd. I pushed the cocktails to the bartenders but I found that I liked it.
“After that, it was me literally begging my boss [Dominic Seale] to let me try out for the bar. He let me try a few cocktails and I sucked at it. I couldn’t mix a drink for nothing. I kept practising and eventually I became more cemented behind the bar and now it’s like I’m one of the original bartenders,” she said, laughing at the memory as she chatted with EASY magazine.
“I would go to work an hour early, two hours early and I’m so grateful to my boss for actually allowing me to do that. That’s how determined I was to get behind the bar.”
The 26-year-old is now landing top spots in competitions beating out some of the big boys who have been in it way longer than she has.
She said the method to her mixing is creating a recipe book.
“I jot recipes down or if I have an idea or just thought of something, I jot it down. My drink always starts with my spirit. I guess that’s because I’m so fresh into it so I go based on how I was trained. My trainer always taught me to start with my spirit [the alcohol being used] whether it is rum, vodka or gin. From that he told us to pull tasting notes which are basically how it was made, what it was made of, the finish, the start from when you taste it on the palate, what flavours it brings on the palate.
“From that you can pull flavours from it and you would know what would pair well with it and what wouldn’t and that’s how I do my cocktails,” Nakita explained.
The bar supervisor at Sugar Bay Barbados loves the look on people’s faces when they taste one of her concoctions.
“For me – I don’t know about any other bartender – it’s because I could not mix a drink for anything. I would mix a drink and give my boss to taste and instantly, from the look on his face, I would know that it sucked.
“I always used that look to motivate myself to want to do better. Then the experience of bartending at Red Door is not like bartending anywhere else. So, for me, the love comes from where I work. At Red Door, it’s just Red Door, I just love working there. The pace, the people, the music, the atmosphere . . . . It is really nice and I just fell in love with the bar,” she gushed.
Nakita said there are people who come to the bar are in disbelief when she is spotted behind the bar.
“They say, ‘You can make drinks? Let me see what you can do’. They’re curious and very eager to find out how good you are,” she stated.
She leans towards mixing sours.
“I’m the sour queen”, she professed, adding that women love Amaretto sours, while the men preferred gin, whisky, brandy sours.
“[A sour] is basically what you want in it; for example, vodka, lime juice, sugar and egg white. You don’t taste or smell the egg white, it’s there for presentation and it makes it look so nice,” she shared.
The mixologist knows her customers and what they like. Men, she said, prefer the hard stuff but women like wine more so than the sweet and the sour stuff. They would also try cocktails and take pictures of them.
The most challenging part of her job is mixing a drink she does not know. When that happens though, she would ask a colleague or Google the classic recipe.
She has also mixed drinks with ingredients given to her by customers, a procedure she gets excited about as it becomes part of her learning process.
“I’m kind of a perfectionist when it comes to cocktails. You go to Red Door and always see me measuring my ingredients. I do it even when I don’t have to . . . . I am so specific and that’s based on the fact that I couldn’t make drinks,” she said, laughing again.
“All my motivation comes from that one fact: that I couldn’t mix a drink for anything. I always make sure I’m on point with my mixes,” she said.
But long before mixology and bartending became her “new found love”, she danced and sang and acted a bit.
“Dancing is my first love before anything. I’ve been dancing since I was in Class 1 at Pine Primary. I joined the school’s dance group because I liked to dance. I thought it was something that seemed like fun just from watching the various dance groups at concerts.
“I started with my first dance teacher Ramoun Joseph and I never stopped. I went on to dance with Israel Lovell Foundation, then Dance Machine and after that I just branched off and did my own thing because, by then, I had proper recognition where artists would contact me directly. I didn’t need to go out to find work,” she said.
Nakita danced for several artistes at Crop Over, did CARIFESTA and Barbados On The Water in Canada with the Israel Lovell Foundation. She is not averse to learning new genres, she told EASY, but leans towards African dancing, modern, hip hop and jazz.
Singing is nothing more than a hobby and apart from winning a community pageant titled Festival Queen back in 2003, where she sang a Whitney Houston song, she has done nothing more than background vocals. Last year during Crop Over, she worked with an artiste named Cappuccino on his song Soca Calling Me.
“I can sing though,” she said, laughing.
“I auditioned for a scholarship to the Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts [in Canada]. You had to act, sing and dance at the audition; you had to be good at all three to get the scholarship. I was one of them who got it . . . but I didn’t take it up.”
Instead she delved into a career where her journey so far can be summed up in one word: “Awesome,” she said. (GBM)