What better way to get into the swing of things and ready for summer than mixing up a colourful cocktail or two? We catch up with young mixologist, Tanealé van der Merwe, from Greenstone Hill.
Creative, inspiring and driven are some of the words that come to mind when speaking to Tanealé.
We met up with her at the Mesh Club to learn about her journey to becoming a mixologist and a brand ambassador.
The MasterChef of bartending
Once Tanealé completed her high school career she wanted to pursue her dream of becoming an animator but also wanted to study and become an occupational or physiotherapist.
‘I was accepted into Wits and studied a BSC in biological science and majored in human physiology, zoology and environmental sciences.’
The decision to pursue mixology came about as sort of an accident when Tanealé was in her final year of university and she needed a job.
In 2019, with close to a year of experience, Tanealé and a friend decided to enter Diageo’s World Class Competition. She described this as the MasterChef of bartending.
‘It was overwhelming, the people I was competing against on a provincial level were very experienced.
‘We competed in a speed round and had to make drinks within a certain time and I had never worked in high volume bars.
‘While we were having dinner and I was listening only with half an ear when they announced the national finalists. My name was the last one they announced. I sat there dazed – like those movie scenes.’
During the national finals, Tanealé won a tasting challenge.
‘It’s my one brag, as the closest person to me at the time in the competition had three years experience and the most experienced person had been doing it for 17 years.
‘To have won one of the challenges against those guys was crazy, I didn’t believe it. They didn’t believe it. We just sat there with dropped jaws.’
Despite the pressure and the stress caused by the competition, Tanealé excelled and made the top six of the competition.
‘I was the first woman to make the top six and that was amazing.’
Soon after the world-class competition, Tanealé entered the Patrón Perfectionists cocktail competition where she made it to the national finals in Cape Town.
A new chapter
While working at Cin Cin in Bedfordview and then in Houghton earlier this year, Tanealé said she realised her journey with bartending and serving drinks was nearing its end.
‘I needed more out of life and wanted more than creating and serving drinks.’
One thing lead to another and she became a brand ambassador for Pernod Ricard’s gin range.
As a brand ambassador Tanealé is now in a position to educate, mentor and teach others in a way she couldn’t previously.
Tanealé described herself as an advocate for adventure in South Africa and hopes to explore as much of the country as possible because she believes SA is filled with many hidden gems and talent.
‘I think there are a lot of uneducated people who are not in a position to be fortunate enough to receive education and be mentored. I strongly feel that we have to reach out and ask.
“The only way you are ever going to have a mentor is if you ask them to be one.’
Creating a better tomorrow
Throughout her years in the industry, Tanealé explained that she has always held herself to a high standard trying to be as responsible as possible.
I don’t believe in getting drunk, which relates to the bad drinking culture that exists in SA. I’d rather spend my money on one great cocktail than drinking excessively.’
She is also trying to promote a healthy drinking culture.
‘It’s important to me that we change the drinking culture in SA and we become responsible drinkers and bartenders become responsible servers.’
While doing training, Tanealé encourages bartenders to use their own discretion and look out for customers who may have consumed too much alcohol.
Life away from work
Although she has been kept busy with work, Tanealé said looking after one’s body and mind is something she was recently reminded of.
With a passion for drawing, Tanealé is teaching herself graphic design and is also busy learning French, Portuguese and Spanish.
‘I love to dwell in art but it’s just a time management thing at the moment because with the new job came new responsibilities.’
Mix it up
Tanealé took the opportunity to show off her skills and made a Negroni, a popular Italian cocktail with Beefeaters Gin.
To create the cocktail pour equal parts gin, vermouth and Campari into a large glass or jar.
Add ice to the mixture and stir before straining it and pouring it over the rocks in a tumbler.
For garnish gently squeeze a strip of orange peel over the cocktail before giving it a slight twist and adding it to the drink.
• Do you prefer food, travel or art?
I love all of them
- Indoors or outdoors person?
• You can be bribed at any day or any time with?
A trip and all-inclusive tour of Disney Land.
- Wardrobe must-haves?
Everything’s a must-have but definitely sneakers and heels.
- The word or phrase which best describes you as a person?
If your presence doesn’t make an impact your absence won’t make a difference.
• Your pet peeves?
Pink drinks just being for females. Gender does not exist in drinks.
- Your favourite drink?
So many to choose from. My top three are an Aviation made with gin, a Sazerac which combines Brandy and Bourbon and a Whiskey Sour.
- If you can do one thing before you die you would?
I would like to own shares in Disney or Lego.
- Advice for those wanting to work in hospitality or towards being a brand ambassador?
Get a mentor and try everything. You never know what you will like until you try.
* Text: STEPHAN LEHMAN. Photo: MARCO VAN DER WALT.