Born and bred in Johannesburg, Mmiso Luphondo is a mixologist who has been in the industry for little over two years. The fact that he was a judge at Opihr World Adventure Cocktail Competition regional finals says a lot about the great strides he has made in his career. In a Q&A session with BLQ, he talked us through his journey.

 

 

WHO EXACTLY IS MMISO LUPHONDO AND WHAT IS HE ABOUT?

Creativity has always been my forte and mixology is something I believe I was brought to the world to do. Among other interests, this has captured me the most.

 

WHERE DID YOUR JOURNEY INTO MIXOLOGY START AND HOW DID IT COME ABOUT?

My journey into mixology started two years ago by chance. I was hosting a focus group dinner for my previous company (Until Until) and was given stock. We were required to create cocktails to accompany the food. I was nominated to be the barman for the evenings and it went so well that I started getting requests to do birthdays. A year later, I met a gentleman named Allesandro Khojane who gave me the opportunity to run the bar at his restaurant, Gemelli Cucina, and together we opened what is now known as Phirinyane bar. I have grown so much as a person from this experience; it has equipped me with interpersonal skills, and I have learnt how to keep a business running like a well-oiled machine.

 

WHAT CHALLENGES HAVE YOU FACED AS A MIXOLOGIST THUS FAR?

I haven’t faced many challenges. Fortunately, we have the internet as our guide and that has been the source of most of my knowledge on spirits and beverages as a whole. The career itself is a very niche one, so making people understand what it is you do and what mixology entails is something that’s very new to a lot of people. I don’t see it as a challenge though, I view it as an opportunity to educate aspiring mixologists and to share the art of what we do.

 

LET’S SPEAK ON BEING A BLACK BODY IN WHAT CAN BE SEEN AS A VERY EXCLUSIONARY INDUSTRY. HOW DO YOU NAVIGATE THAT PART OF YOUR CAREER?

I always believe if your work has value and quality, everything else sort of aligns as a result. I have experienced this and my love for what I do has got me to where I am. Funny enough, I haven’t tried to convince anyone that I am good at what I do or that I deserve a place in the industry. Where I am right now is due to the fact that I have been proactive in the industry. Challenges that may arise could centre around access. Knowing where to find info and getting people who are willing to share their knowledge is a challenge and that is why I feel it’s important to form a community within the bartending industry and share opportunities and knowledge to help one another grow.

 

 

TELL US MORE ABOUT OPENING YOUR OWN BUSINESS AND THE JOURNEY FROM MIXOLOGY TO ENTREPRENEURSHIP?

I was very lucky to be given the opportunity. Finding the balance between giving people drinks and managing the back end of the business is something I am still working on. Entrepreneurship has always been a part of my journey, especially when it comes to mixology and I have a registered company called Mmisology. It was my introduction to the business side of things. I have learnt a lot from both the bar and the mobile bar service business, everything from creating cocktails to time management and client relations.

 

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR MMISO AND WHERE ARE YOU HEADED?

I would like to be known and seen as the opinion leader in alcohol. When you think about alcohol, Mmisology must come to mind. Travelling with my profession is also on the cards. I want to educate people about the beauty and craftsmanship that go into mixing and making the beverages that people enjoy so much. I also want to open bars all over the place so that I can empower other aspiring mixologists and groom everyone I work with to

become the person I’ve become and more.

 

IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF MIXOLOGY IN THE COUNTRY AND THE WORLD?

Right now, people can’t differentiate between a bartender and a mixologist. The moment people see that a living can be made from this vocation, that’s when we will see the change in attitude towards this field. Bar culture is growing, and people view cocktails as more than just something women consume – cocktails are for everyone. With education and exposure, people will start to see the value of what we do. Just like chefs, mixologists are a very important part of the community and I really do believe there is a bright future for this space. There is an untapped market that needs attention and my mission is to make it easily accessible to your average South African consumer.