Behind The Bar With Yvonne Wairimu

Behind The Bar With Yvonne Wairimu

To be taken seriously as a woman behind the bar is a difficult task that is still felt in some areas of the industry. The bar is becoming less of a man's world every year and there are more and more women who are at the forefront of modern mixology. Yvonne Wairimu, in-house mixologist at Pernod Ricard is one of those ladies.

She has a true passion for taste and innovation in her bar (Wemix Cocktail Lounge) and a constant need to provide only the best drinks to her patrons.

After planning for weeks, the BarsKenya team decided to take a short road trip to bustling Thika and see how Yvonne is changing the cocktail culture in this budding town.

You’ve been making cocktails for almost 17 years. How did you get started in mixology?

Immediately after high school I did waitressing for a while but I was so intrigued by drinks at the counter that the manager gave up on me and decided because I was always at the bar instead of tending to my customers I might as well work there. I have been a bartender for 17yrs but the first 8years I was a dispense bartender getting to know the ins and outs of how to operate behind the counter. From my 9th year that is when I took mixology seriously and since then I have never turned back.

My journey started that way.....

As a female mixologist, what is most challenging about what you do?

Being a female in a male dominated industry has not been an easy journey in the beginning. Simply because you work at night everyone wants to put you in a box and label you something you're not. With time and after proving my intentions were right I got the respect I deserved from both my fellow bartenders and clients alike. Advice to women in the industry respect yourself and know your priorities. Our male counterparts also get paid better in this industry regardless of how good you are as a female bartender or mixologist.

Winning the Absolut mixology competition in 2012 was a life changing moment for me. After that I was able to work with Pernod Ricard Kenya a company that is very interested in growing and elevating bartenders and bartending here in Kenya.

You’ve created many of your own cocktails over the years. Can you tell us about some of the famous ones and where you get your inspiration when getting behind the bar?

I have so many drinks and honestly speaking my inspiration comes from all over but the few things I always keep in mind is

I always use fresh ingredients as much as possible

Know your clients taste e.g from experience I have realized majority of Kenyans have a sweet

At times keeping things simple makes the whole difference

Most importantly I have a passion for this job....every time I get behind the bar my greatest desire is to put smiles on people's faces and to get that satisfactory nod.

How do you get to create the drink lists for Wemix Lounge?

Our target market for Wemix Lounge is the youth. The concept is to bring good quality cocktails to them at affordable prices. We call it "Cocktails mtaani". Our most affordable cocktail is 100kshs but our top shelf is well stocked with brands like Absolute Elyx, different single malts, different Xo cognacs, high end gins and champagne. Therefore we are able to cater for everyone's needs.

Being in the industry for so long and having struggled initially when I was starting off, I mentor young and upcoming bartenders very seriously. I don't want them to go through what I went's time to break the cycle and share information.

What is your signature cocktail and what is the cocktail that everyone has to try at Wemix?

The no. 1 Signature drink for me is the cocktail I made in the Absolut mixology competition in 2012. It was called Hidden Secrets and it's ingredients included 45ml Absolut Citron 15ml Amaretto Disarron ginger syrup lime juice basil and a top up of ginger ale. The all time favorite is the Wemix wonder with Absolut mango peach snaps liqueur, rosemary, sour mix and a top up of ginger beer.

Do you have a certain philosophy when it comes to what you put in your drinks?

Like I explained earlier, for me fresh ingredients keeping it simple and knowing my target markets taste that is what I base my philosophy in. Most times I have the pleasure to advice clients on what to do or what ingredients to choose from. Based on results you find most clients end up changing their minds on trying new things.

What’s the first piece of advice you would give to a bartender opening their first bar?

The best advice I can give to a bartender looking to open their first bar is do serious research........research on what your target market is what they like what will keep them coming and what will make you stand out from other bars. Once you open, professionalism, quality of service, Customer relationship and PR is everything. Set your standards and maintain them. Research on the rules that govern the industry as well.

Clients and customers that have and will continue enjoying my drinks......they are the reason i look forward to going behind the bar everyday

What would you say has been the most memorable experience in the industry?

My most memorable experience in this industry is finally opening the Wemix cocktail and Sheeha many years of hard work and experience finally fulfilled my dreams of owning a cocktail bar. Also winning the Absolut mixology competition in 2012 was a life changing moment for me. After that I was able to work with Pernod Ricard Kenya, a company that is very interested in growing and elevating bartenders and bartending here in Kenya. Through the company I have also managed to get a lot of experience and made different contact with different stake holders in this industry.

What's your ultimate tip on how to party like a boss?

1. Drink alcohol because you want not because it's there for free.

2. Always drink what you can afford to pay for even if the booze is for free

3. Hydrate at all times and eat before drinking and keep snacking in between.

You can catch up with Yvonne on her social media accounts:

Instagram @yvnrasta, @wemixexpress
Twitter @yvnrasta, @wemixexpress