It’s all in the mix

2015-06-30 15:22
AJ Snetler of Port Elizabeth will compete against the country’s best cocktail experts at the national round of Diageo Reserve World Class bartender of the year competition in Johannesburg this month. 
Photo: 
theo jeptha

AJ Snetler of Port Elizabeth will compete against the country’s best cocktail experts at the national round of Diageo Reserve World Class bartender of the year competition in Johannesburg this month. Photo: theo jeptha

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AT first glance it looks like a blur of shake and pour, but for a PE bartender mixing cocktails is an art - and now he has been recognised as one of South Africa’s leading “artists”.

AJ Snetler (25) is one of the six finalists in die Diageo Reserve World Class Bartender-of-the-year competition to be held in Johannesburg from July 14 to 16.

The competition, in its seventh year, does not usually include bartenders from the Eastern Cape, explained Snetler from behind the counter of the Soho Lounge in Richmond Hill, where he has been working as a bartender since 2014.

“I had to compete in Cape Town with bartenders from across the Western Cape,” said Snetler. “The regional round consisted of four days of workshops and training. The competition is definitely worthwhile for anyone with a passion for cocktails. “

Snetler shares that passion. “Last year I went to the Cape Town rounds with my colleague and my boss to see how it works, and I was interested immediately. It takes hard work and a lot of experiments to make good cocktails. Each part is a learning process.”

Snetler is up against two finalists from KwaZulu-Natal, three from Johannesburg and one from Cape Town. The national winner will compete against the top bartenders from 57 countries in September, to be crowned international champion.

This round will be held in Cape Town for the first time, and Snetler is ready.

“Cocktails nowadays are not just a drink, but an experience. The stranger the ingredients, the better.

“The process is very creative, because there are fine details to consider that most people do not think about. Even the purity of the ice can affect the taste.”

Whether he wins or not, Snetler is sure the experience will have positive results. “I want to bring the lessons I learned from the competition back and teach my colleagues - then I’ll take them with me next year.”

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