We had the pleasure of interviewing one of Mzansi mixologist, Dino Batista, who was placed second at The Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge a couple of weeks back.
BEST: What is the difference between a Mixologist and a Bartender?
DINO: There really isn’t much of a difference – though everybody has their own interpretation of each of these. They’re just, to me, different versions of each other depending on how fancy you want to be.
BEST: When & at what age did you decide you wanted to tend a bar?
DINO: It just kind of developed naturally while I was studying, so about 18. I started to become more and more submerged within the industry and before I know it I was in deep. There was no specific moment that I decided ‘this is what I am now’. You start little bit, little bit until you have your own company and representing SA at global competitions.
BEST: Tell us about yourself growing up?
DINO: Well I had a fairly normal childhood, part of it lived in the South of Joburg – you could tell by my red Mohawk and shaved sides. A lot has changed since then. I have always had a creative streak in me which I have channelled through my cocktails and ideas of design. I never really was much of a sportsman but put more of myself in to the arts, which has helped me greatly when you have to present your cocktail on stage and entertain a crowd at the same time.
BEST: You recently won second place at the Angostura® Global Cocktail Challenge, tell us more about that experience?
DINO: Wow, what an incredible experience – and not just because I placed well in the competition. Trinidad is an incredible place – the friendly people, the laid back Caribbean lifestyle, the tasty food (I came back a bit more of a person than when I left) and the culture. We were lucky enough to be fully immersed in the traditions of the locals from drinking as much rum as a pirate to being part of Carnival. If there ever was a time you were going to go to Trinidad, it has to be part of Carnival! 12 hours of dancing down the streets of the capital city amongst beautiful women, tons of feathers, endless drink and 18 wheeler trucks carrying nothing but DJs and their speakers!
BEST: What is the hottest cocktail in fashion right now?
DINO: The industry is full of trends – I kind of feel we’re in between trends at the moments. Everyone is still figuring out what the next is but we recently just came out of the low ABV cocktail craze (cocktails that are easy on the alcohol and light on your guilty conscience) and bottled cocktails which still seem to be a thriving trend right now. There is always an emphasis on fresh, readily available ingredients and the healthier the better.
BEST: Describe your idea of the perfect cocktail?
DINO: Balance – balance is key! You don’t want a cocktail that’s too sweet, or salty, or strong, or sour. You should be able to taste all the ingredients present. Presentation is quite important too – we do eat with our eyes before we taste with our tongues. But you have to know your consumer – if it’s sparklers and cream soda is what they’re looking for, it’s up to you to make it work.
BEST: The most requested drink by customers?
DINO: Everybody always loves a good mojito – it just shows how impactful well-crafted cocktails can be. There is also a general sense of people enjoying the classic stylings of a Negroni, Whiskey Sour, Ramos Gin Fizz.
BEST: With the bar at your disposal, what is your poison?
DINO: I do love a good martini, stirred, with gin and as dry as it comes! Dash some Angostura orange bitters in there and you have a winner – not for the faint hearted.
BEST: If the world was coming to an end what would be your last cocktail you’d conjure up?
DINO: Corpse Reviver – it’s a real thing, google it. And it seems appropriate if the world was ending due to zombie apocalypse. It’s possible 😉
BEST: Advice for aspiring mixologists or bartenders.
DINO: Take it seriously, work as hard as you would at any other job and make sure you can drink with the best.