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Mixologist Colin Asare-Appiah’s Journey to Diversifying the Spirits Industry

Colin Asare-Appiah is a master mixologist known and loved on both sides of the pond, in the US and in the UK. He has traveled the world, mixing cocktails and sharing his skillful insights into cocktail culture all the while creating experiences that everyone can be a part of. Colin is the trade director for culture and lifestyle at Bacardi, which allows him, as he enthusiastically shares, to “shine a light on what’s happening in the multicultural and LGBTQ+ spaces.” But his journey to becoming a celebrated voice in the spirits community started at the age of 17 when he enjoyed his first cocktail.

Born in Ghana, he grew up in a household where his first introduction to alcohol was to Genever, the original gin. Genever is a malt liquor infused with different herbs, botanicals and spices. He also experienced a local spirit from Ghana called Akpeteshie, used in rituals for births, deaths and marriages. Eventually, he would find himself in the UK where the laws allowing youngsters to be introduced to a responsible way of drinking were very different. Most cultures use alcohol to escape the pressures of life, but spirits are also used to relax, connect with people, and in some parts of the world, in rituals.

Initially, Colin didn't intend to become a bartender, but after finishing college, he decided to take some time off and discover himself. Saying goodbye to his marketing job, he was told by a friend that if he went to Greece it would be easy for him to find a job. He eventually ended up in a village called Lindos on the island of Rhodes. Strapped for cash and stranded in a foreign land, but he met a woman named Harriet Grant, who changed his life forever.

Harriet helped him find a place to stay and secured a job for him in a nightclub called QP, which was owned by two Greek men; one of whom was a Greek basketball star who once played with Magic Johnson in LA. After Colin’s first tourist season working in Lindos, they invited him back for the following summer. During his time at QP, he learned about human behavior, gaining an understanding into what motivated people to come to nightclubs, and why socializing was so important. He learned how light, heat, temperature, color, and space affected how people interact and how these factors enhanced enjoyment of their evenings. During this time, he met bartenders (before we called their craftsmanship mixology) and began to take an interest in their roles and their skills. Colin began to love the interactions he had with people over food and drinks. Soon he saw bartending as a way to bring his creativity and open-mindedness to the art of mixing drinks.

Eventually, Colin would make his way back to the UK. It was not long before some remarkable opportunities presented themselves. He went on to star as co-host of “The Cocktail Kings,” a British show on Discovery Travel and Living channels. The show was the first time an entire TV show was devoted to the craft of the cocktail. Soon he met Douglas Ankara and together they embarked on a journey to inspire new audiences and elevate the art of crafting cocktails.

“We opened a training school because we wanted to educate and share our knowledge with the next generation of bartenders. At the time, there were only a handful of Black people in the industry, so it was apparent that there was a gap in the market. We realized it was time for us to make the commitment to share our knowledge with these young kids on the way up. And because at this time in London, there was an emergence of bars attracting diverse audiences we saw an opportunity to expand horizons across the board,” Colin explains sharing milestones that made a difference. “A lot of alcohol brands didn’t know how to interact with these bartenders, bar managers, and owners, so we taught them how to do that as well. We taught alcohol brands how to relate to a new generation and diverse audiences. And then we taught bartenders how to bartend with fresh imagination. It was fantastic. Naturally, we topped off this experience by opening our own bar called The Lab, which became iconic in the industry,” says Colin.

Talent and charm may have led the way where he is concerned, but Colin Asare-Appiah has become a renowned and respected force in the spirits world through intuition and perseverance. He is currently focused on what lies ahead by encouraging and inspiring the next generation, especially marginalized individuals such as women, individuals of diverse ethnic backgrounds, and LGBTQ+, who hope to choose mixology as a career.

What Colin would like us all to understand is that “what’s critical for the future of the spirits industry is fostering opportunities for diverse voices. It’s time that cocktail culture genuinely reflects the different audiences that are vital elements of the world we live in. Discovering and mentoring this next generation of talent, building a community, a family of sorts, is tremendously important as we deal with the aftershocks of the pandemic,” says Colin.

Though he’s continuing to travel the world, he has found time to co-author the new book, Black Mixcellence: A Comprehensive Guide to Black Mixology sharing coveted drink recipes from the world's top mixologists — plus true stories of the historical impact of Black people in Mixology. His leadership makes Black Mixcellence the top shelf guide for all inspired to become a true cocktail connoisseur.

Follow Colin on Instagram @CocktailColin.

Colin Asare-Appiah’s Grey Goose Caviar Martini

  • 2 oz Grey Goose Vodka

  • 1 oz Noilly Prat Original Dry Vermouth

  • 1 Sprig of Fresh Dill

  • Fresh Lemon peel

  • Pinch of Fleur de Sel

  • Cubed Ice

  • Caviar Gems – one caviar spoon of dehydrated caviar

  • Glass - Chilled Martini Glass

Place a sprig of dill in a large mixing glass. Add Noilly Prat Original Dry Vermouth and stir. Fill with ice and add Grey Goose Vodka. Squeeze lemon peel over the mixing glass. Stir all ingredients for 20 seconds. Strain into a chilled Martini glass. Sprinkle a pinch of Fleur de Sel and garnish with the crystalline caviar of Caviar Gems.

Photo Credit: Aryana Alexa

Fashion Credit: Kimiko Kollection International


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