Sunday, March 3, 2024

Fastest bartender in Bim


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When you step into Café Sol Bar and Restaurant in The Gap it’s apparent the regulars know who Neil Gibbs is. He is the man, more often than not, that will keep your glasses full and conversations witty.
Gibbs, 29, is a self-taught bartender who learnt his trade on the job. He started bartending back in 1999 with his first job at the Carib Beach Bar, a hook-up done by his mum. He doesn’t have to explain that she is his biggest supporter. She is the person who called this newspaper’s hotline with the information that he had won the title Fastest Bartender in Barbados at a competition held by the Caribbean Mixologists Guild last month at the Hilton Barbados.
This is the first time the bar has entered any competition and also a first time for Neil, bar manager, who has worked at various locales around the island, last one being Bougainvillea Resort in Maxwell.
“Café Sol has only been opened here for four months under a new general manager Kris Whitton. He signed us up for the competition and I went.  It was against eight other guys.” Neil explained.
Neil was judged on speed for his event. He had to open a beer and pour it and mix a concoction of various drinks including a margarita, a cosmopolitan and a pina colada. “I would have settled for second or third but when I heard my name mentioned as the winner I was ecstatic,” he stated jubilantly. He even won with a minute to spare.
Kris is on a high after managing the bar for just four months. Along with Neil’s win, another bartender, Narissa Beckles, also entered a mixology competition last week and came in second with her concoction, Tropical Sol. “I am going to be entering the guys (and girls) in every competition. Not only will it provide them with training it will keep them competitive and showcase new talent”, says Kris.
Talent, it seems abound in the bar of seven bartenders, as each week or so the mixologist/bartenders come up with new delectable drinks (some still unnamed) which are ran by each other. It’s a team effort, says Kris, and he asserts that knowledge of products is a key component to being a mixologist. Therefore his bar is fully stocked for experimentation.
For Neil the best part of his job is meeting new people. He goes to work from about 4 p.m. and shuts shop anytime around 12 a.m. to 2 a.m.
He doesn’t have a bad day, he says. “Yes sometimes you get flustered, but you have to keep yourself together. Every customer is different and alcohol tends to bring out different reactions. My motto is stay calm, cool and collective.”
His favourite cocktail? The new drink he came up with – The Full 1000. His favourite spirit? Vodka.
His advice for bartenders in refusing a patron buying them drinks? “I am sorry sir, I had too much last night”.
The euphoria of the win hasn’t worn off for Neil yet, a surfer dude who likes to play dominoes: “Drinks are my passion. I like to make cocktails with fun, fresh ingredients”. So said, he makes two delicious cocktails for us in consultation with Kris.
One day Neil has plans to open his own bar, and winning Fastest Bartender in Barbados is a boost.
Being the mix-master he is, Neil has three things he looks for in a bartender when he is out having drinks. “Attention to detail. Efficiency. And a good laugh.”


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