A Conversation With Ashler Jaya aka The Mixologist: Zimbabwe's Prime Mixology Practitioner

A mixologist can be described as one who engages in the art of mixology. A chef is to food what a mixologist is to cocktails. The art of mixology itself ranges from simple concoctions like the blending of Super and chocolate milk shaken and not stirred in almost every neighbourhood in Zimbabwe to mouthwatering concoctions with high price tags. It is something most alcohol drinkers engage in on some level although it seems they're still very few masters of the art on the market.

Ashler Jaya aka The Mixologist is one of those masters of the art leading the way in the sector in Zimbabwe. She runs a mobile mixology bar service for any kind of events (parties, bbqs, baby showers, church functions, bridal showers, bachelorettes, bachelors, drink ups, brunches, luncheons, corporate functions et al.). She also provides an extra service of setting up different bars and set ups that go with functions according to the client's desire.

On top of these events and bar set up services Ashler has added a mobile cocktail delivery service. We got in touch with the mixologist, qualified chef and content creator for an over the phone interview.

What made you choose the path of mixology?

So with mixology the thing is I wanted to study hospitality when I was in first year but initially I was studying accounts. So I told my parents I want to do cooking and things like that but they weren't really keen. But after a bit of convincing I managed to start studying hospitality. So hospitality has different sectors, chefing, front of house and food & beverage etc. During that period we learnt everything to do with hospitality. We ended up doing a course called beverage science and I was really interested and really keen on beverage science. In beverage science they offered us a chance to study with Cape Wine Academy that's when I knew I wanted to work with alcohol. But with my family being conservative like other Christian families in Zimbabwe it was hard to convince them to pay the Wine Academy fees for me after my hospitality program.

So my sister actually covered my fees and I studied and finished everything. After that I began travelling from SA I went to Seychelles then to China then to Florida (USA). I was just finding places to work in chefing, front of house and that's when I found the chance to practice mixology. In China I got the first chance to be behind the bar. 

Being an intern and not having enough money to spend on the more expensive brands which were familiar to me I got the chance to experiment. I wanted to spend less so I got to work with their which was really really cheap and that's when I was like I love mixology. In Florida that's where I truly explored the career more because I was constantly thrown behind the bar you know it's vibrant, the atmosphere, with the beach, colourful drinks and the party life. 

I then came back to Zim later, I tried chefing for a while but I wasn't happy and my sister was like Ashler do what you love and if it fails it fails. So I started up mixology here and that's the journey.

What do your parents think of your career now?

My parents actually didn't know for a year but they're very supportive. I'm actually working on a project with my dad which will hopefully come out later this year. They're really really supportive and they see the hardwork that I'm doing and everything I'm sacrificing to do what I love.

How long have you been practicing mixology in Zimbabwe?

It's been about 3 years, we're actually turning 3 some time in October as a brand.

Where do you find inspiration for your creations?

I think a lot of the inspiration comes from my following, I really watch what they like and I use that. My inspiration also comes from things around me, what I have, I try not to go too far out of my comfort zone. If I need something else I'll go out and get it but I try and use simple things around me so that my followers can try it out because it doesn't make sense for me to make something they can't try. That's why you'll see posts on my page asking people what to use.

From the time you began to now how have you found the market in Zimbabwe?

When I started out for me there was no mixology, there wasn't anywhere you could really get the service. There was Newscafe, and Queen of hearts had just started off but it was a lot of the more watered down stuff. It's been hard to break into the market because Zimbabweans are used to their vodka and sprite and introducing a variety of recipes is still new to them but I feel there's now a culture of mixology and it's growing.

What has been your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?

For me its been actually getting recognition for my art, because a lot of people don't really see mixology like that and it's not respected. It's been hard constantly explaining yourself, what mixology is and that what you do is an actual talent. It's also been a struggle working in the industry as female and having a team of mostly women as a brand. Some of the comments and how you're seen. But I've carried on working hard and the recognition is coming.

What has been your favourite event or collaboration so far?

There's a certain group of friends that kind of invite me everytime they have an event. Be it a birthday or anything. I love love them, they're my favourite clients. I love their energy and they've become more like a work family. Even if it's one of the friends I know what to serve them and what they like.

I've also enjoyed working with delta that was one of my favourite collaborations. The interactions with staff and how they enjoyed someone working with their products. If I could get another chance to work with them I would love that.

We've seen a lot of great content on your YouTube and Instagram among other places, what's your favourite content to create?

I would say vlogs are my favourite. I really editing, mixing transitions and my favourite work is when I'm off camera. Pouring drinks or other things. I would definitely like to make more vlog content.

Which is your favourite recipe out of all the ones you've done?

I'm actually a whiskey kind of girl, obviously I drink cocktails but my favourite drink would be a whiskey kind of drink. Probably a Middleton mule. If not that then an old fashioned 

How did it feel to get recognition from Jameson online?

It was so unreal, I don't even know and I'm honestly still processing. Everytime I get a DM from them I'm like wow, what? When they just hit me up to ask something or clarify it's just so amazing. I actually took time out after that to scroll through my content and see my progress, how I've been working towards something. It's just great seeing my growth over the years. I realise this is the beginning of something big for me and the brand. 

What does the future hold for the mixologist brand?

We're looking at products on the shelf, travel, mixology content, bar weeks, like anything really to do with mixology in Zim. I mean if big brands like Jameson can recognise someone were they didn't recognise anyone, it means they're big things in store for the brand. Really a lot to do with mixology in Zim. I don't really like to put my plans out there just so in case they don't happen [laughs].

What's a simple recipe for people to try at home?

Since it's getting hot and people need to cool down I would go with a Moscow mule

A shot of vodka (or go double if you're like me)

Juice of half a fresh lime

Ginger beer

Garnished with a lime

All images courtesy of Ashler Jaya's Instagram

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