Gorilla Kie is a self-made mover and shaker. Her best qualities as a mixologist, bartender, and entrepreneur are being creative, innovative, and motivated. According to Kie, you have to be innovative to be creative, and to be creative, you have to be innovative. One cannot exist without the other. This Gorilla Kie Mixology motto is the code that she lives by, and her creativity, innovation, and motivation allow her to turn everything she touches into gold. With her Midas Touch and signature gorilla moves, Gorilla Kie pays homage to her ambitious, artist self and her Haitian culture. Kie has also made a name for herself and set herself apart as one to watch as her charisma and charm catapult her to local stardom. Gorilla kie is currently a Bar Manager at Syndicate Wynwood where she also created a cocktail menu with her very own consulting company, Gorilla Kie Mixology.
Tell us your story and hospitality background.
I’ve been in the hospitality industry for about seven or eight years. I’ve been bartending for about seven years. I have worked for corporate restaurants such as Darden. They have Bahama Breeze and Red Lobster- I’ve worked at both. I’ve also started doing creative cocktail making which is what people know me for today. I’ve only been doing it for about two years. I am self-taught. I never went to bartending school. I’ve taken a couple of classes online as far as certificates to better understand my craft. Everything, for me, is just an art of expression. I like to say that I am a spirit serving the spirits to spirits. So my spirits need to be crafted and delegated in a manner in which people can respect, enjoy, and understand what it is that I do and why I do it.
What inspired you to become a mixologist? What influences your mixology?
I have always had a great fascination with people throwing bottles in the air and then making beautiful art. I do not have anyone who I want to be like. If anything, I’m probably going to be the first of my kind. I am definitely paying homage to the people who have been in the industry for many years, especially the Blacks that traveled North to own their own restaurants and bars in the D.C. and Chicago area. Blacks were creating the Mint Julep, for example, which is huge for the Woodford Reserve Kentucky Derby these days. I definitely pay homage to things of that nature, however, when it comes to my craft, everything is inspired. I’m an artist. I’m a creator. I try to make the best out of anything and everything that I do.
What are the key characteristics of being a successful mixologist?
Anybody can be a mixologist. Once you taste something and you fall in love with it, you just start to create ideas. Anyone can do that. What makes me “Gorilla Kie,” what sets me apart from any and everybody else, is that I take it a step further. Mixology is one of my reasons to connect with humanity. These days people are on their phones. There isn’t a lot of social activity going on between one human and the next. When people come to my bar, or when I go to people for private events, it is a perfect opportunity to be able to talk to people. It’s a perfect opportunity to be able to say, “Hey, how are you doing?” It’s great to have a conversation with people for people to open up. Spirits can be a really good thing or a really bad thing. A lot of people like to call it the Devil’s Juice, but I like to call it Gorilla Kie’s Juice because it is a therapeutic, medicinal method.
How do you differ from other mixologists?
I give a beautiful experience to people. I try to change people’s perspective and understanding of what it means to come to a bar. For me, as a woman, a person of color, and the L in the LGBT, I want to be able to change perspectives. I am the minority in this industry so I want to leave a positive imprint for people. Most importantly, I want people to take a positive message when they leave my bar: they may come in one way, but they will leave another (happy). That is the most fulfilling aspect when it comes to this craft. It’s not just cocktail making. It’s getting to know people. It’s getting to love people. It’s getting to build those relationships that can last a lifetime!
Is there any advice you would impart to individuals who don’t see themselves in the industry but who may want to be a part of it?
What I would say to people who want to be in this industry, who happen to identify as a minority in any way, is to understand what it is that they love and if they can see themselves doing it every day. One of the ways to be able to do that is to practice that craft and ask yourself if you’ve become exhausted or tired of it. That is not necessarily to be misconstrued with being burned out because anybody can be burned out with something they love. Everything in moderation. If you don’t feel like it is something you can do on an everyday basis, then it is not your passion. But if it is, find creative ways to make it your best. Have conversations with fellow people about your line of work to see if it’s something you really want to do. Once you figure that out, maximize to your fullest potential. No matter what color, creed or walk of life people are; ask and inquire about some knowledge to become the best at your craft. Not only will You find this most rewarding, but you will further understand that this is a great way to becoming your best self.
You are known as “Gorilla Kie”. What is the significance of the Gorilla?
Gorillas are my spirit animal. My mom is an American educator and my father is an immigrant from Haiti who became a Master Electrician and Contractor. I grew up in a strict household when it came to education and when it came to what my brother and I were fed on television. We couldn’t watch cable during the week. All we were left with was Bill Nye: The Science Guy, the Discovery Channel, etc. Within that process, I used to love watching documentaries about animals. I fell in love with gorillas. You know how they say that lions are the kings of the safari? Well, gorillas are the king of the jungle. I stay true to that. This industry is a jungle within itself so I am that gorilla. I am that king. I am a queen in every way, but I am a king as well. I believe that one and the other are a unit. They are still royalty. They are still top tier. I am an androgynous individual. Yes, I am female, but I have a lot of masculine qualities. I see myself as “king”. Loosely based on that, I put “Kie” for “Kierra” for short.
You are also known for your signature Gorilla moves. Where did these moves originate?
My moves developed over time. A lot of people don’t know that I practiced Martial Arts when I was younger. Because of muscle memory, my foot movement carried over to my shaking methods. While shaking or when I scream, I’m literally calling on the ancestors. I am aiming to make sure that, before I give the cocktail, it is gifted with the spirit’s presence. That might be the Haitian in me. I move accordingly depending on what cocktail I’m making or who I’m talking to. It’s not choreographed. I just go with it. I am all about physics and alchemy. It is all a form of energy being put into that spirit. It has to be perfect. If it’s not perfect, it’s unconducive with me. That is the meaning behind ‘the shake’.
On your IG you say, “I AM, THE Mixologist/Bartender who turns everything ‘TOUCHED’ into GOLD.” When did you learn that you had the Midas Touch and how has it impacted your professional and/or personal life?
I am a very powerful individual. I mean that in a spiritual and a courageous way. I am very confident in knowing that anything I do will be done to the best of my ability. Whether it’s a conversation, making a cocktail, or taking my lovely wife out to dinner, it is going to be a golden moment. Gold, other than diamond, is one of the most precious stones in this world. I am gold. I see myself as gold. I see myself as unbreakable. I am a stone of color. Gold is very powerful and so I want any and everything I do, touch, or say, to be impacted on that next individual equivalently.
How would you describe Miami in three words? How would you describe the Mixology scene?
I was born and raised here in Miami. If I can describe Miami in three words I would say breeze, hot, and fine. That is Miami. When it comes to the Mixology scene, I’ll be honest, and say that we need a lot of work. I am well traveled when it comes to the Mixology scene in the United States. I don’t really know a scene here. I am not one who has been in the game for a long time compared to some individuals not living in Miami. There are ambitious professionals in the game of mixology. They go to different distilleries and learn how to become Master Blenders- hopefully one day. I don’t see the same charisma down here in Miami. For me, personally, that is a challenge and I would really like to help change that.
Discuss Gorilla Kie Mixology LLC. What are some of your services?
I have been asked to start a business for the longest time. I was thinking to myself, “How would I start a business?” I’m the last person in my family to become a business owner. I’m the first person in my family to be in this line of business. I wanted to monetize and maximize my business with what it is that I do. I started to create cocktails for pop up shows. I would pre-package them. I thought, number one, it’s a great way to network. Number two, it’s a great way to get your name out there. Number three, it’s a great way to find out what these Gorilla Kie cocktails are all about and also setting up a safe, creative space for people to come and see me outside of the bar. I can have more personal interactions with them. These were some of the incentives of starting a business. Another incentive was being able to be a cocktail consultant. One of my most recent projects, there is a new bar called Syndicate Wynwood, that is getting ready to open. I was responsible for creating one of their menus. That was a lot of fun so I was thinking that I could make some really good money off of creative cocktail making. I could have conversations and find out what people like. I try to meet those expectations which is something I do on an everyday basis. 80% of the cocktails that I make at my bar are for the first time. Why? Because when people come, I do not like to offer what’s on the menu. I like to talk to them. I like to find out their favorite spirit. I like to find out what kind of flavors and food they like. Then, I make a masterpiece cocktail off of that, right there. I also do freelance bartending at weddings, anniversaries, etc. For pricing, people can go through my instagram.
Are you able to discuss your upcoming Cocktail Bar Syndicate Wynwood Miami? If so, what was the process of pursuing this venture? How did you meet your business partner/ creator friend Andres Gill? What inspired you two to go into business together?
Andres Gill has an extensive resume when it comes to bars in Miami. He is very well known within our community. I was introduced to him by my cousin. Once he and my cousin got together, and she let him know who I was, the opportunity for Syndicate Wynwood was later extended to me. Being that over a period of time, I was able to say this is what I have been able to do and these are the pictures I’ve taken. I showed my charisma when it comes to creative cocktail making. When I make a cocktail, this is how intense it is for me and how serious I take it. I think that I was able to hit all the nails in the wall with one strike. That is why they reached out to me when it came to creating the menu.
On your IG, you write that you are the woman with the hat that dreams. What is the significance of your hat? When did you start wearing it and how does it relate to your approach to your craft?
I started wearing hats on an everyday basis back when I met my wife. That was in 2015. I have always been a lover of hats. On my mother’s side, who is American (her mom is from Mississippi), these southern women are always known for their extravagant looking hats that they wear when they go to church on Sundays. Even though I didn’t have any hats, I would always wear my grandma’s hats whenever I went to church with her. As far as my Haitian side, my grandfather is known for his fedoras with their feathers. He would have his Hennessy or his Barbancourt while he’s playing dominoes. I just think of the confidence. The way he walks. He is a man to be respected. He has always had this spirit on him. You walk differently when you wear your crown. My hair is my crown. My mind, most importantly, is my crown. I never leave the house without my hat because it is a reminder to carry my mind with me when I walk through the door. For me, that is the reason I take such pride when it comes to my hats. They’re an extension of me. I wear the hat. The hat does not wear me. It is personal. I wear these hats well because they are where my ways of life stem from.
What is the best way to contact you?
Follow Gorilla Kie on IG @master_gorilla_kie, @go_kie_mix, and @thegorillakieshow
*All the images credits goes to @52chefs