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?
*All the images credits goes to @52chefs
Edumar Shantal, originally from Venezuela, is passionate about the world of cocktails. 11 years ago, Shantal came to the United States with the desire to become a bartender. Born with the gift of a developed sense of smell and taste, and with the desire to start a successful business, Shantal decided to begin her path in the hospitality industry through mixology. Embarking on this entrepreneurial path has inspired her to create her own business, Shadu Mixology, which reflects her unique, natural gifts as well as the hard-earned skills of her craft.
How did you begin your career in mixology?
Initially, mixology was not very recognized in the world of cocktails, but it always caught my attention. I was born with a defect which I now consider a gift. It allows me to just smell something and know how it tastes. My gift gives me a better ability to mix.
I came to Miami in 2009. I saw the movie Coyote Ugly and thought, ‘I want to do that!’ As soon as I arrived, I started working as a waitress where I learned all the basics. From then on, I had my own concept of creating personalized drinks for artists, with their smells, flavors, and textures. This was how I became known in the city. I have worked in more than 50 sites around Miami, which has allowed me to see how the handling of the bars works, how problems are solved, and that everything is functional and fast to sell. As an architect, I like to know the structure, organization, functionality of things, logistics, etc. I always wanted to create bars that work better and more efficiently.
Was there a mentor that inspired you to become a Mixologist?
Yes, definitely. Christian Delpech was my mentor and inspiration. He was introduced to me by a Mixologist friend and when I learned his story, I was truly surprised. I was interested in doing Flair for a moment, but my thing is flavors so I went for mixology. Then I met Johnatan Mejias and we instantly clicked. He and Christian have been my teachers and inspiration to this day.
How did Shantal the Bartender become an entrepreneur and create her own business, Shaduu Mixology?
In many situations, I had managers and bosses who did not treat the staff well and the bars were not functional. I always thought that they could not lead this way and hope to get good results from their employees. They do not seek to enhance the skills of their employees or motivate them to provide good service and feel comfortable in their work. This is one of the reasons for poor service in Miami. It was until I met Ivan Fuentes. when I worked in La Victoria that I really knew what a good manager was. We all worked happily with him. We all respected him. The work was more effective. When I created the Shaduu staff, I wanted to create a team that felt valued, motivated, rewarded, and respected. I had an idea to create mobile bars. I wanted them to not only look good but also work well. These bars created incredible cocktails and at the same time offered work to people at events. It gives me personal satisfaction knowing that people wanted to work with me and that they supported my concept. Shaduu is my most precious creation because it allowed me to help people while offering a great service, and it also translated to happy customers.
What is Shaduu Mixology?
Shaduu, the cocktail experience, began in 2017 aimed at events such as weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, baby showers, first communions, etc. Shaduu is present and available throughout Miami and Broward for any celebration that needs a bartender to serve liquor. We have held two events in Orlando because there is no such service there, even here this concept is not very developed.
Shaduu Mixology offers different services. They could be detailed as:
Shaduu Events: Wedding, Birthdays, Corporate Events.
Shaduu Academy: Online Masterclasses on basic bartender courses and courses for wedding / party planners where attendees learn to price the liquor and how to assemble the bars.
Shaduu Kids: Frozen drinks, smoothies, etc. for Kid’s parties, Baby Showers, Gender Reveal parties, First Communions.
Shaduu Energy: Mocktails or tea for holistic events, fitness, yoga, and wellness.
Shaduu Consulting: Consulting for bars, drinks, beverage bars programs, etc.
How did COVID-19 affect you personally and professionally?
It affected me 100%. On a personal level, I was at home locked up for four months. I just started working three weeks ago. Professionally, it obviously affected the business because you can’t do any kind of event. It has been a big challenge, but I have been able to survive. So far Shaduu is closed, but I still have expenses such as storage, insurance, taxes, keeping the registry activated, etc. I had to use my savings to keep everything up to date. I went back to work to handle my financial responsibilities.
Has being in Miami positively influenced your entrepreneurial efforts or did being here challenge your business pursuits?
Miami has been the bridge that I use to carry out everything I set out to do. I am grateful for having started here and I feel that it opened all the doors for me. I have been able to achieve everything by being here.
What do you like to do in your spare time? Tell us about your hobbies.
I love going to the beach, running, eating well, and resting. I really like where I am working, Kuba Cabana. I think that Esotico is wonderful. You feel like you’re on vacation. Barton G also has a spectacular bar and is quite an experience. I like to go to Sweet Liberty for its mixology. I totally recommend Switzerland too.
What drink would you recommend when visiting Kuba Cabana?
I suggest you try the Melon toast, a sweet, refreshing drink with Toast Vodka, lime juice, simple syrup and muddle watermelon, and the Diablo Maracuya, a Mezcal based spicy cocktail with Vida Mezcal, passion fruit, muddle lemon, sugar and the
Spice of jalapeño. And you can’t get wrong with the signature drink: Mojitos!
What are your next projects?
My main project is to reactivate Shaduu, but I have a separate project as well. I want to take My Tea Bar to Hawaii and open a franchise there where I can work with teas and Tiki cocktails based on tea.
I also have another project in mind: to present bartenders and their drinks worldwide through a reality show.
What is the best way to contact you?
Phone number: (365) 967-1119
** Images by @Blazinvisual
Born and raised in Venezuela, Marco Balza goes all the way back to 2006 when he was still living in Caracas and he had his first Bartender experience. “My friends and I had a party called ‘El Guarapazo’, we used to rent the party halls from the buildings and charged a cover for All you can drink ‘Guarapitas’, with DJs and security included, we even had a logo” remembers Marco about his beginnings.
Moving to Miami was not in his plans, but on a change of heart, he drops his Automotive Mechanic studies to start working in the Hospitality Industry. He started at the Hilton Hotel in a service bar inside the kitchen, then as a barback in a night club, and 13 years later, he recently opened his own consulting company. Bar Market. with an organic sense of sustainability, the consulting company is dedicated to delivering freshness and rich flavors in its products as well as the compromise to build top of the league Bar staff.
When do your love for Mixology started?
My parents had a little dispense in the kitchen with all the liquors. I remember there was a small book called “El ABC de los cócteles” I really like that book, it was the first time mixology caught my attention. When I started bartending in Miami, I wanted to create new cocktails, but since I was working in a nightclub, I started flipping bottles and don’t get me wrong, I loved it, I just wanted to learn more about the art of mixing drinks. I joined USBG around 2011 and from the first seminars I knew I’ve found my passion.
You just started your own business, tell us about Bar Market
Bar Market is a consulting company that looks forward to changing the Bar scene, making every bartender shine on stage every shift. I’m looking forward to improving Miami Bartender’s service by providing great staff training. I started this company after realizing I was working like a Robot all the time, even taking double shifts. It wasn’t making me happy. I decided to get out of my comfort zone and give it a shot.
My latest venture is the creation of a super organic handcrafted line of mixers for cocktails with super fresh, natural ingredients and no preservatives. I use the herbs from my own garden and they’ll be sell by pre-order only, in 25oz batches. At the moment I’m offering Mojito, Pina Coladas, Daiquiri, Old Fashion and Fit Spritz (low sugar)
Bar Market will bring more exciting news to everyone in the industry or for those bar and kitchen aficionados, unfortunately, it is secret at the moment. I mean it. Stay tuned.
What do you love the most as a consultant? Is it the creation or education?
The satisfaction when I see the progress in each bartender, server, manager, or each person I’m training. I will say creation and training go hand by hand, you can create a masterpiece but, if the bartenders as ambassadors of your cocktails can’t replicate it, your job is pointless, with the right training, those bartenders will be artist, Ninjas, and stars behind the bar.
Do you have any favorite spirits when creating specialty cocktails?
I like all spirits on a menu, but for making cocktails my top 3:
- N1. Gin
- N2. Rum
- N3. Mezcal
Is there any style that can represent you o a signature essence?
Life needs a balance, art needs a balance. you have to take care every single detail to make a great cocktail, but in my personal opinion flavor is most important, presentation it is very important too because is the hook that catches just by looking at it, but if the cocktail doesn’t taste good, is just a sad waste of juice.
What should be in a perfect cocktail menu?
- Variety. Even if it is a Tequila or Rum bar, variety is the key.
- Every cocktail menu should be seasonal.
- Classics are the blueprints for new cocktails, if you don’t have a Classic list on the menu, every bartender should know how to make then perfectly, at least the most popular. It is unacceptable for a bartender to shake a Negroni (it burned my eyes. True story).
- Every bar should have a famous signature cocktail, the one that every customer wants to try.
If Miami were a cocktail, what would be the ingredients? and how would you call it?
Definitely Rum, Miami is a mix of a lot of rum countries. Lime, Mango because we are from the Caribe, Jalapeños because the people in Miami are Hot & Spicy and champagne as Miami Beach sparks through the night.
Tell us your most memorable experience working as a Bartender?
Working at the Miami Rum Renaissance, and the Hukilau in Ft Lauderdale, All day talking about Rum, making cocktails and having fun.
What’s next in your journey?
Keep doing my thing growing with Bar Market, working hard opening a Bartending Academy. Trying to leave a mark in this life.
What’s the best way to contact you?
You can email Marco or DM him to order the pre-batched Mixers starting at $25 per Botlle (25oz) or 2 for $40. When you buy 5 bottles you’ll get a green gift. If you return 5 bottles to support recycling, you’ll get a free bottle in your next purchase. Let’s support #smallbusiness #shoplocal
Eric Tillis, a Mixologist from Houston, Texas, decided to Venture off on his own, creating the brand The Traveling Bartender. A Mixology and Flair mobile Bartending service.
“Partnering with local DJs and party promoters, I began bartending small college parties and events. This led to meeting people from all over! They would fall in love with my drinks and insist I bartend for them, even though they were 500 miles away!”
Meet Eric Tillis and his story in this 10 questions interview.
Describe yourself in 5 words
Intelligent, adaptable, humble , creative, intuitive
What made you venture off your own and create your brand The Traveling Bartender?
After doing my first private event I loved the experience so I stayed at it studying hours on different concepts and styles, traveling around the United States experiencing different styles of craft cocktails.
How would you better describe your service?
A global brand started in east Texas now based out of Houston we provide a very unique experience to every guest. You want to see an ice block cut down into cube then stamped with a compass- our symbol that defines the brand “limitless direction”. Inspired from “The Blue Blazer” we roll flame cocktails from tin to tin , make drink spark like fireworks, and great show indeed. My favorite is flairing watching bottle twirling through the air, landing gently on my palm spinning perfect as I pour into tins.
What do you enjoy the most as a bartender? creating the drinks, flair, or customer service?
I’d say customer service is first, a guest experience is very important to us. Following Japanese hospitality or omotenashi. The entertainment portion such as flair has taken years of practice.
What has been the best experience on the road so far?
Meeting great people from around the world, with a love for the craft of bartending.
Where do you find inspiration to create the cocktails? are they customize to each event? or do you have a cocktail list?
Rosemary, baby breath, lychee from Asia , bamboo leaves , elderflower, lavender, rhubarb , star anise, dragon fruit, ginger root and even truffles for us is either a perfect garnish or a the start of a delicious cocktail
As an entrepreneur, you are not only a bartender but also a business owner, how do you manage to do it all?
God and a great team behind me
What has been the most challenging thing about starting a new business?
“First impression matter” when potentials clients first call us we make sure to listen to their every request. Then my team sit down and draws out the details of the event from ice selection, glassware, taste profile. We have set a high standard as far as the service of our guests! We make sure that every drink is uniform and consistency is key!
What is the next step for you?
I’m currently working on a line of Hawthorne strainers that might be available by the end of August.
If you were a cocktail, which one would you be?
My favorite a cigar smoke infused old fashion with hand crafted bitters.
You can contact Ellis through his social media accounts or a call.
Phone number: 346-217-0102
$1 per person/per hour
Contact him for out of the state fee.
10 Q&A’s to the creator of The Traveling Bartender: Mixology and Flair Mobile Bartender Service
1 Tell us 5 words that describe you.
Intelligent, adaptable, humble, creative, intuitive
2. What made you venture off your own and create your brand “The Traveling Bartender”?
After doing my first private event I fell in love with the experience so I started educating myself hours on different concepts, traveling around the United States experiencing different styles of craft cocktails.
3. How would you better describe your service?
A Houston Texas-based bartender service with an emphasis on great service and hospitality. We specialize in giving a great show by providing hand shared ice, a showcase of fire and flair, our focus craft cocktails.
4. What do you enjoy the most as a bartender? creating the drinks, flair, or customer service?
I have to say customer service is first, the guest experience is very important to us. Following Japanese hospitality or omotenashi. The entertainment portion such as flair has taken years of practice.
5. What has been the best experience on the road so far?
Being on the road I have the pleasure of meeting great people from around the world, with a love for the craft of bartending.
6. Where do you find inspiration to create the cocktails? are they customize to each event? or do you have a cocktail list?
As I travel I’ve learned many herbs, spices and exotic fruits can lead to an interesting story. With each event being different with custom menus or our seasonal menu that we prepare.
7. As an entrepreneur, you are not only a bartender but also a business owner, how do you manage to do it all?
God and a great team behind me.
8. What has been the most challenging thing about starting a new business?
Learning as I go without a manual, receiving and confirming leads.
9. What is the next step for you?
A line of Hawthorne strainers
10. If you were a cocktail, which one would you be?
My favorite, a cigar smoke-infused old fashion with handcrafted bitters.