With 15 years of experience behind the bar, Melrick Harrison brings a wealth of knowledge to his position as mixologist at the Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront. “All the rage right now are both low alcohol-by-volume (ABV) and alcohol-free cocktails, which is a very different guest to what we mixologists are used to, of course. We noticed people may not be drinking alcohol for a variety of reasons – from the religious or health-related, to those steering away from alcohol during pregnancy,” says Melrick Harrison of recent trends.
Growing up in Atlantis on the West Coast, Melrick started his bartending career at the age of 19 at a local pub. Before long, Melrick’s name in the industry grew and he was headhunted to work at a nightclub in Mamre. In this position, which he held for five years, Melrick got heavily into cocktail creation – mixology intrigued him, and he loved putting together unique beverages for regulars based on their chosen flavours, a talent he is still proud of.
“I find it so personal to create a cocktail with a guest from the bottom, long or short, flavour profile, colour presence etc and the moment you deliver the final product to their table – their appreciation and enjoyment is truly fantastic,” says Melrick.
He then went on to study a bartending course at the Shaker BarSchool. “I recall the Stress Test at Shakers where local hospitality hotshots came to test us out under busy and stressful conditions. Two bar owners noticed me, which led to a position at Dropkick Murphy’s Bar & Grill in Cape Town, where I started out as a rookie barman to perfect my skills and worked my way up to head bartender.”
“This role has provided me with the most amazing colleagues, each of whom is skilled in their particular niche, along with an incredible feeling of well-being. I am truly happy to be here. The pandemic has really tested employers, but under general manager Clinton Thom we survived. The past year has not been an easy time for the industry we are therefore grateful for our strong leader so that we are able to continue serving our valued guests.”
His other career highlights include coming first in the Protégé (South Africa’s first mentored cocktail competition) and achieving second place in both the Olmeca Altos and the KWV Brandy Reimagine (where he also won first place for the Western Cape). “It’s incredible that just seven years ago, I was going around handing out CVs on foot,” he says.
Melrick’s favourite drink for a night at home is a rum and coke using a Havana 3-year-old or a Bacardi 8-year-old. But when it comes to creating a drink, he loves to accentuate the flavours in a spirit such as bourbon. “When creating a cocktail such as the ‘Old Fashioned’ a simple stirring technique dilutes the bourbon and adds to its texture. Add your syrup, aromatic bitters and citrus – from the oils in an orange peel. Superb!”
“I always wanted to be a bartender and, to this day, the satisfaction remains when I create a signature beverage for a guest and see their satisfied glow of enjoyment on taking that first sip. Our guests take the spotlight for me and I love providing an interactive experience, such as the opportunity for two friends to order, create and share a cocktail of their choosing. For me, this ranks right up there.”