Not to long ago I caught up with Nick Koumbarakis with academic training in Quantity Surveying and Construction Management from my alma mater at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) to ask him to share his career and life lessons. I wondered why someone, who for all intents and purposes, could have become a successful professional in his field of expertise would explore an equally valid vocational path as a mixologist. As a bartender at House of Machines and blogger for The Alchemist Says, Nick brings together the power of personal passion, entrepreneurial vision, and artisanal expression to craft his own future marked by gratitude, integrity and striving for excellence. I hope you enjoy this guest article!

Credit: Dan Calderwood
Credit: Dan Calderwood

Find your passion and never let it go

I have to constantly remind myself how grateful I truly am to greet each new day with purpose, that in spite of hardships, “my journey” has only just begun. I feel that there are certain traits that separate the people that will leave a legacy in life that will echo for eternity. Of those traits: passion, commitment and integrity are the most important ones. You cannot be taught. Passion is something that cannot be learnt, it is something that you live and breathe, something you are committed too. What are you willing to sacrifice to be the very best at what you do? How far will you go? How passionate and committed are you about your craft?

Nick-KoumbarakisYou are your best brand ambassador

How did this whole journey start? People often talk about leaving alegacy and having that engraved at a young age, almost predestined, though was it the path I ultimately wanted to follow? We all do it differently, in every journey there are bound to be adversities even sacrifices that life will present you with that you will ultimately have to overcome. I am no different. When I accepted my life mission to be the best bartender I could be, it definitely brought me to a crossroads in my life, a period of uncertainty, where I was not only questioned by those closest to me, I even began questioning myself, even doubting my abilities. Do I continue on the path less travelled, constantly forging and creating my own legacy!? It was a constant struggle having to contend with the perception of being “undervalued”. I wanted to live a life knowing I did not conform to the status quo, that I gave it my all, that I was truly fulfilled, that I lived a life free of regret. Yet I needed a sign …

Remain open to life’s affirmations

I know this may sound hagiographic, but as “planned happenstance” would have it, it was during this period that I met an elderly man at an event with whom I had no prior encounters. I knew what he stood for and I respected that. He told me “You are involved in some form of the arts, where you will influence and be the voice for many, I can see it within you, you are destined for something more, something brave, something great, you are on the right path”. He then walked off; it was the last I have ever heard or seen of him. It was in that moment that I knew it was my destiny to become a bartender, a bartender for life. However, the one person I admired above all, who instilled the very values directing my life, strongly disagreed with my career choice. I felt as if I had let him down. A sense of disappointment. I know he only had my best interests at heart, he still does.

Nick-Koumbarakis-in-actionExcellence is borne from perseverance

I wanted to prove to those that doubted me, who thought I would never succeed in life by just being a “bartender”. I was galvanised by this. I was determined. I wanted to showcase my abilities and creative voice on a larger platform in South Africa to test my mettle against the world’s best. I knew I had the ability and the confidence, though it seemed no one gave me the opportunity.

Several years later the opportunity presented itself which allowed me to showcase my brand at the Bacardi Legacy Global Finals and also to express my personal journey as a South African bartender through a drink I created called THE TOURIST. I wanted it more, more than any other competitor. It was something that I lived for, every second every day for 3 months. It was the beginning of many things to come including representing South Africa at the Diageo Reserve World Class Bartender 2013 Contest. It not only changed the perceptions of consumers and those closest to me, it also changed my life for the better, and even though it might seem minor to many who ask, it has changed my life in ways that it is definitely worth fighting for.

My name is Nick Koumbarakis, and I am a bartender …

Nick declared Bartender of the Year 2013 at the Diageo Reserve World Class Contest
Nick declared Bartender of the Year 2013 at the Diageo Reserve World Class Contest

You can read more on this artist on What My Boyfriend Wore.

Follow Nick on the following platforms:

Twitter: @alchemistsays 

Instagram: @thealchemistsays



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