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Cocktail Class
Daniel Neilson

Cocktail Class

Tapatheo Amu Nyamekye's amazing journey from cleaner to world-class mixologist demonstrates how far Accra's cocktail scene has come.

Written by
Daniel Neilson

In July, 2016, in New Orleans, Tapatheo stepped onto the mat in front of the world’s best mixologists and made the best cocktail of his life. It was the 14th Annual Tales of the Cocktail festival, and among teams from The Savoy in London and Smuggler’s Cove in San
Francisco was Ghana’s foremost mixologist Chris Beaney, a Brit, alongside his protégé Theo from Accra’s Burger & Relish. It was a big deal: Theo was the first African bartender at the event for 12 years, and the first ever Ghanaian. He was enrolled in the Cocktail Apprentice
Programme at the New Orleans event to learn from the very best; he was one of 40 selected out of 700. "I’m looking to teach future generations of mixologists and
hopefully get them to a point where I am now," Theo tells Time Out Accra.

It’s been some story. Five years ago Theo was working as a cleaner at The Lexington (now Champs), where Chris was the manager. Chris spotted Theo’s potential, took him under his wing and trained and mentored him to an international level. The rest, as they say, is history. "I was given the opportunity to fly to Sweden to see how the hospitality industry worked in another continent. I also got the opportunity to see how vodka was produced and
to make drinks using vodka. The whole experience really was the turning point in my life and had a massive impact on the hospitality industry in Ghana. I’d never owned a passport and had never flown on a plane, let alone left the country.“Young underprivileged people

"Young underprivileged people such as myself lead very aspirational lives, but we won’t all be the greatest footballers and musicians. Me travelling made a young generation believe in the industry I had chosen, where it was once looked on as one of the lowest forms of income. Taking that plane journey really did turn the hospitality industry into a true profession. If it is possible for me to travel then the doors have really opened for my peers.
"Five years after starting to learn at The Lexington, I am now working at one of the leading cocktail bars and restaurants in the city as an operations bar manager across multiple sites. My peers are also in key roles in various outlets in the city and further afield.”

Theo now works as Head of Bars at Burger & Relish across the Osu site, as well as the new A&C Mall restaurant. It’s been a heady rise by anyone’s standards, and has even included his own TV show in Ghana. When he joined Burger & Relish he was mentored by owner Marcus Morgan-Etty to move from mixologist to manager, and also received support to make the journey to New Orleans. Marcus told Time Out Accra: "He was celebrated by all on his
arrival back from New Orleans. Now his journey really begins as he takes these skills and applies them not only to his job but to his country, in helping to lift Ghana onto the global
stage for cocktail-making." Theo chimes in: "One thing that’s clear is that Accra has changed so much in five years and the demand for a good mixed drink is definitely here. People’s palates have become more sophisticated and I need to constantly educate myself to keep
on top of my game. It’s hard work, but passion and determination keep me going each day."

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