We Chat With Rising Star Taneale van der Merwe

World Class 2019 Top 6 Finalist and rising star Taneale van der Merwe chatted with us about Corpse Revivers and Death in the Afternoon.

Tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Taneale Van der Merwe, I was born and bred in the dusty old mining town that is Johannesburg. At the moment I currently “Hail from the vale” as some would say, but actually stay up the road in Greenstone in the East of Johannesburg. I am 22 years old and have a BSC in biological sciences degree majoring in human physiology and environmental sciences. I am an extremely curious person who has always been multi-passion driven and it is because of this, that I juggle roughly three jobs simultaneously within the hospitality industry. I love meeting people and crave learning new things and gaining a variety of experiences. The world is full of extraordinary entities, be it people, travel, places or animals; with my ambitious nature, I aim to gain all I can while I still can.

Why bartending?

I actually fell into bartending by chance. I initially started by helping out a friend at the Ultra Festival and from there continued to do the odd festival here and there. Then after finally deciding to be an ‘adult’, I was on a job hunt and a close friend of mine sent me a Molecular Bars advertisement and that is where it all began. Since then my jobs seem to be accumulating as I’m now working for Molecular Bars, Lions Head Beverage Company and The Little Fox Cocktail Bar. I think the greatest aspect of bartending is meeting the vast amount of people and creating so many friendships both in and out of the industry, I guess it’s all about the experience and learning.

Who inspires you?

I have two people that I consider to be my mentors. First is Captain Gareth Wainwright who is an absolute legend within the industry and to say the least he is my Mr Miagi, Master Yoda and so much more to me this young padawan who still has so much more learning to do. The amazing thing about our Captain is that he aims to better us as people in the world and not just numbers on his payroll, he teaches us everything he can whether it be Finances, to bartending techniques, life lessons and more. Second is Chantelle Horn who is the brand ambassador at Lions Head Beverage Company. She is nothing short of an extraordinary being. Someone who too looks after me and has only my best interests at heart. She, unfortunately, lives in Cape Town and with me being up in Johannesburg, we don’t get to spend as much time together but I still manage to learn a lot from her. On the note of inspiration, I draw it from everything around me, whether it be nostalgia from my younger years, experiences I’ve had, movies and series galore. I don’t have a single source of inspiration but rather a wide range of memories that try to get to come to life in what I create.

Why World Class and what do you love about the competition?

I actually entered on a whim as this is my first competition ever. I am extremely grateful and surprised as to how far I came within the Diageo World Class competition. I must say if anything this little episode of my life has been a great teacher and going against the best of the best in the cocktail industry has been daunting, to say the least. All the guys that I am competing against are absolutely amazing all in their own right and I consider it an honour and a privilege to be alongside each and every one of them. What I love most about World Class are the experiences that I’ve gained whilst taking part as well as meeting all the great people along the way. The adrenaline coupled with the anxiety rush is great and while titles are always fun to add to resumes, pushing yourself creatively and mentally in this competition is no different to running a marathon or climbing a mountain: You’ll always surprise yourself as to what you are capable of when giving it your all. 

If your cocktail was called “The World Class Cocktail” what would be inside it?

I would use the cocktail that started my World Class adventure. This competition forces bartenders to utilise as many techniques as one possibly could and this one most certainly pushed me! The World Class cocktail would be the Avanoa. It has Talisker 10-year-old,  pressed pineapple juice, homemade pineapple vermouth, pineapple oleo Saccharum, Filipino rum and Angostura bitters. This cocktail is shaken and fine strained into a coupe and garnished with an edible image of a dock of ships emerging from the clouds. The cocktail is served within a box filled with smoke and emerging flowers with a night sky backdrop.

Favourite food and cocktail pairing?

My favourite food and cocktail pairing to date is a “Death in the Afternoon” cocktail with a slice of vanilla sponge cake and buttercream. This realisation came about when my mentor Gareth Wainwright was entering a cocktail competition and was fiddling around at The Little Fox one afternoon. He was experimenting with a vast amount of spirits, liquors and juices and he explained the “Death in the Afternoon”, made with Absinthe and Champagne. I was all too curious to discover this peculiar pairing. To say the least it was amazing and I have looked at food to cocktail pairings differently since.

If you could have one cocktail for the rest of your life, which one do you love enough?

This is an extremely difficult question as I find it difficult to have any favourites. I wouldn’t necessarily have a particular cocktail for the rest of my life but if I had to have one last cocktail it would be the Corpse Reviver No.2. This cocktail will truly bring you back from the dead as well as give you some personality to boot. A balanced drink that is just as bright as the stars above yet brings you back to earth like a smack in the face. 

Corpse Reviver #2 Cocktail

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Mix your own Corpse Reviver #2 Cocktail.

Which cocktail describes who you are, best?

The Sazerac, this cocktail is short, spicey, potent with a kiss of absinthe and it confuses many people because it is not served with ice.

Sazerac Cocktail

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Mix your own Sazerac Cocktail.