Sunday, January 17, 2010

Poaching Mawuli

While on holiday, Nate and I rented a car and drove to Ada Foah near the Togolese border for a few days, camping on the beach, bodysurfing the shorebreak and enjoying the comparative emptiness of Ghana's eastern coast. The first night, driving around looking for a fun local spot, we landed at the Manet Paradise Beach Resort, a nice hotel with good gardens and an inviting pool, between the ocean and the estuary. On impulse, we ordered cocktails.

As we waited a little while for them to arrive, Nate decided that either they were being made by a master or the people in the back had no idea what we were doing. I was prepared for the later. I was wrong.

My margarita arrived in a proper glass rimmed with sea salt and impressive. Nate's sidecar--a 1930's drink I've only ever seen on the menu at Milk & Honey or Death & Co. in Manhattan--was even more so. Intrigued and quite beside ourselves with happiness, we sent our compliments to the bartender and I went inside to find the bartender and order another round, this time a pina colada and a between-the-sheets. No sign of the bartender, but both were marvelous. Before we had time to be too puzzled, an unassuming man in his mid-thirties came out and introduced himself as the talent behind these concoctions.

"We have to poach him for the bar," I fake-whispered to Nate as we introduced ourselves and learned more. Mawuli is from Togo. He taught himself to make cocktails by looking up recipes on the Internet, limiting himself to what the hotel wanted to stock in Ada (e.g., as Mawuli mourned, no grenadine).

The next day, we arrived at 10:00 am, camped out by the pool for the day, and continued our research. It went well, especially when we noticed that the surprise drink Mawuli had sent us the night before, after I'd requested a Manhattan but was refused because the hotel didn't have bourbon, was in fact made almost entirely out of Cointreau. As anyone who grew up in Cairo drinking 10 L.E. Cointreau shots at Atlantis knows, orange liqueur is disgusting. Who was this man who could do such magic?

That evening, sitting by the Volta estuary under the stars, we propositioned Mawuli with the idea of running the bar we're about to start in Mamba Point. His first question? "What kind of ingredients will I have?" My answer? "Anything you want." We're sealing the deal now, wiring him transport and document money and hope to have him here, creating his own drinks menu of original, fresh ingredients, in a few weeks time.

I can't wait. And, if you live in Monrovia, you can't either.

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