Meet the Mixer: Mangesh Shah, KOL, Ponsonby

by | Oct 26, 2022 | News

Mangesh says he was always destined to work behind a bar creating innovative cocktails with unique ingredients and constantly pushing the boundaries. And having recently taken out the Best Bartender award in this year’s Metro Restaurant of the Year Awards 2022 (while working at Sidart), it’s clear he’s on the right path, recently moving to a new role at Sid & Chand Sahrawat’s newly opened bar and eatery, KOL in Ponsonby, Auckland.  KOL is a bar and eatery, serving innovative cocktails alongside an extensive champagne, wine, and beverage list. That drinks list is complemented by a selection of tandoor-inspired snacks and dishes primarily cooked over fire, using the best New Zealand produce with an Indian influence and Mangesh’s mandate has been to come up with unique creations that complement that vibe.

Who are you, what’s your role?

I’m Mangesh Shah, I’m originally from Nepal. I am the bar manager at KOL. I look after curating the cocktail list at KOL as we have a very big focus on cocktails and mixology is very integral to that. I also look after the whole drinks list in terms of the wine offering and the non-alcoholic drinks on the menu as well.

What was your pathway to KOL?

I had originally completed a degree in hotel management in Nepal, but I wanted to gain more international experience, so I came to New Zealand as a student. I did my Level 5 and 6 diploma in hospitality management with Aspire2 international and then worked at Cassia as a barback. I worked to make my way up to bar manager and I moved to Sidart. When I heard KOL was opening, I was excited to move to a venue that placed an equal emphasis on drinks and food.


What’s been one of the challenges?

 When I first started working at the bar, it took me a while to get my head around the names and pronunciation of wine varietals, the staff quite often had a few giggles at my expense while training me. I knew my cocktail recipes but names such as “Tempranillo” and “Albariño” were tongue twisters for me.

Your best-sellers?

As KOL has yet to open its hard for me to say what will be the best seller but I predict that it will be the:

“Maroochi Old Fashioned”, this reminds me a chocolate and macadamia candy from the market. It has brown butter bourbon, macadamia, and cocoa and is chef Sid’s favourite.

“Aamba” is another one I think will be a hit, it will have mango, yogurt, gin and spices so it will be an alcoholic take on a mango lassi.

Right now, I’m drinking …

My favourite drink is negroni, it’s a classic cocktail that is the proper mix of sweetness, bitterness, and booziness. I like to end a good restaurant dining experience with one in my hand or relax on my days off.

And experimenting with?

I am experimenting with native ingredients and their application in cocktail making. Currently I am trying to work with Kawakawa.  It’s quite peppery so I am mixing it with homemade cardamom liquor and topping it with peppermint tea. It’s still a work in progress getting the balance right. I also have a new toy at KOL: a Rotary Evaporator that distils the flavour from an ingredient and turns it into a clear liquid. I can see a lot of applications with this, and we are privileged to be one of a select handful of venues in New Zealand with one.

My ambition is to …

 Be one of the best bartenders in New Zealand. I was fortunate to win Metro magazine’s Campari Best Bartender for 2022. Now I must set my sights wider I guess; it would also be a great compliment for me if KOL won Best Bar or Best Drinks List.

A word of advice for young mixologists?

I would say don’t be afraid to experiment with different, eclectic, and out of the box ingredients. Failure is just another step to success. To get the right balance you must keep trying to make several versions and get lots of feedback, be open to constructive criticism.

Lastly, a must-do in Ponsonby?

Ponsonby is just such an awesome suburb, it has a bit of everything, great shops and even better hospo venues. I love trying different bars around Ponsonby like Deadshot and Beau, dining at Sidart, Ponsonby Central if I feel like something casual or just grabbing a burger at Parade.

Interview by Jane Torrence



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