Lock Down Day 12 - Brent Perremore

For most of us living in the real world and trying to apply our trade in whatever we do, the world is blue and green. The sky is up, the ground is underneath us and we rise and sleep under the very blanket of normality provided by a notion of a world propounded by natural and physical sciences.

Despite what Forrest Gump said, life is not like a box of chocolates. The follow on line from that was “you never know what you’re gonna get!” But for the most part, we do know what we’re going to get.

We know that what goes up must come down. We know that we get up every morning, have breakfast and go to work, followed by coming home and having dinner before go back down to bed. Even though each day is always filled with exciting stuff for most of us, each day follows the next in exactly the same way and people are actually looking for the formula for which we can copy and paste one day like the next in order to program life to be easier.

So I’m thinking life is not as much like a box of irregular individually wrapped chocolates. But can be more likened to a chocolate slab, with compartmentalized blocks already outlined by grooves which encourage us to eat it in a specific way.

In short, we’re a bunch of normal people walking through our lives obeying constructs outlined to us in easy to digest bite size pieces of ‘main-framed’ life, like Mr. Anderson!

Most of us don’t question it; we accept everything at face value, trusting that the things we’ve been told our whole lives would have come from reliable sources which are on our side, obviously not meant to befall us. This mainframe of trust, according to Hollywood, is called the Matrix.

In the movie, we see the path of enlightenment the lead character goes down in order to achieve a higher sense of purpose. A purpose he could not achieve in the former realm of the world in which he used to live. As Mr. Anderson he is normal, he meets a bunch of enlightened characters who expose him to the truth and, in one of the most riveting scenes in cinema, Morpheous offers Mr. Anderson the opportunity to enter the Matrix and leave the ‘real world’ behind.

In the scene Morpheous proposes two scenarios to Mr. Anderson. Those scenarios are represented by two medicine pills separately contained in either fist of Morpheous’s clenched hands. When he opens his hands they reveal two pills of opposing realities, each represented by their opposing colours, one red and one blue.

His options are clear, should he take the blue pill he would fall asleep and wake up in his bed in blissful ignorance and he could go on believing, whatever he wanted to believe. Or he could take the red pill, and with it he could continue down this path of enlightened discovery to see how deep the rabbit hole goes.

In a world full of blind people, the man with one eye is king. In such a tough game, where the margin between bartenders is so fine in terms of their skill and knowledge, there are a whole bunch of bartenders trying to find the magic red pill. However If there was anyone I have encountered in my career behind the bar, who I believed had demonstrated an enlightened state of cocktail design. Someone who had the foresight of understanding of drinks which could suggest that he not only took the red pill on offer, such was the chasm in skill between a true ‘Neo’ and all the other Mr. Andersons. His name is Brent Perremore.

The reference to the rabbit hole is pertinent. Firstly, it makes reference to the story of Alice in Wonderland; a fairy tale story of fantasy and mystery where the rules of normality are laid in waiting. Secondly, Brent’s nickname is Rabbit and in nature the rabbit hole is so deep and intricately networked, the tapestry of underground tunnels would suggest that the rabbit is a special kind of animal displaying a keen intellect not normally likened to things of the underworld.

As a symbol, rabbits represent new life. If you look at Brent’s career spanning over nearly a quarter of a century already, you will see the evidence of rebirth at constant intervals over the years. Where others disappeared from the historic timeline to become proprietors of the ‘flugelbinder’ industry, Brent was entering competitions constantly reinventing himself with every course, bright eyed and bushy tailed.

In 2012, while working at Asoka in Kloof Street Cape, Brent would become the inaugural winner of the 1st ever World Class competition to be held in South Africa. He would represent South Africa in Rio, Brazil in the same year. After which he would leave Asoka to join the stellar team at Orphanage cocktail Emporium to form a trio of wonderment with Assaf Yecheil and Nick Koumbarakis. The three of them would redefine what the modern bartender in South Africa would look like with Brent forcefully ploughing his way to becoming the champion of almost every other national mixology competition for nearly a decade to come.

With each competition Brent has always been able to discover a higher level of drink making, either by way of ingredient, process or technique. With each competition Brent is still considered to be the man to beat. During last year’s World Class competition he was in line to become the first person to win a trilogy of World Class competitions, to add to his wins in 2012 and 2014, a feat he holds on his own. He would eventually come second behind eventual winner Owen O’Reilly, but his dedication to winning the title displayed everything we know and love about Brent. During his quest he sacrificed his own wellbeing, tirelessly chasing his ambitions to a fault when he became seriously ill with Gillian Barre disease, a disease which attacks your nervous system onset by stress and a low immunity, every bartender who competes can relate.

As he overcame paralysis recovering in hospital for over 2 months, the evidence of love and community could be remembered by the outpouring of support he received from the entire industry spearheaded by Lucky Shaker and his alma mater Orphanage, who in the name of charity and good will conducted fundraises for the much loved and respected cocktail kingpin.

Fully recovered, and from the pinnacle vantage point at the ground breaking cocktail bar speak easy Art of Duplicity, Brent showcases all the qualities of not only an amazing bartender and cocktail creator, but all the qualities of an amazing human being. He is the master mind behind the bar which recently won Best New Bar at the 2019 BAR Awards.

As Neo, he has an understanding like no other; his creativity suggests more so that he didn’t take the red pill, but that he rather created it. He spends his time in a cocktail fairy tale and produces drinks which seem to not be bound by parameters imposed on others. With this freedom he can hop from one world to another, and in this fable the Hare beats the tortoises who are all drunk on the blue pill reality, hidden in the chocolate eggs he created to bind their world into bite size proportions which he defines. He has a warren filled with cocktail delights just waiting to be unveiled off the back of currently unknown drinks, and like the Matrix, he will undoubtedly get his trilogy of World Class titles.

You can try and chase the rabbit down the hole, but I don’t think you’ll find him, because he is too busy playing Neo in the Matrix, beating Agent Smith and recoding the future of SA bartending, so happy hunting!

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