Flair bartender and Beverage Director for the Mexicola Group
Bartending gave me an amazing opportunity to witness so many different cultures and approaches to life. I'm really grateful that I didn’t stop exploring, right up until this very moment.
Tell us your story – how did you get here?
My name is Denny Bakiev and I’m originally from a small town in the centre of Ukraine. Growing up I always dreamt about travelling the world, even though I only knew a few people in our town who had actually been farther than the Ukrainian capital. After finishing high school, I travelled to a bigger city for University where I studied hotel and restaurant management. After the first course, I immediately started to look for a part time job and very soon I started working behind the bar in a new Italian restaurant. That completely changed my future and professional direction.
Very soon I became interested in flair bartending. Back then, the mixology movement wasn’t as big as it is now, and if you could do a couple of tricks with bar tools while making a cocktail, you were the centre of attention in an entire venue. I would study in the mornings and work at the bar in the evenings, and I’d spend my days off in the flair room where I was creating and perfecting my moves. That eventually led me on stage to one of the flair bartending competitions.
Fast-forward a few years and I began competing around the world (from Tokyo to Las Vegas) among the best flair bartenders in the world – all in the hope of earning a world title. In those intense and diverse seven years of being a professional flair bartender, I visited more than 45 countries competing, hosting masterclasses and private shows, joining exhibitions and collaborating with different spirits brands. In 2014, I decided to move to Bali just for a year to take a break from travelling and competing. Eight years later, I’m still here….
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
I’m proud that I continued to dream about new horizons when there were few opportunities around me to make my dreams come true. Coming from a small town where reality and perspectives are very limited, I managed to expose myself to much more and break free from the limitations and ignorance. Bartending gave me an amazing opportunity to witness so many different cultures and approaches to life. I’m really grateful that I didn’t stop exploring, right up until this very moment.
What impact have you made in Bali?
Working with so many local people within the Mexicola group, I have daily opportunities to share some of my experience with the guys who work with us. I get to offer a global influence to the local culture and help the team grow both professionally and personally.
What does 2022 look like for you?
It looks busy and productive. With Bali opening up, all of our venues (Mexicola, Da Maria and Luigi’s Hot Pizza) are picking up and getting back up to speed again – and it’s happening fast. It looks like before we know it, Bali will match the levels of 2019 which is great. We also just opened Indonesia’s first ever natural wine bar – Mosto in Berawa – and it’s getting great feedback from our guests. We are putting in a lot of time and love into Mosto these days, and it’s starting to pay back.
What do you love most about Bali?
The nature and diversity – it’s such a unique place. Even though I moved here eight years ago, I’m still amazed by it every day. From the local people and expats, to the culture and food diversity – to me, it’s a small model of the world’s future, where people of different religions, cultures and beliefs can live together without confrontation. Sometimes people forget to ask “where are you from” and that’s wonderful because it shows that people are not identifying themselves with places they originally came from. It becomes secondary. The most important thing is what kind of person you are. Everything else can follow.
What’s your first and last drink of the day?
Who is your Local Legend and why?
Isabella Rowell, CEO of Mexicola Group Bali. Bella is a great example of a wise and caring leader. While having hundreds of staff to manage, she keeps things real and stays focused and determined, growing the people under her wing to take them to new heights.