It’s hard to keep up with the craft gin explosion! Everywhere you look these days, there’s a new gin offering or gin bar. I investigated quite a few for a well-known travel magazine and have selected five of my favourite gin-tastic spots in Cape Town to enjoy a tasting or cocktail. One of them is even pet-friendly!
HOPE ON HOPKINS DISTILLERY, SALT RIVER
There’s a relaxed and fun atmosphere at this distillery, which incidentally was the first distillery in Cape Town (also why they are first on this list).Sit at either one of their long tables, at the bar or cosy up in the corner on the couch and enjoy a tasting of either three or four gins, which arrive in tiny medicine-style bottles, served with tonic. There’s a handy booklet with a tasting guide and information on each of their gins, but the waitrons are only too happy to answer any questions. While you are there you can expect a sniffing over from Mr Scruff, their resident rescue dog. If you are really lucky you may get to meet their distillery cats, Martini and Mimo too. Before you leave, make sure you take home one of their Gin Popsicles, made with Hope gin – at 7% alcohol these are definitely for the grown-ups!
Gin-tastings are held on Saturdays between 12h00 and 17h00 and they also host a Gin Experience on the first Wednesday evening of every month where you can enjoy a guided experience with the distillers and taste four handcrafted gins accompanied by small bites. Bookings are recommended for the Saturday tasting and essential for the gin experience.
Contact: Telephone 021 447 1950 | www.hopeonhopkins.co.za
THE BOTANICAL BAR, CITY BOWL
If potions and lotions intrigue you, then this hip little bar in Longmarket Street, opened in December 2017, will appeal to all your senses. Giant jars filled with colourful homemade bitters and shrubs created from indigenous botanicals line the walls, while the bar counter holds intriguing containers storing various botanicals and dehydrated fruit, along with homemade sugars and syrups.
The idea is to create your own style of drink, using the various bitters and shrubs available, but there are various mixes already on the menu, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. It’s worth noting that they only use local spirits (right down to creating their own version of international spirits) and all the botanicals used are sustainable. I got sidetracked by the beetroot, cocoa nibs and wild rosemary served with brandy (pretty colours!), but you can enjoy a cucumber and chilli gin or a buchu and naartjie gin. Or perhaps be really brave and try the Foraged Cocktail with water mint, watermelon, grapefruit juice and agave spirit with soda!
It may all seem a bit overwhelming at first, but seek out Peter Lebese who is the man to guide you through creating your own tincture. He has travelled the country and learnt first hand about shrubs, fynbos and more from both botanists and traditional healers and is very enthusiastic about people enjoying a personal botanical journey while bringing a sense of nature into the city. He’ll have you nibbling on wild rosemary and sniffing wormwood before you can say ‘gin cocktail’.
The Botanical Bar is open Tuesdays to Saturdays from 16h00 until late. Their kitchen opens at 17h00 with a tapas menu available. Dishes include buchu & orange marinated olives, bacon-crusted skilpadjie pate with wild rosemary flatbread and Karoo lamb frikkadels with wild mint salsa.
Contact: Telephone 076 124 4639 | www.thebotanicalbar.co.za
THE DRINKERY, CITY BOWL
When you walk into The Drinkery, upstairs in Heritage Square, you feel as if you have arrived at a bohemian home, with comfy antique couches filled with bright cushions, softly lit lamps and interesting art pieces, while feathered angels flutter above the door leading out to the balcony overlooking the vibrant square below. What’s more, everything you see is for sale including the couch you are sitting on!
You can enjoy a free gin-tasting if there’s one happening, but it’s apparently Shaileen’s martini’s that are truly magical! I never had a martini, but I did enjoy my glass of Whitley Neill gin served with a slice of grapefruit, a splash of basil leaves and a dash of pink peppercorns that came from a palace outside Jadpur! There’s a wide selection of good spirits, from gin to tequila, along with beers and ales and wines and bubbly from the area. You can choose to have your drinks by the glass, or simply the buy the bottle – it works out the same if you buy by the glass or bottle – and Shaileen will gladly keep your bottle for you (labelled with your name on it) in her armour for your next visit – which reminds me, I still have some gin there!
Pet owners will also be pleased to know that this is a pet-friendly establishment (by arrangement), but your dog must be well-behaved and nice to Mia, the resident cucumber-loving and Spanish speaking Schnauzer, who was adopted Costa Rica. She’ll steal your heart long before you can say ‘Me gustaria un gin tonic, por favor’!
The Drinkery is open Mondays to Fridays from 13h00 to 23h30 and over weekends by arrangement. You can also hold a private function there (up to 45 people) with no venue charge.
Contact: Telephone 071 191 5034 | www.newheritagegallery.com/the-drinkery
BOTANY COCKTAIL LOUNGE, NEWLANDS
Next door to Patina in the Newlands Quarter in Dean Street, you’ll find a little bubbly and gin bar, serving the classiest gin cocktails in town. Open since December 2017, this new addition to the Patina family is perfect for date nights (plenty of cosy nooks and crannies and dim lighting), a night out with the girls (their pink gin cocktail is a favourite), or pop in before or after your steak dinner at Patina.
They have plenty of local and international gins to choose from, along with a wide range of gin cocktails, including Strawberry & Pink Peppercorn, Spicy Tomato Gin, Mint & Pink Grapefruit and Thyme & Lime. I really enjoyed their Coriander, Ginger and Cinnamon cocktail, along with a selection of tapas (some of which are gin-infused). I can highly recommend their gin and fennel mussels and the melt-in-your-mouth grilled calamari tubes with aioli lime dressing! However, I am told that the de-shelled prawns with champagne butter are a firm favourite on the menu.
Botany is open on Tuesdays to Sundays from 14h00 until late and the venue is also available for private functions (no venue charge, but there is a minimum spend required).
Contact: 021 824 3367 | www.facebook.com/coppercollection/
DEEP SOUTH DISTILLERY, KOMMETJIE
Steve Erlank and James Copeland are hoping to make the world a better place one drink at a time and a gin-tasting at this small distillery in an industrial park in Kommetjie is one-third knowledge, one-third alcohol and one-third fun!
Steve will happily take you on a distillery tour where you will meet Tiny, Whiny and Shiny, watch bottles being hand-labelled, along with learning about the distillation process. This is followed by a tasting of their two gins, being the Cape Dry Gin (London dry style gin infused with Cape botanicals, including mountain fynbos and Honeybush) and the ‘unashamedly floral’ Ruby Gin, which was originally developed as a Christmas gin. You are given total permission to play with your gins, so expect to add orange peel, thyme, strawberries and rosemary (to name a few) to your glass.
Gin-tastings are available every Saturday, by appointment, from 11h00 to 15h30 and if you buy a bottle your tasting is free. They are also happy to host private tastings for groups of 8-16 people during the week and evenings, along with being available for private events – they also have a pop-up gin bar!
Contact: Telephone 021 783 0129 | www.deepsouthdistillery.co.za
Published November 2018 | Hosted and own cost