Time for a Cape Town walkabout. We’ve scouted some decent looking watering holes in the area and not too far a stumble either. We walk passed a place called The Orphanage that looks hipsterrific but we’ve kind of got our minds set on a hidden gin bar.
“I think it’s over here”, we go down a street and come upon some shops that look closed. Now if I were a hidden gin baaaar….
Through the door of the Honest Chocolate Cafe, lights off and the place looks closed. A guy at the counter washing glasses gives us a head nod towards the back. Cheers. At the back of the room it spills into an open air, brick, zigzag of an alley. There are a handful of tables, the lighting is soft and chill, it feels like a narrow alley cafe in Italy. We start to hear deep house music from around the corner.
Walk over and there’s a badass gin joint in a little nook.
The bartenders are playing Uno when we roll up. No one here yet. They give us a warm welcome, offer some menus and tell us to look around. Start perusing the menu and gin selection and, well, it’s easily the best I’ve ever seen to be honest.
Great collection of remedy cocktails, clever idea.
The place is stocked with top shelf liquors, fixins and mixers. I’ve gotta try the House Negroni, “Do you want that smoked?”, “Definitely.” He pulls out the cedar board, flips two glasses on it and fires it up. The other bartender prepares the ice and garnish. These guys know what’s up, I love it. Holy shit these are good.
Gotta try that remedies menu. Next up, a couple of the Souls
The bartender is legit enthused about gin and mixology and he’s found an interested party. He starts telling us about all the gin in the whole place and letting us smell it and sample some of it. His name is Sabello, I like his style. He has an old timey look to him with a serious apron with leather straps and an Indiana Jones hat. The other guy seems more like a bar back, grabbing ice and getting glasses ready. Sabello is the master mixologist here and there’s an interesting respect hierarchy in this relationship.
Sabello tells us he likes using this Triple Three Citrus a lot in drinks. Binds well to various mixers but also tastes great on it’s own, which is his preferred way to have gin. “I want to be able to taste the complexities in the gin, not water them down. And I just like the taste of gin.”
I like this idea for a tip jar. Pick your fave. Looks about even. The peppercorn, seeds, and nuts are interesting to play with while you’re sampling the gins as well.
Show me your SNIFF FACE!!
“Kinda smells like a gin that a tiger pissed in”, “Hah! Whaaa?”
“You wanna try a new drink I’m working on?”, “Yeah, of course”, “It’s called the Old Giuseppe. My take on a classic cocktail. It’s coming out in summer. Citrus infused gin, orange juice, Cointreau, lime, orange circle and lit cinnamon.” Yep, exactly as described, a classic tasting cocktail, perfectly balanced and not too sweet despite all of the citrus and cinnamon.
Sabello says he’s been studying a New York bar called Death and Co. He’s got the book on the shelf behind the bar. He tells us that Cape Town is evolving in the gin scene rapidly, claiming it as the 2nd best gin scene now (behind London). There has been such an influx of new distilleries here and gin has skyrocketed in popularity and consumption. Fine by me.
We ask Sabello what his favorite drink here is and he says the Ambition. Couple of those then please. After that he makes us a London Mule that’s not on the menu. And after that it becomes really obvious that we haven’t had dinner yet. “Well, who needs dinner, here drink more gin haha”
Apparently there’s a baller whiskey joint hidden upstairs as well, but it’s closed now. We’ll have to come back on Thursday.
Alright, we’re swimming deep in the gins at this point, probably try to find our way out of this place and on to another. We thank Sabello for the gin knowledge and tasting tour and backtrack through the Chocolate shop and into the street. Hmmm getting a little late and things look closey. Time to flip on the Bardar and see where it takes us.