Cape Town Cocktails – So we didn’t invent cocktails, but South Africans have embraced the tradition of putting (often lethal) combinations of spirits into a glass, adding some exotic fruit or a tiny paper umbrella, and giving it a funny name.
Once the reserve of beachside resorts and TV shows about upwardly mobile, thirty-something women in New York, the cocktail bar has in recent years become a fixture of Cape Town’s nightlife. You’d be hard pressed to find a nightspot in the city that couldn’t mix you up a decent drink, but there are a few places you simply can’t miss out on …
Julep is an incredibly unassuming little gem of a place, just off bustling Long Street in Cape Town’s City Centre. Named after its signature drink, the Mint Julep (mint, bourbon, sugar and water), it offers a staggering variety of cocktails: all the classics – remixed into inventive yet highly palatable flavours – and a number of original recipes.
The interior of the bar is cosy, with the arrangement of squashy sofas lending itself to the accommodation of small, intimate parties. There is a bar snacks and tapas menu for the slightly peckish, which is equal parts concise and tasty. Happy hour – all cocktails R20 – is Tuesday to Saturday 5-8pm, and all night Monday, giving you ample opportunity – and excuse – to work your way through the ridiculously tempting drinks menu.
Still in the Ciy, Those with a little extra money to burn should definitely visit Planet Bar, Cape Town’s first champagne bar, at the Mount Nelson Hotel. Luxuriously decorated with a mixture of velvet, satin and leather, the interior of the bar pays tribute to the hotel’s long history, featuring accoutrements from the 40s and 50s – think ultra cool with a touch of colonial elegance.
Obviously the wine and champers list is extensive and award winning, but the new cocktail menu is far from shabby. Besides, you know you’ve arrived when you’re sipping your drinks in a place that lists caviar and oysters as bar snacks. And don’t forget to look up – the bar gets its name from the large planetary mobile suspended from the ceiling, and the fibre-optic light system representing the Milky Way and stars of the Southern Hemisphere. Bar opens at 5pm daily, and 3pm on Fridays.
Nestled just outside of the city, in Kalk Bay, is the enduring Cape To Cuba, a kind of bar/restaurant tribute to old Havana. The bar is famed for its superb mojitos and caipirinhas (what else?), mixed by barmen outfitted in Cuban slacks and Che Guevara berets. Cosy up in the busy yet intimate restaurant, or suck on a cigar in the Che bar outside. Interestingly, just about everything that’s not nailed down is for sale, from cigars and memorabilia to the tables and chandeliers.
Beluga in Green Point is another port of call for the cocktail connoisseur. Its drinks menu is comprised within a quirky, mini-newspaper format, which is updated regularly to include the more-ish concoctions constantly being added.
Feel free to dither over the choice between the more classic drinks to the very original (Caramello Pear anyone?) to the absolutely regal Moët & Chandon Champagne cocktail – ‘A brown sugar cube drenched in Angosturra bitters and Hennessy Paradis Extra Cognac charged with Moët & Chandon’. It’ll only set you back R299. Summertime sees locals streaming through the restaurant’s doors for their half price specials on sushi and cocktails, a match made in dining heaven.
Lastly, the Radisson Hotel in Granger Bay is an old favourite for Capetonians in the mood for lazy sundowners. Tobago’s Bar and Terrace juts over the sea and provides the perfect spot for sipping on something indulgent.
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Julep – +27 (0)21 423-4276
Planet Bar – +27 (0)21 483-1737
Cape To Cuba – +27 (0)21 788-1566
Beluga – +27 (0)21 418-2948
Tobago’s Bar & Terrace – +27 (0)21 441-3000