Sipping on Joburg’s Coolest Cocktails of the Season

For the longest time, wine has been the unchallenged darling of South Africa’s social scene. With stunning vineyards spilling out across the Cape vineyards, South Africa has been spoiled with plenty choices for what to uncork next.

But times (and palates) are changing.

Expertly mixed artisanal cocktails – buoyed by a renaissance of local craft spirit-making from the Karoo to the Cradle – are the new in drink among Joburg’s social set and the city’s best bartenders are playing around with unusual flavours and remixing classic bases, taking inspiration from the seasons, local ingredients and South African history and culture.

As the weather heats up, it’s time to cool down with the most gorgeous, creative and unique cocktails of the moment spun by resident mixologists. Here is our pick of the best places to find them.

Historical references at Mix Cocktail Bar

Dress to impress and join the sophisticated set at this sexy cocktail lounge, housed in what is by day a private members’ club on Keyes Art Mile. The meticulously constructed menu is inspired by historical references as well as the contemporary artworks on display. Each month a new cocktail is launched, using a classic recipe as a base and given a twist. Savour a sundowner with a fabulous view from the large terrace or admire the bespoke interiors that ooze contemporary luxury after hours.
Where: Keyes Art Mile, Rosebank
What to drink this spring: The Parisian, a delicate cognac-based cocktail with peach rosso, cointreau and lemon juice

African flavours at Mootee Bar

If you are feeling daring, check out the latest potions and whimsical libations at the slick Mootee Bar in bohemian Melville, which just launched a brand new cocktail menu that explores the concept of ‘texture’ profiles (soft, concrete, tessellated, granular, charred and waxy). You are encouraged to choose from Mootee’s house cocktails, all inspired by African flavours, according to the flavour notes that you enjoy most such as strong, short, long, fresh etc. It is a somewhat quirky  approach to presenting a menu and guaranteed to annoy if you prefer a little more knowledge about what you’re getting beforehand. However, regardless of the unusual menu presentation, the final result is always something to be remembered and the cool outdoor alleyway is a relaxed spot to enjoy a summer evening.
Where: 4th Avenue, Melville
What to drink this spring: Try the original Mashonza, with smoked agave, locust bean, mango leaf and grappa naartjie, topped with a mopane worm!

Literary inspired drinks at EB Social Kitchen and Bar 

A show-stopping space that includes a bookshop (Exclusive Books), coffee shop, bar and restaurant with expansive views of the tree-lined northern suburbs. The fun cocktail menu features concoctions with cheeky literary-themed names like The Catcher in the Rye (which heroes rye whiskey alongside a cozy blend of mint, apple and cinnamon) and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (featuring Ketel One Vodka with a spicy mix of lime and ginger beer). New creations are continuously added to the rotating menu, but the inviting, lively charm of EB Social Kitchen & Bar always remains the same.
Where: Hyde Park Corner, Hyde Park
What to drink this spring: The Secret Garden – a bouquet of rose, chamomile and lemon flavours grounded by Tanqueray Ten gin.

Summer favourites at Lucky Bean

Catering to the laid back residents of Melville for years Lucky Bean on Melville’s quirky 7th Street is a reliably chilled spot to settle in for an evening of cocktails on the street terrace. The Lucky Bean restaurant is popular for its South African dishes such as springbok pie, while the long cocktail menu is full of summer favourites given a Lucky Bean twist such as the Lucky Lemon Drop (made with vodka, lemon juice and limoncello) and the Hibiscus G&T made with hibiscus syrup and shaken with lemon and cranberry juice.
Where: 7th Street, Melville
What to drink this spring: The vivid green and gold coloured Green Mamba made with gin, calvados, absinthe, home-made ginger cordial, chili and cucumber ribbons, is pure summer and bursting with unusual flavours. From your first sip the perfume of the absinthe filters gently through your nostrils, and you are left with a faint aftertaste of chili.

The Green Mamba at Lucky Bean

Spice infusions at Sin + Tax

Accessed via one of two hidden doors (found inside a neighbouring bar and in the adjacent alleyway), Sin + Tax is a sleek, sophisticated and self-consciously ‘secret’ speakeasy lounge specialising in serving up the most imaginative cocktails, perfect for a late one with friends. Resident bartender Julian Short won Bartender of the Year at the Bartending Accolades and Recognition Awards 2018 in Cape Town, and his seasonally changing menu is always exciting and unique. Until the end of October, the bar is serving the ‘Bizaar’ menu which features a collection of colourful specialties that take inspiration from aromatic spices and spice infusions.
Where: Park Corner, Rosebank
What to drink this spring: Try The Jambo from the Bizaar menu, a rum-based cocktail swimming with splashes of frangelico, African falernum and naartjie oleo, and dusted with toasted almonds and nutmeg.

Sandton sundowners at Parliament

A refreshing space among Sandton’s shiny high rises, Parliament on Parkmore’s busy 11th Street has been designed to make the most of outdoor space. One side of the bar is dominated by a long open balcony with seats gazing directly over the street while the other is given over to a long curved bar and high tables made for sharing. An ideal setup for after work drinks in an upmarket atmosphere, where you’ll find master mixologist Evert de Jong behind the bar whipping up adventurous seasonal cocktails.
Where: 11th Street, Parkmore
What to drink this spring: We think we might like The Celery Margarita, fresh celery juice, tucked in with a classic combo of tequila, lime, syrup and cointreau – basically a green juice for adults-only, right?

Classic Americana at Calexico Vinyl Lounge and Beer Yard

Sometimes you are just craving a classic cocktail done right, and for that look no further than 44 Stanley and the newly revamped Calexico Vinyl Lounge and Beer Yard. Calexico serves up  an eclectic mix of Californian and Mexican-style dishes, décor and vintage tunes – don’t miss the vinyl DJ sets on Thursdays and Fridays and live bands on Saturday afternoons. As you might expect for a venue enamoured with all things Latino and Americana rum, bourbon and tequila feature prominently on the classic cocktail menu which focuses on drinks like the Mojito, Cuba Libre and Old Fashioned.
Where: 44 Stanley, Milpark
What to drink this spring: Nothing quite beats a classic ice cold Margarita on a sunny spring day.

Blooming jacarandas at View and Pre View

As the name suggests, View – the signature fine-dining restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel the Westcliff and its adjacent cocktail bar Pre View – serve up stunning views of the Johannesburg skyline and surrounding lush suburbs. With the jacarandas in full bloom this month, grab a table on the expansive terrace overlooking the purple and green vista, while you sip on the restaurant’s summer cocktail menu. With an emphasis on seasonal ingredients, Chef Daniel Payne presents a fresh take on contemporary cuisine with a set menu that is inspired by the city’s blooming jacarandas while mixologist Evert de Jong has masterminded an exciting new summer cocktail menu to go with it.
Where: Four Seasons Hotel The Westcliff, Westcliff
What to drink this spring: Try the View Above the Clouds which combines Johnnie Walker Gold and Caperitif served on the rocks with grapefruit and kombucha.

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