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The Definitive Cape Town Cocktail Menu
Our guide to the must-tries of the Mother City’s mixology scene
The Mother City virtually overflows with places peddling colourful concoctions, and like with anything, too much choice can be paralysing. If you’re not too sure which way to turn, you can easily end up sipping on a bog-standard bloody mary in some dark alley off Long Street or a poorly mixed margarita in a dingy Claremont student bar.
So, to narrow things down for you and make sure you only sample the most magnificent of the city’s mixed drinks, we’ve put together the ultimate guide to Cape Town’s cocktail scene. The menu below tells you exactly where to get the best of what and features some classics, a few off-the-wall, innovative options and a handful of concoctions that, for one reason or another, are quintessentially Capetonian. Whether you live in the Mother City or are simply visiting for a week or two, you can consider this overview your new summer bucket list.
THE DEFINITIVE CAPE TOWN COCKTAIL MENU
IT STARTS AT HOME
American Whiskey cocktails made at home
You don’t have to hit a bar if you have the right ingredients for a cocktail. Becoming a home mixologist is as easy as following these fantastic American Whiskey cocktail recipes which are guaranteed to impress your guests.
Piña Colada from Banana Jam Café
Naturally, one of the most fitting spots to sip on a tropical piña colada (a drink that was invented in sunny Puerto Rico) is a Caribbean-themed restaurant, which is why the island-style Banana Jam Café in Kenilworth’s Harfield Village is a fail-proof choice if you’re in the mood for this sweet concoction. The uber-laidback joint mixes the perfect balance of coconut, pineapple juice and white rum to make for a tall drink that’s deliciously creamy and decadently fruity.
Best for: lazy summer afternoons spent dreaming of beach holidays.
157 Second Avenue | Harfield Village | Kenilworth | Cape Town | +27 (0)21 674 0186
Bloody (Dirty) Mary from Orphanage Cocktail Emporium
This artsy, slightly off-centre speakeasy on Bree Street doesn’t just do cocktails; the haunt specialises in masterpieces of mixology. And of its whole selection, the drink that’s perhaps garnered the greatest reputation over time is its superbly savoury bloody mary. The pub’s version of the famous regmaker is as popular as it is because, rather than just throwing a few splashes of this and that together, the bartenders masterfully mix the perfect proportions of a number of unusual ingredients, replacing the normal vodka with gin for an extra edge and adding in fresh basil, horseradish and wholegrain mustard for a bit of kick. The drink is served in a soup can in honour of the ‘orphanage’ theme and it’s occasionally sold at a special price on Wednesdays (deals change weekly).
Best for: fixing you right up after a heavy night of debauchery.
227 Bree Street |Corner of Bree and Orphan streets | Cape Town | +27 (0)21 424 2004
Frozen Margarita from Pancho’s
Mexican restaurant Pancho’s in Cape Town’s bohemian Observatory is as celebrated for its on-the-money margaritas as it is for its gargantuan food portions and vibey buzz. The Southern Suburbs eatery pays homage to its ‘South of the Border’ theme by concocting one of Cape Town’s tastiest versions of this tequila-heavy drink, served authentically in a margarita glass with a sprinkling of salt on the rim. Three different flavours are available – lemon, strawberry and mango – and guests can choose to go small (one glass), big (1L) or loco (1.8L).
Best for: sparking a festive, celebratory mood (sombreros are a must).
127 Lower Main Road | Observatory | Cape Town| +27 (0)21 447 4854
Daiquiri from Balboa Balcony Bar
Based in the historic Winelands town of Stellenbosch, the upmarket, over-23 Balboa Balcony Bar, which is a particularly swanky after-work drinks spot, serves up one of the best daiquiris in Cape, largely because the drinks are made with freshly squeezed fruit that’s cut and diced by hand on site. As a result of the focus on freshness, the flavour available depends on the season – the intimate venue serves a refreshing watermelon daiquiri in summer and a sweet strawberry daiquiri in the winter months, and both take the concept of fruity concoctions to a whole new heavenly level.
Best for: toasting to another magnificent sunset in Stellenbosch.
18 Andringa Street | Stellenbosch | +27 (0)21 886 7110
Cuba Libre from Cape to Cuba
Eclectic restaurant Cape to Cuba, which rests right on the waters of Kalk Bay, has long been a favourite cocktail spot amongst Capetonians, and one mix on the menu that’s well worth a try is the cuba libre. Though it’s not a complex concoction (it combines dark rum with coke and fresh lemon), its sings with classic Cuban flavours and will send your senses straight to a far-off Caribbean beach or steamy Havana nightclub.
Best for: a laidback Sunday afternoon sundowner session, cigar in hand.
165 Main Road | Kalk Bay | Cape Town | +27 (0)21 788 1566
Old Fashioned from The House of Machines
According to the owners and a solid portion of Cape Town’s inner-city crowd, the old fashioned cocktail at The House of Machines in the CBD isn’t just good; it’s out of this world. The gifted bartenders at the café-cum-bar-cum-motorbike shop employ a complex, theatrical process to get the gentleman’s drink just right, and they take some liberty with the classic ingredients too. Bourbon is mixed with Fernet Branca (a bitter Italian digestif) instead of the regular bitters and with organic maple syrup instead of standard brown sugar, and the medley is then chilled with special double-compressed ice and served in a glass that’s been wood-smoked to give the contents extra flavour. While the bar usually mixes the drink on the spot, it’s also experimenting with a barrel-aged old fashioned that’ll be available from time to time.
Best for: winding down after a long, stressful day at work.
84 Shortmarket Street | City Centre | Cape Town | +27 (0)21 426 1400
Porn Star Martini from Asoka
It would be nothing less than sinful to visit Kloof Street’s Asoka bar without sampling its irreverent Porn Star Martini. The intimate lounge, which rests in an old Victorian house, is synonymous with this creation, which the bartenders conjure up using vanilla vodka, homemade vanilla-infused gomme syrup, passion fruit purée and a touch of lemon juice. Drinking it is also a whole experience as the martini is served with a double shot of sparkling wine on the side, which guests can either mix into the medley or enjoy as a palate cleanser in between sips of the sweet stuff.
Best for: kicking off a racy evening out on the town.
68 Kloof Street | City Centre | Cape Town | +27 (0)21 422 0909
Rosé Cosmopolitan from Leopard’s Leap Family Vineyards
This hip, modern winery in Franschhoek has leapt ahead of its counterparts by launching an innovative range of wine cocktails that show the versatility of the farm’s vino. Though there are 10 options in total, one of the most popular is the rosé cosmopolitan, which reimagines the traditional cosmo by incorporating a splash of the winery’s raspberry-rich Pinotage Rosé. For anyone who’s a fan of the traditional version of the drink, this creative take on it is a must-try, not just because it’s delicious, but also because it’s a great excuse to laze on Leopard’s Leap’s stunning, sunny stone stoep, which overlooks the lush vineyards. Do note: wine cocktails are only available from Wednesday to Sunday between 12pm and 5pm.
Best for: an easy, breezy sipping session with the girls.
R45 (Main Road) | Franschhoek | +27 (0)21 876 8002
The Jelly Baby from Tjing Tjing Rooftop Bar
Like a candy shop in a glass, this fun cocktail from sexy city centre rooftop bar Tjing Tjing delights the senses with vibrant colours and playful flavours. The medley combines Stoli vanilla vodka, Cointreau, pomegranate juice, lime and real jelly babies (they swim within the bowl of the drink and float on the surface as a garnish), and it’s the ideal choice for anyone in the mood for something truly different and equally delicious.
Best for: playful, naughty nights out.
165 Longmarket Street | City Centre | Cape Town | +27 (0)21 422 4920
Basil and Clove Martini from Kitima
With a cocktail menu that’s longer than most people’s bucket list, the renowned Kitima restaurant in Hout Bay is the Cape Peninsula’s goddess of exotic concoctions, and its cooling Basil and Clove Martini is its ultimate work of art. As the eatery is all about oriental elegance, it sources many of the ingredients for this invigorating drink straight from Thailand, so it boasts an Asian essence. The mix includes basil and clove-infused vodka, lemon juice, lime cordial, sugar syrup and fresh basil – we think even James Bond would be impressed.
Best for: martini lovers who’re lusting after something a little more imaginative.
140 Main Road | Hout Bay | Cape Town | +27 (0)21 790 8004
Passion Fruit and Lemongrass Sake from The Pot Luck Club
Celebrated local chef Luke Dale-Roberts’s Pot Luck Club, which sits on the top floor of the historic Silo at The Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock, is renowned for treating diners to a rollercoaster ride of flavours with its modern global food, and it does the same with its cocktails. The Passion Fruit and Lemongrass mix whisks drinkers away to the exotic East by incorporating sake (Japanese rice wine) as its base. The drink is also made with fresh passion fruit pulp and is served over crushed ice in a short-stemmed snifter glass.
Best for: a Japanese-inspired evening jol.
Top Floor | Silo | The Old Biscuit Mill | 373 – 375 Albert Road | Woodstock | Cape Town | +27 (0)21 447 0804
Vanilla and Honey Sour from The Piano Bar
Several levels above the standard whisky sour, this divine example of mixology from The Piano Bar, a sophisticated musical revue joint in De Waterkant, will get your toes tapping and your soul singing. The rather expensive cocktail marries vanilla vodka, honey, simple syrup, Drambuie (a golden-hued liqueur made from Scotch whisky, honey, spices and herbs), fresh lemon and orange, and it’s served on the rocks in a class whisky glass. It’s the sort of heavenly elixir you could easily drink all day, any day, but if you’re looking to save a few pennies, visit on a weekday between 4pm and 6pm when there’s a 2-for-1 special on cocktails.
Best for: satisfying a sweet tooth.
47 Napier Street | De Waterkant | Cape Town | +27 (0)21 418 1096
Fynbos Fusion from The Odyssey Gastropub
It makes sense that a bar and restaurant that’s heavily devoted to the ‘local is lekker’ philosophy would also be the proud home of a classically Capetonian cocktail. The unusual drink in question is made with Inverroche gin, which is crafted from fynbos, an indigenous flora that’s only found in the Western Cape. The spirit is mixed with fresh pear purée, lemon juice and tonic, and it gives the medley a subtle but striking botanical taste. The Bree Street haunt is the first gastropub in Cape Town (meaning, it combines a high-end eatery with an upscale bar), so you’ll be able to pair your elixir with a delicious Mzansi meal.
Best for: cooling down after a hike up one of Cape Town’s fynbos-covered peaks.
199 Bree Street | City Centre | Cape Town | +27 (0)21 422 4084
Table Mountain Sunset from Harald's Bar & Terrace
Considering that Harald's Bar & Terrace, which sits on the 11th floor of the Park Inn Foreshore hotel, boasts a spectacular, sky-high view of Table Mountain, this is a particularly appropriate name for one of its signature drinks. Made from rum, cranberry juice, orange juice, blood orange extracts and lime, the cocktail actually displays all the colours of an explosive Cape Town sunset and thus is a perfect locally inspired sundowner option.
Best for: toasting to nightfall while watching the twinkling city lights blink on far down below.
29 Heerengracht Street | City Centre | Cape Town | +27 (0)21 427 4800
Robben Island Iced Tea from the Sunset Deck at The Peninsula Hotel
This tasty but strong mixture from Sea Point’s Peninsula Hotel is a clever local twist on the ever-popular Long Island Iced Tea. Instead of tequila, the drink features brandy – one of South Africa’s biggest alcoholic exports – and it replaces coke with ginger ale. Quite fittingly, the cocktail can be enjoyed while peering out at the rise and flow of the azure Atlantic and the silhouette of Cape Town’s famed Robben Island (the site where the late Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years) in the distance.
Best for: getting rather tipsy rather quickly – the Robben Island Iced Tea is as potent as its American counterpart.
313 Beach Road | Sea Point | Cape Town | +27 (0)21 430 7777
Eager to learn more about the top Mother City places to sip on cocktails at sunset? Take a peek at our overview of sundowner spots in Cape Town.
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