4 May 2017

If you’re a person who knows your mind, why not skip the standard bars and head straight for one that specialises in your preferred poison? Whether you’re into whisky, rum, tequila or gin, we’ve got you covered with these specialty bars.


Cape Town

Hank’s Olde Irish


This hip bar on Cape Town’s hippest street is dedicated to the water of life, with a comprehensive menu of Scotch whiskies, Irish and Japanese whiskeys and American bourbons. According to its Facebook page it’s, ‘A bar more for sipping, than mixing,’ although I’ve definitely seen some quaffing going on too. The venue still has much of the pub feel of its previous tenants Weinhaus + Biergarten, with some added Tom Waits-inspired touches.

Bascule Bar

If Cape Town’s whisky-lovin’ hipsters go to Hank’s, then her more serious (and generally older) whisky fans go to Bascule at the Cape Grace hotel. Set right on the water’s edge at the V&A Waterfront – and with a design much like the interior of a luxury yacht – this sumptuous yet understated bar is the ideal place to kick back and sip on any of the 400-odd whiskies on offer. The Bascule Lounge (where members can store private whisky collections) is often the site of exclusive whisky tastings, for those in the know.


Churchills Bar


With a name like ‘Churchills’, it should come as no surprise that this Melrose Arch venue has all the atmosphere of an upmarket British bar – and décor to match. Expect to rub shoulders with Jozi’s movers and shakers here while enjoying slick service, quality food, excellent cigars and of course the finest whisky brands. Think single malts like The Macallan Sienna, Scotch blends like Johnnie Walker Blue, Irish whiskeys like Jameson Rarest Vintage and bourbons like Jim Beam Devil’s Cut. Sláinte!

Maximillien Lounge

Known to Sandton’s elite as Maxim, this wine-and-cigar lounge has the feel of a private club – and indeed there is a membership program that allows patrons access to a personal cigar vault. Although oozing sophistication, the venue still manages to be homely, as long as you’re comfortable in more dressy attire. Come for after work drinks, and stay for a heart-warming meal.


The Chairman


While not strictly a whisky bar, The Chairman is the next best thing in Durbs, as while many late-night revellers come for the cocktails and live jazz, it has an impressive whisky (and cigar) selection too. It makes sense then that this vibrant watering hole, set in the historic Point district, pulls a variety of punters, who are all attracted to its cool, eclectic vibe.


Cape Town

Polynesian Pearl Diver


The Pearl is a retro tiki bar where you can sip on completely over-the-top cocktail creations served in classic tiki mugs and adorned with pineapple tops, umbrellas, lumo straws and more (be warned, they’re strong!). As the brainchild of Travis Kuhn, South African flair-bartending champ, you can expect plenty of juggles, throws, flips and spins behind the bar, all against the backdrop of Table Mountain. Tamaa Maitai!


Brian Lara Rum Eatery

When chilling at this bar it’s easy to imagine you’re in the Caribbean instead of Linden ¬– especially if you have a piña colada, strawberry daiquiri or Cuba libre at hand. But that’s not the only place you’ll find rum here: you can get a rum-basted rack of ribs, rum-marinated rump steak or homemade rum-basted cheeseburger too…


Cape Town



Downstairs from El Burro, this little gem on Green Point’s main road is a popular hangout for locals. It’s a no-fuss place to gather after a busy day at work without the distractions of blaring music or an obnoxious TV. Cabrito is also without much of the stereotypically garish Mexican ornamentation, allowing customers to focus on its tequila and mescal – straight up or in cocktails, perhaps while snacking on chillis rellenos or nachos.

Port Elizabeth

Tilting Heads Taco Café and Margarita Bar

This fun spot in Richmond Hill is the perfect choice for a rowdy night out with friends. It specialises in gourmet tacos (think lamb shoulder and tempura prawns) and everyone’s favourite party drink: the margarita. Pitcher offerings include the usual lime and strawberry, but there’s a jalapeño one too, or you can get beeritas and flaming lemon drop shots. ¡Salud!


La Rosa Mexican Grille and Tequileria

While this spot in Weltevreden Park is known for its varied Mexican fare – including antijitos, aperitivos, ensaladas, tacos, quesadillas, burritos and fajitas – it also has an extensive drinks menu. You can drink while you dine, or head straight to the cool tequila bar upstairs, where some 40 tequilas await.


Cape Town

Mother’s Ruin


This bar might be small, but it has a mighty selection of gins. More importantly, it stocks just about all of the craft gins made here in Mzanzi. While you can order your favourite gin drink with whatever you’d like to try, I recommend sampling whatever the staff have dreamt up – the cocktail menu changes regularly. Stay at the bar and talk all things juniper, or head downstairs to the courtyard for alfresco imbibing.

The Gin Bar

In true speakeasy style, this not-so-secret gin bar is tucked away behind Honest Chocolate on Wale Street. Once through the shop, you arrive at a quaint Mediterranean-style courtyard, a magical place to spend an evening. The heritage building was once a morgue, which means drinking a corpse reviver cocktail is pretty much obligatory.


Carbon Bistro


Welcome to Pretoria’s first gin bar and lounge, located in Brooklyn, where you can work your way through 100-odd local and international craft gins. Not sure what to try? The venue offers gin tastings too. When you need to soak up the booze, grab a sharing board or pop over to the restaurant for something more substantial, like a Wagyu burger. Yum.

This post first appeared on Food24 on 4 May 2017.

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