Like soaked wretches clinging to a life raft, these bars have made it off the sinking ship of South Africa’s lockdown levels five through three, but they’re still far from the safety of dry land.

Like soaked wretches clinging to a life raft, these bars have made it off the sinking ship of South Africa’s lockdown levels five through three, but they’re still far from the safety of dry land. 

If you don’t want to see your favourite watering hole end up in Davy Jones’ Locker, it’s up to you to throw it a lifeline.

Here’s our roundup of bars you should support, from fancy cocktail kitchens to taverns and dive bars.

Cape Town

Cause Effect Cocktail Kitchen

Voted South Africa’s best cocktail bar at the 2019 BAR Awards, Cause Effect is well worth your patronage. Go there for sensational cocktails thrown together – literally – by highly skilled drinkslingers.

The House of Machines

Live music, friendly staff and just an all-round lekker vibe, The House is understandably wildly popular. Don’t miss their peanut butter Manhattans and barrel aged Old Fashioneds.

The Art of Duplicity

Don your best threads and spoil yourself to a visit to this little speakeasy. The correct password transports you to an era of plush furniture, decadent cocktails, live jazz and movie-star-level service.

A Touch of Madness

Set in a dramatic Victorian house, this quirky neighbourhood gem will make you feel right at home. Expect good, solid drinks and fine fare served in cosy surroundings.

SurfaRosa

This no-nonsense dive bar in the East City will bring out your inner punk-rocking surfer. Enjoy wholesome pizzas, cheap beers and even the odd braai – keep an eye on their Facebook page for events.

Joburg

Smoking Kills

Another excellent dive bar, Smoking Kills is the place to go for down-to-earth good times. Swig some rum, sip on some beer and sway to the sounds of whatever local band is playing that evening.

Sin+Tax

This small bar, tucked away in Rosebank, will impress and delight you with its imaginative offerings, while still making you feel right at home. Soon, you’ll feel part of the family.

The Radium Beerhall

The oldest surviving bar and grill in the City of Gold, having opened its doors in 1929, Radium is oozing with history. This old dame is especially worthy of your support – don’t let her die now.

The Royale

If it’s a touch of Cuba you’re after, The Royale won’t disappoint. Your wallet will be happy too, as it’s both inexpensive and great value. The food is similarly amazing: think classic Cubanos, hot-peppered prawns and elotes. Yum!

Durban

Lucky Shaker

Talk about a well-oiled machine! Not only will you enjoy some of the best cocktails of your life when frequenting this beautiful bar, but watching how seamlessly the team works is a pleasure in itself. 

Unity Brasserie and Bar

While away an evening here with some friends, playing backgammon, sipping good beer and sharing platters of food. This is where you come to relax for a casual night out.

Dropkick Murphy’s

Go Irish at this fun neighbourhood bar … or drink Guinness anyway, as the food is American inspired. Either way, you’re sure to have a merry, old time, and you may even get lucky.

Rest of the country

If you’re further afield, we have you covered. These nine bars are open too, and waiting for you.

Lucky Rodrigo, Pretoria

Summit Grill and Skybar, Pretoria

Wild About Whisky, Dullstroom

Beer Shack, PE

Pig n Whistle, Bathurst

The Laird’s Arms, Matjiesfontein 

Mystic Boer, Bloemfontein 

Route 66 Restaurant and Bar, Bloemfontein

The Bierfassl, Nottingham Road

This post first appeared on Eat Out on 16 September 2020