Gin in the city: where to grab a G&T in Cape Town
There is a gin boom in Cape Town and it's spreading across South Africa, with around 50 distilleries now producing no fewer than 250 different gins. Fueling the trend is the use of the country’s fascinating flora to flavour the spirit.
'The joy of gin is that no two gins are alike.' So says Lucy Beard, one of the key players in the recent gin rush in Cape Town.
The founding father of South African gin is Roger Jorgensen, whose distillery, Jorgensen’s, launched in the Cape Winelands in the 1990s. But it would be a couple of decades before gin would begin to flourish. Lucy Beard launched Hope on Hopkins distillery in 2014, not realising just how successful it would be. 'We expanded far quicker and produce far more gin than we ever anticipated,' says Lucy. 'We’ve grown from producing three gins to producing a permanent collection of 16, and our tasting room has gone from being open for one tasting a month, to opening – and being busy – every Saturday afternoon.'
Here are five Cape Town producers to visit and five places that pour a fine range of local gins.
Although the distillery is not in Cape Town itself, no list of local gin makers would be complete without mention of 'The Still Man'. If you plan ahead you might be able to arrange a visit to the Wellington-based distillery, but if not, keep an eye out for Roger Jorgensen’s creations in Cape Town gin bars. His classic gin features locally grown juniper, West African grains of paradise, citrus peel and a blend of fynbos herbs – mostly endemic plants that grow in the Western Cape mountains.
Hope on Hopkins
Book ahead to nab a spot at one of the Saturday tastings at Hope on Hopkins' tasting room in the Woodstock area of Cape Town – this place is deservedly popular. Tastings are a casual affair – you order a trio of gins and mix to your liking while lounging around discussing botanicals or peering over the balcony to the distillery below. The distillers are always around to answer questions or you can just sit and sip on some of South Africa’s finest gin.
Pienaar & Sons
This unassuming garage setup in the East City offers free tastings of gin and vodka on Saturday mornings. Distiller Andre Pienaar recommends you start by tasting the spirits neat, then progress with a mere splash of tonic and later top up and add ice to your liking. The Orient gin is packed with eastern spice, giving off flavours of ginger and allspice – and is great with just a hint of tonic.
Woodstock Gin Company
Open for tastings from Monday to Saturday, Woodstock Gin Company produces an interesting range, including variants with a beer or wine base, a cask-aged version and a pre-mixed G&T. The tasting room is in the heart of Woodstock and is the perfect place to take a break from craft shopping at the nearby Old Biscuit Mill.
Deep South Distillery
The city’s southernmost distillery has won gold medals for its flagship gin, which uses buchu – a fragrant herb harvested in the Cape Peninsula. Bookings are essential is you want to visit their Kommetjie tasting room to sample the Cape Dry and Ruby Gin, the latter infused with hibiscus to lend a glorious shade of fuchsia.
The Gin Bar
Known as the 'Secret Gin Bar', this tiny place is tucked away behind a chocolate shop in the city centre. Grab one of their signature cocktails or put together your own choice of gin, tonic and garnish to enjoy in the adorable, Mediterranean style courtyard.
There’s more than gin on the menu here, with bespoke cocktails and a range of house-made bitters all showcasing locally found botanicals. Even the food menu champions indigenous herbs, featuring dishes like olives marinated with African wormwood or seared springbok with num num jam.
Art of Duplicity
'Mae West meets Al Capone' is the dress code at this underground speakeasy somewhere in the city. Once you’ve made a booking, you receive a password and clues as to the secret location of the glamorous cocktail bar. Once you solve the clues, you’ll find a sultry spot with live jazz and an excellent cocktail menu featuring some gin-based classics.
The Willaston Bar
Found on the sixth floor of the Silo Hotel, The Willaston is the place to splurge on a signature cocktail while enjoying views of the V&A Waterfront. On the menu is the Kalahari Safari, featuring Kalahari truffle-infused gin with rooibos syrup and tonic – and it doesn’t get much more South African than that.
If you’re seeking gin in the suburbs, head to Botany, hidden away behind a bunch of restaurants on busy Dean Street in Newlands. It’s a diminutive little bar with the cutest little mezzanine on which to sip your bespoke G&T.