Johannesburg

Joburg Nightlife – Joburg's Best Cocktail Bars

29 Sep 2017

It wasn’t long ago that cocktails were a mere footnote to soft drinks on Joburg menus. Fast forward to 2017 and complex cocktails made with obscure craft labels and embellished with all manner of garnishes are everywhere. To experience the true art of cocktails these are some of the city’s best bars to seek out.

4PM AT MESH

Trumpet, 19 Keyes Ave, Rosebank
Dress to impress and join the sophisticated set at this sexy cocktail lounge, housed in what is by day a private members’ club in Rosebank's slick Keyes Art Mile development. The meticulously constructed menu is inspired by historical references as well as the contemporary artworks on display and each month a new cocktail is launched, using a classic recipe as a base and given a twist. The views are fabulous, and the bespoke furniture and interiors ooze contemporary luxury. As the name suggests the bar is open to the public every day from 4pm. Keep an eye out for live performances on Thursdays and DJ sets on Fridays.
What to drink: The cocktail of the month is always something special. Previous favourites have included the Corpse Reviver, a gin-based cocktail first named in 1889, that is equal parts Cointreau, Caperitif (a classy South African fortified wine), Absinthe and orange zest for flavour.

BLIND TIGER CAFE
62 Tyrone Ave, Parkview
Stepping through the door of this bar on Parkview’s quaint village-like high street is like walking into another city, perhaps Chicago or Paris, where the glamorous and crazy 1920s have been brough back to life. Jazz music swings in the background and moreish cocktails inspired by Fitzgerald’s age-defining novel The Great Gatsby are conjured up by friendly barmen who’ll remember you for next time.
What to drink: Among the many outstanding creations on the 'giggle waters' section of the menu a definite stand out is The Great Gatsby - South African Inverroche gin, elderflower cordial, sour mix and tonic topped with a maraschino cherry and a slice of lemon.

AL LADO
303 Fox St, Maboneng, City Centre
Look for the bouncer guarding an unmarked door on the corner and climb the stairs to find your way into this theatrical cocktail and tapas bar that shares the same warehouse building in the regenerated downtown Maboneng Precinct as the popular Che Argentine Grill. Late on weekends there’s a club-like atmosphere as house and electro beats from the resident DJs get the party started. On the menu expect plenty of sweet-sour craft gin and rumbased cocktails prepared with Latino flare.
What to drink: Cocktail staples include a classic negroni, caipiroska, mint julep and a margarita on the rocks. Signature drinks created by Al Lado's mixologists include a refreshing spin on the Brazilian caipirinha that combines cachaça with fresh strawberry juice, lime, Chambord, fresh basil and a grind of pepper.

LOUNGE 55
55 7th Avenue, Parktown North​
To the left is leafy Parktown North's casual fine-dining tapas restaurant Workshop 55 and to the right Lounge 55, whose decor takes its inspiration from the glamourous cocktail lounges of 1920s Miami. Both venues specialise in gin and there’s a massive selection of unusual and rare craft labels to try and expensive craft tonics to mix them with.
What to drink: The drinks list has some outstanding gin infusions to try - we particularly enjoyed the Islay Botanist gin infused with grapefruit.

EB SOCIAL KITCHEN AND BAR
Hyde Park Corner, cnr Jan Smuts Ave and William Nicol Dr, Hyde Park
At this smart-casual bar and restaurant inside the Hyde Park Corner branch of the Exclusive Books bookstore, each cocktail is inspired by a classic novel such as The Catcher in the Rye (Bulleit Bourbon, mint, apple and cinnamon) and Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises. The brass-and-tile bar comes with books scattered across it for your reading pleasure and a view of the urban forest of the northern suburbs.
What to drink: There are two ways to choose, according to your favourite spirits or your favourite authors. New creations continue to be added to the menu but the long and summery The Secret Garden (Tanqueray Ten, rose, chamomile and lemon) remains a staple.

LENIN’S VODKA BAR
300 Commissioner St, Maboneng, City Centre
With over 40 different vodka brands this classy little Soviet-themed bar in Maboneng has probably the best vodka selection to be found this side of Russia. Lenin's stocks vodkas from around the world including a handcrafted South African variety, Polish, Swedish, French, American and, of course, Russian brands. Each week 10 brands are selected for the freezer, ensuring there's a perfectly prepared choice of vodka shots for the purists.
What to drink: On the house cocktail list we particularly like the Vlad (crème de cassis with some Stoli Razberi) and the Caipiroska (vodka, fresh limes, sour mix and Sprite).

BOLTON ROAD COLLECTION
Cnr Bolton Rd and Jan Smuts Ave, Rosebank
Part of Rosebank’s smart Park Corner development, where you’ll also find a barbershop-bar, pizza joint, contemporary café and restaurant. The menu offers a build your own gin and tonic option with a wide choice of local and international craft gins (including British favourites Sipsmith and The Botanist) served with your choice of craft tonic and garnish. On the short but perfectly executed cocktail menu you'll find unusual creations such as the Smokey Bear (tequila, rum, pineapple, hickory smoke, peach and pine tea).
What to drink: Among the most memorable drinks is the zesty signature 'Collection's Negroni', made with vermouth, Campari and Caperitif.

SIN + TAXES
Cnr Bolton Rd and Jan Smuts Ave, Rosebank
Hidden in the back of the Coalition pizza restaurant in Rosebank's Park Corner is this small speakeasy-style cocktail bar. The drinks are complex, the lighting dark, and due to the very limited space initiation into this secret hangout is not always guaranteed (don't be surprised to be asked for the 'password' before you enter). The menu changes every few weeks and is the creation of top mixologist Julian Short who prides himself on making his own cordials, bitters and sour mixes and puts on quite the show behind the bar counter.
What to drink: In addition to the themed seasonal menu there's a short list of house classics including a 'Joburg Cocktail' made with gin, Cape Caperitif (a South African fortified wine flavoured with Cape floral ingredients), orange bitters and naartjie (tangerine).

SIX COCKTAIL BAR
​5 7th St, Melville
A studenty Melville institution that’s been around for years serving literally dozens of cocktail choices. With a 2-4-1 happy hour every day from 12:00–19:00, there’s also ample time to try them. There's plenty of fun to be had if you are the type who chooses drinks by their names with playful cocktail puns like the Snoop Dogg (gin, a touch of kiwi and tonic or 'juice') and the mysterious 'Voodoo Vodka'.
What to drink: The bestseller is the potent Excitabull (vodka, berries, Red Bull and a hint of Stroh). For something a little easier going the fruity June Bug is another bestseller.

Associated Venues

EB Social Kitchen and Bar

 Hyde Park Corner, cnr Jan Smuts Ave and William Nicol Dr, Hyde Park

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