Cocktail recipes from the best bars in South Africa

Domestic travel is on the cusp of a resurgence with states across Australia beginning to relax lockdown measures. International travel? That’s a different story.

With many countries around the world struggling in the fight against COVID-19, we’ve been given conflicting information on when international travel will resume to a sense of normalcy anytime soon. Some people say we will be able to carry on with our wanderlust as early as the end of this year, some are saying it won’t be well into next year. The only sure thing right now is our ability to take ourselves to different destinations without physically crossing borders.

One way we’ve been encouraging that at the AU review is by sourcing food and drink recipes so readers can travel with their taste buds, whether that’s in the kitchen or behind a homemade bar. Now, we’re going to be hopping around some of the world’s most vibrant cocktail cultures and pulling a few drink recipes from the best local spots. Get your mixers out, because you’re about to become the best, most well-travelled home bartender there is.

South Africa

For our first in this series for 2021, we’re heading straight to one of our favourite countries in the world, the majestic and diverse landscape of South Africa. Pull a few of these spirits off the shelf and mix it up to get a preview of the best cocktail bars in the country, from Durban to Joburg.

“Double Feature” from Lucy Shaker

Lucy Shaker is widely known as one of the best spots for a cocktail in the city of Durban, driven by a small but passionate team that is certainly no stranger to the regular cocktail competition win. Seasonal drinks are the focus here, highlighted through both worldly and local tastes that range from fresh fruit to fine whisky and even a few punch bowls here and there.


– 50ml butter popcorn infused bourbon (recipe below)
– 5ml honey syrup
– 2 dashes of Angostura bitters


1. To make the butter popcorn bourbon put 750ml bourbon and 3 cups plain, freshly popped corn into a container and cover. Leave to infuse for 1 hour. Strain liquid through a cheese cloth and squeeze out thoroughly. Add 30ml of melted unsalted butter to infused liquid and leave to infuse for another hour before placing in the freezer to set the butter. Strain liquid through a coffee filter and then store in a clean bottle.
2. Stir all ingredients with ice and strain over a large ice cube in an Old Fashioned glass.
3. Garnish with discarded orange zest and caramel popcorn.

“Negroni Sorbet” from A Streetbar Named Desire

Head on over to Johannesburg and ask around for the best cocktail bar in the city, no doubt you’ll be pointed towards A Streetbar Named Desire. The colourful bar feels like it was air lifted over from New Orleans, with a convivial atmosphere and a sophisticated approach to both food and drink. The cocktails are unapologetically advanced and theatrical, hard to master but well worth the effort. These one’s may take a bit of practice, but for the sake of variety you’ve got two of their signatures to play around with. First up, an inventive blend of a classic negroni with some sorbet. Just make sure you have an ice-cream maker, or skip to the next cocktail.

– 1 shot Bombay Sapphire gin
– 1 shot Campari
– 1 shot Martini Rosso
– 2 cups Ruby Grapefruit juice
– 1 cup caster sugar
– 1 cup water


1. Combine all ingredients into an ice cream maker until it reaches consistency of sorbet. Store in a closed container and freeze for at least 2 hours.
2. Put three scoops of the sorbet into a coupe glass, and then top with your choice of 1 shot of Campari (for more bitter palates) or Sparkling Wine.
3. Garnish with an orange peel twist.

“Black Dahlia” From A Streetbar Named Desire

Another one from this heady Joburg bar, the Black Dahlia is a complex drink that rewards effort with a bombastic palate.

– 3/4 shot Bombay Sapphire
– 3/4 shot Don Papa Aged Rum
– 3/4 shot Captain Morgan Dark Rum
– 1 shot fresh pineapple juice
– 1 shot cantaloupe juice
– 1 shot freshly squeezed lemon juice
– 1 shot dahlia mix (recipe below)
– 1/10 tsp activated charcoal
– Pineapple leaves for garnish

Dahlia Mix Ingredients

– 180ml sugar
– 180ml water
– 1 punnet raspberries
– 1/2 lemongrass stalk, roughly chopped
– 15ml dried lavender
– Peel of 1 lemon
– 2.5ml vanilla essence
– 10 dashes angostura bitters
– 1 drop rosewater

1. Add the sugar, water, raspberries, lemongrass, lavender and lemon peel to a medium saucepan in order to make your beefed up simple syrup. Cook on medium-low for 20 minutes.
2. Strain and add the remaining ingredients. Mix to combine.

Cocktail Method

1. Add all ingredients to a shaker tin with ice.
2. Shake and strain into a tall glass over crushed ice.
3. Garnish with pineapple leaves.

“Rainy Day In The Winter” from Les Créatifs

Les Créatifs is a first-of-its-kind restaurant in Johannesburg’s Bryanston neighbourhood, taking a future-thinking approach to fine-dining that blends a world-class wine list, cocktails and an eye-watering menu with a sharp focus on interior design, and both visual and ceramic art. This all-class destination restaurant has fast become one of the best spots for a cocktail in the city, and luckily for you, we’ve got their straight-forward recipe for a signature “Rainy Day In The Winter”.


– 50ml Tanqueray Gin
– 100ml watermelon reduction
– 50ml lime & cardamom cordial
– 50ml hibiscus tea syrup
– 25ml cellulose


1. Build cocktail with all ingredients in order.

“Coffee House Milk Punch” from The Art of Duplicity

Credit: @CraveConcepts – Chantel Horn

As one of Cape Town’s most celebrated bars, The Art of Duplicity is frequently cited as the place to be if you’re looking for the city’s best and most unique pick-me-ups. We’ve sourced their recipe for the signature Coffee House Milk Punch for you, courtesy of barkeep Brent Perremore who created this cocktail to perfectly pair with the restaurant’s regular live jazz performances.


– 750ml Agricol rum
– 100ml Takamaka coconut rum
– 150g single origin India coffee beans
– 4 cinnamon quills
– 2 pineapple husks
– 300g white sugar
– 350ml fresh lime juice
– 300ml warm milk


1. Place the spirits, sugar, cinnamon quills, coffee beans, lime juice and chopped pineapple husk into a sterilised 3L catering jar.
2. Shake the jar well and allow to steep for 24 hours.
3. Add the warm milk to the mixture and shake well.
4. Allow to sit for a further 24 hours.
5. Shake jar once more and pass the contents of the jar through a linen filter bag.
6. Repeat the filtering process for a more clear liquid.
7. This will yield approximately 1.5L of the cocktail.
8. Pour 100ml into rocks glass over a 40mm x 40mm ice block.
9. Garnish with grated tonka bean and dehydrated pineapple flesh feather)

Feature photo supplied by South Africa Tourism.

Chris Singh

Chris Singh is an Editor-At-Large at the AU review, loves writing about travel and hospitality, and is partial to a perfectly textured octopus. You can reach him on Instagram: @chrisdsingh.