What you need to know about Cape Town's new experiential cocktail kitchen

Food24’s resident spirits and cocktail writer, Leah van Deventer, give us the lowdown on Cape Town’s newest cocktail bar.

by: Leah van Deventer | 07 Dec 2017
 

I’ll get right to the point: you’re in for a rave review of Cause | Effect.

As a pretty serious cocktail enthusiast, I’d been following this venue’s construction with much interest, and even managed a few pop-ins before it opened on 1 December. But even my sneak peeks didn’t prepare me for the dazzling experience of being at this bar.


The concept
Cause Effect is not just a watering hole, it’s an experiential cocktail kitchen where the act of drinking is elevated to a complete experience – all your senses are activated. It’s also a brandy bar, celebrating SA’s simultaneously award-winning yet undervalued potstill brandies.

ALSO READ: Cognac versus South African brandy: what’s the difference?

Similar to The Test Kitchen, Cause Effect has a distinct ‘test bar’ feel to it. The barmen wear chef’s jackets and – over and above the standard bar tools like shakers and jiggers – they wield pipettes, tweezers, scissors, paintbrushes, chef’s torches, smoke guns and ice stamps in the mixing of their masterpieces.

The entire bar is a study in creativity. Everywhere you look you’ll see evidence of tinkering and experimentation, from the ready array of cocktail reference books to the barrel of homemade vermouth and assorted glass vessels containing dehydrated fruits and petals, bitters, infusions, syrups and shrubs.

You’ll also notice T-shirt clad barbacks in the background: participants in the bar’s apprentice programme, who further add to its scholarly atmosphere.

The cocktails
As the name implies, it’s all about causality here: about action and reaction. In the context of cocktails, this means quite sciencey displays of quick-freezing with liquid nitrogen and impressive vapour eruptions using dry ice. And as proponents of all things local, most ingredients are indigenous and foraged, so expect wild fynbos honey to replace sugar in your drinks.

For the first three nights it was open I was there, working my way through the menu … so yes, this is a place you’ll want to come back to. My favourites so far have been as follows:

Equinox
A refreshing slider of Van Ryn’s 10YO brandy, Pierre Jourdan Ratafia, nutmeg pelargonium and raspberry-peppercorn shrub served in a Collins glass. This is a cocktail in surround sound: when you remove its wooden cover a faintly bitter juniper smoke is released; touch the glass and you’ll feel the sandy and bumpy textures of the hibiscus powder, honey and toasted sesame seeds coating its outside; then alternate your sips with finger swabs of these sweet and savoury garnishes for a taste sensation.

10/10: This drink consumes you as much as you consume it; I completely lost myself in this immersive experience.

Daisy

A margarita-inspired delight with 100% agave tequila, verjuice, nutty sherry, orange bitters and lemon-pelargonium cordial. It’s served in a heavy mortar-type bowl with a shard of candy and small heap of citrus salt, so you sip it with both hands, moderating the drink’s acids with the sweet and salty sides. 

10/10: Unusual, tactile and offering explosions of flavour, I loved everything about this sensory cocktail. 

Aperitini
A light umami concoction containing brandy, Caperitif and fynbos liqueur, served in a small gold-rimmed goblet with a biltong, micro herb and crème fraiche topped pastry finger.

10/10: The perfect balance of subtle and robust flavours, I found this to be a deeply satisfying and moreish drink that smacks the taste buds around in all the right ways.

Nelly the Elephant
An orange-husk marmalade, medium sherry, orange bitters, Step 5 Gin and pineapple fusion served in an elephant-shaped receptacle and topped with candy floss. 

10/10: Definitely the most ridiculously fun drink I’ve ever had.


The creative geniuses
Cause Effect is the brainchild of Kurt Schlechter and James ‘Trigger’ Phillips, who met around 2007. They’ve both been in the bar game since they were lighties, James coming from a long line of bar owners back in his home country of Ireland, and Kurt an award-winning South African bartender, bar consultant and bar trainer. Kurt also happens to be a judge for The World’s 50 Best Bars, so he certainly knows how to put a decent bar together.

Master flavourist Marshall Siavash – who honed his skills as head bartender of The House of Machines – holds the position of bar manager and head bartender; Justin ‘Awehwolf’ Shaw was coaxed away from Casa del Sol as bartender; and business-sustainability specialist Jeroen Vissers handles procurement and general management. The striking interior design (think wood, concrete and copper) was done by the inventive Ruzaan Schlecter.

Next-level ice @causeeffectbar

A post shared by Leah van Deventer (@leahvandeventer) on

How to experience this bar
Cause Effect offers a show in three parts. 

1. Go in the afternoon for aperitivo-style drinking – vermouths, bitters and tinctures diluted with soda water and Prosecco – accompanied by light food like appetizers, platters and salads. 

2. Book a table from 6 or 7 and work your way through the experiential seasonal menu that focuses on the magic of drink making, perhaps ordering a main meal like a brandy-flaméed steak or homemade venison pie. As you’d expect, this menu will change with the seasons.

3. Swing by after 10 for some late-night action, imbibing timeless brandy cocktails (like Sazeracs and Sidecars) or classics with a C|E twist, like potstill-brandy Old Fashioneds and Cape Negronis on tap.

Whatever option tickles your fancy – and I suggest you try all three – expect to be entertained and surprised. And come say hi, there’s a good chance I’ll be there.

For more boozy news catch Leah on Twitter or Instagram

ALSO READ... 

The revival of Cognac - it's no longer an old folks drink

(image: iStock) When I imagine cognac, I think of my grandma clutching a balloon glass in the lounge after dinner, or a dapper elderly gent doing cigars and cognac at a fireplace. Cognac is certainly classic, but is it cool?

You might also Like

NEXT ON FOOD24X
 
 
 
 
 
 
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.