I had only 24 hours in Johannesburg, but I had such great experiences at these two bars that I felt compelled to write a city guide. Sharp!
Sin+Tax is the bartender’s bar in South Africa. Why? Julian Short. The World Class finalist of 2017 is considered by many to be in the same elite group of Saffa bartenders as Assaf Yechiel (Imperial, Tel Aviv), Brent Perremore (Art of Duplicity, Cape Town) and Dominic Walsh (Mootee, Johannesburg). Another sign of Sin Tax’s importance is the fact that my buddies Caitlin and Devin escorted me directly there upon landing for the first time in Joburg.
We started with Julian’s signature, the Number Nine. Featuring Altos tequila, mezcal, smoked pomegranate shrub, caramelized lime, fresh coriander, salt and Frida's Blessing, this is a great smoky and sour sipper. In fact, it’s so good, the dude next to me ordered 6 of them on the night.
As tasty as the Number Nine was, my favorite drink on the evening was Julian’s perfectly executed Tommy’s Margarita, complete with a beautiful piece of ice. I put his Tommy’s up there with that of the one by Paolino, and of course the original by Julio
The drinks are the focus but don’t miss the best popcorn of any cocktail bar in the world. If you get to Sin+Tax around dinner time, you can directly order some great Neapolitan pizza from the adjacent Coalition pizza.
Mootee Bar is an ambitious cocktail bar seeking to provide an authentic and unconventional interpretation of modern Africa. Located in the Melville neighborhood of Johannesburg, Mootee is bartender owned by Dominic Walsh, Denzel Heath and Peter Good. Thanks to head bartender Misha for explaining the exciting new menu, The Art of Texture, which asks the question “Can you taste touch?” The menu features beautiful collage artwork designed to provide "visual texture", complemented by the Mootee app, allowing for an enhanced 3D experience of the menu via augmented reality. To further aid the customer in choosing their drink, textured shapes are provided, representing the various cocktails.
Synesthesia is a perceptual phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory pathway. Can a tactile stimulus evoke a taste response? Maybe, but one thing for certain is that Concrete #1, is a brilliant drink.
Served on a pillow-shaped slab of concrete, the drink features burnt hay sonic prepped with Genever and then distilled with carrot juice. The result is rapid aged by Sonic Prep and a seasoned wooden stave, giving an earthy, complex and musty spirit which is then mixed with Drambuti (Mootee Drambuie), Black Rock Salt, Earth Bitter and Green Chartreuse.
“Resembling wax in consistency or appearance” Waxy #1, will remind you of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich from your more innocent days. It features low ABV rum, African sunset tea, mixed berry jam, peanut butter and mandarin bitter.
I couldn’t resist trying Mashonza from the last menu, inspired by the Mopane worm, a high-protein African delicacy. Tequila is rapidly infused with Locust bean, and combined with smoked agave syrup, Aperol, Fynbos grappa infused with mango leaf and Naartjie juice. The drink is served in a custom-designed ceramic cocoon and garnished with a smoked Mopane worm on a cloud of candy floss.
Props to Kim Munro for her great execution of the drinks that afternoon.