The Best Cocktail Bars in Johannesburg

Rooftop bars are an excellent way to make the most of great weather and magnificent cityscapes
Rooftop bars are an excellent way to make the most of great weather and magnificent cityscapes | © David Buzzard / Alamy Stock Photo
Heather Mason

South Africa has historically been a beer- and wine-drinking country. But the artisanal cocktail movement has exploded in recent years, together with the craft gin movement. Today, there are many great spots in Jo’burg with sophisticated, carefully curated cocktail menus without a Long Island Iced Tea or Sex on the Beach in sight.

Did you know – Culture Trip now does bookable, small-group trips? Pick from authentic, immersive Epic Trips, compact and action-packed Mini Trips and sparkling, expansive Sailing Trips.

Johannesburg has a number of cocktail bars suitable to all tastes

Sin + Tax

Modelled on the concept of an American speakeasy, Sin + Tax is hidden behind an unmarked door in an alleyway in Jo’burg‘s Parkwood neighbourhood. (To find it, look for the giant elephant graffiti mural painted on the wall.) Like any respectable speakeasy, the inside of Sin + Tax is dark, without any windows. Acclaimed bartender/owner Julian Short creates a new seasonal menu several times yearly. The drinks, each one carefully concocted with mostly house-made ingredients, are served with free popcorn.

Mix Cocktail Bar

Mix Cocktail Bar is at the back of the swanky, members-only Mesh Club in Rosebank’s Keyes Art Mile. The private club opens to the public at 4pm, when the party starts at Mix. The bar’s decor is modern and bright, and the outdoor balcony has a great view of the sunset over Jo’burg’s northern suburbs. Each cocktail is a work of art, incorporating as many seasonal ingredients as possible.


Tonic, as the name implies, is a gin bar specialising in gin and tonics. Located in the friendly-yet-trendy suburb of Linden, Tonic is known for its lovely interior featuring a graffiti-like portrait of a young Queen Elizabeth II. A cursive neon sign reads: “When life hands you lemons, make a G&T.” Tonic has a massive selection of gins that can be constructed into cocktails of all shapes, sizes and colours. The adjoining restaurant, Tanen, is under the same ownership and offers excellent tapas to Tonic’s drinkers.

The Little Fox

The Little Fox is also a gin bar, hidden in an old warehouse at the end of an alleyway in the downtown 1 Fox Precinct (around the corner from Urbanologi restaurant). The Little Fox adjoins the Ginologist, a local gin distillery. The Little Fox is somehow grungy and elegant all at once; the dark furniture and elaborate light fixtures create a steampunk-like feel. Hungry customers can order pizza from the Mad Giant Brewery next door.

Smoking Kills

Smoking Kills is the closest thing Melville has to a speakeasy, with an entrance that is nearly invisible during the day when the bar is closed. At night, Smoking Kills becomes a high-end cocktail joint masquerading as a dive, specialising in rum drinks and Cuban sandwiches. Only the coolest of the cool know Smoking Kills exists, yet the vibe is fun and unpretentious. True to its name, Smoking Kills somehow manages to flout South African law and allow smoking inside.

A Streetbar Named Desire

Many of the city’s bars have sophisticated cocktail menus

Obviously named for the classic Tennessee Williams play, A Streetbar Named Desire is one of Jo’burg’s hottest Friday night hangouts. The first-floor balcony, which overlooks the busy corner of Chester Road and Jan Smuts Avenue, does have the feel of a 19th-century New Orleans mansion, although curiously the menu is Mediterranean tapas and bar snacks. (Go figure.) But Streetbar’s food is tasty, and the cocktail names – “The Kindness of Strangers”, “A Woman’s Charm”, “Epic Fornications” and “Coarse Behaviour”, to name a few – evoke Williams’ sultry prose. Arrive early on weekend evenings to avoid the crowds.

culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.