The Hidden Gems of Cape Town's Gin Culture

You can sample a stupendous array of gins in Cape Town these days
You can sample a stupendous array of gins in Cape Town these days | © Michelle Parkin Photography
Photo of Andrew Thompson
Freelance Writer - November 2018

Cape Town is riding the crest of a gin revolution, and there are now dozens of gin distilleries, bars and experiences located throughout the city.

Gin has easily stepped up to rival craft beer in Cape Town, and the bars and distillers that sell it do so in inimitable style. From quirky courtyard bars and distillery tasting rooms through to high-end cocktails and outdoor gin safaris, there’s a gin experience in Cape to suit everyone from the casual enthusiast to the utterly devoted.

The Gin Bar

Bar, South African, Beer, Pub Grub, $$$
Map View
Courtesy of The Gin Bar

Many credit The (secret) Gin Bar with kicking off the craft gin revolution in Cape Town. Whether or not they were actually the first to produce various high-end gin cocktails is largely irrelevant, because they’re still one of the best. The now legendary speakeasy-style bar is hidden behind a chocolate shop, and the quiet inner-city courtyard is the perfect location in which to sample a wide range of the city’s best gins. If you’re unsure which to pick, the staff are always on hand to make recommendations or mix up one of the bar’s signature drinks.

Pienaar and Son craft gin

Market, South African, $$$
Map View
A great range of gins can be sampled at Pienaar and Son
A great range of gins can be sampled at Pienaar and Son | © Neighbourgoods Market
Pienaar & Son Gin is a relatively new kid on the Cape Town distilling block, but they’ve managed to capture the attention of gin lovers across the city. Their picturesque state-of-the-art distillery is located in the heart of the Cape Town City Bowl, and their focus is on producing high-quality small-batch gins. Rather than bow down to the traditions of old, Pienaar & Son Gin pride themselves on unique flavours and combinations. If you’re unsure about which of their gins to take home, they offer Saturday morning tours and tasting sessions.

Hope on Hopkins

Bar, South African
Map View
London Dry Gin by Hope on Hopkins
London Dry Gin by Hope on Hopkins | © Mapodile Mkhabela

Hope on Hopkins in Salt River is a laid-back distillery that creates handcrafted gins. The venue is open throughout the week for sales, but it’s their gin tastings on Saturday afternoons that have kept gin fans particularly happy. These tastings give visitors the opportunity to sample three options, served in quirky medicine bottles, while overlooking the distillery floor. They also run occasional gin experiences including gin tastings paired with snacks.

The Botanical Bar and Kitchen

Bar, South African, $$$
Map View

The Botanical Bar opened its doors only in late 2017, but it’s already made its mark on the local cocktail scene. The inner-city bar feels like part science lab, part exotic restaurant. They serve up a variety of drinks and tapas-style food, but most head here to sample their custom gin cocktails, heavily influenced by local botanicals. If you’re unsure what to go for, the expert bar staff are on hand to waft odours in your direction and introduce flavours you have a preference for, to create the ultimate personalised concoction.

Sunset Safari Gin Experience

Bar, Tapas, $$$
Map View

If you prefer your gin taken outside, with an epic sunset as a backdrop, then the exclusive gin safari, bookable through, might be the best way to go. The experience itself is shrouded in secrecy, with the exact venue revealed only on the day of the event. Guests then head to the secret location, where they’re treated to a platter of snacks and a range of gin cocktails in a truly unique setting.

Deep South Distillery

Bar, South African, $$$
Map View
Gins and accoutrements at the Deep South Distillery
Gins and accoutrements at the Deep South Distillery | © Deep South Distillery

The seaside suburb of Kommetjie has a bit of a reputation as a laid-back surfers’ paradise, and that’s exactly the atmosphere this new local distillery is tapping into. There’s very little pretence in the Deep South Distillery, and the owners are usually on hand to take interested visitors on a tour around the venue. They make two gins at the distillery, and guests are free to tinker with their drinks by adding various ingredients to find the right flavours for their palates.

Cape Town Gin and Spirits Company

Bar, South African
Map View

The Cape Town Gin Company, on the inner city’s Heritage Square, makes high-quality, small-batch gins, including the Classic Dry, Rooibos Red and Pink Lady. Their gins are available at liquor stores and bars around the city, but they also do tastings in their Hidden Door Tasting Room. There, the distillers break down the myths and pretences of the drink and allow visitors to sample all three of their signature liquors.

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