Since its opening in late 2017 on Kloof Street, Cause | Effect Cocktail Kitchen and Cape Brandy Bar has been making serious waves in Cape Town. It now calls the V&A Waterfront home – and while the scenery has changed, the core values and appeal are the same.
With its unique offerings, cocktail creativity and focus on the natural elements surrounding our city, this award-winning bar wows on so many levels…
Specialising in creative cocktails, Cape potstill brandies and small plate cuisine, it is a wholly unique experience. Everything here incorporates a heady measure of flair and creativity. It is unlike any other cocktail bar you will have previously encountered… that I can assure you.
Cocktails Inspired by the Cape’s Raw, Natural Elements
I have always been a big fan of cocktails. So it’s only natural that, for the past two years, Cause | Effect has been on my radar. So, naturally, I was thrilled to be invited to visit this exciting cocktail and brandy bar at their new Waterfront setting.
Cause | Effect – brainchild of the highly talented Kurt Schlechter – draws its inspiration from the earth, sky and sea in the most poetic way. And while I like traditional cocktails as much as the next person – Cape-inspired cocktails are entirely more appealing.
Cause | Effect cocktails speak to the natural elements surrounding Cape Town… Mountain, ocean and sky above, as well as the wild fynbos and vineyards. The result? Cocktails that are a delicate balance of local raw or foraged ingredients and effects.
This cocktail bar pays homage to the Cape, as it takes you on a unique journey. Prepare to have your senses heightened, your mind enraptured and your thoughts turned to pensive reflection. It’s about revisiting our past, rejoicing in our present and casting a careful eye toward the future.
Cape Cocktails and Brandy At Their Finest
It is no exaggeration to call Cause | Effect the most Capetonian bar in the world… Not only does it draw on the natural Cape elements but it has a real Cape Town atmosphere to it. It is impressive without trying too hard, welcoming without being overbearing and above all, laid-back without being lax.
Add to that, the fact that they harness and forage for local raw ingredients (or source them from a 50 km-radius) and this bar is as authentically an aspect of Cape Town as Table Mountain or the Cape Doctor.
Their cocktail kitchen is all about discovering, creating and serving the Cape’s finest flavours. And with the Cape Floral Kingdom (home to some 9000 vascular species, with 69% endemic) and 600 types of seaweed… The options for discovery are endless.
The backbone of many of their cocktails is fynbos, natural vegetation and shrubbery unique to South Africa’s Western and Eastern Cape Provinces. This serves as the backbone to the Cause | Effect tinctures, bitters and vermouth. Alongside it, the ocean provides plenty of ingredients and props for the cocktails… Everything from beautiful shells for visual effect to rich, creamy mussels and seaweed infusions to enhance your drinks.
From a Cape brandy perspective, the Chenin Blanc grape variety plays a pivotal supporting role in the culture and backbone of Cause | Effect’s award-winning brandies.
Schweppes Bartender’s Lab and Its Seasonal Menus
In addition to their impressive cocktails and Cape brandies, Cause | Effect also serves up some truly delicious, visually amazing small plate dishes. Prepared by talented Head Chef Julian Mckenzie and his culinary team, the food is the perfect complement to the Cause | Effect drinks.
The new, mind-blowing Schweppes Bartender’s Lab is the perfect example of this. It is a fun three-course cocktail and small plate food pairing priced at R450 per person. (Its menus are seasonal; we tried the summer menu.)
It allows guests to experience the drinks, food and mind-blowing ’cause to the effect’ of everything unique at Cause | Effect Bar. (Note: Contact Cause | Effect directly or book online for this experience.)
Entering the Schweppes Bartender’s Lab
Pass the neon signs, earthy wooden tones and eye-catching array of nature-inspired foliage and decor and you will find the Schweppes Bartender’s Lab… An adventure in and of itself.
It is hosted every hour on the hour, for a maximum of six guests. Moreover, seating is around the front of the thrilling-looking Lab. This ensures a more intimate experience with the bartender. This Lab is essentially the bartender’s equivalent of a chef’s table experience.
And with its quirky flasks and bottles, lab coats, edible flowers and hand-blown anemone-shaped glasses, the Schweppes Bartender’s Lab is great fun.
It is a visual experience, as much as a sensory journey, that your bartender takes you on. Storytelling and stunning aesthetic effects are used to powerfully weave a unique narrative for every drink, dish or effect.
This is man-made mystic and magic at its best… And it is easily one of the most thrilling culinary experiences I have enjoyed in Cape Town.
One key element of the Schweppes Bartender’s Lab is that, no matter the season, it revolves around Schweppes drinks. For our experience, our bartender and beverage architect, Justin, primarily used Schweppes cucumber tonic (not normally a fan of cucumber but this worked great in the drinks).
The Schweppes Bartender’s Lab Experience
For our three-course cocktail and food offering, we tried the following pairings:
- Zen Expressions (Murakai hokkaiyaki ferarri Cape mussel, chive foam, spekboom crunch and floral smoke. Paired with seaweed-infused Bombay Sapphire, Schweppes cucumber tonic, seaweed caviar and cucumber rose shrub.)
- Deep Blue Sea (Tuna tataki taco with edamame beans, crunchy sprouts, sweetcorn foam and Asian baby cabbage. Paired with Schweppes cucumber tonic, citrus blue curaçao shrub and nasturtium leaf.)
- Floral Shābetto (Schweppes Floral Tonic sorbet, coconut biscuit, lemon and seaweed puree and strawberry and rose droplets. Paired with Schweppes soda, Bacardi Carta Blanca, oleo rose grapefruit and sherbet.)
Each was as thrilling, tasty and captivating as the next so it was a truly memorable menu. Especially with Justin’s creative narrative, which was at times, reflective, joking and serious.
I really enjoyed how he would weave a certain narrative and then encourage a bit of creative licence. For example, if he described something the drinks or flavours reminded him of – say, a childhood memory – he would emphasise how they would mean something entirely different to us.
The memories, sensations and feelings this evokes is powerful stuff – and it transcends your everyday drink-and-food experience.
First Up: A Garden of Zen Expressions
For our first cocktail and food pairing, we found ourselves seated in front of an adorable little Zen garden, complete with stones, a sea shell and a mini wooden rake.
I felt confused at first because I couldn’t possibly see how this would be incorporated into the meal so I assumed it was simply for aesthetic appeal. How wrong was I. No, our little Zen garden was the focal point and setting for our first meal and drink offering.
In lieu of a traditional plate, our food was balanced carefully upon the stones (I was terrified of knocking my mussel off the stones into the sand…), our rake was used to make space for our anemone-shaped glass, which sunk gratefully into the soft beach sand and finally, our shell was used to help create magical ocean mist…
The brilliance and sheer pleasure behind this kind of food and drink experience is priceless. It really involves you as an active eater – not simply someone mindlessly chewing away in mundane routine.
Eating is something many of us doing unthinkingly, with little to no enjoyment gleaned… well, at Cause | Effect, they are determined to change all that.
Meanwhile, our drink was an infusion of seaweed and Bombay Sapphire gin, fermented cucumber shrub, rosehip and Schweppes cucumber-flavoured tonic. Justin finished it off with rose garnish to create a delicate look and taste.
I really liked this drink (8/10 rating) but it was not my favourite. For my partner though, this was the clear winner.
As for the food, it was divine (10/10 rating). Not only was the charcoal ciabatta a visually stunning and interesting first but the mussel and rich, creamy sauce surrounding it was absolutely delicious. And it surprised me how much I enjoyed it because I was a bit hesitant at first.
Disappearing into the Deep Blue Sea
For our next cocktail and food pairing, we took a little journey beneath the depths of the sea. This was arguably one of the most visually stunning drinks I’ve seen in a while, as was its preparation, which looked like a real experiment.
Our food and drink was served in a beautiful bronze, three-tiered square. (This clever invention doesn’t spill or fall over, even though it feels precarious when you first move it.) This setup was meant to replicate the sea, earth and sky.
The first drink – a kind of blue tea – is kept till last (don’t worry, your bartender will explain why) but I loved how, when Justin added Pastis – a special French anise-flavoured spirit, produced similarly to absinthe – to the second drink, it turned a greener colour.
In the third tier, is your tasty taco. (This was easy finger food but for the first meal, I would suggest using a fork (combined with the ciabatta) because even with your fingers, it is tricky to eat.)
These two drinks were delicious and I especially liked the blue tea, which had a liquorice taste to it. Normally something I loathe with a passion, I found this was my favourite drink so far, 9/10 rating. As for this food pairing, it warrants an 8/10 rating.
To me, this particular pairing was especially focused on connecting our past to our present to create a future.
For me, the memories it evoked where party tables spread with Liquorice Allsorts and my parents’ combined love for that. Again, your memories and senses will experience an individual, childhood nostalgia – that’s part of the magic.
Last but Not Least: Floral Shābetto
For the final offering, our cocktail was playfully served in a test tube glass, which we could either sip to sample the flavours or down like a shot glass. I chose to do a bit of both so as to appreciate the flavours while still experiencing the fun factor.
This was paired with a beautifully plated Schweppes floral tonic sorbet and miniature cone, edged by coconut biscuit crumbs. The story behind this is simple: little Johnny has dropped his ice-cream on the sand. (This is probably something we have all had the heartache of experiencing at the beach as children.)
It is a thoughtful, sweet way to end off the experience and I really enjoyed our test tube cocktail, made from Schweppes soda, Bacardi Carta Blanca, oleo rose grapefruit and sherbet.
For me, the sweet treat deserves an easy 9/10 rating, while the shot drink is a definite 10/10 (it is really good) and is my overall favourite cocktail.
How It Rated
Our overall experience of the Schweppes Bartender’s Lab – and indeed Cause | Effect Cocktail Kitchen and Cape Brandy Bar – is a memorable, fun and interactive one. This is a truly experiential encounter – something Cause | Effect strives to provide its patrons with.
Cause | Effect staff are professional, welcoming and unobtrusive. They know just when to check on you or bring cutlery and napkins (before being asked, I might add)… and when to give you some privacy to eat and enjoy the meal alone.
In particular, our excellent beverage architect/host, Justin and Chef Julian are particularly down-to-earth professionals. Their passion shows, not only in their beautiful, delicious offerings – but in the pride they present them to you with.
Our experience of Cause | Effect is entirely faultless and the Schweppes Bartender’s Lab is definitely something I can easily recommend.
However, if you prefer, they also have an incredible range of standard menu-based cocktail and brandy options. These can be enjoyed by the main bar, in the quirky indoor seating or outside in the fresh air.
Overall, I am happy to award Cause | Effect Cocktail Kitchen and Cape Brandy Bar a well-deserved 10/10 rating. It is not often that a place lives up to the hype – but this one certainly does. It is easy to see why they won the SA Cocktail Bar of the Year in 2019.
A Word of Thanks
I wish to extend a special thank you to Cause | Effect Cocktail Kitchen and Cape Brandy Bar and Manley Communications for inviting me to visit this unique Cape Town bar. It was an honour to finally visit and sample your incredible cocktails and cuisine.
In particular, I would like to also thank Michelle Smith of Manley Communications, mixologist/host Justin AwehWolf Shaw and Chef Julian Mckenzie for ensuring this was such a special first experience and for hosting us.
Cause | Effect Cocktail Kitchen and Cape Brandy Bar can be found at 280 Dock Road, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa. Cause | Effect is open Monday to Sunday, from 10:00 am – 01:00 am.
For more information on Cause | Effect Cocktail Kitchen and Cape Brandy Bar, please contact: +27 (021) 422 0266. Alternatively, visit their website and learn more or get in touch with them.
Author: Tamlyn Ryan
Content writer by day and blogger by night, Tamlyn Ryan passionately runs her own travel blog, called Tamlyn Amber Wanderlust, from her home base of Cape Town, South Africa. And, despite a national diploma in Journalism, in her free time, Tamlyn’s preferred niche remains travel writing.
Tamlyn is a hopeless wanderer, equipped with an endless passion for road trips, carefully planned, holiday itineraries and, above all else, an innate love for the great outdoors.