Cause Effect Cocktail Lounge & Brandy Bar is to cocktails what fine dining is to food. Located on Park Street in the heart of Cape Town, this trendy establishment specialises in innovative mixology, the likes, flavours, colours, and aromas of which – it’s safe to say – you’ve never experienced before. They also serve old favourites wholly reimagined and executed with remarkable skill, precision, and passion with a shot of the bartender’s personality thrown in.
Full disclosure: I am a wine girl and not really one for cocktails but I left Cause Effect after the new menu launch a total convert. What they do there is modern alchemy and I left bewitched by the experience!
Behind the Bar
Long island iced tea? Get outta town! And forget sex-on-the-beach, it’s not happening tonight. Cause Effect’s new menu is the very epitome of creativity and the team behind the bar are alchemists. You can see it in the way they work: a dash of spirits, a squirt of juice, a pinch of mountain-harvested herbs, provoked chemical reactions, and scorching the finished product with a handheld propane torch…all done with a feverish glint in their eyes. I’m quite convinced they’re a bunch of mad scientists.
The new menu is called “An Epicure’s Guide To Our Cocktails” and it features 52 cocktails – fifty-two and apparently that was half of what they used to have. These are arranged around a flavour wheel to assist guests in choosing their tipple for the night, which can prove tricky when familiar names are few and far between.
Floral, herbal, bitter, fruity, sour, sweet, oak, dry, earthy, aromatic, umami, salty, and spicy, Cause Effect’s menu packs cocktails that are an ingenious combination of three or more of the above-mentioned flavour sensations and are as beautifully presented as they are delicious to consume. In the mood for something fruity and aromatic, but with a bit of spice? Try the “suffering bastard” or the “tree of life”. Or how about something fun, fruity, and sweet? Try Richie the rainbow sparkle unicorn. Yes, that’s a cocktail. There’s also the pink peppercorn & lavender spritz, the Karoo oyster, marmite Bloody Mary, whistle & a click, crouching tiger hidden gecko, and, I can imagine how fun this would be to order: personality.
There isn’t a single boring daiquiri in sight!
Our cocktail adventure
We were at Cause Effect to explore the new cocktail and food menu, so we were at the mercy of the alchemist himself, Kurt Schlechter, an award-winning bartender, experienced drink consultant, and author of a cocktail recipe book. The first liquid course for the night was the cobra spritz, a floral and bittersweet cocktail with oaky undertones that was stunningly presented with a dried slice of citrus fruit and a tuft of what looked like fynbos shrubbery. It was light and refreshing but with an aromatic, earthy wildness to it.
We then had the apricot & truffle julep, earthy, fruity, and aromatic, served in a stainless steel cup with a copper strainer to keep the mint leaves, ice, and other ingredients from wandering into your mouth. Then, as a cheeky interlude, Kurt brought us the “matcha mashumaro”, which, alcohol content aside, absolutely delighted my inner child. This floral, fruity, and spicy drink was served in a cup that resembles a cartoon geisha head with a torched marshmallow for edible decoration.
Next up was a brandy highball and it’s here that we need to remember that Cause Effect is also a brandy bar, of which, in addition to having an impressive collection, they make themselves. Apparently, this is still in the works but judging by the mischievous glint in Kurt’s eye and the stratospheric standard set by the evening’s drinks, it’s going to be good!
A reimagined menu
Cause Effect has also revamped their food menu because, well, in a place where the cocktails are of such a high calibre, “bar food” and deep-fried everything just wouldn’t do. And so Kurt and his business partner James Philips enlisted the consultation services of Chef Michiel Geldenhuys, who previously worked at The Test Kitchen, Cape Town’s perennially top performing restaurant. Now, the menu features a delicious spectrum of fine dishes, served with great attention to presentation and, some, with a splash of theatre.
Throughout the evening, we were served a selection of lovely treats: a juicy, sweet bite of watermelon with a crown of crème fraîche and fennel served atop smooth river stones in a bowl filled with dry ice (guaranteed to give your neighbouring diners order envy), rice paper wrapped spring rolls, an abalone shell filled with creamy prawn risotto, and chicken sliders with skinny fries. The menu offers a healthy balance between fine food and the kind of indulgent dishes you might crave after a few cocktails.
The final course was a lip-smacking hybrid between a cocktail and a dessert, which is a most apt dish for an experimental cocktail bar such as Cause Effect. Kurt called it the “brandy and coke” – not on the menu – and it was a sort of caramel cola sorbet served in a rich, sweet brandy sauce. It was absolutely divine and a wonderful exhibit of the kind of out-the-box thinking that is the status quo at Cause Effect.
Take an Uber
There are so many things to love and admire about the newly revamped Cause Effect Cocktail Lounge & Brandy Bar: the trendy, moody, botanical-inspired décor, the intimate yet thrumming atmosphere, the fact that Kurt and his team actually hike up the mountain and scour the coast to harvest bushels of herbs, edible shrubs, and seaweed for the purpose of concocting their cocktails, the vivacious personalities of the bartenders and servers, and the tasty food. But chief of all reasons is the cocktails, which are a multi-sensory alchemic experience that begins with the eyes owing to their beautiful and creative presentation, followed by the nose as all those gorgeous botanical, herbal, and citrus aromas smack you in the sinuses, and then the mouth.
Final stop: the brain. Make sure you take an Uber.
Cause Effect is open Tuesday to Saturday, 12:00 PM to 1:30 AM
For more information, view the Facebook Page or call 021 422 0266