In a world of informal bars and pre-mixed spritzers, the brand-new StrangeLove Cocktail Lounge in Salt River stands out for its distinctive offering of small-batch hand-distilled vodka, gin, agave spirit, rhum agricole (sugarcane-juice rum), and campari-style African Amaro, and its unique menu of curated cocktail and mini-food pairings.
The cocktail lounge, sited in what was Hope Distillery’s mezzanine-level tasting room, features pared-back Scandi furnishings in dark hues, lush greenery and wooden finishes. While resident mixologist Decks serves up the carefully selected array of cocktails — which can also be paired with meals from the StrangeLove à la carte snack menu — in their own cocktail glasses, customers in the generous open-plan space can take in the bird’s-eye view over the distillery and its vast copper stills, and get a glimpse into the story behind the spirits they sip.
Established in 2014 by co-founders Leigh Lisk and Lucy Beard — both of whom left corporate law careers in London to follow their hearts (and palates) back to Cape Town — Hope Distillery was the first licensed small-batch distillery to open in the Mother City. The distillery has expanded from its early days of gin production into a diverse catalogue of vodka, agave spirit, rhum agricole and an in-house African Amaro that can only be tasted at StrangeLove.
There’s certainly nothing strange in the love shown in the curated cocktail-and-mini-food menu, served in three courses: aperitifs, mains and digestifs. Pairings include the Sbagliato, comprising house campari-style liquor, vermouth and prosecco, along with a taralli cracker; the El Presidente, a cocktail of rhum agricole, vermouth and grenadine, with rolled labneh and salted cracker; and the Gin Alexander,made with gin, cacao and nutmeg, with a mini nutmeg macaron.
And if you’re keen to take something of the experience home with you, Hope Distillery also recently added a new on-site shop selling bottles of rhum, agave, vodka and gin, as well as branded merchandise.
Recalling the warped view through a ribbed drinking glass, the newly designed StrangeLove logo captures the sense of disruption that this new arrival brings: a space dedicated to not only locally made spirits but also the appreciation of quality spirits in a union with food for customers to explore, taste and marvel at.
StrangeLove Cocktail Lounge opens on 9 February 2023, and welcomes cocktail afficionados between 17h00 and 22h30 on Thursdays and Fridays. Seating is limited to 30 a night – walk-ins will be accommodated if there is space available, but bookings are highly recommended.