On Wednesday the 13th I was invited to the second season of The Forager, hosted by The Botanist Gin. They were showcasing their gin through an Urban Forage around Cape Town’s hottest bars. It was essentially a competition between the bartenders from three participating bars – The Stack, The Secret Gin Bar, and the Orphanage – to see who could create a cocktail showcasing the Botanist Gin and pairing it with wild and foraged plants.
This unique cocktail had to represent The Botanist Gin, reflecting the brands 3 main principles: sustainable, foraged and wild.
The evening began at 18h00 at The Stack in Cape Town, a very funky bar with a mix of modern and antique furniture and a truly South African vibe. We were handed our welcome gin and tonics for our first taste of The Botanist Gin and left to mingle with the other guests.
The Brand Manager then introduced The Botanist Gin, what they stand for and we were then handed off to the first bartender of the night, Remano. His philosophy was to let the gin shine on its own and keep the cocktail simple. His main flavor was rose geranium which he had foraged from the mountainside and he garnished his drink with a candied rose geranium leaf. The drink had a strong herbal flavor and mirrored the no-frills nature of the gin.
The guests then piled into buses and we were off to the Forager’s next stop, The Secret Gin Bar. Tucked behind a chocolate shop the gin bar sparkles with a slightly mystical air, crowded with house plants and fairy lights.
The guests were starting to liven up and the ambience was quite unique. We were offered some delicious hors d’oeuvres and called to attention for the next drink of the evening. The second bartender, James, presented his original cocktail: The Sakman. James explained how there are “Sack-men” who forage in the foothills and collect medicinal and edible plants that they carry around in sacks and sell. His drink featured Kapopkos, a traditional wild herb known to settle the stomach. It had a very earthy taste and it paired exceptionally well with the pomegranate and fennel syrup. I have never tasted a drink so diverse with such intrinsic flavors. It was definitely my favorite of the evening!
We rushed over to the final stop of The Forager’s evening, Orphanage Cocktail Emporium. A small, moody bar situated on Bree street.
Here, Charl the bartender shared his experiences with traditional plants and the secret to his cocktail; smoking the gin with burnt rosemary. His creation was made with aloe foam and his own bitters, and was garnished with a cheery edible flower.
The Forager 2.0 event is an excellent idea. Encouraging sustainability and living off of the land are ideals that more people need to get involved with. Each cocktail was rich in the history of the land because such natural ingredients were used. I was so impressed by the tastes that the mixologists of the evening curated and how different they were from one another.
All in all it was a spectacular evening I will not soon forget, even after the 5 or 6 cocktails I consumed.
Photos: The Forager Facebook page.