Love is in the air...or so the media seems to say every year around February. However, the air is no longer the only place where love resides. Our local heroes of Hopkins Street have managed to bottle the elusive phenomenon to produce a delightful strawberry gin.
Lucy's Strawberry Gin is the newest in a long line of products produced by Hope on Hopkins, one of our favourite craft gin distillers. For those of you who aren't familiar with this local brand, Hope on Hopkins is The Mother City’s first artisanal distillery. Founded by wife and husband team Lucy Beard and Leigh Lisk, the distillery aims to produce premium craft spirits by harnessing the amazing local products that the Cape has to offer.
Their extremely limited batch of Valentines-inspired gin can be distinguished from their other bottles by its unique and cheerful rosy hue. It is beautifully crafted, fruity gin that delivers in both aroma and flavour. Essentially the perfect cocktail ingredient for the warm and lazy afternoons characteristically experienced over the month of February. The rare gin can be found at the Hope on Hopkins tasting room, but you better hurry as this pink product is flying off the shelves.
Although Valentine’s Day can be polarizing it is important for us to focus on the core of this commercialized holiday. At its centre, Valentine’s Day is about celebrating love and passion. The beauty of these powerful emotions is that they come in all forms, flavours and fashions. So whether you share the love with someone special, your friends or more importantly yourself, let's focus on the positive things that this month has to offer...starting with Lucy’s delicious strawberry gin.
"You always gain by giving love!"
Have you heard the legend of the floating dutchman? A tale whispered in taverns and along the icy False Bay shore, the story tells of a legendary pirate. Dutchie, as this marauder of the mediterranean was better known, was rumoured to have bottled the very spirit of the wild cape seas and distilled it to create a fierce and delicious rum. In truth...we may never truly know the story of how the rum came to be or what happened to its INFAMOUS namesake , but we do know that this legendary concoction is making waves on the craft market scene.
Floating Dutchman rum is a local craft brand, that, like so many other great companies, started as a brilliant idea in a humble garage. The owner, Dirk, started the brand as a hobby for himself and his friends. However the rave reviews from everyone that tasted the secret BLEND, sparked the idea for a local Cape craft rum. The problem, as dirk explains, is that it is not always easy to transition from an idea to a SELL-ABLE product. in the case of floating dutchman, the transition took months of hard work, research, resilience and perhaps most importantly, the courage to try new things. Whether it be the fresh cape mountain water used to brew the rum, the red-wine barrels used to age the product or the exciting techniques used In the distilling process, this brand is all about producing an authentic cape Rum and pushing the boundaries.
The brand currently have a cape rum and a white rum on the market. The cape rum, known for winning the 2018 micheal angelo wine and spirit award, is a rich hazel colour and carries AROMATIC hints of vanilla. tasting the rum then reveals a deeper layer of caramel, stone fruit and chocolate, with a delicate SAVORY molasses finish. The white rum on the other hand, carries the flavour of fresh berries and has a fruity AROMA, with a smooth tart finish. However, as dirk says, before getting distracted by the fancy techniques or the complicated bouquet of flavours, just taste the rum and enjoy THE experience!
In the end, what really inspired me when I heard about Floating Dutchman, was the fact that dirk had the courage to take the time required to refine his skill, the fact that the rum is authentically local and the undeniable hard work that has gone into the brand. This rum is truly an amazing reflection of South Africa and what we can achieve by working together and keeping things local and lekker!
" Every great dream begins with a dreamer ..."
The craft liquor industry has played an enormous role in our country’s culture and has created a truly unique platform for local entrepreneurs. At this point, most of us have a favourite craft beer and are likely self-proclaimed craft gin connoisseurs. However, there is a new kid on the craft block, its name is rum.
What truly makes rum special, is not only the rich flavour and delicious taste commonly associated with the spirit, but also the philosophy of rum. Now, when we imagine the quintessential scene associated with whisky, it involves a leather couch, a cigar and possibly George Clooney. With gin, we usually imagine someone sitting on a veranda, gin and tonic in hand, watching a picturesque sunset. Both these scenarios involve situations where the world is happening to the drinker, whilst rum drinkers, according to the makers of Whistler Rum, happen to the world. Essentially, rum drinkers are people that ‘whistle their own tune’ in life, hence the name Whistler Rum.
The story of Whistler Rum starts with three brothers in the unassuming town of Ventersburg in the Free State. In a quest to do their own thing, the brothers discovered the beautiful art of rum distilling. A craft that the brothers honed by attending the famous Moonshine University in Kentucky (an accolade which the brothers are immensely proud of). Returning to South Africa, the brothers created a brand that authentically represents themselves and South Africa as a whole. From the location in the Free State to the authentic flavours to the proudly South African products and equipment used to DISTILL the rum. Every aspect stays true to the mantra of ‘whistling your own tune’. An approach that has yielded two fantastic rum products. Their first rum is a spunky blend INFUSED with subtle hints of cinnamon, vanilla and citrus to create and irresistibly smooth and spicy rum. The second is a dark rich rum, with notes of coffee, dark chocolate, roasted nuts and toasted toffee. Two very different, but equally smooth and refined products.
However, the proof is in the pudding as they say. So, if you don’t believe me, Whistler Rum has suggested the best ways to enjoy their unique product. In the case of the dark rum, the product should be respectfully enjoyed on the rocks, preferably paired with some rich, dark chocolate. Whist the dark rum’s spicy counterpart can be enjoyed as a Free State sandstorm, which requires some ginger ale and a splash of lime. Now apart from highlighting the spicy nature of the rum, this cocktail captures the warm colours of the Free State. Once again reminding us of the authentic, local nature of this rum! So, whether you need something to celebrate the holidays or something to take the edge of the family visit this holiday. Whistler Rum is definitely something to try!
“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”
Tequila is one of those products that most South Africans have a very healthy respect for. Whether the connotations associated with the spirit are positive or negative, we all have a story relating to a tequila shot. However, much like the beloved character of Severus Snape, this intricate spirit has been heinously misinterpreted, misjudged and underestimated. Luckily for the South African craft culture, an innovative brand has accepted the monumentus task of re-educating the masses on the matter of agave spirits.
Leonista, a name directly translated to ‘place of the lion’, is the first 100% Karoo agave spirit to reach the shelves of South Africa. The brand uses the same authentic distilling process as the legendary tequilas and mezcals of Mexico, which has yielded three unique products. The Blanco: an unaged spirit with a rich flavour of blue agave. The Reposado: a spirit that has been aged for 6 months in an American oak, old brandy barrel to give it a smooth, woody taste with sweet beginnings. The Honey Reposado: aged in old brandy barrels and infused with raw honey for a double energy boost. Regardless of your preference, these three spirits truly embody what I call the three S’s: strong, sultry and sophisticated. A product that has evolved from the shots we know from our university days.
The only problem I found with the product, was that I (in my uneducated glory) had no idea how to properly enjoy a glass of premium agave spirits. Luckily for me (and people like me), Leonista has thought of it all. Their websites offer a range of wonderful, colourful recipes that are sure to keep you busy this holiday season. My personal favourites involve orange juice and ginger ale, smoky Sangrita or (for the brave of heart) Blanco on the rocks.
In summary, if you are looking for something new, something that will impress your friends or simply something that will outdo the fancy wine your mother-in-law is bringing for Christmas lunch: I truly recommend exploring the wonderful, new world of agave spirits with Leonista.
"Education's purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one!"
As a self-proclaimed craft gin fanatic (which is just a classy way of saying closet alcoholic), I have experienced my fair share of gin bars, craft festivals and gin tastings. Which also means I am constantly looking for a new experience or one that has an extra edge. This search lead me to the Vredenheim craft gin bar, where an amazing selection of craft gin was combined with the fine art of classical cars to create a truly unique environment.
I like to think that I stumbled across this local gem out of pure chance. The truth however is that Daniel is a classic car fanatic and I am a craft gin enthusiast. Which means that we were destined to discover this place that somehow combined our respective passions. Either way, one relaxed Saturday afternoon we found ourselves at Vredenheim. Upon first impression, I really felt that the atmosphere of the gin room perpetuated an air of relaxation. Almost as if you could completely forget the outside world. Whether you were sitting on one of the benches outside: staring at the beautiful gardens of Vredenheim, or were chilling at the bar: chatting to the friendly bartenders, or like Daniel: drooling over the beautiful classic cars. It truly felt like a place where you could escape the daily admin of life.
The bar offered various cocktails but also offered a gin tasting. Since both of us struggled to choose a single gin to drink, we opted for the gin tasting. This allowed us to choose 3 (out of the 47) gin products to taste. Each chosen gin was paired with a fruit or herb that truly highlighted the unique nuances of each blend and (of course) some Fitch and Leedes tonic water. The bartenders would then explain the ingredients and process that had blended together to create each unique gin and then leave you to experience the flavors at your own pace. As someone who loves to learn, I truly appreciated the care with which each product was explained. It truly added depth to the experience and makes you appreciate each product for the effort that had gone into creating it.
Even though we finished our tasting in under an hour, we may have spent about half a day at Vredenheim. Soaking-up the sunshine, taking in the scenery and of course ordering some additional cocktails of our newly appointed favourite gin products. So whether you need a break from studying or are just looking for something to do during the approaching holiday, I would recommend you experience the magic of a gin and classic car pairing.
"The good times of today are the thoughts of tomorrow"
There is a reason that George Ezra's latest song 'shotgun' has become such an overnight success. There is something truly universal about the thrill of a road trip. The feeling of the wind in your hair, sing-along music blasting through the speakers and an endless landscape: all fused together to create the illusion of infinite possibility. This week's blog follows our road trip adventure to Wilderness, where the soon-to-be annual Torpedo Swim Run was taking place. Packed as tightly as my great aunt's stockings, in a chaotic mishmash of wetsuits, surfboards and doritos, our humble little vehicle took to the road toward the east coast. Our group consisted of athletes, avid supporters and a few tag alongs that honestly just enjoyed the outdoors and the festivities of such a prime event. An extremely diverse group united by a single, positive mindset: experiencing all that this life and this beautiful country has to offer!
To offer some context to this week's blog, we delve into the history and essence of the Torpedo Swim Run. The event started as a competitive bet between a group of friends, who attempted to complete a Running and swimming route that eventually took nearly 24 hours to complete. The annual challenge later evolved into an event known as the swim run, with events that take place across the world. This year this historical race settled in the often overlooked beach town of Wilderness. Known for beautiful indigenous forests (that honestly make you feel as if you have landed in a Jurassic Park movie) and prestige beaches. Wilderness is another local gem that truly deserves to be viewed as if by an awestruck tourist... And what better way to truly take in the nature than by bundu-bashing through the local rivine, running along the beaches and all-around adventuring through 26km of mostly untouched environment. Yes... You read that correctly, the event totals 26km of which you run 17km, you swim 4km and you rock-hop 5km. Now if you are anything like me, you probably twisted an ankle by merely reading the previous sentence. Luckily for people like me , the race caters for athletes and spectators alike. The Ebb and Flow campsite, where the event took place, was transformed into a mini-festival ground, offering snacks, drinks and music. So whether you were running the race, hanging out in your tent or snapping pictures of the racers (definitely me), you truly felt part of the event, part of the nature and part of a community.
However, more than just the excitement, the nature and the amazing people. This adventure taught me a valuable life lesson about time. Charles Bukowski once said, "to fight for each minute is to fight for what is possible within yourself, so that your life and your death will not be like theirs." Now at first, I didn't really understand what he meant. However, I realized that time seemed to slow down over the weekend, as if the weekend had somehow turned into a week. This phenomenon I later discovered was because I had been more more aware of what was going on around me. By discarding my phone, my laptop and all my other daily distractions, I had been present. This is what I think Bukowski meant... By fighting for each minute, he suggests that we truly experience life, only when acknowledging the sanctity of a minute...by being present. Instead of distracting ourselves with meaningless noise and meaningless routines, we must simply take time to (literally and metaphorically) smell the roses! So in summary, take a few seconds to acknowledge the good things around you and the beauty that this life and this country has to offer!
"The present moment is the only moment available to us, and it is the door to all moments!"
Have You Ever Heard The Saying, "A Change Is as good as A Holiday!" I always thought this referred to a physical change. A misconception that admittedly resulted in more than one saga of me trying yoga, going vegan for a week (more like a day) or recently (inspired by the Avril Lavigne song) attempting skateboarding. Which ironically did lead to a change in my life in the form of a hospital bed. This being said, I have recently started to realize that the change I needed all along was, in fact, a simple mind shift. You see, I recently had the pleasure of meeting a group of exchange students. Little did this group of overly excited, slightly pale Europeans know their presence in our country would lead to a rather profound epiphany. Their childlike wonder regarding the amazing gems our country had to offer, allowed me to gaze at our country with a newfound awe. Thus inspiring this new blog segment...celebrating our beautiful country through the eyes of a tourist!
Our adventure begins close to home...exploring the beautiful gem that is koel bAY! In the style of true South Africans our impromptu travel squad arrived from a variety of origin locations using a variety of different travel methods...one of us even cycled from Stellenbosch. Nonetheless...we had everything we needed for an adventure: sun, friendly faces, good music and (perhaps most importantly) delicious snacks. Koel Bay, better known as ‘Dappat se gat’ is located along the scenic, winding beach road between Gordon’s Bay and Rooiels. The magic of this secret spot lies within it’s untouched nature. The untouched white beaches, delicately hidden by lush fynbos and the elegantly folded mountains of the Cape. Basically a 360 view of South African paradise. The perfect place for lounging on the beach, reading your favourite Charles Bukowski book (I may be biased with this one), surfing, body boarding or classic game of beach frisbee.
Now I know the skeptics among you may suggest that the above mentioned activities are not exactly unique to a specific beach and others may argue that it’s a long drive for ‘just another beach’. Although these critics are far from wrong, they may be a bit short sighted. You see, Koel Bay is far more than just activities and sunshine. It is a symbol of the raw and untouched beauty of our country. More than that, the endless blue ocean expanse and the majestic, monstrous mountains are a reminder of our own insignificance. In this case, insignificance does not mean that we do not have an important role in this life, but rather that there are more pressing matters than our own. In a nutshell...Koel Bay to me is a beacon of perspective. Reminding me why I choose to fight for the environment and this exceptionally, unique and beautiful country!
"The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will fix it!"
One of the most precious things in life is the ability to inspire through infectious and unapologetic passion! I will be honest; I have never really had a passion for optometry. Nonetheless, the positivity and energy of the Paarl optometrist known as Bril may have made me question my career path.
The story of the so-called “over-night success” started in George, expanded to Johannesburg and was then coaxed back to Paarl with the promise of mountains and vineyards. In this regard, a business is rather like an iceberg: for every white peak of success that rises triumphantly above the water, a rich history of hard work, disappointments, success and passion resides below the surface. At this point you are probably thinking, “Every town has an optometrist…what makes Bril so special?” Well, contraire to the Hollywood portrayal, there is no one secret ingredient. Bril has simply succeeded in embracing the authentic existence of its passionate owners, which has in turn led to a plethora of unique characteristics that truly distinguishes Bril from their competitors.
As the saying goes ‘Passion breeds progress”, which leads us to the first distinguishing characteristic of Bril. Most customers are inclined toward things that are new and exciting… Bril entertains this customer fantasy by attending expos, talks or conferences (anything where they can learn what is hip and happening). Therefore, their techniques and stocks stay cutting edge. Werner, one of the owners goes on to explain that the trends that Bril adopts are also more than just current; Bril truly invests in designs that have a story and that are authentic. The second characteristic that makes Bril exceptional is that the business is truly centred on making you a happy customer and not a billable number. This is achieved through small, yet essential details. Whether it be their coffee stand in the shop, their favourite house music playing in the foyer, there interaction with their customers on Instagram or their dogs playing in the garden in front of the shop. They thrive on being an interaction-based brand and their winning recipe has attracted people from as far as Namibia.
However, the interaction does not stop at attracting distant customers; this brand is also passionate about the community and reach out to their community through various charity project. Sticking to what they know best they have set the optimistic goal of helping over 1 million people in communities that may not have access to eye care. At this point in the conversation, I was smitten with the brand and like most inspired youth, I wanted to know how I could get involved with this amazing brand! Luckily for me, and anyone reading this, Bril needs both volunteers and old glasses for their projects (So spread the word). Alternatively, you can get involved by simply adopting their simple motto: Spread happiness!
The bril-liant (pun intended) thing about Bril is that they thrive on transparency, personal service and one of my favourite things in life…unapologetic authenticity. Don’t believe me, see (another pun) for yourself @hello_bril ;)
"Stay true to you and you will end up incredibly happy!"
This week we say happy birthday to a particularly spectacular Stellenbosch gem! Exactly 9 years ago, The birdcage was started as a vintage gift shop. Capturing the imagination of the Stellenbosch locals with their beautiful products and petite coffee shop. Now, nearly a decade later, this iconic brand has expanded to the restaurant,cake shop,cafe and gift shop we know today. A unique brand with a truly multi-dimensional existence. This inspiring characteristic, partnered with the fact that The Birdcage is owned by two woman, made this brand perfect for a Woman’s day feature.
You see, The Birdcage, like all the beautiful and amazing woman we are celebrating today, has truly gained my respect.Being the sweet tooth that I am, I will start with their highly successful bakery. The bakery has perfected a range of delicious recipes and constantly change up their options based on trends or as one of the owners divulged, “things that look cool on pinterest!” The other big facet of the bakery is the creation of spectacular wedding cakes, which range from classic, tiered masterpieces to delightfully modern naked cakes. Their restaurant menu follows the innovative style of the bakery, with amazing food and new launches (like the launch of their new salad menu). Then lastly, The Birdcage is known for it’s beautiful and ornamental gifts. Which, to be honest, makes The Birdcage the first place I stop for birthdays, Christmas or Mother's day! These characteristics in themselves are inspirational, but The Birdcage has earned so much more than just my respect, it is truly a place I am in love with! I remember having lunch on their sunny patio with my grandmother, I remember countless occasions of staring at their wide variety of treats to satisfy my sugar cravings and I remember countless coffees dates with my best friends!
So whether you are celebrating a birthday (like The Birdcage) or the fact that you are an amazing woman...both occasions are best celebrated with cake! And luckily for you, The birdcage has a cake for every occasion and taste preference!
"A Party without cake is just a meeting"
I scream, you scream…we all scream for ice-cream. But let’s be honest, as universal as our love for ice cream is, not all ice-cream is made the same. Especially when it comes Cape Town’s legendary ice-cream shop The Creamery.
The story of The Creamery, like most special things, started at home, where Kate (the co-owner of The Creamery) loved making delicious home-made ice-cream for her family and friends. She quickly realized that other ice-cream in the area was (quieted frankly) mediocre compared to the natural and fresh products she created at home. This conundrum quickly led her to partner up with Kye to open The Creamery. According to the founders, the ice-cream shop not only provided an ideal platform to exhibit the amazing seasonal products that Cape Town had to offer, but also supplied the owners and their workers with a sustainable living. Other than creating delicious and local products, The Creamery has three key characteristics that make it truly unique! Firstly, the ice-cream is made from only natural ingredients and contains no preservatives or artificial stabilizers. Secondly, their ingredients are sourced from local, small farm owners. Which is both sustainable and supports growth within our beautiful country. Lastly, The Creamery has a unique approach to flavour. Although they have their main 5 flavours, their menu is constantly changing as they experiment with new ingredients and as they are inspired by changing seasons. Whether it be carrot cake and ginger chocolate chip in autumn or sesame seed and jasmine tea in May. The brand is constantly reinventing itself! And this is truly my favourite part of the brand. It is not a once-off, tick-off-the-bucket-list experience. The Creamery is a brand that provides a new and exciting taste sensation with every visit and is therefore a brand that I have built a personal connection with. It’s that place swing by every time you are in the area, it’s the place you take that special someone for a treat and the place you go when you are having a bad day!
In a nutshell…a truly special establishment that represents an inspirational ideology as a simple cone of ice-cream. I think Kye said it best when she described the brand as combining the best aspects of life: working with small farmers, celebrating the abundance of foods grown in the Western Cape, caring for the environment, and an inclusive workplace that empowers people!
"Money can't buy happiness, but it can buy ice-cream...which is close enough!"
This is blog is a celebration of all those brands, people and places that make south africa great!