Delving into a Floral Ocean with the Schweppes Bartender’s Lab

Cause/Effect cocktail bar

At I Love Foodies, we have experienced a multiple of culinary adventures. I’d like to think we have done it all, but then an invite appears to something so completely different I have no idea how to even explain it. I do know that Benike would have loved this particular adventure, but she is off exploring London, so I asked Ray to join me instead. I pitched the invite like this: There is a new thing at Cause/Effect. Don’t know what it is or what to expect, but wanna join? Luckily I didn’t have to do further explaining.

Cause/Effect popped on to the cocktail scene late 2017, stirring up things in the world of cocktails and winning “Cocktail Bar of the Year” earlier this year. They recently moved to their new home at the V&A Waterfront.  Version 2.0, they rebranded as Cause/Effect Cocktail Kitchen and Cape Brandy Bar. As part of this new adventure they also launched the Schweppes Bartender’s Lab.

The Schweppes Bartender’s Lab

Now, the best way to describe the Schweppes Bartender’s Lab is to think of the concept of a chef’s table, but in the world of cocktails. Instead of a chef, there is a dedicated barman. Instead of a table, there is an intimate six-seater bar. And instead of dinner, there is the sensory experience of a three-course cocktail and amuse-bouche pairing.

Imagine what a symphony of senses could be, and you’re kind of headed in the right realm. Using the concept of story and incorporating a huge amount of locally foraged, sustainable ingredients, elements of visual beauty, breath-taking effects and unique tastes, the Schweppes Bartender’s Lab takes you on a complete journey.

And this is exactly what Ray and I got to experience. We joined our fellow guests at this intimate six-seater bar located right at the back of the new Cause/Effect. Which, by the way, is incredibly beautiful and definitely worth a visit! We were a bit early and had some time to look around, try one of the regular on-menu cocktails, and learn some cool stuff from the very knowledgeable bartenders.

Cause/Effect floral ocean

Zen Expression

Anyway, back to the experience. At the Schweppes Bartender’s Lab, which looks much like a lab, by the way, we met our bartender/host/creator of magic, Justin. A Zen garden had been set up for each of us, complete with a rake, stones, and giant seashell.

While we played with our sand – who doesn’t love a Zen garden? – Justin introduced us to the journey we were about to take: Floral Ocean. At this point, neither Ray nor I had any idea what was going to happen but I’m all for a good adventure.

Justin launched into creating the first cocktail in a hand-blown sea anemone glass. (Unrelated, I’m so glad I’m typing this review, cause anemone is one of two words I cannot say. The other being ‘abominable’). There are so many steps involved in this ocean-inspired cocktail, but the gist of it is that it’s seaweed-infused Bombay Sapphire, Schweppes cucumber tonic, seaweed caviar, and cucumber rose shrub.

After we received our cocktail and ‘planted’ it in our garden, we each received some water to pour into the seashell, activating the hidden dry ice that immediately immersed our garden in smoke. At this point, we knew that we were in for one hell of a show (yay)!

Chef Julian then brought out the most beautiful amuse bouche: A murukai hokkaiyaki ferarri cape mussel with chive foam and spekboom crunch, perched on a buttery black bun heated by a hot stone. This, too, was placed in our Zen garden. The mussel and black bun were divine and the cocktail like nothing I have ever tasted before.

Cause/Effect

Deep Blue Sea

Our next adventure consisted of a three-tiered work of art, representing ocean floor, earth, and blue sky.  The bottom layer was a tuna tataki taco with edamame beans, crunchy sprouts, and sweetcorn foam on a bed of Asian baby cabbage. The middle and top layer, again, were magical cocktail creations.

There were a gazillion steps and ingredients but they included Schweppes cucumber tonic, citrus blue curaçao shrub, nasturtium leaf, spekboom, fennel, and, of course, dry ice. Justin described every step, weaving stories together and creating a complete out-of-this-world taste sensation.

Floral Shābetto

For our final course, Chef Julian presented us with what they jokingly referred to as “Oh, my sundae!”, a ‘dropped’ miniature ice cream cone with Schweppes floral tonic sorbet, crumbed coconut biscuit, lemon & seaweed puree, and strawberry rose droplets. For the cocktail element, Justin created magic in a test tube with Schweppes soda, Bacardi Carta Blanca, Oleo Rose grapefruit, and sherbet. Because in a lab you should totally drink from a test tube with smoke all around you! (#Not.)

Cause/Effect

Final Thoughts

These cocktails aren’t meant to be standalone drinks. They are not what you would order at the bar. The cocktails, the amuse-bouche, and every element involved are part of the package, the tools used in transporting you into this adventure. When you take this journey, you are not doing it to have ‘some drinks and snacks’.  This about a complete experience and a true sensory adventure. It was like nothing we could have imagined, and I am so glad we could take this trip and immerse ourselves into a Floral Ocean.

The themes for the Schweppes Bartender’s Lab will change every three months. The cost is R450 per person and spots are limited to a maximum of six people per one-hour session. Bookings can be done online.

Thank you to Cause/Effect, bartender and host Justin, Chef Julian, and to Manley Communications for inviting us.

Cause/Effect

Address: 280 Dock Road, V&A Waterfront

Call: +27 21 422 0266

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Written by Sabine Palfi
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Article Date: October 2019

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