Three dynamic Women shaking up the SA Bar Industry

On Women’s Month ANGOSTURA® celebrates the pioneering women bartenders carving out a groove for themselves in bars throughout South Africa.

Behind every successful bar there’s a strong woman… if that’s not quite true yet of every bar in South Africa it’s getting closer, as more women are finding fulfilling careers in mixology, and challenging the (out-dated) perception that bartending is a boys-only club.

We talk to three women at different stages of their bartending careers about slinging drinks, their favourite ANGOSTURA® cocktails and upcoming cocktail trends to look out for.

Roxanne Read

With a seventeen-year career stretching from the Melville strip to the Caribbean Islands and India, Roxanne Read (aka Rox the Fox) knows a thing or two about cocktails. Now consulting on everything bar-related, her expertise is in demand for designing new cocktail menus, training bar-tenders and sharing her magic touch in South Africa and around the world.

How did you get into bartending?

I was studying at film school in Jozi and my parents told me to get a real job, be an adult.  I was trying to get a waitressing job and it wasn’t going well. I walked into a cocktail bar called Six in Melville and was sitting at the bar with a beer feeling sorry for myself, while the bartender was juggling lemons behind the bar.  I was like, I want to juggle lemons too, and he said, why don’t you become a bartender then you can juggle lemons. He proceeded to tell me how there were no girls in the industry and how no girls ever made it through the six-week training session at Six. It sounded like a huge challenge to me, so I was like cool! Seventeen years later I’m still in the industry. I worked there for four years, one of two females working there at that time. It was amazing.

What are the most popular orders you’re asked for right now?

Fancy gin and tonics are still the name of the game in SA. Overseas I’m finding a lot of champagne based cocktails and fancy champagne serves.

And the strangest cocktail you’ve been asked to make?

Whenever we move into savoury cocktails (one of my favourite things to do) it starts to get a bit weird. We’ve created shrimp cocktail in an actual cocktail, and a lot of meat flavours. So meat-washed liquor. Bacon-washed whisky isn’t that unusual, but we’re talking braised steaks, charred fillets and things like that.

Do you have a special method to remembering all your cocktail recipes?

I’ve always had a weird trick, I talk to ingredients. They have little personalities for me, so it’s about all the elements that make this cocktail who it is. This drink likes to be in a short glass and have a lot of limes, he’s quite a sour guy… and so on.

What is your favourite cocktail using ANGOSTURA® aromatic bitters?

Ango is an integral part of one of my signature cocktails that I’ve won a couple of awards with. It’s called the Secret Garden: it’s basically a beautiful spiced rum, fresh fresh beetroot juice, cherry liqueur, ANGOSTURA® aromatic bitters, wasabi paste, served with dry ice and an edible garland.

What cocktail trends are making waves now?

We’re finally moving into the rum-trend, which is super cool. More local rums are starting to come onto the market, I think SA is finally ready for rum. I’m so excited because we have the perfect climate, the perfect raw ingredients, the right space, the right flavour profiles. I think we’re going to start creating a very unique rum flavour profile here, if we can pay attention and drop money into the industry.

Cassandra Eichhoff

Cassandra Eichhoff found her niche in bartending education, where she is director of the European Bartender School in Cape Town. She stays active in the industry, not necessarily behind the bar slinging drinks, but building bartender programmes, competing in cocktail competitions and managing community platforms.

How did you get into the bartending trade?

It started in 2010 when I moved from Namibia to Stellenbosch to pursue a career in event management. I had always imagined being on the “All Access” operations team, putting together the biggest and best events and festivals, however when I interned in various departments within events, I found my special place to be in the lucrative world of drinks. I joined a mobile bar company that taught me the ins and outs of bar operations and mixology, then in 2017 joined the globally acclaimed European Bartender School and opened the branch in Cape Town. I realized my true passion lies in education and mentorship, as well as being an advocate for women by leading our ladies into becoming their best possible selves.

What are the most popular orders right now?

With the current tequila trend making major waves, you’ll easily find a Paloma or Mezcal Negroni on most cocktail menus – even the classic Margarita is still staying strong (shaken, not blended please!). But apart from that, classics like the Old Fashioned, Whisky Sours and even Pornstar Martinis are still dominating most cocktail menus.

And the strangest cocktail request?

A recurring matter that most bartenders face is when customers want bartenders to justify the amount of liquid in a cocktail once the craft ice is removed. The dynamics of a cocktail are more complex than just its flavour pairing, and the overall design entails so much more than just the liquid components.  Putting that information across to consumers is important for them to understand value for money.

Do you have a special method to remembering all your cocktail recipes?

My personal favourite is reading up about the drinks history to make a connection with the place, ingredients and occasion of the cocktail. It also helps when making small talk or selling cocktails to consumers.

What is your favourite cocktail using ANGOSTURA® aromatic bitters?

One of my favourite drinks using ANGOSTURA® in an unconventional way is how George Hunter from Copper Monkey makes his Cuba Libres: ANGOSTURA® flavoured ice cubes with a mix of a spiced rum, coca cola and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. It may seem extremely simple, but that hint of ANGOSTURA® adds that extra essence to the balance of the drink – definitely gets my groove on!

Top tip:  use a smaller ice cube tray with filtered water and 5ml of ANGOSTURA® per cube – this way you can use more ice in a drink and allow the cubes to gently dilute into the drink without overpowering the rum. 

Charne van Heerden

Head bar-tender at Cape Town’s iconic House of the Machines, Charne van Heerden has been deftly slinging drinks behind the bar since 2018. During the pandemic she added food and drinks writing to her repertoire and while bars and restaurants were closed launched a hospitality-driven car-washing service (with Cassandra Eichoff, among others) aptly named Cartenders.

How did you get into the bartending trade?

In 2017 I attended the European Bartending School, and basically got sucked into bartending ever since. I started working at Orphanage Cocktail Emporium, where I started to fall in love with the craft. It’s the high volume, high pressure service, and the opportunity to bring people together in a comfortable space where you get to enjoy the company of like-minded people. That’s what I love to do, and that’s what bartending has opened up for me.

What are the most popular orders you’re asked for right now?

The House is known for its Oldfashioned. Besides the Oldfashioned, our Espresso Martinis are another House favourite.

And the strangest cocktail you’ve been asked to make?

This was a new one to me, but apparently a usual request across the borders: a margarita, over ice, topped up with a lager.

Do you have a special method to remembering all your cocktail recipes?

Practice, practice, practice, there’s no shortcut.

What is your favourite cocktail using ANGOSTURA® aromatic bitters?

An Oldfashioned without Ango will not go down the way we like it. 4-6 dashes per serving to pop the aromatics in the cocktail is all you need.

What cocktail trends are making waves at the moment?

Low and no-alcohol cocktails have been hovering on the trend mark. I think it’s not far away. Spicy and umami cocktails have been picked up around various cocktail bars, and something I noticed in cocktail competitions. More of the experimental cocktails are also making their rounds. Bartenders have access to free education on different techniques and styles and are starting to put it to use.

ANGOSTURA® celebrates all the female bartenders slinging drinks and putting their power behind the bar this Women’s Month.

Written by Marvin Leugering

Founder of FoodBlogSA Media. B.Bus.Sc. - Marketing; M.Bus.Sc- Tourism. A career in destination marketing was calling but then my passion for food took over. Welcome to our restaurant marketing platform.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Exploration and Evolution behind a Young Chef’s Journey to the Global Gastronomy Stage

The Angostura Bar & Beverage Awards SA 2023: All the Winners announced!