… so, Jo’burg may have Phuza-Thursdays to blow off some stream but here in The Mother City every night is a cause for celebration. Last night it was no different as South Africa’s fashion industry elite gathered to celebrate one of the Elle Belle’s birthdays at Mother’s Ruin in Bree Str. For those of you who have been living under a rock, Bree Str. has been gentrified at an alarming rate and now houses the newly fashionable high-temples of über-chic and Hipsterdom. More Williamsburg than SOHO, it reminds me of New York’s famous ‘hole in the wall’ bars and restaurants where you stumble through the threshold and have an amazing time only to never find it again. Most often than not you tend to want to forget the Bree Str. experience what with the blinding hangover in the morning and a drastically diminished bank-balance.
Not my first time to Mother’s Ruin, having walked out after a 35-minute wait one sweltering hot December evening last year vowing never to return I decided to get over my dislike of concept bars and suck it up. The evening wasn’t about me after all. I know right … shocking concept to fathom! Just like that place on Long Str. with 99-bottles of beer on the wall, the overwhelming choice of some 75 local and international gins, with an array of mixers and garnishes can slow down the decision making process but that’s the point of a gin bar right – choice. With a menu that covers the basics, the classics and for friends of the bar bespoke cocktails made from scratch after careful interrogation by one of the barman on what your flavour preferences are. I think last night the stars aligned or some kind of shit like that but the service was fantastic, an acceptable amount of people for a Tuesday evening sprinkled in small groups around so there was a buzz but not overwhelming so. Whether seated downstairs in the quaint courtyard with strung fairy lights overhead giving it a romantic mood, in the stylish lounge or outside on the wooden tables curbside it was comfortable. The kind of place you’d expect to be drinking at.
Perhaps I’m biased but this gin joint’s Head Barmen, Daryn Byron is one of my all-time favourite peoples since moving to Cape Town. This wunderkind elevates the art of conversation and service to a level beyond brilliant and he certainly changed by perception of the place from that horrid night in December. You kinda become more accepting of the fact that yes, they are not the fastest mixologists on the block but what they do is a craft. If you’re looking for cheap and quick there’s always Long Str. just a block down that can cater for those kinds of needs most likely served from a bottle with a yellow label. This gin joint is designed with the urban professional in mind who enjoys quality and style with a healthy pouring of substance after work or pre-dinner drinks.
Founded by brother’s Rob and Mark Mulholland (of Fiction on Long fame), the story of the establishment’s moniker is an interesting, if not entirely unoriginal one with similarly named establishments around the world sharing it. “In 1700’s UK, gin, which was created initially as a cure for malaria, was the most abused drink across all classes” explains Mark. “Mothers were literally selling themselves for money to buy more gin, and in fact 1 in 4 homes were being used as makeshift distilleries. It became known as the Mother’s Ruin since it caused so many orphans.” Just off Orphan Str. and next door to Orphanage it seems a logical explanation after my 3rd Gin Martini.
I read somewhere online that the brothers Mulholland have also been hard at work making their own bottle-aged infused gins, including a savoury gin with rosemary, thyme and olive; a citrus bomb with grapefruit, lime, lemon, orange and homemade orange bitters; and ginger gin cured in a vintage ginger beer bottle. Having always been a vodka martini boy at heart, I have to admit that I’m now in love with The Casino Royale 1953. The cocktails’ provenance is amplified with a quote scrawled in chalk on a blackboard above the bar and explains their take on James Bond’s vesper martini from the original 1953 Casino Royale film. Though the focus is on gin, a decent wine list and a selection of beer, cider and spirits is on offer including Tequila (as discovered last night).
Rookie mistake on my part, I didn’t eat much before ordering cocktails with wild abandon but did manage to scoff down all three of the artisanal platters on offer with Spanish, Italian and South African influences. There is something on the menu for everyone from drinks, food and good-looking patrons to keep you entertained through the night and perhaps, if you’re very lucky the next morning.
*hipsters, schlebs and wannabes need not apply within. We’re full.