Last year, you will remember one of our favourite gins, The Botanist introduced us not only to their fragrant product but also their Forager competition which saw friends AJ Snetler (head barman at The Twankey Bar) and Caitlin Hill (now Brand Ambassador of Rémy Cointreau’s niche brands) competing for the ultimate prize of being South Africa’s first crowned Forager and win, in part, that career defining trip to Islay, meet the distilling legend Jim McEwan and experience the progressive Hebridean distillery Bruichladdich in all its glorious splendour.
Launched this Wednesday past in Cape Town, The Forager 2.0 featured three of Cape Town’s up-and-coming bartenders, namely: Charl Albertus (replacing Cameron Hawkins), James Meredith and Ramiz Remano Victor who, like all The Forager contestants, were challenged to ‘craft the wildest serves, using The Botanist Gin and local, hand-foraged botanicals’. Before each event, the participating bartenders, under the tutelage of Roushanna Gray (Western Region), Chef and Forager, Charlie Lakin (Eastern Region) and Sandy Roberts (Northern Region) are taken on a local foraging tour to choose indigenous ingredients from their region, from which they will create their own unique serves of The Botanist Gin.
Said James of the experience “by experimenting with all sorts of different flavour combinations from plants found in nature, I feel as if I have broadened my horizons and now have a new understanding. Knowing more about Cape Town’s Floral Kingdom will give me the upper hand when creating unusual and interesting drinks.”
Now for all of the readers who are still trying to be cool and bring ‘fetch’ back, Cape Town isn’t the only city to be able to experience the competition. The Forager 2.0 will also highlight bartenders and venues in Johannesburg with Burdett Geiling (Sin & Tax), Tayla Henshall (The Artisan) and Justin Bester (Marble) all competing along with Durban’s The Chef’s Table, Lucky Shaker, and The Chairman all competing for Botanist Gin honours. This year, the difference from is to also have each cocktail available at the various venues, post competition, for members of the public to experience these works of passion for themselves over the coming weeks.
The format for each city is the same: industry experts and invited guests to take part in an Urban Forage visiting each competitor’s bar, taste the cocktails and then vote for the one they feel is the most inspired. By mid-October, the regional winners will compete for the title of the ‘Wildest Cocktail’ in South Africa. The bartender with the most votes and highest score at the end of The Forager series will win the ultimate Botanist experience which includes a foraging master class with our favourite Roushanna Gray, two days with industry expert and 2016’s winner, Gareth Wainwright, and a personalised forager’s bartending kit bag.
After trekking through the city from The Stack to The Gin Bar and ending at The Orphanage Cocktail Emporium, the first leg of the competition saw Charl Albertus, who shares our long-held desire to enjoy a cigar and Martini with Sir Winston Churchill, win the regional competition. He described the use of Rooibos and Buchu, two of his favourite indigenous flavour botanicals as the foundation of his foraged cocktail entitled ‘Cape Foliage’ which received the nod from judges as the cocktail which represented the ideals of the competition. So, if this Wednesday past was anything to go by we hope that the intense competitive comradery of Cape Town’s finest serves as an example to those competing in Johannesburg and Durban who have a high standard set when designing their offerings for the pretty young things who habitually follow only the latest urban trends and cocktails.
For more information, follow The Forager on Facebook @TheForagerSA and Instagram @TheForagerSA or make your own urban forage cocktail using The Botanist Gin available only the best-selected retailers country-wide.
Image supplied by Friday Street Club.