The Twankey Bar at the Taj Cape Town Hotel is fast making a name for itself as one of the city’s leading cocktail bars. And the credit goes to head bartender AJ Snetler, who spent 2017 scooping up a host of awards in South Africa and abroad.

When the self-taught mixologist from Port Elizabeth moved to Cape Town in 2015, he was soon making waves behind the city’s bar counters. From popular nightspot Drop Kick Murphy’s Snetler moved on to acclaimed cocktail emporium The Orphanage, before being spirited away to head up The Twankey Bar earlier this year.

“I’ve always loved the theatre, the entertainment side of bartending,” says Snetler, whose menu adds a touch of rebellion to the clean-cut classical offering of most cocktail bars in the city. His Spice Route blends bourbon with pineapple, cardamom and tonka beans, while Company Gardens shakes Tanqueray gin up with oleo, passion fruit and honey-and-jasmine wine. Coco Tango comes with a few cocoa-infused surprises.

The imaginative cocktails are well balanced by the elegant setting: all white marble counters and intimate booths. It’s hard to imagine a better way to start or end a classy date night.

“We’re trying to create a hotel bar with a difference. Coming to a hotel bar should be an occasion, but it should be an everyday occasion. The staff, the service, the drinks… it should be a bit of everyday luxury,” says Snetler.

Along with tweaking those everyday luxuries at The Twankey Bar, Snetler’s been winning awards. He won the Best Belvedere Martini Competition with a creation of bianco vermouth infused with thyme and Italian parsley, garnished with droëwors, olives and peppadews. Next was the Woodford Bourbon Trail in search of the finest Old Fashioned, which Snetler bagged with his creative use of coloured glassware and pairing the drink with chocolate truffles made in-house.

But the biggest feather in his cap by far was jetting off to Mexico in September for the global finals of The Tahona Society Cocktail Competition. Competing against 24 of the world’s best bartenders, Snetler bagged an impressive third place with his inspired Tokolosh cocktail with its African influences.

The Twankey Bar may not have sea views or sand underfoot, but there are few better places to raise a glass if you’re in the Mother City this summer.

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