The definitive guide to the finest drinking experiences

The World Class 50: The Definitive Drinking Guide features 50 of the most innovative and talented bartenders from across the globe. Each bartender showcases the perfect location, the most inventive cocktail and the finest of ingredients and spirits that define the 'must have' fine drinking experience in their city.

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Nick Koumbarakis’ The Alexander Sidecar

Nick Koumbarakis represented South Africa at the World Class Bartender of the Year final, 2013

Orphanage Cocktail Emporium on Bree Street, a hip enclave of central Cape Town, is approaching its second birthday. It is a chic speakeasy, with a lively and relaxed feel that avoids all the pitfalls associated with downtown nightlife. Based on extensive research of first-rate bars around the globe, this project goes to demonstrate the importance of doing your homework. Having expanded twice already and with an ever broader remit – live music, dance floor, supper – the focus of the concept is ultimately on the drinks, and the ethos here is quality over quantity.

With bartenders bedecked in waistcoats and bowler hats, it’s a quirky, vintage-tinged space focused on creating superb cocktails and an equally excellent vibe. We think the continued success of Orphanage Cocktail Emporium demonstrates that knowing your market, creating a niche and focusing on excellence is the formula for maximal customer satisfaction.

The Bartender

Nick Koumbarakis, 30, has worked in the industry for twelve years, and came to Orphanage Cocktail Emporium to assist in its planning phase. He lists Gary Regan, Dale DeGroff, Ueno San and Alex Kratena among inspirational characters in the industry. Nick credits living in such a beautiful city as Cape Town as a rich mine of ideas for drinks, whether from its culture, landscape or lifestyle. He also consults, educates and blogs – check out alchemistsays – and places much emphasis on balancing flavours in his cocktails and delivering memorable experiences to customers. Nick is currently working at The House of Machines.

The Drink

In the Alexander Sidecar you find a classic sidecar taken for a spin in South Africa. It features a tea-flavoured syrup that Nick makes with locally sourced organic rooibos. To make this he dissolves 500g of sugar into 500ml of simmering water, adds 8 rooibos teabags, and leaves to infuse for 30 minutes before cooling and straining. The inspiration came from a boutique chocolatiers in which Nick tried a rooibos chocolate. Impressed by the combination he took the classic recipe and substituted Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve in place of cognac for its balance of sweet fruit and honey notes. The name comes from Alexander Walker, son of John, and famous for introducing the slanting label.

The Technique

Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve • 45ml
Bols Crème de Cacao white liqueur • 20ml
Grand Marnier liqueur • 5ml
Freshly pressed lemon juice • 20ml
Organic rooibos infused syrup • 20ml
Green cardamom pods • 3
Contains 20 grams of alcohol per serve

Gently press the cardamom pods in a steel shaker. Add the remaining ingredients and shake with ice. Fine strain into a vintage stainless steel coupe.

Serve on a silver tray with a bamboo dish of high quality dark chocolate, an orange zest and a few cardamom pods.

Make yourself comfortable in one of the booths, or outside in hot weather, and enjoy the vaguely eccentric spectacle, distinct atmosphere and Nick’s Alexander Sidecar.

Images by Dan Calderwood

Nick’s Insider’s Guide to Cape Town

Place to stay
15 on Orange

Place to eat
Pot Luck Club

Place to relax
Haas Coffee Collective

Place to lounge
Kloof Street House

Place to Dance
Café Caprice

Place to shop
Hout Bay Market

Place to visit
Table Mountain by cable car

Place to see
Cage shark diving