“What are you doing over there?” I ask Jesse Chinn, the pirate-like mixologist at Douglas and Hale. “Just infusing the glass with hickory smoke,” he says with a mischievous smile, as he makes a Geomatroni — a fancier take on the classic Negroni. It’s just one of the many tricks that this Jack Sparrow of spirits has up his sleeve at the new bar that has taken over from Parktown North’s The National.
Like The National (and Coobs, Il Contadino and La Stalla), the bar, is part of chef James Diack’s empire. “I have no interest in cocktails: not even one. I drink wine and that’s my vibe. To have met someone like Jesse who is as passionate as I am about wine and food as he is about spirits and cocktails has been a revelation for me,” Diack says.
So there are very good cocktails: classic and otherwise. But, in terms of the wine, Diack has curated an everyday wine list and a cellar list too. “Essentially, I opened the wine bar I always wanted, like the wine bars I drink in overseas,” he says. Diack has meticulously hunted down limited-edition bottles that range from R95 to R3,600. There are also 66 wines you can buy by the glass — a nifty little doodad, called a Coravin, keeps the wine fresh once the bottle has been opened.
“We wanted a place where someone can have a wonderful experience, regardless of price range. It’s going to be the same experience whether you are eating a plate of kettle fried chips and drink a R33 glass of wine or eating a R700 meal. If you want to try a different glass of wine and drink out of a beautiful wine glass and eat some comfort food, come here,” Diack says.
If you visit, order pirate Chinn’s Black Pearl cocktail — there’s a treasure at the bottom of it.
- From the November edition of Wanted.