The team at Brew Kombucha is super excited to stock ELGR Restaurant on Kloof street in Cape Town. Particularly because Neil Van Bergen is the Bar Manager there and Head Bartender, and he knows a thing or two about whipping up some incredible kombucha cocktails!
Neil chats to us about his mixology journey and ethos, whilst pairing Brew Kombucha's Original Rooibos with bourbon, African Rose with gin, Buchu Babe with cucumber vodka and Ginger Lemon with reposado (read more for the recipe). They are nothing short of dreamy!
He is also working on some great non-alcoholic or low ABV cocktails with Brew.
Neil, tell us a bit about your journey in mixology?
Well, I'll have to admit that I've always preferred the term bartending over mixology... Bartending is the career path whereas mixology is the art form behind it.
But besides that I can say that my cocktail bartending career started while I was living in Manhattan NYC. I fell in love with a venue called The Cauldron NYC and just felt that I HAD to work there. With my background in live performance and hospitality being in my blood and background as my mum was a manager, owner and head chef of her own restaurant while I was growing up... I got the job and became a "Potions Master" at The Cauldron.
Upon coming back to SA because of Covid, I decided to continue along the path I had set my mind on and did the international bartending course at the European Bartending School in Cape Town. A week before graduating I did an interview at the Art of Duplicity, which had won best cocktail bar in South Africa at the SA Bar Awards at the time... From there I continued the pursuit of learning as much as I could and... Well here I am. I never strive for something perfect, because then I can't continue to learn. And I feel that is one of the most important things to me as a bartender. I love to learn and I love to show people the many incredible things that one can do with spirits and homemade ingredients.
Word on the street is that you are a finalist in a big comp, please let us know more?
Oh! Well I don't really know what to say exactly... I was competing in the Contreau Margarita Challenge recently with a very small pool of finalists from SA and I will say that Leighton Wrathbone easily earned his victory! Massive congratulations to him. Other than that I am participating in Diageo World Class again this year. Last year I was a regional finalist and this year... Well let's see what happens! Fingers crossed and all that jazz!
What makes ELGR and the beverage experience you offer there unique?
I suppose this can go back to the first question in that the cocktail menu here is entirely unique to the venue and fully seasonal. I strive for sustainable bartending and maximizing on every ingredient used across several tinctures, syrups, cordials etc. And minimize on waste. Beyond that I like to believe that our cocktails are beautifully balanced and just something wonderful to experience. There's a little bit of everything for everyone.
What cocktail recipes did you come up with for Brew Kombucha?
So far there are some ideas for Kombucha hi-balls and possibly some Low-No-ABV cocktails as I feel it is important for non-drinkers to also have a unique drinking experience that isn't just a soft drink or juice.
The recipes themselves? Well one that was very pleasing was:
37.5ml Blanco Tequila,
25ml Fresh Lime Juice
12.5ml Agave Nectar
Shaken and strained into a hi-ball glass over ice and then topped off with the Ginger Lemon Brew Kombucha.
As for other recipes... Well why not come to elgr and find out? :P
What did you enjoy most about working with the Brew Kombucha products?
I love the passion that has been put into the product and the great quality of it. I can really tell that a lot of effort has gone into Brew Kombucha and I love to support the local market. I mean... It also tastes great so that's a plus.
We highly recommend you take Neil's advice and head over to ELGR to give these phenomenal drinks a sip.