This article first appeared in the Sunday Times SA on 7 January 2018
Noreen Dunzo, head bartender at Outrage of Modesty in Cape Town, is a liquid therapist. Describe your feelings du jour and she will construct a cocktail using a flavour profile that will banish the blues and take your happy vibes up a notch. She’s that good.
Such is the skillset of the latter-day mixologist. With nouvelle bartending on a progressive path, ordering a rum and coke is tantamount to alcoholic heresy and will have your barman turning a lighter shade of pale. Seriously, why would you roll with a dull daiquiri when you can explore boozy repertoires that are redefining traditional offerings? Cocktails are being revitalised through reinvention. Attention to detail, personal interaction and a dash of theatrics make for cutting edge encounters over the rim of a glass and people are loving it.
From cupcakes to dessert cocktails
Dunzo, 29, who hails from Singapore, was nominated in 2015 as Best Female Bartender, a coup in a male dominated industry. Her first job was at Twelve Cupcakes, a confectionary chain owned by celebrity couple Daniel Ong and Jaime Teo. Eighteen months later, she bid adieu to the gateaux duo and took a position at frontrunner bar Maison Ikkoku in City Center where she met Drew Madacsi, the entrepreneur behind Outrage and The House of Machines (THoM) outlets in Cape Town, Los Angeles and Niseko, Japan. At the highly rated Ikkoku, Dunzo began her new career with minimal experience and maximum passion, encouraged by in-house mixologist Ethan Leslie Leong. Before long she began specialising in dessert cocktails and her version of hot white chocolate foam is so divine it should be bottled.
Shortmarket Street strip between Bree and Loop
Outrage of Modesty (OoM) is an eclectic speakeasy on one of the City’s best strips, Shortmarket Street, home to top end food and retail destinations like Proper, The Shortmarket Club, Real + Simple, Drift, THoM and Avoova. It’s accessed via a dingy staircase, subtly scented and lit by a pink neon sign that reads “life has become immeasurably better since I stopped taking it seriously.” Stepping through the oriental sliding door reveals an intimate Japanese- come-Scandi interior seating no more than twenty-seven at a handful of tables and a long counter overlooking the kitchen. A striking mural, currently a fuscia X on a black wall, serves as a backdrop and the artwork changes with each new menu.
Ingredient driven concoctions
Ingredient driven drinks have amplified the handcrafted cocktail scene in the Mother City. The first artistic director in the Head Bartender hot seat in Cape Town was Australian Luke Whearty of Operation Dagger in Singapore, voted 7th best bar in Asia and where Dunzo worked for six months. At OoM, Whearty, his partner Aki Nishikura and their successor Greg Seider from New York employed a number of fancy techniques – distillation, infusion, spherification, dehydration, emulsion and smoking – to fashion out-of-the-ordinary beverages best imbibed slowly over good conversation.
Tastes of Singapore and Cape Town in a glass
Summer is synonymous with cocktails and Noreen’s new menu takes advantage of the abundance of readily available seasonal fruits and herbs, a rarity back home. “This menu celebrates local and brings a little of Singapore into the mix”, she says. She is adept at layering flavour, fusions and temperature. Taste sensations run the gamut as hot gives way to cold and sweet to saltiness. The first sip is likely to taste different to the last, a sign of good alchemy.
The very best is demanded of the top end shakers of the world and if it’s handcrafted excellence you’re after, they’ll deliver on every level. So when next contemplating your tipple of choice, step away from your staple and take your taste buds where they’ve not gone before.
Until next time, sip slowly & enjoy,