Plan your end of year party like a pro: Bring in one of SA's best mobile bars
Planning your company’s year-end function, getting hitched or keen to throw a killer birthday bash? Great drinks are vital, so do them properly with a professional mobile bar. Here are the ones we recommend, from around the land.
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Bartender extraordinaire and savvy businessman Owen O’Reilly spent a decade refining his skills – and doing international training and consulting – before launching Sip Exclusive in 2015. Sip offers expert service with just the right amount of flamboyance, but what truly sets it apart is its partnership with sister company BarCraft Premium Cocktails, which enables it to offer bespoke, fresh and preservative-free cocktail kegs (yes whole kegs!) at its events.
Specialties: High-end cocktail functions, cocktails on tap for high-volume drink service, custom cocktail menus for themed events, weddings and private celebrations, brand activations and corporate events.
Owen’s tips for clients: ‘Every event is different, but trust our advice: we’re experts and we study our craft daily. Be realistic, and don’t expect gold if your budget is copper. Note that the service is mobile, so it won’t be the same as a restaurant or bar.’
Crush Mobile Bar Services
Gilad Yechiel started his hospitality career in 1999 at a fresh fruit-shake franchise in Israel. His skills steadily grew, and it was under his supervision as bar manager that Cape Town’s Asoka made the prestigious list of The World’s 50 Best Bars in 2012. He started Crush a little before that, in 2009, and now runs it full time. Lucky Crush guests will have the privilege of sipping cocktails created by Brent Perremore, a four-time national cocktail competition winner and all-round industry superstar.
Specialties: Smaller niche functions where the details matter, highly creative and experiential events, and any gathering that appreciates having a bartender with personality, style and experience.
Gilad’s tips for clients: ‘Don’t be scared to challenge your bar-service provider to create something interesting you found online, whether it’s flamed, smoked or barrel-aged cocktails (if there’s time), alcoholic sorbets or food-and-cocktail pairing.
The Perfect Serve
This company traded as Pure Bar Studios from 2008 before changing its name in 2015. It’s owned by husband-and-wife team Leigh and Travis Kuhn, who are also behind the summer tiki pop-up bar The Polynesian Pearl Diver. Several of Cape Town’s finest bartenders take shifts with The Perfect Serve, including regulars like Rudi de Vos from The House of Machines. Travis himself is an industry leader, having won eight local and four global flair competitions … so if it’s showmanship you’re after, he’s your man.
Specialties: Brand-orientated events, with bespoke ingredients and cocktails.
Travis’s tips for clients: ‘To give you an accurate quote, we’ll need to know the times of the function, along with where it is and how many people to cater for.’
Honeybox Tailored Events and Craft Cocktail Specialists
After making his first mocktail at the age of eight, Brice Decaux became a certified bartender. He proceeded to shake and flair his way from Paris to Monaco, Switzerland, Paris, London, Malta and Dubai, and finally Cape Town, entering some 40 cocktail competitions (and winning three) along the way. He’s since set up shop with Taryn Germshuys, servicing the cocktail needs of PE.
Specialties: Tailored and themed drinks menus for any events, from private to corporate.
Brice’s tips for clients: ‘The cocktail-catering side of an event is just as (if not more) important than the food and entertainment; it requires as much attention and time and can radically elevate the quality of your function.’
This cutting-edge company is owned by Dino Batista, Domenico De Lorenzo, Alicia Bulter and Evert De Jong, who have a collective 35 years experience slinging drinks in mobile bars, hospitality suites, clubs, bars and coffee shops. Dino, Dom and CEO Joshua Garthwaite have also won four national cocktail competitions between them, so you’ll know you’ll get quality drinks. Expect to be wowed with magical concoctions like edible canapé-style cocktails, drinks concealed within ice balls, bath-bomb-like bursts of flavour, cocktails turned to sorbets or ice cream using liquid nitrogen … or simply classic cocktails dressed to the nines in imbibing style.
Specialties: Cocktail sorcery using Michelin-star-level tools and tricks, showmanship, cocktail experiences, tailor-made menus, coffee bars and specialty cocktail bars.
Dino’s tips for clients: ‘Push the boundaries with your event, adding surprise elements for your guests. Remember though that taste is key: a cocktail needs to taste great as a fundamental requirement. Never compromise quality for costs, and always have a rain plan!’
LiquidChefs is the OG of mobile bars in SA, having been around since 2003. It’s owned by Craig Shapiro, but long-time employee Lerato Masemola will soon be a partner, giving it level-three BEE compliance. Rather than using the local rock stars, LiquidChefs prefers to train up its own bartenders, and keep them close.
Specialties: Corporate functions, from liquor-brand activations to launches, conferences, banquets, large-scale festivals and year-end parties.
Craig’s tips for clients: ‘Find out what a bar includes, and ensure it’s comprehensive, from glasses to well-trained staff. Match your beverage selection to the consumers and not what’s trending. Where the bar is positioned, and the flow it creates, is also crucial when planning your event.’
SpeakEazy Mobile Bar Solutions
With a year under its belt, SpeakEazy might be the newest mobile bar company on this list, but owner Chris Strover is no rookie, having been punching above his weight in the bar scene for a whopping 17 years. After gaining experience in mobile bars in Gauteng, he decided to open his own gig in Durbs with his dad, Roy Strover. Nicholas Crouse, a local cocktail champion, spends time behind the SpeakEazy stick when he’s not at Lucky Shaker, Durban’s finest cocktail bar.
Specialties: High-class personalised service, flawless serves and private functions and celebrations.
Chris’s tips for clients: ‘Make sure your bar service does a site inspection and plans ahead, as last minutes fixes are tricky. Mobile bars are purpose built for efficiency, having to make do with inadequate in-situ bars to save on costs can be very problematic. If your event has a theme, like Halloween, ask for tailored drinks and service.’
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We've all been there: in a moment of generosity (or madness!) you've invited a bunch of friends to a catered birthday/engagement/farewell party, but you have no idea how much booze to buy. Now before you back track and try repackage the event as a bring-and-braai, read on.