One of the very first posts I published on this website was about the SA World Class Mixology championships that was held in Durban over a year ago. It was my first exposure to what I would consider legitimate cocktails. Prior to attending that event I’d only ever experienced the saccharine, over-garnished and synthetically manufactured sugar syrups marketed mainly to, the, er, more feminine demographic. But my eyes (and my gullet) were opened wide (say aaaah) to the possibility that a cocktail can extend beyond cloying sweetness, and even have depth to its flavour, with an aesthetic arrangement that precludes an excess amount of foliage as garnish (please stop shoving an entire jungle of mint into my damn mojito!). One of the judges at the mixology event was Michael Stephenson, the very same owner of the newly opened Lucky Shaker.
I actually didn’t realise it at the time. Instead, I wanted to investigate (for science!) the novel new bar that had opened, after visiting their Facebook page and being intrigued by the imaginative ideas for cocktails (like the marshmallow fizz..served with an actual smore!). And I wasn’t disappointed! It was through the haze of tippled marhsmallow that I recognised the man serving it and realised why the drinks taste so great (and dont kill with sugar). The drinks range from the familiar (yes, cosmos and mojitos), the retro classics (the negroni, the grasshopper) to the unique (the aforementioned marshmallow fizz, and the dark and stormy). They’ve got a board up that is updated often with new things to try, with a G&T of the week, a whisky of the week and cocktails inspired by whatever fruit is in season. Whaddayaknow, a bar that actually presses and juices real fruit for their mixes.
And speaking of fruit, the restaurant theme, if you will, is the pineapple. A native fruit to Durban, which is considered an exotic delight to the rest of the world, it’s a global symbol for hospitality and is representative of the tropical atmosphere that is the signature almost year-long season in our province (although, as I type this it’s raining…). The fruit has inspired a quirky decor at Lucky Shaker, evident in the stylish wall motif, the candle holders and other charming details.
In fact, a lot of effort has gone into the details. When guests take a seat, they are immediately brought glasses of filtered water, which are topped up throughout the evening. The water is filtered and fizzed on-site and is not charged for. Instead of having a mangle of ice blocks dilute the cocktail, your drink is served with custom-made ice blocks and rods – if you order a tall drink, it comes with a single, equally tall rod of ice in the middle. Apparently Michael had ice trays specially made. My friends and I loved this.
That ice rod is the business. And so are the actual cocktails! My particular favourite is the Blush. It’s made with egg white, something Durbanites are terrified of having in their drink but don’t be! It has no smell, its usually offset with lemon just in case and it makes the drink decadently creamy.
Mike shaking up the egg whites for the Blush cocktail
The other cocktail that I highly recommend is the Grasshopper. It’s a bit of a twist on the original but basically it’s a boozy mint milkshake. It gets its name from the green colour, which is as a result of the crème de menthe. The original looked more like the cocktail in the photo above (but green!), and was a popular American drink in the 50’s and 60’s. Im all for it making a comeback! So that’s two you HAVE to try: the Grasshopper and the Blush.
Grasshopper being poured into a chilled glass
The final result, garnished with a meringue (that stays crunchy!)
We chose Lucky Shaker as the spot for our engagement party and to mark the occasion they prepared custom cocktails. My partner in crime (who will soon be doing the time..) is a huge fan of the Terminator series of movies and I love watermelon. Somehow they combined that into this:
It’s not all drinks. They also serve tacos and burgers, with homemade patties. We had boards of tacos and sliders. And the best chicken liver dip ever, (I actually got some in takeaway, I loved it so much) made by the owner’s mum.
I have no affiliation with the owner, I am just so pleased that Durban has places to indulge in some sophisticated and fun tippling, that is not just a means to an unconscious end. There are now a few spots popping up around Durban, and in addition to Lucky Shaker I recommend giving the Dutch (I recommend ordering the Clover Club) and Harry’s Bar at Harveys (get the Time to Tanqueray) a try.
You can find Lucky Shaker on the new side of the Chris Saunders park at 5 Park Lane, Parkside, Umhlanga (right by Gateway).