Brandy Foundation keeping up with the times

Brandying It. Mixologist, Kurt Schlechter performs his Spoon Stall trick under the watchful eye of brand aficionado, Xolani Tshabalala at the Wine Bar, Vilakazi Str, Orlando. Soweto. Image JACOB MAWELA.

Dressed to the nines cats and lasses beat the Jozi rush hour traffic in time to show up at the relatively new and trendy restaurant which attracts a high-end clientele of the country’s political elite, as well as noveau riche associates whose choice of exorbitant wheels can always be spotted parked along and around the street verges.

Of a slightly overcast day in Soweto, the forty or so invited guests were met at the establishment’s entrance by a dapper and appropriately coffered Black Cellar Club PRO, Ian Manley, to be ushered into the Wine Bar’s exterior space to be met by a very long dining table, an appetising platter section and an impressively decked bar area laid out for the event’s purpose – in addition to the sight of ‘welcomeable’ mushroom heaters dotting the space to warm the anticipated ambiance.

Manley’s entourage on the afternoon comprising of the SA Brandy Foundation’s General Manager, Danie Pretorius and mixologist, Kurt Schlechter, were all ready at their stations for the visitors as they filed in for fall warmers.

These amigos, at least for this purpose, didn’t waste time in embarking the gathered onto a sensory voyage which entailed navigating through Schlechter’s nine stations of brandy blends all paired deliberately so as to demonstrate to the spirit’s consumer that there are far others to be savoured beyond the rather long-entrenched brandy and cola combo!

With the eye lolly of a variety of brandy bottles, mixers, ice-filled metal buckets, wedges of citrus fruit and cups laid out and ready for takers, tasters were encouraged to negotiate their paths through nine different combinations ranging from, Klipdrift and Granadilla juice; Oude Meester VSOB and lemonade and lime; Oude Meester VSOB and soda, bitters and lemon; KWV 5 Year Old and Cranberry and lime; Richelieu and Peartiser; Klipdrift and tonic water; Boplaas Carel Nel and Ginger Ale and bitters; KWV 3 Year Old and Coke and Wellington VO and Bos Ice Tea.

Having sampled through those, comment sheets on boards awaited to be filled, querying the taster to rate the brandy new mix – with 1, being your favourite and 9, being your least favourite. ”All we ask is what you think”, exhorted SA Brandy Foundation general manager Pretorius, adding, “Drink responsibly”.

As the liquid assault commenced in earnest, so of course did the supply of a natural accompaniment in these sort of matters, viz, food platters at the particularly novel behest of Chef Alfred Sibanda – who ensured that a generous roll of Bruscetta chicken mayo, cream cheese salmon and capers, tomato and onion salsa as well as beef and chicken samoosas, BBQ chicken wings and a meticulously laid-out cheese board kept on meeting the appetites of palates.

Just as the beverage and gastronomy titillated, duly then did the conversation, which was punctuated with wisecrack, such as trends of water tasting having taken root in a world where everything just about goes. The smart flecks amidst reckoned to the uninitiated [specifically to those taught the water substaining liquid is tasteless] that the trick to it lie in the different glasses utilised.

These aficionados claim that water possess different mineral content – as in municipal issue drops not tasting the same as the bottled variety.

Black Cellar Club [otherwise referred to as BLACC] Gauteng charter member responsible for Hospitality Staffing Solutions, Leo Munopfukutwa volunteered there and then that his organization’s endeavour is to teach silent enthusiasts to appreciate a spirit such as wine – from which brandy emanates.

With the ambience in full spill, bar principal, Schlechter, especially flewn up from the Western Cape for the experience – even found time to treat the guests to a trick labeled, Spoon Stall, he claimed to had been taught by a French Flair bartender named Nicolas ST. John.

As the trick’s name suggests, it entails the bartender balancing, for any duration of seconds extending even into minutes, a bottle filled with any spirit on a long spoon whose tip would rest on a wrist.

The Soweto tasting leg following on a Stellenbosch one, Pretorius offers that the exercises are with the view of reporting back to the Brandy Foundation as to the local spirit consumers’ preferred blend.

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