An authentic Neapolitan-style pizza spot fronts Joburg’s newest speakeasy
When Craft Liquor Merchant founder Jason Cederwall started his premium liquor distribution business in 2012, his eyes were soon opened to the world of artisanal cocktails and the incredible artistry that’s involved. “In South Africa, there are phenomenal artisanal cocktail barmen, but almost no platform for them,” he says. “We wanted to change that.”
The result is The Coalition, a partnership between Cederwall and Shayne Holt (of Parkmore’s Eatery Jhb and Parliament). Just like the clandestine US bars that cropped up during the 1920s Prohibition era, this unbranded, unnamed speakeasy is “fronted” by something else – in this case, an authentic Neapolitan-style pizza parlour in an unassuming space just off Bolton Road. The simple decor is the perfect backdrop for the very specialised Neapolitan-style pizza made from 00 dough with a two-day rise, pure crushed tomatoes with no citric acid, and an oven that heats up to 480˚C so that the pizza cooks in just 60-90 seconds.
The result is an incredibly moist pizza with a beautifully elastic, chewy base. The menu features both simple ingredient combinations as well as some unique creations, such as the Sileshi, with mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, goat’s cheese and rocket, and the Asha, with smoked trout, capers, mascarpone and fresh dill. For drinks, enjoy an Aperol Spritz or Inverroche Gin and tonic, a craft beer or two, or a selection of Italian-style wines.
Then, just through a non-descript archway at the back of the restaurant, a huge metal sliding door opens to reveal the sexy speakeasy that’s as elegant as it is raw – a bit like stepping back into the 1920s, but with an industrial Joburg edge.
For Cederwall, the bar’s main purpose is to educate. “We want to change people’s perceptions of how they drink alcohol,” he says. “A cocktail isn’t just made from syrup. It’s all about 100% fresh fruit, distilled ice, premium liquor, and it’s a proper art in terms of how it’s put together.” The revolving cocktail list includes a selection of classics along with special additions like a barrel-aged Negroni, a “Joburg cocktail” of locally made gin and Caperitif, and the Carta de la Casa, with tequila, smoked pomegranate shrub and coriander leaf.
Recently opened, this bar is still very much in broad brushstrokes. As people visit, Cederwall says it’s bound to change and evolve. For now, though, if you’re looking for a discerning pre-meal drink or some really well-made cocktails when dinner is done, this is the place to be.
“A cocktail isn’t just made from syrup – it’s a proper art in terms of how the drink is put together.” Jason Cederwall, co-owner, The Coalition.
010 900 4987
Words: Catherine Black | Images: Supplied