Avant-garde Cocktails at Melville’s Mooteebar

by | Jul 18, 2018 | Arts and Culture, Food and Drink, Johannesburg, Melville and Surrounds | 9 comments

UPDATE: Mooteebar is closed as of the middle of 2019. I’m devastated.

My mom came to South Africa and we spent two weeks traveling around the country doing fabulous things and it was amazing and I didn’t blog the whole time she was here. I think this is the first time in eight years that I’ve gone two weeks without posting, and now I have a huge backlog and I feel totally overwhelmed and I’m finding it hard to start. So before I dive into all the mother-daughter activities here is a quick post about Mooteebar.

Outside Mooteebar on 4th Avenue in MelvilleOutside Mooteebar on a very cold evening in Melville. You might recognize the building as the former home of Café Mexicho, Melville’s now-defunct mediocre Mexican dive. 

Mooteebar needs a place in this blog because: a) It’s in Melville; and b) It’s the most unique and innovative bar in Johannesburg. If you are remotely interested cocktails, no matter where you live in this city, you need to give Mooteebar a try. You will either love it or you will hate it — there are few in-betweens when it comes to opinions on this place. But Mooteebar is worth a trip either way.

Cocktails at Mooteebar

Inside MooteebarInside Mooteebar. The bar also has a lovely outdoor courtyard and roof deck, but it was way too cold for that on the night I brought my camera.

Mootee is a play on the word muti, or muthi, which has many meanings and interpretations but can be broadly described as South African traditional medicine. Muti is a complicated subject, as many people associate it — sometimes legitimately — with witch doctors and black magic and human sacrifice. But muti also encompasses herbal remedies and spirituality and traditional South African culture.

Muti is controversial and I think that’s why Mooteebar’s owners — all of whom are internationally acclaimed bartenders — chose it for their name.

I don’t want to spend too much time describing the Mooteebar menu, as it makes a lot more sense if you experience it yourself. But in short: a) The menu is hand-drawn, with beautiful illustrations conveying the feelings that each cocktail is meant to evoke; b) The actual ingredients of each cocktail are not listed in the descriptions — just the flavor notes and the “intentions” of the drink.

Menu page at MooteebarA page of the Mooteebar menu.

Not everyone likes this menu setup. Some people find it pretentious and weird and just want to order a martini and be done with it. I personally think the menu is fun and adventurous and cool.

Cocktails all cost R85 (about $6.50), which is expensive by Joburg standards but reasonable when you consider each drink is a work of art.

Drink in prescription bag from MooteebarMy cocktail, the Umfazi, was served in a paper bag that releases smoke when you open it. The drink itself was served in a perfume bottle that I poured into the glass myself.

blowtorched cocktail at Mooteebar in MelvilleNice-guy-Kevin asked for the strongest drink and this is what he got. I can’t remember what it was called, but it was indeed very strong and one of the most photogenic cocktails I’ve ever seen. Any drink requiring a blowtorch to prepare is a winner in my book.

Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of the Mashonza, which is served a vessel shaped like a mopani worm and has an actual dried worm on top. But I’ve had it before and definitely recommend it.

Mooteebar also offers a great food menu — I can personally recommend the springbok rolls, the onion rings, and the chocolate milk tarts — excellent service, and the perfect decor and atmosphere for savoring avant-garde cocktails. It’s a huge step up from the sticky, tequila-soaked vibes of Café Mexicho, which used to occupy this space.

Beautiful cocktail from MooteebarOne more shot post-blowtorch.

Mooteebar is at 78A 4th Avenue, Melville. Call +27-10-900-1399. Note the bar is closed on Mondays and only opens at 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday through Friday.

Read another review of Mooteebar in Wanted magazine.


  1. zimbo64

    Did you know that Umfazi means woman? I need to make a plan to go and check out Mooteebar.
    PS My mom has a joke that went “What do you give a sick cow? Moooootee!

    • 2summers

      Hahaha. Now the drawing of the drink (two oranges in a bra) makes so much more sense!

    • 2summers

      PS, let me know when you want to meet for a drink 🙂

  2. autumnashbough

    So there’s a present inside nice guy’s drink?! Or is that the glass?

    • 2summers

      It’s like a crazy ice cube with metal under it. I was going to mention it in the post but couldn’t figure out how to describe it 🙂

  3. Andy M

    I’ve been meaning to try out Mootee – must do so soon.

    • 2summers

      Yes! Let me know when you’re going.

  4. Mike 5

    Dry Ice perhaps?

    • 2summers

      Yes! Probably.


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