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Monkeying about at The Union Bar

The Union Pop Up Bar

The Union Pop-Up Bar is already back in business after only just having completed their most recent stint in Illovo. This time around, they can be found in Rosebank and they have an adorable macaque for a companion. Max the Egret monkey of world famous and award winning gin Monkey 47 to be more specific. Renowned for opening for just weeks at a time whilst aligning themselves with particular alcohol brands, their latest companion is a gorgeous gin. Situated at 144 Jan Smuts Avenue at Parkwood Mansions, The Monkey 47 Union Bar will be open for just 11 weeks. Celebrating their 21st Union Bar opening, this is a big one and the decor is a tribute to that. Lush, eclectic and vintage pieces give the bar an elegant and opulent feel. With the huge monkey mural and monkey pieces adding a quirky flair, you are immediately transported into a different world full of wonder and of course, incredible gin.

The Union can be found in Rosebank now

The Union can now be found in Rosebank

The Monkey mural that decorates the interior

The monkey mural that decorates the interior

Introducing the German drink into South Africa for the first time has been no small feat and Pernod Ricard might just have outdone themselves with this gem.

The Union Bar have taken it upon themselves to come up with 13 brand new, never before seen gin cocktails as well as a stunning tapas menu to match.

I am honored to have been able to taste this exotic gin for the first time and I have to say that it lived up to its accolades. Having won the best gin in the world in 2014 it is well worth a closer look.

Now I know that I often talk about the botanicals in gin but this one takes the cake. As you would guess from the name, Monkey 47 contains 47 unique botanicals. One third of which come from the Black Forest including spring water from the region, lingonberries, spruce tips, sloes and Elderflower blossoms to name a few. The distillation process must be insane!

These botanicals are also what line the back wall of the Union Bar. Suspended from glass bowls, they took great care to acquire each known botanical in its pure form and where they could not get them fresh; they procured exact replicas of the more obscure ingredients. Talk about dedication.

All of the bontanicals line the wall

All of the botanicals in Monkey 47 line the wall at The Union Bar

To celebrate the first time arrival of this gin onto South African lands, Norman Goodfellows have stocked only 47 bottles of Monkey 47 gin. Their sales began on the 1st of November (4 weeks and 7 days after the launch of course) so you had better hurry if you want to get your hands on one of these limited edition 500ml bottles. If you don’t manage to procure a bottle, then be sure to pop in to the Union Bar for a magnificent gin cocktail instead! As they and a handful of select bars will be the only other ones serving Monkey 47.

For those who might be interested, the back story behind this gin is one worth telling.

Once upon a time there was an Indian born Englishman named Montgomery Collins of the Royal Air force who was stationed in Germany after World War Two. With inspiration stemming from the Black Forest as well as his layered family heritage, Collins combined his British influence, Indian botanicals and the naturally occurring flora of the German forest to create a convoluted gin which he called Max the Monkey – Schwarzwald Dry Gin.

Max the monkey having been an egret that lived in the German zoo which Collins aided and obviously inspired the name.

Along with this stunning creation, Collins left behind the most vital part of the gin – the full recipe and description of the botanicals which he had procured.

Fast forward to 2006 when Alexander Stein descendant of the Jacobi brandy dynasty heard the legend of Max the Monkey – Schwarzwald Dry Gin from the Black Forest. He grew excited at the thought of creating a Black Forest gin inspired by regional ingredients and went to work at breathing new life into the Monkey. And thus Monkey 47 was reborn and has taken the world by storm ever since.

The attention to detail on this gin is absolutely incredible. From the deliberate selection of the old brown pharmacy bottles, to the 47% alcohol measurement and finally the ring that encircles the cork. Once you open it, you can actually wear the ring which is not just a band of steel, no no. This ring is engraved with Latin words which translate to “one out of many” in reference to the many botanicals found in this gin.

The unusual Monkey 47 gin

The unusual Monkey 47 gin

Tasting this gin was unforgettable. We were initially given neat shots to try. The first thing that you get in the tasting is the smell. It has citrus notes and on the palette it is the most complex gin I have ever experiences. It fills your mouth with what feels like a world of flavours, and with those 47 botanical, the smallest addition can instantly change the taste.

Ironically, with this smorgasbord of botanicals, it is recommended that Monkey 47 be served simply with a good tonic – I would recommend Fitch and Leedes, and a sliver of grapefruit zest which you rim the glass with and squeeze a little into the drink before dropping the rind in.

After tasting the drink neat, we graduated onto the cocktails. There were a number of them so I can only offer brief descriptions but I suggest you try them out for yourself because each was an event on its own.

One of the first was the Mentha-Mule which was a fantastic twist on the Moscow Mule. This was spectacular to watch. They made use of water and dry ice to carbonate the drink and gave it the appearance of a science experiment.


Mentha-Mule cocktail - image courtesy of The Union Bar

Monkey Float which was a twist on a gin fizz. This one make use of freshly toasted marshmallows and a lot of dairy which you wouldn"t ever consider for a cocktail but it works!

Monkey Float

The Monkey Float cocktail - image courtesy of The Union Bar

The Black Forest which looked as if it had come out of a fairy-tale. Served with a lit incense stick, this drink is full of complex flavours and it completely fun to sip on!

The Black forest

The Black Forest cocktail - image courtesy of The Union Bar

Wild Monkey which contained sparkling red wine, port and triple sec. This one was quite potent but probably one of my favourites. It was served in a teapot and tasted absolutely fabulous.

The Wild Monkey

The Wild Monkey cocktail

Finally the Cold drip Tower Negroni which is a 24 hour cocktail. These are batch made but do run out on the night, making them only more desirable. Using a coffee machine in new ways- it can take anywhere between 4 – 24 hours to make one batch. This one is not for the faint of heart – with 4 spirits; it is a punch in the teeth that magically changed flavour notes from beginning to end.

Cold Drip Tower Negroni

Cold Drip Tower Negroni - image courtesy of The Union Bar

They have also created their own ginger beer so that they would have the exact ginger profile that would work with their earth shattering cocktails. If you haven't made your reservation yet, I suggest you do so asap so that you can experience these wonders in person.

There are just a handful of weeks left to visit the Union bar in its newest location - book now so that you don't miss out!

Open from October 13th to December 23rd 2017

Wednesday to Friday from 16h30 till late.

Saturday from 18h00 till 02h00

Live music and DJ’s every Friday and Saturday

Reservations online at

And if you are looking for a little more info on the wild world of Monkey 47 then visit

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