Hailing from Namibia, Cassandra Eichhoff, 32, moved to South Africa in 2010 and studied events management. She had the opportunity to intern with a variety of companies, one of them being a mobile bar, sparking a love for hospitality and a career in mixology. After years of hard work and long hours, she realised there was a gap in bar education and established the European Bartender School (EBS) in Woodstock, Cape Town 2017 with partners Jay du Toit and Tom Dyer, award-winning flair bartenders currently based in Portugal.
The global franchise of purpose-built schools is in 20 locations around the world, with the one in Cape Town being the only school on the African continent.
"Our flagship course is a four-week international course which covers pretty much all of the fundamentals of bartending. With more than 60 classic recipes and bar practice, spirit production, and classification, and practical hands-on training of free-pouring and flair, it’s an intense course but it provides a really great insight into bartending as a career and personal development," she says.
The school has already garnered recognition: it was nominated for School of the Year, won the Social Media Award, and Eichhoff herself was nominated as Instructor of the Year in 2022. She was also awarded the Bar Mentor of the Year in 2019 and 2020 by the SA B.A.R., made Diageo World Class SA Top 3 in 2021, and represented SA at the Global Finals Patrón Perfectionist in Mexico.
What have been some of the school's highlights?
Many of our students continue their path in the bar industry. For example, the entire bar team at The House of Machines are all EBS graduates, AJ Durow from Zioux in Johannesburg recently went to France for the Rémy Martin Bartender Talent Academy, and Sebastian Rodrigues was in the Top 10 Diageo World Class SA competition.
What makes a mixologist stand out?
The beautiful thing about mixology is that it’s always evolving. For anyone to stay on-trend or provide services or products in our niche market requires continuous learning and research, experimenting, and practicing skills. For me, sharing knowledge and mentoring the younger generation is paramount. The bar industry is a family-orientated community, although we all compete with each other with the goal of putting SA on the map alongside other international markets.
Your three favourite sundowner spots in Cape Town?
Signal Hill, Camps Bay Beach, the terrace at my school
What’s your tipple of choice?
I'm generally super easygoing and enjoy anything from a refreshing highball style drink to a sour. But if the occasion calls for something a bit more spirit-forward such as an Old Fashioned or Negroni, I'll be down for it.
What’s in a starter kit for novice bartenders entertaining at home?
If you’re a cocktail advocate, definitely invest in your home bar. Not only will it make your life easier in terms of efficiency, it will also make you feel like a real bartender and pay respect to the trade. The most basic tools are a shaker set with strainers, a jigger (measuring tool), a bar spoon, a muddler, and a citrus press. Also, keep a couple of empty bottles if you want to make syrups or infusions at home.
What’s an underrated spirit?
I’d say rum. It’s an easy drinking-style spirit. Rum and ginger beer with a squeeze of fresh lime is the perfect way to enjoy this spirit. And if you are a cocktail enthusiast, you can never go wrong with a classic shaken Daiquiri (rum, fresh lime, sugar) or even a Mojito on a hot summer day. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, try a Mai Tai (rum, fresh lime, orange liqueur, almond syrup, mint).
What are some of your favourite rum cocktails?
The Daiquiri is tops – it's the cocktail I also order when I test bartenders' skills and flavour knowledge.
50ml light rum
25ml fresh lime juice
20ml simple syrup
**Shake all ingredients and fine strain into a chilled coupe
>> The Daiquiri is the epiphany of a balanced cocktail – not too strong, not too sweet, and not too sour
Dark & Stormy
50ml dark or spiced rum
20ml fresh lime juice
fill with Ginger Beer
**Pour the lime juice and ginger beer into a highball glass
**Float the dark rum on top
**Garnish with a lime wedge
>> Tall and refreshing for any occasion
45ml Cuban-aged Rum
8 mint leaves
25ml fresh lime juice
15ml rich sugar syrup
2 dashes of Angostura Bitters
A splash of brut sparkling wine
**Shake the first five ingredients and fine strain into a chilled coupe, top with sparkling wine
**garnish with a mint leaf
>> Elegant and cool, the Old Cuban is one of my favourites when hosting a brunch
This post was sponsored by Diageo SA and produced by Adspace Studio.