The Art of Duplicity: The Hippest Secret Bar in Cape Town
It’s luxurious, it’s glamorous, it’s decadent, it’s hush-hush. Tempted?
- Address: Now, that would be telling
- Opening hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 6pm – 12am
- Contact details: [email protected]
- Website: 170120.co.za
- Dress code: ‘Mae West meets Al Capone’.
Hidden away in a renovated 1894 Victorian warehouse found at the back of a storefront, this thriving speakeasy beckons. The Art of Duplicity is a decadent jazz and cocktail speakeasy bar that quietly opened its doors in the heart of the Mother City. The concept is inspired by the USA’s prohibition era, during which unlawful establishments served alcoholic beverages.
While the existence of this secret Cape Town speakeasy was initially only disclosed through word of mouth, you can now make a booking. But this is no ordinary restaurant booking. Each booking comes paired with a secret password, address, and a series of prompts.
Are you intrigued?
What to Expect from The Art of Duplicity
The story behind Cape Town’s hippest secret speakeasy
The Art of Duplicity is the remarkable brainchild of entrepreneur David Donde and award-wining bartender Brent Perremore, envisioned as an ode to 1920s Prohibition culture. This revolutionary Cape Town speakeasy officially opened its password-protected doors in October 2018 in an inconspicuous alleyway in an unmarked location only known to a select few.
Since its origin, The Art of Duplicity has gained the admiration, reputation, and recognition it deserves, both locally and internationally. Besides being one of the Mother City’s best kept decadent secrets, The Art of Duplicity holds several prestigious titles and awards, including the ‘2020 Cocktail Bar of the Year Award’ presented by The South African Bartending Accolades and Recognition (B.A.R.) Awards. It was also awarded the title of the overall ‘Bar to Watch in 2020’ by industry heavyweight, The Spirits Business.
Inside the Art of Duplicity
There are only two ways to gain access to The Art of Duplicity in Cape Town, with a secret password or your name on the guest list. If you happen to land either of the two, adventure, mystery and decadence awaits.
When you find the secret location, the doorman will ask for your password. Once you’re granted access, you will be taken through an unmarked door and down a dimly lit passageway that eventually leads to another door marked “No Entry”. The doorman will knock, and a man dressed in steampunk themed attire will answer and request a password. Once you pass the final test, you will arrive at your final destination – the ultimate 1920’s-style speakeasy bar.
When you step foot inside the secret speakeasy, it will feel as if you’ve been transported back in history to the time of Al Capone, Mae West, and the era of the Great Gatsby. The converted 1894 warehouse takes its cue from the prohibition Twenties, an era during which illegal establishments thrived on high society’s debaucherous lifestyles. Cotton sacks stacked to the double-volume ceiling are illuminated by soft amber lighting as elaborate crystal glassware, Chesterfield sofas, plush chairs in warm colours and textures, rich mahogany and the soft hum of live jazz music fills the intimate custom-designed space. The antique apothecary, ceiling‐high bar is undoubtedly the highlight and focal point of the entire space, showcasing rare and exquisite liquors and oddities.
The bar believes that no one inside should be left without a seat, so they only book as many people as their seats can handle.
The Art of Duplicity is not only one of the bets kept secret speakeasys in Cape Town but has established itself as one of the top cocktail bars in the city. It serves up experimental, unconventional, and inspired cocktails you won’t find anywhere else, each one specially crafted by master mixologist and co-founder Brent Perremore,
Perremore, also known as ‘The Rabbit’, is no ordinary mixologist. He has over 25 years of experience in the bar industry and has worked at various bars across London and Cape Town. To further cement his top mixologist status, Brent Perremore has received various awards in the industry including the Trailblazer of the Year Award. He is the mixologist mastermind behind almost every famous cocktail and cocktail menu in Cape Town and has certainly upped the ante at The Art of Duplicity, with a literal gold cocktail menu that has as much substance as it has style.
He has created a variety of unique signature cocktails for The Art of Duplicity such as the Niwatori Tea, rated by The Cocktail Pilgrim (a member of many cocktail awards’ judging panels) as the best he has ever had. If you’re in the mood for something slightly unconventional, the Hillbilly Breakfast Flip, containing smoked maple syrup, bourbon, and quail eggs, is right up your cocktail alley! Or why not try the Limoncell, which is made up of rosemary syrup, lemon juice, and olive oil washed vodka?
Other popular Art of Duplicity cocktails include Mae’s Pearl Necklace (named after the American actress and singer Mae West) as well as the speakeasy’s signature Coffee House Milk Punch – which is a definite fan favourite! Each Art of Duplicity cocktail takes its drinker on a unique taste adventure. That, combined with its extensive selection of cocktails, ensures there’s something for everyone to try and enjoy!
The cocktail magic doesn’t end there! The Art of Duplicity’s most popular cocktail, which also happens to be its most expensive one at R360, is an absolute must-try when visiting this secret Cape Town speakeasy. Although we can’t disclose its name or all of it’s amazing ingredients (it’s a secret remember), this top-seller contains Japanese whiskey. That’s the only piece of information you’re allowed. Which means you’ll just have to visit The Art of Duplicity to find out what all the hype is about.
At The Art of Duplicity they keep things simple with their light snacks, creative tapas-style offerings, nuts and charcuterie and cheese platter that pairs perfectly with their unique cocktail creations and exquisite drinks selection. You’ll find peanuts everywhere around The Art of Duplicity, with emptied shells all over the floor. This is an etiquette from the old days that you’re encouraged to follow.
The Art of Duplicity’s live jazz performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 9:30 pm will truly transport you to another era. For a small bunker, the acoustics bounce off the walls perfectly, which elevates every pitch and note for a full and authentic musical experience. Besides being a great platform for up-and-coming poetry and jazz artists, international legends such as Lee Thomson and the Muneeb Herman quartet have also graced The Art of Duplicity stage.
The Vibe & Atmosphere
You can’t help but want to assume a whole new persona from the moment you set foot in this 1920’s-style speakeasy. The 1920’s prohibition inspired culture and retro vibe of the bar will make you want to dress up in your best Al Capone or Mae West-inspired outfit.
The Art of Duplicity truly is prohibition speakeasy done in the best possible way. Although many bars around the world have toyed with this popular formula, this hidden Cape Town bar has undoubtedly perfected it. The Art of Duplicity feels like an underground, but fashionable, bunker, with cotton sacks piled up towards the high ceiling. Glamorous waitresses dressed in beautiful 1920s apparel serve drinks while the pleasant and welcoming floor staff provide personable, old style hospitality.
The intimate 38-seater space, alluring mahogany bar counter, vintage chesterfields, and soft amber lighting sets the mood just right, creating a relaxing experience for all to enjoy. Even the aroma, which we can’t reveal as it would tip you off to the bar’s location, will put you in a state of bliss.
The intimate underground speakeasy feel and somewhat romantic atmosphere at The Art of Duplicity is complemented by the soft hum of live jazz music. You’ll truly feel like Jay Gatsby in 1920s New York.