Cascara Coffee & Cocktails

By Ephratha Kibru, October 01, 2019

Hosting a rich diversity of cocktails with cascara at the core, Cascara is a unique place attracting coffee lovers and cocktail enthusiasts alike.  LinkUp Addis’s Ephratha Kibru was at Hyatt Regency Addis Ababa’s Cascara Coffee and Cocktails to find out what is so special about this place.

For a nation renowned for its coffee, few are familiar with the term “Cascara” – the dried skins of coffee cherries.  As the main bar at Hyatt Regency Addis Ababa, Cascara Coffee and Cocktails draws customers with its unique theme yet does not disregard typical orders.  From gin and tonics to cognacs to simple beers, everything is available.  But, as best exemplified by the interesting logo, it is primarily aimed at uniting coffee and alcohol.  There is nothing quite like it anywhere in Addis or the world.  Everything is coffee-inspired, with each drink infused with cascara.  Of the cocktails we tried, only one (The Espresso Martini) was distinct with the taste of coffee.  This is because cascara does not dominate a drink the way coffee does.  It only brings a subtle hint that keeps you intrigued.

There is a certain eloquence detected when one walks into Cascara, a sense of both simplicity and sophistication in the beautiful interior design, scenic outdoors and amicable mood.  Melketsedek Mitiku (aka Melke), the Bar Manager, showed me around as he familiarized me with what makes Cascara, well… Cascara.

The first thing I was made aware of is Cascara’s accommodating nature toward coffee lovers.  “We get our beans from three main sources,” Melke says, “they all have differing qualities.”  From the varied and complex nature of ‘Galani’ to the highly acidic taste of ‘Tarara’, there is something for everyone.

One of the most endearing aspects of Cascara is its service.  The place is always busy.  “We turn away about 50 people on average per night during the summer,” Melke tells me.  But, when you read this, you must not imagine a tightly confined bar.  “We believe in giving the customers we are already serving the best possible service with enough breathing room, instead of jam-packing the place and making everyone uncomfortable.”  Besides the fantastic hospitality, it is also worth noting that everyone is a trained mixologist.  “If you ask your server about any drink, he or she can confidently answer, as he or she can go right back behind the counter and make it themselves,” says Melke.  “This lack of clear role designation also helps whenever we might be short on staff.  Since everyone is competent, things will continue running smoothly.”

Melke informs me, “Every cocktail here has never been made before.  We designed the menu alongside some consultants.”  Besides this astonishing fact, every liquor is house-made, disregarding factory constituents, of course.  All of the tequilas, whiskies and gins are infused with different bases and marinated right here.  You can stay assured of your drinks’ originality.

An interesting policy came up as Melke and I were chatting.  “We do not allow people to use laptops after 5:00 PM,” he tells me.  “This is because we want Cascara to be a social place.  It is very important for us to maintain a light ambience.”

Finishing the tour, I settled back down at my table to start the review.  I was to have four cocktails: The House Espresso Martini, Mother Root, Panacea and Continental Cooler.  A few bar snacks (their mini beef burger, doro tibs wrap, and berbere grilled chicken skewer) accompanied my drinks as well.  I could not wait to check out how everything played together.

I first tried the Continental Cooler – a favorite amongst Cascara regulars.  It was a tequila-based drink with a spicy start due to the wild black pepper lining the rim of the glass, giving a much-appreciated oomph.  As the glass slowly emptied, the influence of the cascara infusion became slightly more evident as the level of the drink’s sweetness increased proportionally.  I loved it.  It went especially well with the soft and similarly spicy chicken skewer.

Next, I went with the Mother Root.  As a dry gin-based cocktail, the taste of juniper was not lost on me.  The zest of lemon that accompanied it made it a predictably sour drink and I enjoyed it alongside the wrap.  Something about sautéed chicken wrapped in pita bread enhanced the taste.

The third drink I made way for was the House Espresso Martini, the only cocktail with a dominant coffee flavor.  It was a refined and sophisticated concoction with a few complementary coffee beans garnishing the drink, solidifying the tang.  Yet there was something I could not quite place with this drink.  Something a little extra about this martini excited the buds.  Maybe it was the vanilla essence, maybe it was the coffee liquor.  Either way, this was a hard drink to put down.

Before I had my last cocktail, the Panacea, I wolfed down the mini beef burger.  A condensed creation marked with irrefutably good cheese, it adequately satisfied my hungering belly.

Coming to the end, the Panacea closed the show.  Its name refers to a hypothetical remedy for every trouble or difficulty.  A cure-all.  Although no such solution to anything really exists, this earthy drink tries its best to come close.  It was inevitable that I nurse this layered little Scotch brew for as long as I could.  Shifting from ashy to sweet to woody in one biting creation, this was my favorite.

With everything said and done, we were ready to leave.  This was easily one of the most fun reviews I have done.  If you are a coffee enthusiast, a lover of cocktails or just someone who wants to have a good time, Cascara Coffee & Cocktails is the place for you.

Photos: Courtesy of Hyatt Regency