Sitting down in Lenin’s Vodka Bar in the trendy Maboneng Precinct of Johannesburg, it was already clear to me that this is as close as I’m going to get to the Kremlin for a while. Clear bottles of the distilled spirit stand to attention behind the bar, while a flurry of activity involving shakers, mixers, liqueurs, syrups and cocktail glasses was on display.
Walking in from a small off-street courtyard on the corner of Commissioner Street, the interior of Lenin’s is cool and dark, with a contemporary décor that reflects the industrial chic precinct I find myself in. Familiar icons of Russia adorn the walls too. Comfy couches in the corner of the bar offer the ideal place to get off my feet after an afternoon of exploring the nearby Arts on Main complex. The tall bar stools are comfy and perfectly positioned to watch the barmen flair, while creating one of the best cocktail’s I’ve personally ever had in Jozi.
A small seating area in the outside courtyard is available for those looking to enjoy Johannesburg’s sunny climate.
Here at Lenin’s, it’s clearly all about the vodka, and everything you could think of doing with it too. The cocktail menu is enticing, with tempting drinks named after familiar Russian destinations creating a diverse selection of vodka concoctions at the ready. I had a hard time choosing exactly what to go with, but settled on the refreshing Caipiroska with some Russian vodka, fresh lime juice and lemonade. I’m going back for the White Russian soon with vodka, Kahlua and half and half.
For the purists though, a selection of over 40 vodkas from across the globe is available, while every week, Lenin’s places a dozen or so of its favourite vodkas on ice to enjoy frozen upon arrival. I was also happy to see the inclusion of a small selection of artisan South African vodkas on the menu, and would highly recommend trying out the Primitiv Chilli vodka for a kick of a different kind.
Other varieties of liquor are on offer here, with cocktails divided into different categories: The Russians, The Americans, Martinis, The Wild Bunch and Shots and Shooters. Of course, I went for The Russians as it seemed so fitting, but a friend tried the traditional Dacquiri and it was also delicious and perfectly blended. While we just ordered some flatbread to nibble on, there’s a basic menu of flatbreads, snack platters, burgers and salads available if you’re feeling peckish.