There’s no sign outside Cape Town’s coolest cocktail bar, and inside only 28 people are seated at a time. Behind the bar is Noreen Dunzo, the head bartender who brings her signature cocktails to Outrage of Modesty all the way from Singapore. ‘They call me the storyteller,’ she says. ‘To me no cocktail comes out of nowhere: there is always a story behind it.’
Noreen Dunzo Introduces Something Sweet to Outrage of Modesty
Noreen’s own story began as a pastry chef making cakes and desserts but due to the hot and humid weather in Singapore, she felt limited by what she could explore in the kitchen. At this point a college friend asked if she’d be interested in making cocktails at bespoke concept bar Maison Ikkoku in Singapore. Without any experience mixing drinks, she got the job.
There’s no menu at Maison Ikkoku. Instead, each customer is asked about their taste preferences or what mood they’re in. The talented bar tenders then whip up a customised cocktail in close to 3 minutes. But even the most discerning customer doesn’t always know what they like, so at Outrage of Modesty, Noreen has developed an innovative way to find out what kind of cocktail her customers prefer. The experience begins with a sensory board made up of small cloth pouches holding the key ingredients of each menu item. Choosing your favourite smell should get you the cocktail you’ll most enjoy.
The current menu at Outrage of Modesty includes riffs on Noreen’s Singapore repertoire. Now that she has the luxury of planning ahead, the flavours are more enhanced. ‘I have time to put ingredients into the sous-vide to infuse them for 24 hours, so the flavours in these cocktails are more profound compared to the ones I had to make instantly in Singapore.”
Finding inspiration in her training as a pastry chef, the first drink Noreen ever mixed at Maison Ikkoku was based on a tiramisu. Dessert cocktails have since become somewhat of a speciality for her and you can find two on the current menu at Outrage of Modesty. They make the perfect after-dinner nightcap: After 8 Mint and her classic Tiramisu. ‘I don’t know how many versions I’ve gone through to make it good enough,’ she says, ‘but this version is the one I’m most happy with. It’s as simple as a coffee-infused rum, with a white chocolate foam on top.’ It tastes a lot like a tiramisu – without the loaded calories.
For a pre-dinner drink, Noreen suggests the La Gloria – a customer favourite for its lemon scent. ‘Because it’s citrusy, it opens up the palate. So when you go for dinner, everything tastes awesome,’ she says.
Noreen finds her inspiration for mixing flavours by browsing supermarkets. ‘Especially when you go to the tea section,’ she reveals. They don’t just have simple Earl Grey. Sometimes they’ll have a mix of peppermint with green apple. Who would have thought that peppermint would go well with green apple?’
No matter which cocktail you choose from the Spring/Summer menu at Outrage of Modesty, each has been made with fresh ingredients found in Cape Town. Noreen feels her residency in Cape Town means that one South African goes jobless, so it’s important to her to support local producers as much as she can. However, using fresh ingredients brings its challenges. As opposed to using something like a syrup, which has a fixed flavour, each batch of cherry tomatoes, for example, tastes slightly different to the next. Noreen shows her keen understanding of flavours by constantly taste-testing and balancing sweet and sour to ensure there’s consistency in everything she serves. ‘To me the whole idea of a cocktail is really just the balance,’ she says.
Noreen is currently in research and development on the next menu for Outrage of Modesty – to be introduced sometime before April this year. As the seasons change, she’s looking to incorporate Eastern ingredients that stimulate health. ‘People are so health-conscious nowadays, so I’m looking into making cocktails with ingredients that are beneficial to the body. I was a sickly child, so I tasted a lot of Chinese medicine. I know what is good and what is not good. As winter approaches, the yin and yang in your body needs to be balanced to stay healthy.’
We can’t wait to taste the next story.
Outrage of Modesty is at 88 Shortmarket Street, Cape Town. Reserve your seat at anoutrage.com.