Cape Town and Jo'burg have an excellent selection of waterholes, from wine bars and microbreweries to cocktail bars and nightclubs. Elsewhere, you'll normally find at least one pub or area where you can exchange some banter with the locals over a cold Namibian Windhoek lager.
Tap water is generally safe in South Africa’s cities. However, in rural areas (or anywhere that local conditions indicate that water sources may be contaminated, including drought-struck Cape Town), it's best to purify it or use bottled water.
Beer & Cider
Beer is the national beverage. With vast breweries in all the major cities, SAB (South African Breweries) was taken over in 2016 by the world's largest brewing company, AB InBev. The country has long been a lager-drinking nation, with Castle and Black Label the bestsellers and Castle Lite a new favourite. In recent years, ales have gained popularity and a craft-beer revolution has swept across the country.
Today there are upwards of 170 breweries, scattered across every province. Larger brands such as Boston Breweries, Cape Brewing Company, Darling Brew, Jack Black and Red Rock are found throughout the country, while nano-breweries tend to only produce enough to supply their own village or town. Look out for unusual brews using local plants such as rooibos and buchu (a medicinal herb with a strong minty flavour) to add a unique South African tang.
Craft ciders, too, are in vogue, mainly produced in the Western Cape's Elgin Valley. Check out Windermere and Everson's.
Beer comes in bottles (or cans) from around R20, and bars serve draught from around R25. Craft beers are more expensive – expect to pay anything from R30 to R60 for a 500mL draught beer.
South African wine debuted in 1659. Since then it’s had time to age to perfection, and is both of a high standard and reasonably priced. Wines are all certified and labels reflect their estate, vintage and origin.
Dry whites are particularly good – try sauvignon blanc, riesling, colombard and chenin blanc – while popular reds include cabernet sauvignon, pinotage (a local cross of pinot noir and cinsaut, which was known as hermitage), shiraz and pinot noir.
Although South African sparkling wine may not be called champagne, a number of producers use chardonnay and pinot noir blends and follow the méthode champenoise – the local name is MCC (méthode Cap classique). Likewise, port-style wines cannot use 'port' in their title – look out for Cape Ruby and Cape Tawny. Calitzdorp in the Klein Karoo is well known for its fortified wines.
Wine prices average from around R50 in a bottle store, and twice that in a restaurant. Wine by the glass is often available from around R35.
If you prefer your grapes distilled, there are some world-class brandies in the Cape Winelands – try KWV or Van Ryn's. Brandy and cola is popular in much of the country; Robertson-produced Klippies (Klipdrift) and Coke is swigged by many a braai.
Mampoer (moonshine) and witblits (a grape-based spirit similar to grappa) are found throughout South Africa, but with alcohol percentages upwards of 50, these tipples can be a little rough around the edges.
Better are the hand-crafted spirits coming out of the emerging boutique-distillery scene; try Jorgensen's and Inveroche in the Western Cape – the latter uses indigenous fynbos plants to flavour its range of gins.