Kirsty & Inga’s Kigali Cocktail Tour

Mojito and Margarita and Inga at Mille Collines

It’s the eternal question, isn’t it: What came first; the cock or the tail? As under-educated, slightly immature humans, we really aren’t in a position to answer questions of such a metaphysical character. But as highly well trained consumers of alcohol, however, we are at least able to test out the Kigali cocktail scene.

Here is our attempt at providing you with the very best advice for where to go for a fine cocktail in Kigali as, I’m sure when you plotted your course for Rwanda, drinking fine cocktails was at the very top of your list of things to do. I mean, is there a better way to spend a Monday afternoon in this town?

In an attempt to ensure scientific consistency, we each chose a specific cocktail to evaluate – Inga the margarita and Kirsty the mojito. Due to missing mojitos, though, our efforts to be scientific were foiled. So in this in-depth analysis you will follow us through a series of empirical investigations of the margarita and the mojito as well as the Long Island Iced Tea and a few other random goodies just for the hell of it.

Heaven Restaurant

The view is breathtaking, and the moon is so big and round and yellow and… Inga always gets confused about the moon when she goes to Heaven. Don’t get her started. But Heaven is just a nice place to hang out and sip your worries away and they even give you blankets when it gets cold!

Before we get into the in’s and out’s of our chosen beverages, it’s worth mentioning that the banana beer cocktail currently on the specials menu is absolutely incredible! It’s called Urgwawa. Or Ugarawa. Or possibly Gugurawarawa or Sagagoogoo. Anyway, try it out before they take it off the menu. We know: banana beer on its own tastes like fermented urine mixed with dead animal juice. But you’d be surprised by what a little lemon grass syrup and lime can do! (PS: The authors have of course never made juice out of dead animals. Honest.)

Inga’s Passion Fruit Margarita – Being all adventurous and original, the crew at Heaven have created a cocktail menu a bit out of the ordinary. The margarita is with passion fruit, and the mojito with mandarin. I was a bit confused by the lack of salt on my margarita glass but, given that I’m a bit confused by most things in this world, that may come as no surprise. I still feel that the crunchy rim around the glass is part of the margarita experience. Perhaps a special sugary coating could have worked well with the passion fruit? The taste is delicious, though, and the price is about what you’d expect to pay at Heaven at Rwf 5,800.

Kirsty’s Mojto – Aaaah. The Heaven mojito. One of my guilty Kigali pleasures. It’s good, my friends. Very good. Though lacking in bendy straw, the glass is fancy and it has just the right amount of chunky and leafy greenness within. The little hint of mandarin is a nice touch and it has a perfect balance of sweet and sour. I’m going to go ahead and say it: Heaven has the best mojito in Kigali. Yep. There it is.

Menu – Heaven has all of your basic cocktail needs covered and a few creative surprises. Any menu with an atomic cocktail on it is ok by me. The booze content of Heaven’s cocktails isn’t as high as some other places we’ve been, but the tastiness more than makes up for it.

  • Mojito – 5,800
  • Passion Fruit Margarita – 5,800
  • Dawa – 5,100
  • Atomic Fruit Punch – 5,100 (rum, Japanese plum, passion, citron juice, soda water)
  • Japanese Plum Cosmopolitan – 5,100
  • Sangria – 4,600
  • Pina Colada – 5,800
  • Manhattan – 6,000
  • Martini – 5,100
  • Apple Martini – 5,100

Hotel des Mille Collines

The service is awful but the setting is beautiful and the prices are cheaper than the Serena and Heaven. The drinks are strong and if you have a few too many and feel the need to go a bit crazy, the pool is right there for you to throw furniture, friends and possible yourself into.

Inga’s Margarita – Just like with Mexican people, you need to find the proper ratio between acidity, bitterness, and drunkenness in the Mexican drinks. The margerita at Mille Collines did not fulfill this desire. A bit too much tequila. “Is there such a thing as too much alcohol?” you ask. And Inga answers: “Yes. Yes, there is. And the next time you try a drunk Mexican, you just get back to me on that.” At Rwf 5,500 it’s cheaper than the Serena’s offering but not quite as tasty.

Kirsty’s Long Island Iced Tea – Never trust a cocktail menu with no mojito on it, that’s what I always say. But luckily for them, the Mille Collines redeemed themselves by having the uber-boozy Long Island Iced Tea as a choice. I couldn’t possibly be expected to compare a Long Island Iced Tea to a mojito. I mean, that would be absolute madness. But I can say that it was a tasty drink packed with boozy goodness and that I was left nicely inebriated poolside on a Monday afternoon. What more could I ask for? Well, a bendy straw and a fancy glass, for starters and maybe a little paper umbrella and a slice of lime on the side of the glass. But now I’m just getting picky.

Menu – The menu here is small but the prices are good and they either managed to spell the word ‘swimming’ incorrectly or came up with a whole new way of spelling the word. Either scenario is awesome.

  • Classic Martini – 5,500
  • Margarita – 5,500
  • Bloody Mary – 5,000
  • Mille Collines – 5,500
  • Long Island Iced Tea – 6,500
  • Suiming Pool – 5,500
  • Cuba Libre – 5,500

Li’l Vegas

Li’l Vegas has recently been named by us as having the best burger in Kigali and we might be taking our love for this place one step further by also proclaiming it as the best place in town to get drunk on cocktails. The drinks are gigantic, strong, and cheap.

Inga’s Californian Iced Tea & Margarita – I’m not sure I like the idea of putting information about this gem online. I kinda like keeping it to myself. But having been blessed (cursed) with a personality of boundless selflessness, I will hereby reveal the place in Kigali with the biggest, cheapest, strongest… drinks! All cocktails cost Rwf 3,200, which can make it difficult to choose (“Should I go for the nuclear blue drink, or the ‘Fluffy Dog’?!!”) The menu has a list of classic (and weird-ass) cocktails, but if you ask at the bar they can whip up a lot more (albeit with a L’il Vegas twist…) The margarita, for example, was lined with sugar instead of salt and was sweet and yellow. But sadly, that is not the purpose of a margarita

Kirsty’s Long Island Iced Tea – Though my palette has been judged by Inga as being unrefined in the ways of the Long Island Iced Tea, I prefer this Coke-heavy version to the apparently more authentic offering that can be found at Zen. It’s a little sweeter and takes the edge off the copious amounts of alcohol floating around in this cocktail. But, given that the drink was still super strong and served in a pint glass, there was no chance of missing out on getting buzzed. Plus Li’l Vegas serves their drinks with the ever elusive bendy straw and they even go a step further and have swizzle sticks and paper umbrellas! Plus their ice cubes don’t seem to melt. I was drinking that huge beverage for ages and those cubes just stayed there, being all frozen. For some reason, I find this to be awesome rather than freaky.

Menu – They’ve got some interesting offerings on their menu and the prices are by far the cheapest in town. The margarita isn’t on the menu but if you ask, they can make you one.

  • Long Island Iced Tea – 3,200
  • California Iced Tea – 3,200
  • From Russia with Love (vodka, kahlua, milk) – 3,200
  • Afrike Breeze (Amarula, Cointreau) – 3,200
  • Fluffy Dog (Bailey’s, Cointreau) – 3,200
  • Rusty Nail (Drambuie, whiskey) – 3,200

Papyrus

Papyrus don’t really have a cocktails menu but they’ll whip something up if you ask them. Sadly, our awesome photos of Inga doing dumb things with cocktails at Papyrus and Republika were lost when my camera entered the black hole of thievery known as Sundowner. Curse you, Sundowner!

Inga’s Margarita – It’s not on the menu, but if you ask the bartenders they’ll be more than happy to create a drink for you. Though a bit concerned when I first gave the bar man my order, I found my margarita surprisingly delicious! Also, it came in a giant, black, smooth glass… and I mean, when it really comes down to it who doesn’t enjoy some bitter, black, cold refreshment every once in a while? Out of all the cocktails, this is one of the cheapest at Rwf 4,500, and for those of you who prefer more sour drinks, the Papyrus margarita definitely accomplishes that!

Kirsty’s Long Island Iced Tea – A little heavy on the coke and sweet for my liking but I was wasted after drinking it so that’s a good thing, right? I mean, the whole point of drinking alcohol is to get drunk… right?

Republika

Despite a good selection of spirits, Republika’s cocktail menu is rather skimpy. Upon our request, they did manage to put together a margarita, and they do have a pink house cocktail.

Inga’s Margarita – The margarita was a bit too sweet for my liking, and though I ended up tipsy after having finished it, I couldn’t really taste the tequila. Not sure if that’s a good thing or not. The drink was pretty big, and for the price of Rfw 6,000, I guess I should be happy. Really though, don’t come here for the cocktails. Stick to the magically humungous half carafes of wine.

Kirsty’s Fruity House Drink – It was fruity and red! That is all.

Serena Hotel

Serena was going to score big points for atmosphere as we were only moments away from sipping our cocktails poolside in chais lounges. However the rain had something to say about that and, instead, we were driven inside to a booth with an unusually straight back. Far less relaxing but I guess it’s hard to fight nature.

Inga’s Margarita – I took it upon myself to try out the margarita, and found it mouth-wateringly sour. The tequila taste was balanced perfectly with the lime, and a delicate rim of salt was just enough to set the cocktail off. Even Kirsty – who usually prefers her tequila straight up and isn’t a fan of sour stuff – enjoyed it! Though pricey at Rwf 7,500, the Serena offering comes in at a close second to Zen’s. For the second best margarita in town, come to the tranquil poolside of Serena and bring your fat wallet!

Kirsty’s Mojito – Another place without a mojito on the menu. It boggles the mind! I mean, really. But the Serena came through in the end and the bartender was able to whip up a drink that tasted somewhat like a mojito but looked more like brown water with green chunky and leafy things floating around in it. It was ok tasting, didn’t look great, didn’t have a bendy straw, didn’t come in a fancy glass and it cost me Rwf 12,000! Yes, I paid $20 for a mojito at the Serena. I’m not proud of that but I was hookwinked! The bill came back listing my drink as ‘open beverage’ which I guess, is what happens when you order a cocktail that isn’t on their menu. So… don’t do this. Unless you want to pay an obscene price for a very average mojito, don’t order it at the Serena.

Menu – The menu here is pretty extensive and pretty expensive. Extensive and expensive! Ha! They’ve got the usual cocktails plus a few that my unrefined cocktail-drinking-palette has never heard of.

  • Mojito (open beverage) – 12,000
  • Tequila Sunrise – 7,000
  • Margarita – 7,500
  • Long Island Iced Tea – 10,500
  • Blue Vodkatini – 10,000 (smirnoff vodka, cointreau, green peppermint, cherry juice)
  • Chivas Manhattan – 10,000
  • Plunter’s Punch – 6,500 (Captain Morgan Black, passion juice, lemon juice)
  • Ladies Night Cocktail – 9,500 (Southern Comfort, Grappa, Captain Morgan Black, tonic)
  • Coin Boam – 9,500 (Couintreau, vodka, Red Bull)

Zen

The Zen mojito is what originally inspired this search for Kigali’s perfect cocktails. We were impressed by the quality and wondered what Kigali’s other bars and restaurants had in store and, thus, our search began. The menu here is so extensive that we felt that two cocktails each would be in order. Plus it’s always nice to hang out beneath a grass roof with a beautiful view of the ‘lake’, so any excuse to stick around is fine with us.

Mojito and Margarita at ZenInga’s Margarita & Daquiri – When craving a perfect-tasting margarita in a proper margarita glass, swing by Zen in Nyarutarama. To quote myself during the time of consumption: “It’s just really good!” In addition, you achieve quite the pleasant tipsiness, which is what many of us are looking for on an average Wednesday afternoon. The price is what one would expect from a restaurant with such soft, shiny, leather chairs and waiters with violet waistbands (Rwf 5,000), but considering this is the only truly proper margarita you’ll get in Kigali, it is definitely worth it. So please try it out! And while you’re at it, give the daquiri a try too. And then the chunky mojito (see below). …and, why try to uphold the pretense of being proper fairies of soberness?! Go for the Long Island Iced Tea as well!

Kirsty’s Mojito & Long Island Iced Tea – Apparently my cocktail palette is not refined enough to know a good Long Island Iced Tea when I sip one. Inga assures me that the drink at Zen is exactly what it should taste like but I found it a little bitter. It might have perhaps a little too heavy on the gin. The mojito, on the other hand, is delicious. The only reason it comes a close second to Heaven’s is that I find it to be slightly too chunky. There’s a lot of line and mint chunkage going on which means less room for the drink itself. But it really still is delicious and I’m just being anti-chunky.

Menu – Zen’s cocktail menu is impressive with all of the major cocktails and a few surprises. We didn’t try it this time around but I’ve heard a couple people mention the awesomeness of the Lemon Drop Martini.

  • Mojito – 6,500
  • Dawa – 5,000
  • Margarita – 6,000
  • Long Island Iced Tea – 6,500
  • Cosmopolitan – 6,500
  • Pina Colada – 5,000
  • Cuba Libre – 4,500
  • Malibu Paradise – 5,000
  • Caribbean Martini – 5,000
  • Lemon Drop Martini – 4,500
  • Kir – 4,500
  • Kir Royal – 6,500
  • Daquiri – 5,000
  • Bloody Mary – 6,500
  • Mai Tai – 6,500
  • Manhattan – 6,500
  • Pimm’s (jug) – 6,500

Yep I know I still need to add Meze Fresh and that there are some other spots in town to check out too. If you have any suggestions of where else we can direct our cocktail search, let us know. We’re always looking for reasons to drink cocktails!

Loading Map…

About Kirsty

A Canadian who left in 2001 to wander around the world in search of sun, beautiful views and goat brochettes. Found Kigali in July 2010 and it seems like the perfect fit. I expect to be here until I get kicked out for defiantly walking on the grass while wearing flip flops.