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It's Time for Sundowners! Africa's Cocktail Hour

Winston Churchill asserted, “…The gin and tonic has saved more Englishmen’s lives, and minds, than all the doctors in the Empire.”  And it’s true: the gin and tonic was in many ways the origin of the time-honored African tradition of “the Sundowner.”

British colonists and soldiers used quinine powder to stave off malaria and other tropical diseases in the far-flung corners of their vast empire.  The bitter pills proved difficult to swallow and were soon masked with soda water and sugar: the original tonic water, which was soon paired with gin in British India to create arguably the world’s most popular drink.

The tradition spread to Africa, where it became and integral part of the rhythm of the day, with African colonists putting their own twist on things.  Today, Sundowner is far more than just a happy hour: think Karen Blixen and Denys-Finch-Hatton on safari in Out of Africa, think Beryl Markham in West with the Night.  Sundowner is a lovely transition between the heat of the day and the lush African night, as refreshing as a hot shower after a long day on safari.

The ingredients are a comfortable chair, lovely vista to frame the spectacular, smoldering African sunset, good friends and traveling companions, a story or two, and, of course, a refreshing beverage to wash away the heat and dust of the day.   

In South Africa, where winemaking was an early part of the Colonial economy, Sundowners are taken especially seriously.  A classic Sundowner cocktail features the signature liqueur named after the plantation owner, Van Der Hum®: a strong brandy, flavored with tangerine peel, herbs, spices and bark and sweetened with glucose.  Try to get your hands on a bottle if you can, to capture the signature taste of an authentic South African “Sundowner:”

The South African Sundowner

1-½ oz. of brandy
½-oz of Van Der Hum® Liqueur *
¼-oz of lemon juice
¼ oz. of freshly squeezed orange juice
One strip of orange peel

+ Combine the liquid ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously.
+ Pour into a cocktail shaker over shaved ice. 
+ Garnish with orange peel and cinnamon stick and enjoy.  

* Substitute plain brandy or Grand Marnier if you can’t locate Van Der Hum® Liqueur


Enjoy African Sundowners on one of Alexander + Roberts’s carefully-planned safaris in Africa, such as Botswana and South Africa, a 12-day small group adventure that includes a visit to Victoria Falls, luxury stays in both the Okavango Delta and a private reserve next to Chobe National Park.

Posted: 6/9/2017 11:58:07 AM by Alexander + Roberts