The Sundowner

Apologies, first of all, that the ‘Blogger Me’ has been preoccupied lately with Project Food Blog. Although very happy to have made it to round 2, I’ve been on the brink of cursing my good fortune as I tried to get my head around a foreign cuisine. Luckily I have some lekker (fantastic) South African friends who, though living literally on the other side of the world, held my hand through it all. So I was still in a South African state of mind when I finally turned my focus to the ‘sexy’ cocktail competition being hosted by Lazaro (of Lazaro Cooks!) and my darling Denise (of Quickies on the Dinner Table). The aim is to come up with a sexy cocktail, and the winner receives a copy of Denise’s fabulous cookbook ‘Quickies, Morning Noon and Night’. And yes, it’s about food.

In South Africa they have a lovely tradition of ‘sundowners’. This is a time, conveniently at cocktail hour, when the whole country stops and salutes the setting of the sun. You’ll hear people making plans to meet up ‘for sundowners’ or asking ‘What’re you doing for sundowners?’ It’s just part of the fabric of South African social life. And a handy excuse to gather and drink martinis.

As mentioned in my Bobotie post, my brother lives in Cape Town and he often brings us tasty treats for the wine rack and/or liquor cabinet. Seeking a South African cocktail, I raided his past offerings and here’s what I came up with:

1 bottle of Amarula (a sweet, creamy Baileys-esque liqueur made from the fruit of the marula tree)
1 bottle of De Krans Cape Ruby port (unopened – how did that go unnoticed?)
1 bottle of Die Krans White Jerepigo (a muscadel)
1 bottle of Bon Courage White Muscadel
2 bottles of Hellinger Schnapps (one Wild Fig and one Pamplemousse)

My initial thought was to go with the Amarula, as it seems to be the best-known of South African tipples. But cocktails are meant as an apéritif, and I don’t see a sweet creamy dessert drink whetting my appetite for dinner (or… whatever). I briefly considered making a margarita with the grapefruit schnapps but ultimately decided that was too obvious.

Finally my gaze settled on the muscadels. The Jerepigo was almost empty (hey bro, are you paying attention?!) but I had about 1/3 bottle left of the Bon Courage. I also had a bottle of gin in the cabinet, so decided to go for a good old-fashioned martini, antipodes-style. And, since this is a sexy cocktail competition, let’s make it ‘shaken, not stirred’, as a homage to the dead-sexy Bond, James Bond (sex in a suit if I ever saw it – and I’m standing by that no matter which actor you put in the role).

I would love to tell you a sob story about how I spent ages trying to get the mix just right, but actually my first attempt was so good I drank it right there and then (at 10 am – sshh don’t tell social services). So here it is, my ‘Sundowner’. If you can’t find a South African brand, any white muscadel should do nicely, and will still whet your appetite for a good Bobotie, so long as you salute the sun when you drink it!

And by the way, if you’re wondering what makes this drink sexy then you’re not a movie buff. Because if you were, you’d know that sunsets are movie code for sex. When we see the cowboy ride off into the sunset with his woman, we are meant to leave the theater thinking about what they will soon be doing together. If we were supposed to be contemplating their future married life, they’d have ridden off at daybreak, to signify all the days they will spend together. But they didn’t, did they. They set out with very little daylight left. Soon they’ll be stopping for the night, and then, well YOU know. So here is a ticket to your very own sunset, and all that it promises…

Ingredients:

1 part gin
2 parts white muscadel (which, as the photo illustrates, is not really white but more of a burnt gold)
lemon rind to garnish

Method:

Shake ingredients over ice, then serve. What happens next is entirely up to you…

Saha!