Brandy twist to cocktail hour
As international interest in Cape brandies soars, writes Wendy Toerien , this ambrosial drink inspires a hip new band of mixologists to go retro for the revival of the classic cocktail hour
SUNNY SA, whether living by the sea or in the rarefied Highveld air, is made for the cocktail hour. This country also happens to make some of the best brandies in the world in a range of diverse styles.
Combine these ingredients with the revival of retro. Mix in sunsets, a laidback lifestyle and the cool, casual chic of our unique young Afro-European Y-generation, and you have the recipe for a rare good time.
The third annual Standard Bank Fine Brandy Festival at the Sandton Sun finishing today should serve as inspiration for your next sunset soirée offering guests classic and contemporary cocktails (with a retro twist) and canapés to match, all based on the golden elixir that is modern Cape brandy. The festival provides a golden opportunity to explore what is not only one of the most complex drinks around, but also the most versatile.
Quality of the highest order comes courtesy of SA’s long history — more than a century — of strictly regulated brandy production laws.
Evidence comes in the form of international accolades, notably those garnered at the Internation- al Wine and Spirit Competition in London, where no fewer than 8 Cape brandies have been crowned Worldwide Best Brandy in the past 11 years. While aged treasures in the “potstill” and “vintage” style are best savoured in a balloon glass — neat or with a dash of water, soda or ice to unlock the aromas, SA’s excellent brandies in the blended style have been created with our hot, Mediterranean climate in mind. Hence this year’s festival offers an embarrassment of riches to taste and try out for your next cocktail party.
Blended brandies are styled to be enjoyed specifically with a mixer (cola, soda, ginger ale, orange and apple juice with lots of ice) and are ideal for cocktails. But the golden, rich and fruity, full-bodied and smooth potstill brandies (at a minimum of 38%) bring a whole new spectrum of flavours to the mix.
Be guided by the creative concoctions of Bartenders Workshop, a group of mixologists at the cutting edge of the new trend towards recreating classic cocktails with a contemporary twist. And Cape brandy is the base. Topping the “in” list are “culinary cocktails”, using fresh herbs, floral infusions and spices including thyme, peach marmalade, vanilla, ginger, lemongrass, basil, five-spices and lavender. Look out for a Peach Marmalade Side Car (using KWV 5 Year Old), Richelieu Thyme, Eldorado Sunset with Klipdrift Premium, Gold Leaf inspired by Flight of the Fish Eagle brandy, Cape Fruits using Oude Molen 100 Reserve and Mellow Breeze with Mellow-Wood brandy.
As for what can be done with perennially popular brandy and cola: “Klippies and Coke” has been transformed into an authentic, über-stylish South African cocktail, dubbed the “boktail”, a combination of Wellington VO brandy, Triple Sec, lemon juice, sugar syrup and cola dressed with the green and gold: a pineapple wedge, green cherry and green leaf.
The South African Brandy Foundation also challenged Travis Kuhn, Pure Bar Studio’s mixologist and SA flair bartending champion, to shake up two seriously retro examples of brandybased classics — the Side Car and the Brandy Alexander — bring them up to date, and then take another step by infusing them with some future-forward thinking.
For the Side Car, the usual Cointreau and lemon juice used in the past are replaced by today’s Green Apple Schnapps, lemon and sugar syrup. But it’s tomor- row’s take on this classic — potstill brandy infused with roasted cashew nuts mixed with cherries in Kirsch, lemon juice, Agave sugar and Angostura bitters — that’ll have your guests gasping.
As for the Brandy Alexander (famed to have been John Lennon’s favourite drink): yesterday’s white and dark Crème de Cacao and heavy cream garnished with nutmeg, becomes the present’s Kahlua Coffee Liqueur and dark Crème de Cacao and heavy cream sprinkled with cracked coffee beans, turned into the future’s scoop of potstill chocolate and coffee ice-cream (using liquid nitrogen) with slices of caramelised orange pieces and a double creamy Cointreau shot.
The South African Brandy Foundation (convenor of the festival) is a member of the Industry Association for Responsible Alcohol Use and, like the distillers and winemakers themselves, strong advocates for responsible drinking. Take a leaf out of their book next time you host a cocktail party: ensure the safety and comfort of your guests.
KWV master distiller Kobus Gelderblom recommends a liver tonic before coming to the festival... When you host your own party why not offer it to guests as they arrive?
Serve the cocktails yourself or place someone sensible in charge of pouring and refilling glasses. (Guests tend to drink more if they pour for themselves). Avoid overly salty, sweet or fatty snacks as they tend to make one thirstier. Protein-rich and high-starch foods are best: meat, cheese, egg, and vegetable, all in delectable canapé form. Encourage guests to drink water between cocktails by refilling glasses from pitchers of ice water lightly flavoured with refreshing mint or lemon. Provide non-alcoholic alternatives such as ‘mocktails’, alcohol-free punch, fruit juices, coffee and tea. As a final courtesy, have the names and numbers of trustworthy taxi companies on hand for those guests who have not made provision for a designated driver (festival organisers have Corporate Cabs on standby for the duration of the three-day event). Plan ahead to provide space and sustenance for the odd, unexpected, after-party stay-over.
The Side Car – a classic brandy cocktail makes a modern comeback to the cocktail scene.
A mellow breeze cocktail.