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

Business Day - Home Front - - HOMEFRONT -

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.

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