An Mzansi orig­i­nal

Don Pe­dros were cre­ated in the sev­en­ties and re­main a firm South African favourite


WHAT do the words “Don Pe­dro” evoke for you? Maybe you feel the need to cor­rect the spell­ing to “Dom”, or you’re pon­der­ing when you last had one, but chances are you’re think­ing fondly — and with nostal­gia — of this truly South African drink. We set out to dis­cover more about its ori­gin and legacy.

What is a Don Pe­dro, any­way?

For our read­ers across the globe, a Don Pe­dro is a grown-up (read: boozy) milk shake, usu­ally served in a stemmed glass. It calls for a splash of hard tack or sweet liqueur mixed into ice cream, with a bit of cream to make it sip­pable through a straw. While the orig­i­nal Don Pe­dro uses whisky (more on that later), many recipes call for Amarula or Kahlua in­stead, or maybe even Amaretto, Frangelico or Jäger­meis­ter (no judg­ment), if they’re be­ing re­ally fancy. Ba­si­cally, if it’s in a glass and con­tains ice cream and al­co­hol, you’ve got your­self a Don Pe­dro. It’s a great South African cock­tail: a true lev­eller, beloved by young and old.

The word cock­tail might be a mis­nomer, how­ever, de­pend­ing on its con­sis­tency and the vol­ume of ice cream in­volved. Michael Olivier, a for­mer chef and restau­ra­teur who re­ceived our 2013 Life­time Achieve­ment Award, said: “I don’t view it as a cock­tail, rather as a dessert. I used to serve one called Michael’s Mud, which I made with choco­late ice cream and Kahlua.”

But who made it first?

“I first heard of and tasted the Don Pe­dro when Danny Fer­ris owned Belin­zona restau­rant in Blou­berg in the sev­en­ties,” Olivier said.

Peter Velds­man — owner of Emily’s in Cape Town and vet­eran chef, dec­o­rated cook­book author and for­mer food ed­i­tor of Sarie — con­firmed this. He re­mem­bers Fer­ris go­ing on hol­i­day to Scot­land and his tales of the whisky dis­til­leries he vis­ited. At one of them he poured the whisky over some ice cream, and the Don Pe­dro was born.

“I don’t think he re­alised how it would take off,” said Velds­man. “The Don Pe­dro If it’s in a glass and con­tains ice cream and al­co­hol, you’ve got your­self a Don Pe­dro. It’s a great South African drink: a true lev­eller, beloved by young and old.

is the most copied restau­rant cre­ation in our culi­nary his­tory; it’s very much a South African thing.”

Tam­sin Sny­man — culi­nary con­sul­tant, re­gional chair­per­son for World’s 50

Best Restau­rants and owner of Lan­nice Sny­man Pub­lish­ers (named for her mother, the cook­ery leg­end) — says she first tasted the drink as a young­ster at home. “My fam­ily were Don Pe­dro ad­dicts,

and my dad made the very very best Don Pe­dros in the world. I thought it orig­i­nated from my fam­ily home — my father was the cock­tail king of my life!”

Sny­man ex­plains that Don Pe­dro recipes have ap­peared in her mom’s cook­books since 1979. The recipe for this adult milk shake from Fine Din­ing by Lan­nice Sny­man calls for a sprig of mint on top, a gar­nish re­flec­tive of its time.

South Africans were not the first to play around with liquor in their cold or hot drinks. In the mid-19th cen­tury, the hey­day of the Vi­en­nese cof­fee house, cock­tails of cof­fee and rum were pop­u­lar, topped with whipped cream and served in a glass. In 19th-cen­tury France, a mix­ture of cof­fee and spir­its was called a “glo­ria”. More re­cently, Don Pe­dro’s first cousin, the Ir­ish cof­fee (cof­fee mixed with Ir­ish whisky and topped with thick cream) was in­vented in County Lim­er­ick in the for­ties. The Don Pe­dro, then, joins this list as a Mzansi orig­i­nal, circa the sev­en­ties.

So is it Don Pe­dro or Dom Pe­dro? “It’s Don as in mis­ter, not dom as in the cler­gy­man,” Velds­man said.

Olivier added: “Dom or Don, I don’t think it re­ally mat­ters, but Danny [Fer­ris] called it Don Pe­dro, as in Span­ish for Count Peter.”

Con­versely, Sny­man’s fam­ily has al­ways called it Dom Pe­dro, and menus on Eat Out’s database tend to favour the lat­ter spell­ing. But luck­ily, even if you mum­ble a lit­tle when you say it, ev­ery­one will know what you mean.

Is it retro-cool or plain passé? Olivier says that as long as peo­ple like ice cream, there will be a place for the Don Pe­dro. “There will be the twists and turns with in­gre­di­ents, and some will huff and puff about it not be­ing orig­i­nal, but it’s a fun dessert.”

Sny­man re­mains de­voted to it. “I serve it still to­day at din­ner par­ties, but al­ways make it with half whisky and half Kahlua — that’s the only way to drink it.”

While you won’t find it at fine-din­ing restau­rants or über-trendy bars, the Don Pe­dro makes an ap­pear­ance in most places. We’re con­fi­dent the Don Pe­dro leg­end will live on, and that any bar staff — at any restau­rant in the coun­try — will be able to make you one, should you say the word. — Eat Out.

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