cocktails to free the spirit

WITH the festive season upon us, many people are looking forward to succumbing to its hype and making whoopee to release the pent-up tension caused by the recession.

WITH the festive season upon us, many people are looking forward to succumbing to its hype and making whoopee to release the pent-up tension caused by the recession.

To say it was a tough, tough year is a serious understatement. So why should anyone begrudge us a few moments of well-earned respite as we prepare to feast and drink to our emergence from these hard times in one (well, sort of) piece.

Pardon some of us for feeling like demoralised soldiers just back from a bruising battle.

But this shall pass. To that extent, we should heed counsel from French luminary Grimrod de la Reyniere, who once said: "Life is so brief that we should not glance either too far backwards or forwards . therefore study how to fix our happiness in our glass and on our plate."

Well, our drinks cupboards need replenishing. And as surely as we all have our preferences, we should allow for a bit of adventure. Let's try something new while remembering that drinking in moderation is always advisable.

Thumbing through newly released wine guides - Neil Pendock and Michael Olivier's People's Guide, John Platter's 2010 Guide and Wine magazine's Best Value Wine Guide 2010 - one can find a few suggestions for our vinous arsenals.

These guides are more than useful companions when looking for decent wine to enjoy with family and friends without going through the tedious process of trial and error, which might serve only to hurt your pocket.

I already have a sense of what my list will contain.

From this year's Whisky Festival, there was plethora of choice and the The South African Whisky Handbook 2010 is a useful resource.

So is the Fire Water Book (by Wendy Toerien), which is something of an encyclopaedia for brandy lovers seeking more information on local brandies.

South African brandy is currently causing waves internationally, with the Joseph Barry Cape Pot Still Brandy Ten crowned the "best brandy in the world" at London's International Wine and Spirit Competition held recently.

Exquisite, that's what this brandy is.

For the enjoyment of free spirits everywhere, here are a few cocktails to prepare during the festive period.


l Rí-Rá:

37,5ml Jameson whiskey

12,5ml vanilla syrup

Half a lemon cut into small pieces

2 small spoons of vanilla sugar

Glass: highball

Ice: crushed

Method: blend and stir

Garnish: lemon slice

l Chivas Royale:

35ml Chivas Regal 12

Dash apple schnapps

Ginger Ale

Sliced green apple

Crushed ice


Half-fill a champagne flute with crushed ice.

Pour in Chivas Regal 12 and then the apple schnapps. Top up with ginger ale. Place a slice of green apple in the drink and serve.

l Absolut Mango signature cocktail with apple juice and a dash of lime:

1 measure Absolut Mango

Apple juice

Dash of lime


l Banana Split d'Or:

(serves four)

300ml Klipdrift Gold

100ml hazelnut liqueur

4 bananas

4 scoops vanilla ice cream

200ml chocolate liqueur

20g toasted hazelnuts roughly chopped


Combine the brandy, hazelnut liqueur, bananas and ice cream in a bar blender. Blend into a fine purée. Pour 50ml of the chocolate liqueur into the bottom of each martini glass and then add the banana mixture, divided equally among the four glasses. Garnish with chopped nuts.

l Taste of Home:

1 tot (30ml) Gordon's London Dry gin

100ml Amarula

2,5ml condensed milk

5ml coconut milk

1 tablespoon chocolate shavings

Mix the ingredients together. Blend in the chocolate shavings with a good stir. Pour into a martini glass and serve.