Top Ten Drinks from Long Ago

kir royale (image below) orangina, sangria, tequila slammer, sambuco, campari, vermouth, feuerzangenbowle, bloody mary, sangrita,

Wine is worthy of great respect and can hardly be called a “drink”.
Nor is whiskey a “drink”.


Kir is a simple apéritif made with a shot of cassis in a glass of dry, white wine. Named after Félix Kir – the mayor of Dijon who served it to his visitors in his capacity as mayor – it has become world famous. The prescribed wine for the Kir is a Bourgogne Aligoté and, from what I know, one of the few white wines in Burgundy that was not made from the Chardonnay grape. Nowadays regulations are more lax and people use what they have – often a Chablis, a chardonnay based burgundy.  It is seems unusual that in an area like Burgundy something so lighthearted and flippant can sprout, but I believe Kir, the mayor at that time, said said something about highlighting the two great products of that region.  Now, in my mind to put a blackcurrant next to a grape or compare blackcurrant liqueur to wine is absurd and usually I loathe the blackcurrant flavour because all medicine seems to taste like it, but with a Kir, it works. Sort of.

Nowadays there are a number of variations on the theme and the

•    Kir Royale (image above) is made with champagne
•    Kir Pétillant with sparkling wine
•    Kir Imperial with rasberry liqueur rather than the cassis;
•    Kir Breton with Breton cider instead of wine, and
•    Hibiscus Royale that includes a hibiscus flower – I have neither tried nor do I have a recipe for this, so if anyone can help – please do.

I enjoyed the peach flavour in summer for a while.


This soft drink is a mixture of orange juice and orange soda. It was DEFINITELY on the ‘not allowed to drink’ list as a child because my mother would not have approved of a “fizzy sugary drink” and she protected me with the fervent passion usually reserved only for eldest children. (Sadly those same eldest children usually interpret that love as cruel and vindictive). The typical orange skin speckled bottle (image above) was to be found in the shop outside my school where I wasn’t allowed to go.

Orangina began life as Naranjina, and was invented by a chemist, Dr. Trigo, and presented in 1936 to the Marseille Trade Fair. Purchased then by Léon Beton it was manufactured in Algeria during the colonial period, moving to France in 1962 the minute Algeria became independent and where health conscious parents like my mother then had a chance to forbid their children to drink it. It’s extremely popular in Europe today and new flavours include Orangina Sanguina, made with blood oranges, caffeine and guarana. Most of the new flavours are significantly more sour than the old kind thanks to the European trends that should today be adopted internationally.
The flavour comes from a blend of orange juice, tangerine juice and pulp mixed into sweetened carbonated water. It was simple enough to make and really not that bad for kids and I am grateful to the Beton for providing me with my first ‘forbidden drink’.


(The word means “bleeding”) is a Spanish or Portuguese red wine punch that is typically made with the red wine, sliced fruit, a sweetener (honey or sugar) and a shot of brandy or rum, fresh orange and fresh lime. Whilst there is a tendency to omit the sugar these days, when used, the quantity of sugar is defined by the person making it. Should the red wine not be too flat, carbonated water is often added – even the spirits can vary and triple sec is a favourite.

On the rare occasion that I was permitted to go out as a child, we secretly drunk the sure-to-be forbidden liquid from thermos flasks that were supposed to be filled with coffee. Bikini Beach, Gordons Bay in the mid 70’s was an interesting place to be with forbidden romances spicing up the summer holidays despite ludicrously long lists of parental rules.  Sangria was an excellent vehicle for left over wine and was extremely popular amongst us even though not much more than a teaspoon of alcohol was ever used.  Until that day of course. That day was undoubtedly the day that I filled two thermos flasks with my father’s foray into the distillisation of rakia. It was closer to a cernicheva that is traditionally made with mulberries, than the strawberry rakia that he made and probably a thousand times more disgusting, but to sixteen-year old girls it was forbidden and thus promised to be great fun. The 50% proof south Slavic drink  was used to add spice to a dozen flasks and must have created one of the deadliest Sangria concoctions known to man.  We were trashed and had to come up with all kinds of excuses for after school activities simply to create time to work off the effects of the alcohol.  We never tried that again. Ever. And never before did so many children voluntarily run so many laps around a rugby field that particular afternoon ….

To get back to reality, in the southern part of Spain zurra is made with peach and nectarines and then there’s sangria bianca which is made with still white wine. My personal preference? The red sparkling cava absolutely, and is not made without the carbonated water.


I loved tequila once upon a time – more for effect then, than anything else plus, until the day he died, my dad was so incensed whenever I drank it that it made it all the more desirable. (I could kick myself now for doing that to him, so I avoid it nowadays, except to taste any unknown new ones).
The slammer was great fun and the old Gordonia in Gordons Bay was the first venue. The slammer was invented at the University of California and consists of half tequila and half lemonade or other spirit. The word refers to the way it gets its name. It’s drunk as follows:
Leave one fifth of the glass empty so that the ‘cocktail’ can fizz, hold the hand over the top and slam it as hard as you can on the table. This ‘slam’ releases the bubbles and if it isn’t drunk rather swiftly, it will make one hell of a mess and the foam will go all over the place. The reason for this is basic – you are meant to (and do) get rather tipsy. Naturally there is the Tequila Slammer Royale made with champagne and being the brat I was, that was the version I opted for. Later on, in a delayed spurt of rebelliousness I tried it again, but it wasn’t for me. Not really.

Tequila (above, the three most expensive available today), nowadays available throughout the world even though all tequila must be made in Mexico, was first made in the 16th century near where the city of Tequila (which wasn’t officially there until 1656) can be found today.    Originally the Aztecs made a fermented drink from the agave plant called octilli and even later re-named it pulque.  Many people try to link these drinks but I think it’s a long shot. Must I really believe that they are all linked simply because they come from the same plant and are fermented? (Bread and cake are both made from flour and they both rise but they certainly aren’t the same thing.) When the Spanish conquistadors, ran out of brandy (and rather than face their terrible judgement in ordering supplies and in human relations), they started using the agave plant to distill the first Mexican spirit.  Don Pedro Sánchez de Tagle was the first person to mass produce tequila in Jalisco, Mexico and by 1608 the colonial governor of Nueva Galicia was the first person to tax the Tequila.

There are five main grades of tequila:

•    Blanco (silver & un-aged & stored 2 months or straight after distillation);
•    Oro (gold, un-aged & blended with aged, caramel colouring, sugary syrup & oak extract);
•    Reposado (rested & aged a minimum of 2 months, less than a year in oak barrls);s
•    Añejo (aged or vintage – minimum 1 year maximum 3 years in oak barrels;-
•    Extra añejo (extra aged – minimum 3 years in oak barrels);


This was the first liqueur I ever had in a real pub, a tiny little pub called “Hole in the Wall” in Somerset West and a hole it certainly was. This period in my life had been completely forgotten until recently when I realized that it proved to be quite prophetic. It is Rome that stole my heart after all.  Odd. Everybody was drinking it at the time which I why I had to try it too. Sambuca is produced in and around Rome and is a rather potent drink, flavoured with a mixture of black elderberries, the Sambucus nigra (image of the green plants above), and aniseed. A sweet and pungent liqueur with an almost oily texture gives sense to the ritual involved when drinking it – one doesn’t  simply sit down and slug it.

Molinari insists that the word Sambuca has an Arabic origin and links Zammut to it. Out of respect to my Arabic muslim friends, their Ramadaan and the fact that Muslims don’t  drink alcohol, I will ignore the period before Islam here. It is the name of the anise-flavoured drink that arrived from the East at the port of Civitavecchia. The Latin word sambūc-us means “elderberry” and a Sambuq is an Arabic ship which may have been used to import it in those early days.  Many foods arrive in ships and aeroplanes, yet we do not name the food after the vessels – always after something else. Luigi Manzi was the father of Sambuca Manzi, still sold in Italy today and soon after the war, Angelo Molinari joined the party with his Sambuca Extra Molinari. Manzi was there first.

I was horrified on my first visit to Rome when I was asked whether I wanted my drink with a fly in it (con la mosca). It only means that a few coffee beans are floated on top and set alight as it’s put down in front of you at which point the flame is blown out and the liquid swallowed immediately. There is a learning process that inevitably consists of glasses of sambuca landing on tables, the flame burning consistently due to the oiliness of the drink – not to mention  burning arms, noses, shirt-surfaces and so on – all part of the process. Today I can drink a sambuca like a true pro – only now I wouldn’t choose it unless I want to remember those first warm summer days when I became a grown woman.


One of the aperitif known as bitters, it is made in Italy. The bright-red liquid is flavoured with no less than 60 ingredients mixed into distilled water and alcohol.

The bitter taste made me very hungry and which is why I stopped drinking it in the mid 80’s.  It all began in Novara, Italy when Gaspare Campari created this classic from quinine, rhubarb, bergamot, orange peel, the bark of the Cascarilla tree (growing in the Bahamas), bitter herbs and so on. The distinctive colour came from the natural Carmine Cochineal E20 the cochineal and insect (see below) . Nowadays an artificial colourant is used.


A fortified wine containing a secret blend of herbs and spices which are a very closely guarded secret. Antonio Benedetto Carpanio from Torino, Italy is the father and “inventor” of this contribution to the world cocktail menu. In 1786 he made it, inspired by the German wine that was blended with wormwood, the herb used in the distillation of absinthe.  It was spelt Wermuth in his day – Wermut today.

Shortly before my 20’s and as I grew older it became “imperative” that I try it, since many of my friends in the small town of Somerset West had been drinking Cinzano Bianco which I loathed.
I was sincere in my quest to find a vermouth that I could like and liking the name, I tried Martini Rosso, fully expecting to be positively surprised. I couldn’t it bear it and could not understand what the fuss was about. I found it to be tasteless, sweet and an absolute waste of time. Following that I tried Chambéryzette but it tasted like strawberries and reminded me of the rakia. Then, by chance a grown up told me to try the French Noilly Prat and I discovered that a vermouth could actually be rather pleasant. It was really good in food (a generous splash in pan fried fish works wonders). I had discovered a vermouth and the search was over.  When I heard the story about Van Gogh and the delight he took in drinking absinthe, then cutting off his ear in a drunken stupor – the appeal was gone. It was put on the back burner until I had been convinced that there was no absinthe inside the vermouth. Today when I cook with it, it brings back fond memories.


I tasted this for the first time in Munich one year at a “Christmas in February” dinner and it must be the most unusual drink I have ever had – which is why I have to include it. I hate sweet drinks and am not a lover of rum, but this was something completely different.  Feuerzangenbowle is made in a fondue type bowl, suspended over a flame and filled with reasonably good red wine, orange juice and adeptly spiced with cinnamon and cloves. In this bowl is a sugar horn, a “witches hat” of sugar named a zueckerhut, about 15 cms high and traditionally placed on the tongs (the feuerzange). It’s soaked with rum and set alight. The sugar caramelizes as it melts and drips into the wine.
Rum must have at least 55% alcohol (or thereabouts) in order for it to be set alight. As the rum evaporates into a cloudy mist just over the bowl, more rum is added soaking the sugar horn and continuously improves the wine until all the sugar has dripped deliciously into the wine, becoming it’s heady essence. Mugs of the stuff are offered to guests whilst the flame keeps the rest warm – the sweet last serving simply the best.

The largest pot ever made? In a humungous copper pot in Isartor outside Munich, year end 2005.


Originally created by George Jessel in 1939 as a post party “pick me up” – and as with most inventions there was the usual scrap about who really did it.  In the New Yorker New Yorker Magazine, July 1964 Fernand Petiot wrote as follows:

I initiated the Bloody Mary of today. “Jessel said he created it, but it was really nothing but vodka and tomato juice when I took it over. I cover the bottom of the shaker with four large dashes of salt, two dashes of black pepper, two dashes of cayenne pepper, and a layer of Worcestershire sauce; I then add a dash of lemon juice and some cracked ice, put in two ounces of vodka and two ounces of thick tomato juice, shake, strain, and pour. We serve a hundred to a hundred and fifty Bloody Marys a day here in the King Cole Room and in the other restaurants and the banquet rooms.”

Believe it or not, I LIKE a good Bloody Mary and still happily have it the mix without the vodka these days. The most common ingredients are tomato juice, Worcester sauce, lemon juice and black pepper with a generous slug of vodka.  I don’t know how much Vodka.

It was invented by a bartender at Harry’s Bar in Paris, Ferdinand Petiot who created it in honour of one of his regular’s. So, to remind you, here it is:


900 ml chilled tomato juice
250 ml chilled vodka
75 ml fresh lemon juice
1 and a half tbsp Worchester sauce
½ tsp celery salt
1/3 tsp pure horseradish
Freshly ground black pepper to taste


Shake up the ingredients in a cocktail shaker.
Pour into chilled glasses filled with ice.
Garnish with slices of lemon and celery sticks.

A shot of tequila is drunk with a “chillied up” sweet & sour shot drink typically made from orange juice, lime juice, tomato juice and hot chilies. Grenadine is rarely substituted for the tomato juice.
There’s also the recipe where the tequila is accompanied by tomato juice containing onion puree, mashed chili, lime juice and salt.
It tastes disgusting and hails from Jalisco in Mexico.

As I write, I remember a few other drinks from my journey into adulthood, but I accept now that I always was a wine drinker and always will be one. I occasionally drink whiskey but I have come to terms with the fact that I will never be one of those elegant ladies drinking beautiful cocktails and finally, that’s just fine with me.



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7 responses to “Top Ten Drinks from Long Ago

  1. SAMBUCO, was the first liqueur I ever tasted. Hubby had a bad experience with the flames (after drinking too many) – but that’s a horror story in itself! Lucky for him, he is cured from such foolish behaviour now.

  2. During my 5 year stint in Durban (many years ago) we consumed many litres of Sangria on the stoep of Joe Cool’s on Sunday afternoons. And many fights were had over the last pieces of fruit stuck in the bottom of the large Sangria mugs!!

    And the effect of that fruit………….

    And then we normally followed this with a whole chicken (per person!)braai late afternoon at home and a shot or two of stroh 80 rum. Needless to say Mondays were not our best days…….

    I am still looking for a good Sangria recipe!

  3. I love to read these memories …..

    Sangria is very easy and certainly up to the individual taste. I love the cave – as I said and this what I use a basis.

    1 Bottle of sparkling red (I like the cava and prefer to use a good Lambrusco (eg. Barbolini) since it’s always available in Cape Town or any of the Villiera dry sparkling reds
    500 ml freshly squeezed ripe orange juice
    4 cling peaches, sliced into matchsticks
    2 ripe, sweet cling peaches – blended into a puree
    ice crushed or blocks (to taste)
    handful clean single mint leaves (optional)
    handful sultana grapes, halved
    sliced oranges and lemons

    You know what to do with that!


  4. Sounds like you may be able to answer a question I’ve had for a long time: How is one supposed to drink a aperitif such as Campari or vermouth? By itself in a little sherry glass? With ice? Mixed with something? And how much is a serving — a full wine glass size (I’m not sure how strong these are) or more of a half size sherry/port serving?

  5. I drink Campari in whatever glass there is with plenty of crushed ice and as much soda as Campari. I love to have it neat with crushed ice ….

    In Italy the golden rule that the size and shape of the glass will play a vital role in the determination of flavour is always remembered……..for example the “Royale” with it’s flute and so on.

    I’ve never heard of a campari in a sherry glass, though.

  6. Thanks for the Sangria recipe!

    Its a good thing spring is upon us. My mouth is watering!

    PS: This is the first recipe I see with sparkling red in it!

  7. It’s a pleasure – the two largest producers of Cava sparkling wines are in the province of Barcelona in Spain. They are Cordoniu and Freixenet – the latter, as you probably know, is available locally.

    The Freixenet Cordon Negro is really good in a Sangria. I think I even saw it in Pick and Pay once.

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