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The Sundowner: Tracing The Journey Of An Iconic Drinking Tradition

The Sundowner Cocktail

Picture this: you’re at a bar, by the beach. The sky is bright crimson and jets have left glorious white and puffy traces of their journey. You’re enjoying a delicious cocktail as you watch the last traces of the sun disappear temporarily.

Traditionally, the sundowner is a drink that you enjoy at sunset. Although it wasn’t discovered by a specific person or a specific region, it’s a tradition that has been passed down for centuries across cultures. Even before this tradition and drink was officiated as "the sundowner," people have been enjoying a drink during that time of the day for a while now, and that too in various forms – be it hot or cold; alcoholic or non-alcoholic. 

sundowner cocktail sunset

However, if you’re wondering where the tradition itself originates from, you can pin it on South Africa during British colonial rule. The most popular drink of choice back then, which still remains equally popular even in contemporary times, is the classic gin and tonic. It’s also interesting to note that the cocktail that we’ve all come to love and thoroughly appreciate, was in fact born out of necessity. In the 1700s, it was discovered that quinine, which is extracted from cinchona trees could treat and prevent malaria. So, quinine was then distilled into medicinal tonic water, making it an essential part of Britain’s colonialism to keep the deadly disease at bay. 

However, its taste wasn’t something to write home about, so British officers began mixing it with sugar, lime, and gin to make it more palatable. This kept them happy and safe from the deadly disease. As the colonial rule and empire continued to expand, more and more officers were deployed to regions that were infested with malaria. They took the ever-so-popular G&T with them and left the recipe with the locals to become a part of their culture and heritage as well. With time, it even made its way to Africa, where it became a special drink for high-ranking officers, officials, and visiting diplomats and aficionados. And that’s presumably when the sundowner was crowned, pun intended. 

Sundowners, today, are known more as luxurious and delicious cocktails that you enjoy on holidays or weekends as a treat. A proper sundowner is the best way to relax after you’ve had a highly-wound day. 

ALSO READ | Sundowner Cocktail Recipes That You Need To Try Now

sundowner cocktail sunset

If you want to enjoy this cocktail in the comforts of your own home, you should definitely try out the classic gin sundowner recipe. For this, you’ll need 30 ml of Gordon's The Original London Dry Gin, 30 ml of fresh lemon juice, 15 ml of simple syrup, 60 ml of soda water, ice, and a lemon slice for garnish. First, fill a highball glass with ice cubes and allow it to chill. Then, in a mixing glass, combine all the ingredients except the soda water with some more ice and stir until everything is incorporated perfectly. Strain the mixture into the highball glass, and top it off with the soda water to create a lovely fizz. Garnish it with a lemon slice. Finally, be sure to enjoy it at sunset. 

You can also try the sundowner margarita, which requires 30 ml of tequila, 30 ml of fresh lime juice, 30 ml of Cointreau, 15 ml of simple syrup, ice cubes, salt, and lime wedges for garnish. First, rim the martini glass with salt, fill it with ice and allow it to chill. Then, add all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake well. Then strain it into the martini glass and garish it with a lime wedge. And there you have it!

As we always say, drink responsibly!