South African Drinks

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South African Drinks – List of MUST TRYs!

South Africans like to drink just like anyone else. And there are a few South African alcoholic drinks that are uniquely, well, South African.

They range from alcoholic beverages to non-alcoholic juices and if you happen to be traveling there, the ones on my list are a must try. And even if you’re not going anywhere, at least a few are available in stores around the world.

Umqombothi

Known as a potjie in South Africa, a cast-iron pot is all you needed to make this corn based beer that even now is still enjoyed by South Africans across the country.

One of the reasons for it’s popularity is that since it’s made from corn and not wheat, it’s cheaper to make and manufacture which in turn makes it cheaper than other beers made of wheat and barely, especially anything imported.

It is also a lower alcohol content beer that usually registers under 3%, making it something that can be drunk without getting drunk too quickly.

Legend has it this beer was used in religious male circumcision ceremonies. Something that sticks in the mind!

But even if you’re just traveling through, this sour beer is light and refreshing and perfect for the summer heat. A definite must try.

Witblits

Americans have their “white lightning” moonshine, South Africans have their Witblits, a brandy made from grapes that has been made in SA for over 200 years primarily in the Western Cape.

And similarly to moonshine, the proof of this drink is often enough to make it useful as a disinfectant and cleaning agent. Think rubbing alcohol or Everclear, only tastier.

And don’t get confused with what Americans consider moonshine, this drink does pack a punch, but it also tastes a lot better due to the fact that these recipes have been handed down for generations and constantly improved upon. There is even a festival if you really enjoy Witblits in Philippolis and is held every April.

If you do make it there, check out the brand Wurm Sous, it contains pickled Mopani worms and has a ABV of 70%!

Mampoer

Mampoer is next on my list of drinks to try in South Africa as well as a cousin of the number two drink, Witblits. Although these names are often used interchangeably, there is a slight distinction. Witblits is made from grapes whereas Mampoer is made from any type of fruit, most often peaches.

So think a strong peach brandy that is home distilled and can be anywhere from between 50 and 80 percent ABV. Yes, just like its cousin, it packs a kick to the head.

On a commercial level, Maroella Hakkiesdraad Mampoer is made with a variety of fruits (peaches, apricots, litchi, and other fruits) to make a truly unique South African brand. A unique gift to bring back from your trip for any lover of spirits.

Wines

It’s no surprise to hear South African wines are a must try. They’ve been producing wine since 1659 and have established vineyards all over the country although mainly concentrated on the Western Cape.

There has been a recent upsurge in interest when it comes to SA wines, both the red and white wine varieties, and for good reason. They are considered the absolute best valued wines at the moment. And bottles of some really great wines start as low as $10.

south africa wine

These are often single estate wines that are characteristic of the land where they come from and are carefully cultivated and bottled. Serving these wines at any establishment is step up.

You can have an amazing time just traveling around South Africa’s vineyards trying all their different wines as you go. And many of these wineries even have AirB&Bs you can stay in while you’re there.

There is just far too much to write about South African wines in this introduction, so do your own research and discover all the tasty wines they have to offer.

Amarula

If you’re a fan of Baily’s like I am, you’ll love South Africa’s version of a cream liqueur that is uniquely South African due to it’s main ingredient being Marula, a fruit that only grows across Africa’s subequatorial plains and no where else in the world.

In 1989 the company created their iconic product, a blend of Marula fruit alcohol that’s aged for 2 years in French oak barrels containing cream and other natural flavorings. The company has since launched even more flavors with the success of its flagship product and now can be found in stores across the world.

But if you are there, you can visit their distillery and elephant reserve where elephants get drunk on the fermenting fruit on the grounds for an experience you’ll never forget. And this makes for a great Baily’s alternative in drinks like my Iron Butterfly Drink you can find here.

Beer

Beer is still the biggest seller in South Africa and has been brewed in many different ways for centuries. Today, most of the beer consumed in SA if brewed or imported by South African Breweries (SAB), the second largest brewery in the world.

Their biggest selling product is Castle Lager, a South African pale lager. This beer brand has been recognized as the “official” beer of South Africa and sponsors most of South Africa’s sports teams and events.

But beer has been a part of SA for a very long time. And even today many types of beer are still brewed at home like forms of sorghum beers and Bantu beer. These beers have a long tradition and it’s said the profits from Bantu beer are what helped build the communities that kept the native population apart from the white one.

Either way, while you’re there, you should definitely be tasting all the different beers the country has to offer. From the big brands to the locally made.

Non-Alcoholic Choices

Mugg and Bean

Mugg and Bean Menu

The place to go for everything coffee. Think America’s Starbucks, only in South Africa. Offering range from Americano coffees to classic Chai teas. Plus they have the normal snacks you’d find at a barista shop, including French croissants.

The menu picture is courtesy of YumFood, a menu website in South Africa.

Liqui-Fruit

Want a bit of non-alcoholic fruitiness? Liqui Fruit is a South African fruit juice company that has been making juices for over 30 years. And they’re also the largest fruit juice manufacturer in South America.

Conclusion

And that’s my list of the must try South African drinks. Some you can get o matter where you are in the world, others you’ll need to travel to South Africa to experience them. Either way, South Africa has some unique beverages to explore with as much character as the country itself.

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