24 September 2014 00:00

Jan Braai Talks Cocktails

Whether you are having an abbraaiviation (a very short braai) or a braaiathon (a very long braai) the one thing you need to be absolutely sure of is that you have a braai on National Braai Day. And let's be honest, it's not a proper braai unless you have a cold one in your hand. I'm obviously referring to a cocktail, a brandy cocktail in particular, the classic accomplice to a braai.

I enjoy a beer as much as the next guy, but there is something about the taste and style of a cocktail that speaks to me. I love how you can take a small collection of spirits, mixers, fruit juices, garnishes and ice, and mix them together to create an interesting concoction. It's a great metaphor for South Africa, home to 50 million people in nine provinces who speak eleven official languages, and have various racial and tribal identities, all coming together to form this wonderful 'rainbow nation' of ours, as Archbishop Desmond Tutu coined it. Yes there are differences between us, but it is these differences that need to be celebrated as they culminate in the richly diverse cultural landscape that makes South Africa so fascinating. I believe the key to finding harmony in such disparity lies in harnessing the common ground we all share in our "South African-ness". In short, the key to nation-building lies in national pride. If this sounds obvious to you, I'd agree, but you'd be surprised how many people don't see it.

You don't need to look too far back in history for examples of how moments of great accomplishment resulted in a wave of national pride that galvanised our country. The success of the Soccer World Cup and its positive influence on unity in South Africa was one of these occasions, and this was not the first time that we witnessed such scenes in the New South Africa. The 1994 elections, 1995 Rugby World Cup, 1996 African Cup of Nations, 2007 Rugby World Cup and the 2010 Super 14 semi-final (and final) being played in Soweto are all examples of such inspirational phenomena.

The only problem with these events, wonderful as they were, is that they are not annual occurrences. The Irish have St. Patricks Day, the French have Bastille Day and Australians have Australia Day; we too should be able to celebrate our "South African-ness" at least once every year. It was this that inspired me to execute a vision and start working on the initiative known as National Braai Day.

If you look at the number of ways in which South Africans like to braai it shows how reflective it has become of the national DNA. From spit-braais, potjies and chisa nyama to snoek-braais and vegetarian braais, it is always the braai that unites us. And as much as it's become a symbol of the good old South African kuier, so too has brandy.

Whether it is the classic brandy and Coke or something a little more Intricate, brandy cocktails around a braai have become something of an institution. The spirit is firmly ingrained in our culture and rarely absent from social gatherings, especially when we're watching our national sports teams compete.

In Africa, fires are a traditional place of gathering. It's where stories are told and traditions passed on. It's a place of warmth, safety and food. Every single person in South Africa likes to braai because it's woven into our psyche, and moments like National Braai Day are important social occurrences because they embody the spirit of Ubuntu; they bring us together and strengthen us as a nation. Right now, with the current size and continued growth of National Braai Day, we as the citizens of South Africa have a realistic chance to, within our lifetime, create an annual day of celebration in our country and cement it into the calendar.

I have heard our Rainbow Nation referred to as a melting pot, but I prefer to use the term "cocktail"; a beautiful, delicate blend of different, sometimes-volatile ingredients that come together to create something quite extra-ordinary. To the rest of the world that looks upon our burgeoning democracy with admiration, I say "drink it in!"


My suggested braai activities for the day would be:

Start by preparing putupap in a swartpotjie. You could serve this with tomato relish, but a Bloody Mary cocktail will be even better. For protein, braai pork spare-ribs. Bacon is for the posers with their gas skottels. Real men braai with fires and eat ribs from the bone. As it's our national day of celebration, drinking a champagne based cocktail will not be frowned upon.

Something light like chicken and fish should suffice. The correct way to braai a chicken is either butterflied or in individual pieces. Chicken should be basted with or served with peri-peri sauce. Most braaied fish performs well with a sauce of butter, garlic, lemon, salt & pepper. If it's snoek, you also want to add apricot jam to that. Serve lunch with two side salads. Africa is a dangerous place and we must be careful of mosquitoes, so break out the gin and tonics!

Now is your time to shine. Big grids filled with liberal quantities of boerewors for starters. Properly dry aged steak, whole venison fillets, racks of lamb, legions of chops and perhaps a curry potjie. brandy-based mixes and cocktails to accompany all of this.


Article by Jan Braai

Go to braai.com for more info.
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