Jackie Marie explores the sundowner in Namibia
What’s your poison? That was a line in an old movie, when someone came up to the bar and was asked about what cocktail they wanted to drink.
In Namibia, after a long, hot day in the sun looking at wildlife of all kinds, swallowing the dust from the road in an open game-viewing vehicle, and winding down from being excited just to be on holiday in such a great place, it’s sundowner time!
In effect, this is a cocktail-hour-in-the-bush set-up that provides you with a perfect opportunity to watch the sun set. Usually, your tour operator or guide will have pre-chosen a wonderful elevated location where you will have a perfect view of the sun going down. And that is where they will take you in good time before the night sky takes over from the day.
Such an evening activity would in all likelihood follow an enjoyable after-lunch rest until around four in the afternoon (depending on the season) and then heading off to your sundowner spot. In winter, the Namibian sun settles behind the horizon earlier, sometimes just after five. In summer, it can set as late as half-past eight in the evening, so you’d start your afternoon activity somewhat later in the day, and finish with your sundowner.
With your preferred beverage in hand, you face the sun and watch it make its amazingly quick and sudden exit, inviting the blue velvet sky of night to take over!
Because you’re driving out from the camp, resort or lodge where you’re staying for the sundowner, you would have been asked in advance ‘What’s your poison?’, meaning ‘What is your favourite cocktail?’
Then you’re off to a high plateau or a cubbyhole in a mini-mountain overlooking a plain or even a wide cliff ledge, or by a busy waterhole surrounded by game enjoying their sundowners. Your tour guide or camp attendants will put out a few chairs, maybe make a campfire, set up a table and serve you some snacks to munch on.
With your preferred beverage in hand, you face the sun and watch it make its amazingly quick and sudden exit, inviting the blue velvet sky of night to take over! The sundowner paraphernalia is rapidly packed away and the group heads back for dinner.
I am a gin & tonic sundowner person; I like it best with extra lemon and extra ice. But, there’s room for all – whiskey neat, vodka and orange juice, rum and coke, or the all-time favourite, an ice-cold Windhoek or Tafel Lager. Sometimes folks like the ‘ale’ or ‘hard cider’ drinks as a cocktail.
Then there are just as many who want a cold soda or cool, clear water. Juice is always available for a nice, refreshing sundowner. State your wish and your sundowner will chill you out with a cool beverage of your choice; it’s entirely up to you!
Remember that sundowners, while fun and calming, are basic, and that ‘extra ice’ can be a challenge when deep in remote areas.
On one occasion I did a sundowner with a small tourist group in the mid-winter cold of the fading sun and we had the German Glühwein! If you haven’t tried this drink yet, it’s rather like mulled or hot, spiced wine. Glühwein will warm you inside the minute it rolls down your throat and into your stomach. I believe that it even warms your toes!
Remember that sundowners, while fun and calming, are basic, and that ‘extra ice’ can be a challenge when deep in remote areas. Fancy cocktails like Bahama Mama (coffee liqueur, coconut liqueur, dark rum, pineapple and lemon juice) or Mai Tai (light and dark rum, orange liqueur, almond syrup, lime and orange juice) are usually NOT on the sundowner menu.
So keep your expectations simple and enjoy the drink in the stunning location, soaking up the peaceful, relaxing moment, the colourful sky of a setting Namibian sun and great company! This tops Sex on the Beach (peach schnapps, vodka, cranberry juice and orange juice) any time!
This story was originally published in the Flamingo September 2012 print magazine edition.