Mix-Master Channels Inner-Ninja to create 'Fynbos' - Brandy Cocktail

Tuesday, 23 October, 2012
South African Brandy Foundation
A brandy cocktail inspired by Fynbos, one of the world’s six floral kingdoms, has been crowned South Africa’s Brandy Cocktail of the Year 2012. The cocktail mix master behind this new national drink is Eugene Thompson of Johannesburg. 
Coming up trumps in this nationwide search for the ultimate brandy-based cocktail, Fynbos showcases the modern side of South Africa’s most iconic spirit. Its use of brandy and rooibos makes it quintessentially South African while a touch of honey compliments the spirit. Fynbos also sports ginger liqueur, a flavour that’s all the rage on the cocktail scene. 

“This is the second year that the SA Brandy Foundation embarked on a search for a brandy cocktail worthy of the championship title,” says Christelle Reade-Jahn, director. “Fynbos is a magnificent cocktail, destined to be as popular as Ama-Lekkerlicious which took the debut title.”

Fynbos was announced the winner at a ritzy event hosted at Sinsation in Camps Bay recently. The city’s party people, MC Elana Afrika, brandy masters and mixologists all agreed with the judging panel that Eugene Thompson’s Fynbos is a classic-in-the-making. 

The four cocktail judges, Jeff Francke, Dough H Williams, Ryan Pellatt and Kurt Schlechter,  whittled down a host of entries, then test-tasted, evaluated, analysed and critiqued 20 finalists, looking for the elusive x-factor that’s a champion-maker. 

“Eugene fully deserves the bragging rights with his Fynbos invention,” says Kurt Schlechter, panel member and 2011 title holder. “He really channelled his inner brandy ninja, pulling no punches to invent Fynbos, which blew other drinks like Voila, Joburg Warmer, Berry Sublime, Brandy with a bang and Almogeddon out of the water.”

Thompson, currently front of house manager at News Café, Rivonia, studied mechanical engineering before joining the drinks industry. He learnt the bar tending craft on the job at Billy the Bums in Durban (still his favourite bar in the world), and in bars in Spain and England. He also completed several bartending and cocktail making courses. 

Part of his R60 000 prize is an impressive SA Brandy collection which would have taken seasoned collectors years to build up: this includes 11 Worldwide Best Brandy award winners, five international gold winners and 15 blended brandies. In addition he won a wardrobe of edgy, original men’s wear, tailor-made by Joburg designer, Roman Handt. 

Reade-Jahn believes there’s no better time to celebrate a new brandy champion. “The word is out that South African brandy is now, it’s the best on the planet and it’s rocking. It’s world-class quality commands attention at international and local wine and spirits competitions - and its richness and versatility continues to accommodate ever-new trends in lifestyle and taste.”

Yet, she adds, “while we  celebrate these international accolades, we also want to show the lighter side of brandy, its versatility and the many ways to enjoy it – other than having it neat or with ice. This Fynbos does splendidly.”
The competition drew entries from cocktail aficionados, sommeliers, bar tenders and mixologists. Reade-Jahn mentions that there was a marked increase in the quality of entries received from amateurs and brandy novices. “This year we introduced Brandy Shake Up Sessions, hosted by Kurt Schlechter to encourage brandy lovers to try their hand at mixing cocktails and enter the competition with their creations. These sessions introduced budding mixmasters to cocktail trends and how to create their own recipes using herbs, spices, fruits, jams, liqueurs, homemade syrups – and even vanilla candy floss.”
Says Schlechter: “Brandy is modern, it’s the life of the party and it’s good. Very good. Not only does South Africa produce the world’s best brandies, it is also the only country with a category of blended brandy specially created to be enjoyed with a mixer.”

Reigning champ Thompson agrees: “Next time you order a drink or mix a drink yourself, make it a South African brandy, he concludes, “you’ll be in great company.”

This trend-forward brandy based cocktail ticks all the boxes: it looks and tastes great; it’s easy to mix and made with easy-to-find ingredients – all key to a popular cocktail.

Glass Martini

50ml South African brandy 
50ml rooibos tea
25ml sugar syrup
12.5ml ginger liqueur
1 teaspoon honey 
A dash of bitters (optional)
Garnish: lemon twist

How to make sugar syrup: Mix 1 part boiling water and 2 parts sugar, stir to dissolve and let it cool. 

Chill a martini glass, shake brandy, Rooibos tea, honey, sugar syrup and ginger liqueur. Strain into martini glass, finish off with a lemon twist on top. Eugene recommends Butlers Ginger Liqueur.

The 2012 winner!
The 2012 winner!

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