Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Benin drinks and a holiday challenge

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and American households are abuzz with preparation--just so you know, turkeys are indeed available in Benin, though not an everyday food. We just passed a NJ liquor store with a full parking lot, and it got me thinking about Benin and drinks. Soft drinks? Fanta (in orange, lemon, pineapple, and other flavors), Schweppes Bitter Lemon, Coke, tonic water, malt drinks and more. Beer and the like? Guinness has a brewery in Benin City, as does Nigeria Breweries--ah, a cold, tasty Star beer is perfect with a hot, peppery stew.

If you can get undiluted, fresh palm wine, is anything better? Yeasty and slightly effervescent, even better if a fridge is available to cool it off. Delicious and refreshing, and not at all overpowering. Once it's "overnight," fermentation transforms it into a far more powerful drink. Suitable for the ancestors as well as the living, palmi is the traditional alcoholic beverage. Supermarkets in Benin City carry many types of wines and liqueurs--Moet & Chandon is a popular society choice, while Malibu and Bailey's Irish Cream appeal to sweet tooths.

Gin, however, has long been a favorite for family members who have gone before. Centuries ago, the Dutch started selling it as a standard trade item, and only schnapps attempts to challenge its value as a "hot" drink suitable for ancestors. Gordon's is, by far, the gin of choice today, and is readily available in most shops. Research introductions call for gifts of kola nuts, some naira, and Gordon's--even if you didn't drink in this lifetime, you will in the afterlife, so it's always handy for libations.

Benin is not really a cocktail spot--gin is drunk neat. But the holidays are coming, and it seems to me that a festive IYARE! mixed drink (giving the phrase's "go and return safely" meaning a new twist, promoting moderation!) could be a pleasant invention. So help this blog come up with an appropriate blend--it must be a gin-based cocktail, coral or red in its final color. What else should be in there? Hmmm....plenty of mangos in Benin, papaya, grapefruits, the best pineapples ever, lime, lemon, oranges... post your recipes!

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