Choose your country and language:
WWhen you visit foreign shores, one of the novelties is sampling drinks unique to that country. From soft red tea leaves and fermented milk to home-made beers and pub-favoured shooters, these are some of South Africa’s finest drinks.
Here are 11 of South Africa's favourites, not all of which are alcoholic...
Umqombothi is a traditional beer. Made from corn, it is high in vitamin B and has a lower alcohol content than most commercial beers. This beer is usually drunk in a communal setting where the drink is shared between friends and family. In the past, umqombothi was only drunk by men, despite having been made by the women. Visit The Beerhouse for a taste of this traditional beer.
Afrikaans for “white lightning” (and also known as firewater), witblits is a grape-fermented amateur brandy that definitely packs a punch. It’s mostly produced and consumed in the Western Cape and is our version of American moonshine. Grundheim Wines in the town of Oudtshoorn, Western Cape, makes traditional witblits to taste and purchase.
Mampoer is the fruitier alternative to witblits, and is made from peach, apricot, litchi and other available fruits. It is said to be named after the Pedi Chief Mampuru, and is most commonly consumed in the northern parts of South Africa, though it can also be bought online. Groot Marico is a good place to try mampoer in South Africa.
This sweet and creamy liqueur can be added to anything from Irish coffee to ice cream, or simply enjoyed on the rocks. It is made from the fruit of the marula tree, which is a firm favourite among monkeys and elephants who become intoxicated after consuming too much of the over-ripe marula fruits. Visit the Amarula Lapa to learn all about this uniquely South Africa drink.
Van Der Hum Liqueur
This original Cape citrus liqueur combines spices, herbs, sugar, tangerines, potstill brandy and diluted wine. It’s named after its original creator and is a firm favourite among South Africans. A bottle of Van Der Hum liqueur can be bought at most liqueur stores in South Africa if you want to taste it.
South Africa is known for its internationally acclaimed wines, which are a cheerful mix of upmarket sophistication and variety. Jerepigo, a sweet dessert wine with a dash of brandy, and Pinotage, which is a mix of Cinsaut and Pinot Noir grapes, are two local specialities you don’t want to miss out on! South Africa has some of the most beautiful wine farms and you can buy wine at almost all the farms.
For South Africans, beer and boerewors (farmers' sausage) go hand in hand, and it’s not surprising that beer is considered to be South Africa’s unofficial national drink, especially during the sporting season. While we have popular local beers produced by South African Breweries, smaller local and more niche breweries are becoming more popular. Some local craft beers include Mitchell’s, Jack Black, Agar’s, Afro Caribbean, Copperlake, Devil’s Peak, Clarens Brewery, Gilroy’s Brewery, and Sabie Brewing Co. Travel to the Western Cape or KwaZulu -Natal for amazing craft beer routes.
A springbok is a popular shooter named after the long-legged buck and the same-named South African rugby team that wears gold and green. The drink mimics the colour of the springbok and veld, and the jersey of the Springbok team, by layering creamy Amarula over a vibrant green peppermint liqueur and/or green crème de menthe. It’s served in bars around the country and is popular during the sporting season—regardless of the team's performance on the field. This potent, sweet little drink can be ordered at most restaurants in South Africa.
This non-alcoholic, thick and slightly sour milk can be bought at most shopping centres around the country and is a great source of probiotics. Amasi is made by fermenting fresh milk for a few days in a calabash (traditional) or plastic container (modern), leading to a high lactic acid content. Studies have shown that Amasi promotes an improved immune response in the body and better absorption of vitamins and minerals in those who consume it regularly. This drink can be bought at most South African supermarkets.
Rooibos is made in the Cederberg region of the Western Cape and is shipped and sold internationally under the name of “red tea” and “red bush”. It is unique since it is only grown in two specific valleys in South Africa, in the Western and Northern Cape. The slightly reddish tea is packed full of antioxidants and is often added to other teas to enhance their flavours, such as South African honeybush, hoodia and buchu. If you love this tea, then the Rooibos Route in Clanwilliam is just for you.
Mageu, a non-alcoholic drink made from fermented mealie pap (traditional South African porridge), looks like a thin carbohydrate-rich porridge that is drunk on its own as a meal replacement. It’s made by adding flour or sorghum to maize porridge, then adding water and leaving it in the sunshine to ferment for a day or two. It’s high in vitamin B and probiotics and is said to improve digestion. You may just have to make this one yourself if you are wanting to taste it. Here is a recipe.