Interlude for an Apértif

I haven’t yet developed a taste for Rwanda’s two domestic lagers, Mutzig and Primus, nor can I stomach the banana beer sold in yellow jugs along the country roads. One glass of the Drostdy-Hof South African merlot sold here gave me a 2am headache. Rwanda claims no cocktail of their own, though maybe the ubiquitous Guinness and Coke poured simultaneously into a dark, foamy mess will make its way around the world like the Cuban’s mojito. But hopefully not.

Never fear: a bottle of Pimm’s No. 1 survived unbroken in my carry-on from Nairobi’s duty-free airport shop and for a moment, during the last days of Wimbledon, pouring a Pimm’s Cup for the afternoon was completely apropos. A liquor derived from gin and herbs, reddish in color and British in origin, it’s been the basis for many evening sundowners. When the sun sets at 6pm, every day of the summer, happy hour is pretty much requisite. And at only 18% alcohol, you can take two and still act functional. Croquet, anyone?

tree tomato for blog

The Pimm’s Cup recipe printed on the bottle includes ginger ale or lemon, sometimes cucumber as a garnish. Ginger ale has yet to make it to these parts; Frist tonic water, cold as can be, adds the sparkle instead. Cucumber and lemon are fine, but African fruits are more fun. My favorite juice has become one made from the tree tomato, also called Japanese plum. It’s a tropical fruit native to South America with ruby seeds and an inside flesh that, indeed, resembles a tomato. Eaten plain it can be a bit pithy, but the unsweetened juice concentrate is opaquely purple, a touch tangy and perfectly sweet, reminiscent of peach and pineapple, and pomegranate. We buy ours from an American missionary named Debbie, who makes it in her house in Kigali. She is probably not, however, making the following recipe for her Sunday church gathering.

Rwandan Sunset:

If you have ice (we don’t) toss some in and pour:
One part tree tomato juice concentrate
One part Pimm’s No. 1

Fill with tonic water
Garnish with lemon or pineapple wedge
Stir it all together in a wine glass, tea cup, or yellow plastic jug, and repeat before dinner.


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