Saturday, May 26, 2012

Not your Shirley Temple: Nigeria's Chapman drink

In my recent post on the restaurant Suya, I mentioned that I'd enjoyed a "Chapman" drink there (photo on right). My son-in-law jokingly called it "Red Kool-Aid" because of its distinctive red color, but that was the only similarity. The owner told me it included "cranberry juice for the red color" and "cucumber."

Hmmmm, that piqued my curiosity. I've spent several days tracking down information about the drink. The most thorough description with many interesting comments appears to be at the Kitchen Butterfly site, where someone claims that his father, Mr. Alamatu, in the Nigerian hospitality industry, was the inventor. But others claim it is tied to an expatriate named Chapman. As far as I can tell, the earliest references to it online refer to drinking it in Nigeria in the mid-1960s.

It's interesting to see how it evolved. Given my experience in West Africa, it's hard to imagine that it was originally made with a glass full of ice cubes, much less Fanta or Sprite. I would tend to think lemon squash and ginger beer, with maybe some kind of syrup, like grenadine, or black currant, or lime syrup (I saw recipes using all these, along with lime or lemon squash, and even lemonade),  with the Angostura bitters thrown in.

At any rate, it's clearly a popular drink in Nigeria. It appears that an unsuccessful canned red "Fanta Chapman" once existed. The Chapman is a completely user-friendly drink, and variations on the ingredients used to obtain its signature red color range from black currant syrup to pomegranate juice to cranberry. . . I also found people garnishing it with not just cucumber slices and a lemon or lime slice, but also oranges, strawberries, mint leaves, and banana.

Since this is a holiday weekend in the U.S. (Memorial Day), here's an easy-to-make, refreshing red drink to join the  celebration.

Basic Nigerian Chapman Cocktail

For my first batch I used:

a very tall glass or mug (I tried both, even though I also served the Chapman to my next-door-neighbors in a variety of smaller glasses)
a U.S. cup of chilled Sprite (~240 ml)
3/4 U.S. cup of chilled Orange Fanta (~175 ml)
a few shakes of Angostura bitters (less than 1/8 U.S. teaspoon or .62 ml)
1 (or more) U.S. tablespoons (or 15 ml) grenadine syrup (more or less to taste--I don't like very sweet drinks, so I only used a little)
about half a tray of ice (or enough to almost fill a tall glass--in the picture at the top left  I used the kind of classic beer mug in which the drink was classically served)
a lemon a slice or two for a garnish, and a good squeeze in the glass
a lime also a slice or two to garnish, and a good squeeze (probably about a tablespoon) in the glass
a few slices of unpeeled cucumber

To prepare the drink, I made sure my ingredients were all well chilled. Then I washed and sliced the lemon, lime, and cucumber slices. I poured the grenadine (or Ribena) into the glass, then added over half a glass of ice cubes, then the Sprite and Fanta, then a squeeze of lemon and lime each (or use either alone), and topped it all off with a few good shakes of the Angostura bitters. To serve I garnished the drink with the lemon and lime and cucumber slices. Adjust the proportions of any of the ingredients according to your taste preferences.

NOTE: I also experimented with the ingredients below, which were suggested by some other recipes: black current juice (Ribena), pomegranate juice, banana, orange, and even strawberry garnish. I forgot  to photograph mint leaves as a garnish, but some recipes suggest them, too.

I made a few batches and shared with the next-door-neighbors, from child to adult, and got a big "thumbs up" from everyone, including multiple requests for seconds. "It's so refreshing," "yummmm," and  "I want the recipe" were some of the comments.


I came back inside and whipped up a couple more for my husband and myself, adding a shot of vodka to each  for good measure (but forgot to photograph that batch), and these also rated a vote of approval.

Before some of you say "Isn't that just a jazzed-up version of a 'Shirley Temple'?" let me mention that the only similarity to me seems to be the lemon-lime drink and the grenadine syrup. Also, I cannot imagine many adults ordering a "Shirley Temple" in a bar, whereas in Nigeria, with many Muslims abstaining from alcohol, it appears to be a beloved cocktail among both children and adults. Plus, the bitters and the cucumber add subtle but distinctive flavors to the drink, and the ice prevents it from excessive sweetness.

Somehow, making individual servings of Chapman (Chapmans, Chapmen?) reminds me of the joy of creating and savoring caipirinhas in Brazil (minus the cacha├ža, though it would be fun to try adding a shot of Brazil's signature sugar cane spirit).

I encourage you to try making your own Chapman, and add it to your repertoire, along with a Ghanaian "Shandy." Enjoy the beginning of the holidays.







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