Guests and staff at our South African properties The Twelve Apostles, The Oyster Box, Bushmans Kloof and our safari lodge in Botswana, Xigera, all enjoy sundowners at sunset, but where did this concept originate? 

In South Africa under British colonial rule, the ‘sundowner’ became a popular tradition to mark the transition from day to evening. The perfect way, perhaps, to celebrate the end of the working day. The traditional sundowner was the gin and tonic. Nowadays it is a popular cocktail but the G&T was created to prevent and treat illness.

In the early 18th century, quinine became an effective medication in treating and preventing malaria. Quinine was added to tonic water as an easy way to consume the medicine. However, it left a bitter taste in the mouth. British officers began to add sugar, lime and gin, and thus the G&T was born. This simple cocktail helped keep soldiers healthy and became part of their supply rations. Winston Churchill himself proclaimed that the gin and tonic had 'saved more Englishmen’s lives, and minds, than all the doctors in the Empire.'

As the British empire grew so did the popularity of the G&T. It became a staple in South Africa, drank by military personnel. Increasingly, it was no longer only drunk to treat malaria but also as a way to socialise with colleagues and friends.

The African sundowner was born.