For thousands of years, people have marveled at the colors that erupted in the sky when the sun set and the moon rose, and sundowner drinks have come to celebrate this shift between day and night. This unique drink has a winding history spanning continents and centuries, but one thing remains the same with each various recipe that appears - sundowner cocktails are undoubtedly delicious.
History of Sundowner Drinks
Interestingly, sundowner cocktails were actually first created as a medicinal chaser, something for British colonial agents to mix with their anti-malaria (quinine) medicine to help mask its strong taste. In order to protect them from the diseases native to the Tropics, British colonists combined tonic water with gin and their quinine powder. Soon, this gin and tonic - save the quinine - became one of the most popular mixed drinks in the world, and when the recipe made its way to the African continent, the colonists residing there put their own cultural twist on the practice. Here, they used the drink to celebrate the coming coolness of the African night which was a blessed balm to the daytime's sweat-soaked heat. Nowadays, practically any mixed drink can be considered a Sundowner, and here are just a few of those recipes to carry you through the sunset.
Sundowner Cocktail With Brandy
- ½ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ½ ounce orange juice
- ¾ ounces orange liqueur
- 1½ ounces brandy
- Orange twist, to garnish
- Chill a martini glass.
- In a cocktail shaker, combine all the ingredients. Add ice and shake to chill.
- Strain the mixture into the chilled cocktail glass.
- Garnish with the orange twist.
To give a Sundowner a bit of Latin flair, you can add the smoky agave spirit, mezcal, to the citrus mix. Just a dash of chocolate cocktail bitters will lower the heat enough to create a flavorfully complex experience.
- 2 ounces orange juice
- ¾ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 dashes chocolate bitters
- 1 barspoon orange liqueur
- 1 ounce Campari
- 1½ ounces mezcal
- Orange slice for garnish
- In a cocktail shaker, combine all of the ingredients. Add ice and shake for about 20 seconds.
- Strain the mixture into a rocks glass filled with ice.
- Garnish with an orange slice.
Cognac Sundowner With Lime
If you're feeling particularly debonair on one summer night, then this Cognac Sundowner is perfect to accompany you in your luxurious house coat dreams. For a more prominently citrus tasting cocktail, this drink combines lemon juice, triple sec, lime, and Cognac.
- 1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ¾ ounce vanilla liqueur
- ¾ ounce triple sec
- 1¼ ounce Cognac
- Lemon and lime twist for garnish
- In a cocktail shaker, combine the lemon juice, vanilla liqueur, triple sec, and Cognac. Add ice and shake.
- Strain the mix into a collins glass filled with ice.
- Garnish with lemon and lime twists.
Juicy Sundowner Drink
If you haven't had the chance to catch up on all your fruits and veggies for the day, use this juicy Sundowner cocktail for a healthier way to imbibe.
- ¾ ounce apple juice
- ¾ ounce carrot juice
- ¾ ounce orange juice
- ¾ ounce pomegranate juice
- ¼ teaspoon grated celery
- ¼ teaspoon grated ginger root
- 1½ ounces vodka
- Citrus wheel to garnish
- In a cocktail shaker, combine the juices, celery, ginger root, and vodka. Add ice and shake to chill.
- Strain into a collins glass filled with ice.
- Garnish with a citrus wheel.
Perhaps one of the most unique Sundowner concepts is this recipe that takes the idea of a morning cup of coffee and marries it with the winding-down nature of nighttime. This drink incorporates the tonic water of the original Sundowner with decaffeinated espresso to prepare you not for the coming day but for the evening rest that's ahead.
- 1 ounce lime syrup
- 4 ounces tonic water
- 1 ⅓ ounce decaffeinated expresso
- Rosemary sprig and lime wheel for garnish
- Fill a rocks glass with ice cubes and pour in the lime syrup.
- Add tonic water and stir.
- Pour the decaffeinated espresso on top of the tonic water, letting the two mixtures remain separated.
- Garnish with a rosemary sprig and lime wheel.
Despite its African origins, you can still appreciate the coming sunset from any location in the tropics with this island-inspired coconut and pineapple flavored sundowner cocktail.
- 2 ounces pineapple juice
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- 1½ ounce coconut rum
- 1 pineapple wedge for garnish
- In a cocktail shaker, combine the pineapple juice, bitters, and coconut rum. Add the ice and shake to chill.
- Strain into a collins glass filled with ice. Garnish with the pineapple wedge.
Have Some Sunset Shenanigans With Sundowner Cocktails
The Sundowner is one of the few historic cocktail traditions which people still practice today, and since there isn't any one specific type of Sundowner, everyone can bask in the sunset's beautiful colors with their favorite mixed drink. Yet, it you're wanting some inspiration for ways to branch out from your go-to recipe, experiment with one of these unique versions.