African recipes for mixed drinks and cocktails, including watermelon, starfruit, passionfruit, mango, watermelon and more (www.africanepicure.com)

A fresh watermelon martini cocktail (Flickr:StuartWebster)

In learning how to mix your own tasty and fresh African cocktails, no recipes are really needed. Experiment with what you enjoy, do lots of testing out on willing (and happy!) friends, and follow just a few general guidelines.

Here are a few pointers on citrus juices that match well with particular bases:

Grapefruits:

Grapefruit juice is the most potent of juice mixers. It is superb at masking even the roughest rums and vodkas. If you have to drink your infusions before they’re ready and worry that the taste might be a bit overpowering, grapefruit juice will soften the edges and make things easy.

Oranges:

Orange juice is one of the most versatile mixers; but also one of the most commonplace. To move beyond the simple screwdriver (vodka and orange). Try to pair fresh orange juice with infused vodkas and rums that contribute a bold flavor of their own. Bissap infusions pair well with orange.

Everyone knows how to squeeze citrus fruits, but there are some other fruits that offer delicious juices of their own with the help of a strainer or a blender. Here’s how we like to get the good stuff from the following fruits.

Cucumbers:

Grate your cucumbers through the small holes on a cheese grater. Leave the peels on and grate everything together. After you have the soggy shavings, wrap them in a very clean, thin towel and squeeze the juice out of the mixture into a cup. Cucumber juice also spoils quickly, so use it within 24 hours and keep it very cool. Cucumber juice is best with gin.

Pineapples:

African recipes for pineapple mixed drinks and cocktails, including watermelon, starfruit, passionfruit, mango, watermelon and more (www.africanepicure.com)

Growing pineapples is simple: just plant the top again. (Flickr: meaduva)

It’s possible to cut small pineapples in half and to juice them on a manual citrus blender—possible, but difficult. If you have access to electricity, you’ll want to blend your pineapple (after removing the top, the bottom and the skin—see here for recipes of what to do with those things) and then strain it. Pouring the juice through a simple metal strainer will help to remove the particulate matter and give your juice a more uniform texture. Pineapple juice goes very well with rums. It is one of the sweetest juices you’ll find, so you don’t need to add very much of it. An ounce or two can go a long way in a small, sophisticated cocktail.

Mangos:

Making mango juice is a messy effort. You’ll need to peel the mangos and cut carefully around the pit, leaving all of the fruit’s flesh in a bowl. Then it’s easiest to blend this fruit and strain it. Mango juice can get really stringy (depending on the season or the mango) and nothing makes your cocktail look worse than a bunch of people picking it out of their teeth. Strain carefully and thoroughly to get your juice product. The end product will still be thick—often awkwardly so. If you make cocktails with lots of crushed or ground ice, this will be no problem, as the water will thin it out. But if you aren’t working with much ice, you may consider watering down your mango juice with water, or with orange juice. For all of its sweetness, mango juice isn’t very good at masking alcohol flavors. It does best with rums.

Passionfruit:

Passionfruits make a delectable juice, very tart and just a little bit sweet. It’s easiest to blend them and then to strain them. Passionfruit juice is quite powerful, especially when it isn’t sweetened. It will take command of a cocktail and, if added to cheaper, easier juices like orange juice, it will give them a pleasant, exotic flavor.

Starfruit:

African recipes for starfruit mixed drinks and cocktails, including watermelon, starfruit, passionfruit, mango, watermelon and more (www.africanepicure.com)

Starfruits grow on trees! (Flickr: DeusXFlorida)

You could probably dice starfruit and squeeze them through a towel; but it is easiest to blend them. After you blend your starfruit, pass it through a metal strainer to remove the tough bits. Starfruit is very tart (like hibiscus flowers) and it is very concentrated. You only need to use a very small amount of starfruit to get a powerful flavor. If you have Martini or Vermouth to add to your vodkas and rums, starfruit goes very well with these (sweet or dry).

Watermelons:

Watermelons provide exquisite juice, but it will spoil very quickly even when refrigerated. To prepare watermelon juice, you simply cut pieces of water melon that fit into your metal strainer and then use a pestle (or a spoon), to mash the watermelon through the strainer into a cup. Set aside the solid matter in a bowl as you move through the pieces and then mash it one more time before throwing it away. Watermelon goes wonderfully with pineapple infused vodka and it can pair nicely with hot pepper flavors as well.

Here are more guidelines, recipes and encouragements in the cocktail direction:

Guidelines for Alcohol Infusions with African Fruits and Botanicals
Basic and Flavored Sugar Syrups

For a basic introduction to African mixed drinks and cocktails, we suggest you visit:

About African Cocktail and Spirit Infusions