To taste Caperitif—whether head-on “on the rocks with a twist of lemon,” or indirectly as one of several tantalizing ingredients of a cosmopolitan cocktail—is to immediately recognize the aromatized wine as a decidedly masculine luxury: its understated complexity is elusively subtle à la the proverbial “strong, silent type”; its bitter flavor is as sexy as it is sensational; and its unfamiliar flavors and aromas are at once aloof and alluring.
Swartland, South Africa, home of Caperitif, is endowed with unique soil composition, ideal climate, and the Cape floral kingdom (one of six floral kingdoms in the entire world), which stretches for 150 miles along the coast and boasts the world’s highest botanical diversity and amount of endemic species, many of which have unique flavors and aromas, called “fynbos,” that give A.A. Badenhorst’s Caperitif its distinctive flavor-profile.
Upon the mountain slopes of Paardeberg grow the Chenin Blanc grapes that are used to produce Badenhorst’s sought-after Caperitif: A full-bodied white wine is naturally sweetened by the sugars in the grapes; fortified with spirit; flavored with 35 ingredients from the Cape, such as kalmoes and naartjies; bittered by Quinchona bark; then carefully aged in the cellar of Kalmoesfontein.
During the last decades of the 1800s, especially during the gold and diamond rush in South Africa, Caperitif was a highly coveted apéritif amongst the world’s bartenders, inspiring and flavoring their cocktails. Then, around 1910, the company that produced the African continent’s answer to Novara, Italy’s Campari, disappeared, taking with it the liqueur’s recipe and the numerous cocktails inspired by it.
Almost 100 years later—Caperitif by that point becoming the stuff of Cape legend—Danish mixologist Lars Erik Lyndgaard Schmidt convinced Adi Badenhorst into a collaboration to resurrect the “ghost ingredients of Caperitif,” based on anecdotal evidence.
After three production-batches of the reconstructed recipe, the A.A. Badenhorst company (www.aabadenhorst.com ) struck gold and diamonds when Lyndgaard Schmidt happened upon three bottles of the original Caperitif at a London auction. Bottles in hand, the company, by reverse engineering, unraveled the long-lost recipe. And the rest, as is said, is “history”: a luxurious, sunrise-colored, 17.5% alcohol by volume, Vermouth-like, bitter-sweet-floral aromatized white wine with hints of citrus that is once again serving as a key, intriguing ingredient in international cocktails: Cabaret; Vesper; Barney Barnato; Oom Paul; Joburg; and Bushranger to name but a few.