Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Sundowner Cocktail

Sundowner Cocktail with lemon twist garnish

This Tiki drink is a Hawaiian original

We often use the term “sundowner” for any alcoholic drink we sip when relaxing at the end of the day. Preferably while watching a gorgeous sunset. But the Sundowner is also the name of a specific cocktail—several different ones, in fact.

The Sundowner Cocktail we’re featuring today was created for the Kon Tiki restaurant at Sheraton’s Waikiki resort in Honolulu. More about that history later.

Right now, just focus on the bracing and refreshing flavor that will be coming your way when you mix up one of these beauties. The Sundowner is the perfect end-of-day relaxer or pre-drinner appetite teaser. It’s definitely a drink you should get to know, and soon. Because it’s 5 o’clock somewhere.


Sundowner Cocktail with lemon twist garnish

Recipe: The Sundowner Cocktail

One striking feature of this drink is its enticing aftertaste—rich with a pleasant anise note and suggestions of vanilla (both courtesy of Galliano liqueur). Galliano isn’t used much in cocktails these days, but you can still find it at most liquor and grocery stores. They’ll probably stock Liquore Galliano L’Autentico (which is what you want to use in this drink). There’s also Galliano Vanilla, which (as the name suggests) has a more prominent vanilla flavor. That version is much harder to find though, and is not as widely known. When people say Galliano, they almost always mean Galliano L’Autentico.

We learned about the Sundowner Cocktail from reading Jeff Berry—aka Beach Bum Berry—who is the best source for information on Tiki and Polynesian-style drinks. He features the Sundowner in his book Beachbum Berry Remixed, and it’s his recipe that we use here.

This cocktail takes about 5 minutes to mix, and serves one. But double the recipe and make two—sunsets are better enjoyed with company.

Ingredients
  • 1¼ ounces cognac or brandy
  • ¾ ounce Galliano L’Autentico
  • ¾ ounce Cointreau
  • 1 ounce lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • lemon wedge or twist for garnish (optional)

Procedure
  1. Add all ingredients (except garnish) to a cocktail shaker that’s half-filled with ice. Shake vigorously until well chilled (20 seconds or so).
  2. Then either: Strain into an ice filled old-fashioned glass. Or—if you prefer to serve this drink “up”—strain into a cocktail glass, preferably one that’s been chilled.
  3. Garnish with a lemon wedge or twist, if you wish, and serve.
Sundowner Cocktail with lemon slice garnish

Notes
  • Galliano, an Italian liqueur, was created in 1896. In Italy, it’s most often sipped as a digestif—an after-dinner drink. Its anise flavor is reminiscent of Sambuca, but the vanilla notes give it a different complexity. (It also has notes of other herbs, plus citrus.)
  • In the US, Galliano is most often used as a cocktail ingredient. It’s rarely consumed as a digestif, though it’s sometimes drunk as shots.
  • Other cocktails that use Galliano include the Harvey Wallbanger and the Blue Hawaii
  • You can use brandy or cognac for this drink. Cognac is brandy that is produced in the Cognac region of France. (Brandy is what happens when you distill wine.) We tend to prefer the flavor profiles of Cognac, so that’s what we often buy. But we use—and like—both in this drink. 
  • You don’t want to use expensive brandy or cognac for this cocktail—something in the range of $15 per bottle (or even a bit less) should work fine. We generally use a VSOP like St. Remy or Raynal. If in doubt, ask a salesperson at your local liquor store—they’re usually very helpful.
  • As noted above, there are several drinks called “Sundowner.” Among the better known is the South African Sundowner Cocktail. Its distinctive flavor comes from Van der Hum liqueur—a South African liqueur flavored with tangerines. 
  • Tiki and Polynesian restaurants (and the drinks they served) were very popular in the mid-20th century. Donn Beach started the craze with his “Don the Beachcomber” restaurant chain. Victor Jules Bergeron, Jr. (better known as Trader Vic) quickly joined in. But there was a third, less well known Tiki maven—Stephen Crane. 
  • So you’re probably picturing the 19th century author named Stephen Crane, who wrote The Red Badge of Courage. 
  • But there was also Joseph Stephen Crane, a 20th-century chap who dropped his first name when he became an actor. Crane’s acting was forgettable—he’s probably better known in Hollywood for the celebrities he dated than for the movies he made. Among his amours was Lana Turner, to whom he was married for a brief period. 
  • Crane was much more successful at the restaurant business. In the early 1950s, he opened the Polynesian-themed Luau restaurant in Beverly Hills. He later partnered with Sheraton Hotels, opening a chain of restaurants called Kon Tiki in Sheratons around the United States—including Hawaii. 
  • Reportedly, the Sundowner Cocktail was created specifically for the Kon Tiki restaurant at Sheraton’s Waikiki resort in Honolulu. 
  • Programming Note: We’re taking the rest of the month off for some down time. So we won’t be doing any additional posts this month (and we won’t be visiting other blogs for a while). We’ll be back with a new post on Wednesday, October 1.
Sundowner Cocktail with lemon slice garnish

A Toast to Summer’s End

“Labor Day has come and gone,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “So I guess summer is officially over.”

“And today we bid farewell to our Summer Sippin’ and Snarfin’ Series,” I said.

“It’s been fun to do some extra cocktail posts over the past few weeks,” said Mrs K R, eyeing her Sundowner. “And this drink is perfect for the grand finale.”

“Yep, since the sun is setting on summer in our part of the world,” I said. “Plus the name of this cocktail is appropriate because we’re taking a few weeks off.”

“Right!” said Mrs K R. “No more posts this month. Down time! R&R! Vegging out! Can’t wait.”

Me neither. See you in October.

You may also enjoy reading about:
Harvey Wallbanger
Blue Hawaii
Straits Sling Cocktail
Opera Cocktail
Dr. Funk Cocktail
Rum Daisy Cocktail
Brandy Smash Cocktail
Sherry Cobbler Cocktail
Queen's Park Swizzle Cocktail
Monkey Gland Cocktail
Cocktail Basics
Or check out the index for more

140 comments:

  1. It's only 10:15 am, but I'm ready for a cocktail. And, now I want to rush out for a bottle of Galliano. I have a recipe for a pear tart that calls for Galliano around here somewhere, and the near-fall timing would be perfect.

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    1. Hi Lisa, well, it is 5 o'clock somewhere! That tart sounds interesting -- I haven't tried the pear-Galliano combo, but it sounds like a great pairing. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  2. If my calculations are correct, it is almost 7pm in England so I am good to go. Now, if I only had some Galliano. I remember drinking Harvey Wallbangers by the gallon in the early '80s. They were really good.

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    1. Hi Karen, :-) It's worth buying Galliano just to make this drink! Thanks for the comment.

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  3. You guys have such beautiful drinks - I don't even drink - but these look so amazing!

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    1. Hi Shashi, one of the fun things about cocktails is even if you don't drink, they're fun to look at. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  4. Enjoy your down time. :) We're brandy drinkers (Rick can go on and on about it...) so I'm sure we'd enjoy this cocktail.

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    1. Hi Lydia, we will! And if you like brandy, this is your drink. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  5. Hi John , What a gorgeous drink and it looks like a beautiful sunset . Know what John , I setting my watch to 5:PM and pulling the stem out , that way it will stay 5:PM until I push the stem in (giggling) Smart , am I not ??? Thanks for so many beautiful cocktails and the history behind . Thanks also for the bonus ... the chats between you and Mrs. K R . See you next week . :)

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    1. Hi Nee, LOL, I like your watch tip! I should do the same. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  6. I am not a huge brandy drinker but my cousin is - sending this to her!

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    1. Hi Alyssa, I'll bet your cousin will like this. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  7. I like the idea of ending my day with this lovely cocktail and a beautiful sunset! Thanks John!

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    1. Hi Kristi, it's fun creating sunsets in the studio! And this really is a good drink. Thanks for the comment.

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  8. Another one to add to the list. Thanks!

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  9. I will need one at the end of this day... to put a smile on my face!!! Beautiful shots as always...

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    1. Hi Denise, having one of these will definitely put a smile on your face! Thanks for the comment.

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  10. Actually it's 5 o'clock here (or darn close) and I bet I'm the only one who still stocks Galliano in my bar. Kids today don't know what they're missing. GREG

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    1. Hi Greg, Galliano isn't appreciated enough today, that's for sure. It's spectacular in this drink. Thanks for the comment.

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  11. Hi John,
    What a splendid evening "cap." I already know I would love this drink because I just adore Galliano. When we were kids we were often "allowed" to have sip after sip, lol...It's been years since I've enjoyed it. I love the references to Tiki days past. The first thing I thought of when I saw Kon Tiki was Kon Tiki the book. I know I read it many, many, many moons ago, lol...

    I must try this cocktail:) Thank you so much for sharing it...Now, you two get on along and enjoy every single moment of your down time. It's the perfect time of year to recharge. Thank you so much for sharing, John..."See" you in October:)

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    1. Hi Louise, isn't this a great drink? I love the flavor of Galliano too. Although I never had it as a kid! Thanks for the comment.

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  12. You got me at Hawaiian!! This looks lovely and refreshing. Love it!

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    1. Hi Ala, it's a really fun drink. Plus fun to look at! Thanks for the comment.

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  13. It is only 8:10 am HK time but it is 8:10 pm somewhere...I think I would like this drink over ice as it is still a little hot here. Great flavours and really the orange flavour is almost like breakfast and with the lemon juice it is almost healthy. I will drink to that! Great post and take care, BAM

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    1. Hi Bam, we usually drink it over ice, too. But it looks so pretty in a cocktail glass! Thanks for the comment.

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  14. That looks so just beautiful! What a great lead-in photo, I swear you are going to convert me to cocktails......but I will never give up my wine :) I just love these photos!

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    1. Hi Pat, I'm working on that cocktail conversion thing. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  15. I went to Boston this past weekend and this hotel we were staying at had the best sounding drinks ever, and this puppy could have definitely been on the menu! :)

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    1. Hi GiGi, great to hear this wouldn't be banned in Boston! :D Thanks for the comment.

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  16. Hi John,

    You stunned me every time with all your beautiful drinks!

    I'm staring on my computer screen now with blank thoughts... I think I need a sundowner cocktail now :p

    Zoe

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    1. Hi Zoe, you definitely need a sundowner, if not now, at some point this week. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  17. I have been confined to bed for the entire last week, and am not feeling to high up in the world. This is exacty what the doctor ordered :D Gorgeous too!

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    1. Hi Minnie, poor you! Hope you'll be feeling better soon. And I'll bet your doctor would order you one of these if you asked! Thanks for the comment.

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  18. It's been ages since I've had Galliano which I usually just sip, but then I sip Sambuca as well. :) This seems like a great cocktail to just sit back an enjoy a summer's night. And it's such a pretty color!

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    1. Hi MJ, Galliano is fairly similar to Sambuca -- and both are fun to sip (although I usually prefer them in cocktails). Thanks for the comment.

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  19. Hi John,
    What an interesting post...I have never heard of The Sundowner Cocktail before. I am really not a drinker, so I guess that makes sense. I like the ingredients and the flavor must be very tasty. One day will have to try a sip of this. I probably will like it. Sounds like a perfect cocktail for a quiet summer evening for sure. Love as always your info or notes on this drink.
    Thanks for sharing this delightful inviting cocktail with us.
    I do hope you enjoy your R & R, sometimes we need to just break away from the everyday world....Looking forward to your post on October 1st. Have a wonderful time with Mrs. Riffs......
    Dottie :)

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    1. Hi Dottie, we'll certainly enjoy our time off! And this is definitely a nice drink to sip. Thanks for the comment.

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  20. Lordy, I swear I have not had Galliano since the 70s! This drink is amazing.

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    1. Hi Lizzy, for a lot of us Galliano is a blast from the past, isn't it? ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  21. Every time you post a new drink I exclaim to myself----This is my new favorite! But this time I think the Sundowner might take the blue ribbon. I love Galliano. Harvey Wallbanger was my special drink of choice when I was more out and about kickin' up my heels. I am going out and getting myself a bottle. It used to be such a distinctive bottle too. You did an exceptional photography job this time too.

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    1. Hi Carol, if you like Galliano, you'll totally love this drink -- really enticing flavor. Thanks for the kind words, and for taking time to comment.

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  22. You make the best bartender. :) Your drink sounds delish.

    Madonna
    MakeMineLemon

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    1. Hi Madonna, it is delish! Thanks for the comment.

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  23. Woah, I've never heard of this cocktail - looks awesome!

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    1. Hi Shikha, it is awesome! Thanks for the comment.

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  24. I have never had Galliano...I love the color of this cocktail...it is a must try!
    Thanks for the recipe John...hope you are having a great week :D

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    1. Hi Juliana, if you like the flavor of anise you'll like Galliano. The anise flavor isn't overpowering, but it's there. And of course if you don't like anise, you won't like Galliano! Thanks for the comment.

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  25. Was this originally served in one of the Kon Tiki tiki glasses? I remember the craze in the late 70s and early 80s. :)

    I love this drink!!

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    1. Hi Maureen, those tiki glasses are fun! I don't believe this one was ever in a titki glass -- usually served in a old-fashioned glass, and often a cocktail glass -- but it's sure work in a tiki glass! Thanks for the comment.

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  26. Enjoy your break. It's true that I haven't seen Galliano around for a while. I'd actually forgotten all about this liquor. I love your first image with the lemon twist - it really does look like it has a golden sunset behind it xx

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    1. Hi Charlie, we will! And Galliano has really fallen out of favor, although someone must buy it -- I often see it in supermarkets. Thanks for the comment.

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  27. I think your drink would work miracles before my exams :P
    Gorgeous colour!

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

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    1. Hi Uru, definitely a study aid. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  28. Very clever, to have a drink on here that looks like your morning OJ - maybe it should be called a sun-upper, and we can all get our days off to a really good start?

    Enjoy your time off - will miss you!

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    1. Hi Donalyn, I'll be missing everyone while I'm off. And no reason why you can't have one of these in the morning. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  29. I've had the South African Sundowner, while on safari in SA, but never this one. Looks like I'm going to need to make some additions to my liquor cabinet and whip up a couple of these. Thanks John.

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    1. Hi Pamela, I've never had the South African version -- really need to at some point. And it's definitely worth trying this -- truly nice. Thanks for the comment.

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  30. Enjoy your time off. I'll miss your posts! Looking forward to catching up in October.

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    1. Hi Beth, I'll miss you, too! But October will be here all too soon. Thanks for the comment.

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  31. What a great name for a cocktail! Beautiful colour and fabulous flavor, I'm sure.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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    1. Hi Rosa, isn't that a great name? Great flavor, too. Thanks for the comment.

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  32. So...I have really been getting into cocktail-making. I always have been (for the past few years, anyway) but now I'm branching out into bitters and just discovered that I LOVE gin - the booze I always thought I hated. So much fun!! That has nothing to do with your post other than the fact that your site is DEFINITELY the place I go to for great cocktail recipes. You pretty much rock it!!

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    1. Hi Kristy, bitters are amazing, aren't they? And gin, although not really interesting all by itself IMO, is amazing when mixed in cocktails. Thanks for the kind words, and for taking time to comment.

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  33. I love the lighting in that first photograph. I don't know how you did that but it is very apropos for the title of the cocktail. Which is very fitting to announce your down time. I look forward to seeing you up and running again. . .Rocquie

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    1. Hi Rocquie, isn't that photo fun? Kind of natural for the name of the drink. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  34. I love all the information and history you share with all your drink recipes! This one is another winner!

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    1. Hi Amy, this one really is a winner! Thanks for the comment.

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  35. Mmmm. It sounds delicious and looks pretty!

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    1. Hi Pam, it is, it is! ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  36. Growing up, all my friends were Italian and they all had Galliano. To bad I didn't know about this drink then! Enjoy your scheduled break. Drink lots of cocktails. And relax. i am so ready for a SCHEDULED break!

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    1. Hi Abbe, scheduled breaks are a good thing. And we'll have a cocktail or two. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  37. I just love your pictures of this cocktail! The color really photographs well and makes the drink enticing.

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    1. Hi Laura, it's really a pretty drink, isn't it? And so great to drink! Thanks for the comment.

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  38. Beautiful drink! will miss your posts, have a nice time off.

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    1. Hi Cheri, we'll have a wonderful break! Thanks for the comment.

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  39. I do love how you give us a little backstory/history with your fabulous and colorful drinks.
    Have a wonderful time off.
    Rest and relax....

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    1. Hi Dawn, those stories are fun, aren't they? It's the stories that got me interested in cocktails. And of course the flavors kept me interested! Thanks for the comment.

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  40. It looks like pure sunshine in a glass. I can see how this would be just the ticket after a long day. In fact, it's 5 p.m. now and I sure could go for one. ;)

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    1. Hi Carolyn, it really is like sunshine in a glass. And it's always 5 somewhere. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  41. Loving this drink! Have a great time!

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    1. Hi Asmita, we will! Thanks for the comment.

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  42. This is a nice cocktail ender. Indeed a "sundowner" for your blog until October. I will miss your dialogues and fabulous cocktail concoctions!

    Julie
    Gourmet Getaways

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    1. Hi Julie, it really is a great cocktail! See you in October, and thanks for the comment.

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  43. Wow! It looks soooo delicious! I love the infos you gave us!

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    1. Hi Marcela, this really is delish! Thanks for the comment.

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  44. wish i was in hawaii right now sipping on this cocktail!

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    1. Hi Sarah, wouldn't it be fun to be there enjoying one of these? Thanks for the comment.

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  45. gorgeous drink.....so sunny to look at...it easily transports one to the picturesque Hawaii...your food clicks are always such an inspiration,thanks...Have A Wonderful Day!! :-)

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    1. Hi Kumar, this is so sunny, isn't it? Thanks for the comment.

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  46. Great colour, sounds like a great evening drink.

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    1. Hi Caroline, isn't that color wonderful? Great flavor, too. Thanks for the comment.

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  47. Oh I want to enjoy one of these while the sun is still making the world warm. This looks delicious!

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    1. Hi Monet, this is a perfect warm weather drink! Thanks for the comment.

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  48. Damn delicious and refreshing shoots!

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    1. Hi Dedy, :-) And it tastes great, too! Thanks for the comment.

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  49. Have a great time off. Everyone needs that. Hopefully you can enjoy a few of these lovely cocktails as you relax.

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    1. Hi Chris, we're really looking forward to some down time! Which will definitely include a cocktail or two. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  50. I love your "it's five o'clock somewhere" philosophy :)
    Gorgeous cocktail and the lightening of the picture is fantastic.
    Enjoy your time off, looking forward for the next post in October.

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    1. Hi Daniela, thanks for those kind words, and for taking time to comment.

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  51. The sundowner sounds like a perfect evening drink!! Thanks for sharing, John.

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    1. Hi Peachy, it really is a terrific drink. Thanks for the comment.

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  52. This cocktail sounds so fantastic, I would be drinking these way past sun down lol

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    1. Hi Natalie, it really is a super drink! And definitely worth drinking after the sun is down. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  53. Another impressive cocktail photo specially that last one, it truly defines this drink

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    1. Hi Raymund, thanks so much for that very kind comment.

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  54. Nooo I don't want summer to end!! It makes me sad. Love the cocktail - the color is too pretty!

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    1. Hi Ashley, I like the summer state-of-mind and all the produce and fruit, but I always like the change of seasons too. And isn't this color wonderful? Such a great cocktail! Thanks for the comment.

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  55. Great color and another lovely cocktail. :)

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    1. Hi Taruna, doesn't this have wonderful color? And really a tasty drink. Thanks for the comment.

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  56. Enjoy your time off and I hope the two of you have this cocktail while watching the sunset together in some exotic location.

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    1. Hi Karen, we'll definitely be enjoying one of these! Thanks for the comment.

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  57. Are you gonna teach me beverage-photography or not?! - Those vivacious, va-va-voom images are driving me crazy!

    I am being serious here: you gotta share some tips on 'how to create glamorous drink images'. In return, I'll fedex you whatever South Asian food you want. All home cooked :)

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    1. Hi Nusrat, ;-) Biggest headache is controlling unwanted reflections when shooting glassware. Light, Science, and Magic has some great info on this -- suggest you start by reading that. Thanks for the kind words, and comment.

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  58. Wow, what a beautiful drink, John! And the first photo looks like there is actually sun going down behind the drink. Great job photographing the cocktail, as always!

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    1. Hi Julia, isn't this a great drink? That first picture was fun to take! Thanks for the comment.

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  59. Wow--I love the history! I can feel myself basking in the Waikiki sunset lighting already.great drink!

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    1. Hi Ala, this is such a tasty drink -- perfect for Waikiki. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  60. I am loving the cocktail turn this blog is taking.
    Cheers!
    Eva http://kitcheninspirations.wordpress.com/

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    1. Hi Eva, we'll have another cocktail in October (we usually do one the first Wednesday of every month) but then it'll be back to food. Except, of course, on the first Wednesdays! Thanks for the comment.

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  61. Oh, I was getting worried about you!!! then I noticed that you are hibernating :). Ok see you in October then. I'm missing your posts already !!!

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    1. Hi Amira, we're having a great time! Be back soon, and thanks for your concern. :-)

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  62. What a spectacular cocktail. Enjoy your down time!

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    1. Hi Ansh, we're definitely enjoying down time. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  63. I hope you two are on vacation. It concerns me that your post has been 'dark'. Cluck Cluck---I am in Mother Hen mode. Sending you good vibrations.

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    1. Hi Carol, always good to have a friendly Mother Hen worrying about one! Thanks for the comment.

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  64. Wow this sounds so tasty. I'm not much of a drinker anymore but I am certain I could find room for this one. I may have to get out the liquor glasses for this one.

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    1. Hi VIcki, it's a wonderful drink -- tons of flavor. Thanks for the comment.

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  65. I love drinks with lemon. I'm currently nursing a cold with some tea, honey, and lemon, but when I feel better...I'll be making one of these!

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    1. Hi Monet, this would be good for a cold. Maybe. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  66. It is morning here in India, but even I am ready for this amazing sundowner. I loved the colour of the drink!

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    1. Hi Purabi, this could be a sunriser. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  67. What a lovely cocktail. The lemon and brandy together sound like a perfect flavor combination. Gorgeous, Take care, Terra

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    1. Hi Terra, isn't this nice? Such a great drink. Thanks for the comment.

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  68. Silly me missed your comment that Sept was a 'dark' time. I take my concern back. Smiles---

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  69. What a gorgeous cocktail to enjoy whilst watching a gorgeous sunset. Cognac is very special and I absolutely love your photographs :D

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    1. Hi Merry, isn't this a good drink? Loads of flavor! Definitely sunset-worthy. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  70. Love the fresh yellow color of the sundowner! We always have gorgeous red sun sets here and your cocktail would fit so well into the bar menu. Thanks for sharing John!

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    1. Hi Helene, the color of this drink is wonderful, and its flavor is even better! A perfect drink for your part of the world. Thanks for the comment.

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