Mixing drinks with the prez

The invitation plopped into my inbox. The pleasure of my company was being requested at “The Presidential Cocktail”. After Jacob Zuma’s reply to responses to his State of the Nation address, he was going to hobnob with diplomats, dignitaries, bigwigs, VIPs, whips and a crossword junkie.
This is my chance for a one-on-one with JZ, I thought, as I made my way to Parliament. This is an opportunity to register my disapproval of the government’s attempt to muzzle the press. Maybe with a few carefully chosen words I can convince Zuma to refuse to sign the anti-democratic bill.
Zuma walks in. He flashes his dazzling smile and chortles. I find a spot near a bowl of cashew nuts and wait for my 15 seconds of president time. What will I say?
“Please, Mr President, don’t silence the people” is all I come up with. If I want to save SA’s democracy I’ll have to think of something more profound than that.
Zuma greets his guests. He’s all handshakes, back-slaps and winning grins. What will I say? Maybe a cocktail will help, I think, after all this is The Presidential Cocktail. Maybe I could order an Msholozi Martini – Shaiken, not stirred, and so strong it will take your speech away.
I spy the indomitable Trevor Manuel and Maria Ramos. What cocktails would be appropriate for this power couple? A Manuel Mojito – lime juice, sugar cane, mint and enough Cuban rum to make your hair fall out. What would feature in a Maria-garita, I wonder. ABSAlut vodka and peri-peri sauce.
Zuma greets Mac Maharaj. Only one cocktail is appropriate for the spokesman – a Molotov Mac; it’s the bomb. Lindiwe Sisulu comes into focus. The ingredients in a Lindiwe Colida are classified. She won’t reveal her sources and leaks will be plugged.
What about cocktails for other political heavyweights, like the human settlements minister? Sexwale on the Beach? A Creamy Lamborghini is more likely. This buttery liqueur cocktail is made with Cape Velvet, Amarula, Irish whiskey and Kahlúa – probably a bit rich for most of us. Especially after Pravin Gordhan has his way with our cash. Gordhan’s Trillion Tipple is only half full and is served, like Greece’s economy, on the rocks.   
And then there’s Pieter Mulder’s Denialist Daiquiri, also known as a Fiery Volkstaat, which is so overwhelming you will want more and more, including huge tracks of South Africa.
As for our erstwhile national police commissioners – there’s the Selebi “Finished and Klaar” Slammer, available at (but not behind) bars and the Bheki Shooter-To-Kill Cele.
This clue sums up a brew named for Helen Zille: Daily whet? It’s a cocktail (5, 4).*
And then, of course, there’s The Juju. Tequila used to be The Juju’s main ingredient – that was when he vowed that he would tequila for Zuma – but the tequila has been replaced with absinthe. Malema will now be absinthe from ANC politics – thanks to Cyril Rum-aphosa.  
I emerge from my cocktail journey and look up. Zuma is heading towards me. He is in front of me. What will I say? I take a deep breath. He flashes his golden smile. Say something profound! Say something profound!
“How are you?” I say. Zuma chuckles.
“Fine, thanks,” he says. “And you?”
I’m trapped in his dazzle. Say something profound! Say something profound!
“Fine, thanks,” I say.
The president and his smile move on. I add another cocktail to the list: An AncerLacksa Punch – makes you fluff your lines and should be taken with a pinch of salt.

* WHITE LADY: An all-in-one clue from the Daily Telegraph where an anagram (“cocktail” is the anagram indicator) of DAILY WHET is described by the whole clue. A White Lady is a gin-based cocktail.

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About Jonathan Ancer

I'm a journalist, cryptic crossword junkie, keen cyclist, Billy Bunter book collector and a Billy Bragg stalker. I love words and will post some of the columns I have written over the years on this blog. They include: View from the G-spot (my time as editor of a community newspaper in Grahamstown), Virgin Cyclist (the build up to my first Argus Cycle Tour), Pop psychology (my take on fatherhood) and Angry Utterances (10) (how crossword puzzles unlock the world's secrets and the meaning of life). Since leaving Independent Newspapers in September 2014 I have started freelancing and write a column for the Witness - The Diary of a Bumbling Hack. I've also become a podcast junkie and have produced a podcast biography series called Extraordinary Lives. Let me know what you think.
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