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What is Grogue?

In England you may very well have heard 'grog' used to mean any one of a range of alcoholic drinks. Originally made from rum and water, English grog is now used as a non-specific throwaway word like 'tipple'.

What you probably didn't know is that in Cape Verde, there is a very specific and well-loved drink called grogue, which has become a stylish favourite for visitors to the isles of the area. This could well be the origin of our word grog.

Cape Verde's tourism is growing quickly, and so too is its culture of music, food and, of course, booze. We've got the lowdown on the hottest new toddy on the tourist market, coming fresh from Cape Verde.

Alcoholic nectar

Grogue is made entirely from sugar-cane.

During the distillation process, the whole of the sugar-cane plant is put into something called a trapiche, which presses it between two rotating barrels to reduce it to a liquid which can then be turned into alcohol.

This has been done for hundreds of years by the people of Cape Verde, with the best grogue coming from the sugar-cane of the Green Valley in Santa Anteo.

Traditional artisans lead the way in the production of grogue. These makers usually cook down the sugar-cane mulch in an old oil-drum, rather than in state-of-the-art distillery equipment. The old ways are the best for the locals, and you won't see them abandoning these traditions any time soon.

Different every time

Because of the traditional means of production, there are hundreds of different versions of grogue.

Each has its own taste and alcohol content – generally around 60% – but you can never really be sure what you're going to get from such a low-tech distillation process. Some have reached as high as 80%, while others sit at a still-cautionary 50%.

Locals tend to water down the strong rum anyway, which is where the link to the English term 'grog' comes in.

Just like the navy used to water down the rum for their sailors to make the British grog, the grogue produced by the native Cape Verdeans is similarly diluted to a cool 45% ABV. Careful, though – it can still blow your socks off pretty quickly.

Cocktails, cocktails, cocktails

Grogue is a sweet cordial-like alcohol, which has many uses in Cape Verdean culture. You'll find that it pops up very often in cocktail bars, where it's used as the base for a number of more complex drinks.

A particular favourite among locals and visitors alike is Pontche, which demands the addition of local molasses and fresh lime. The dark syrup makes the drink even sweeter, but the lime refreshes the taste.

Your new favourite doctor?

Many Cape Verdeans swear by grogue's medicinal properties. With the addition of rosemary, rue or anise, the mixture can be used to clean wounds or help with digestive problems. After a few sips, you might be swearing by it too.

Join the festivities

Many of the Cape Verdean islands make grogue a central part of their cultural festivals. Expect singing, dancing, food – and grogue running like water – while you dance the night away with the locals.

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