Living in South Africa as *I do, but having lived in the U.K. for a number of years, I’m often struck by the differences when it comes to barbecuing in the U.K. versus braaing in South Africa.

One needs to understand that to a large proportion of South Africans, braaing is as essentially South African as going down to the local pub is to a Brit. It transcends cultures, ages, gender – it is the definitive South African past time. Braaing is taken so seriously that there is even a national day set aside for it. This day is really a public holiday – Heritage Day, 24 September – but in typical South African style, this has morphed into National Braai Day. Yep, we take braaing that seriously.

Some indications that a BBQ is not a Braai:

  • In South Africa we braai pretty much all year round.
  • If there is a way to make a fire and there is some type of grid to cook meat or fish or breakfast on, we will braai.
  • There are braai competitions that run from small towns’ right through to a reality television programme where contestants are put through six weeks of gruelling challenges braaing everything from bread to puddings. Yep, really.

Braaing is pretty much a domain of the male in South Africa.  Experience has taught me that when my family braai at home, the rules are clear: I’m not allowed to touch the braai, not allowed to light the fire and certainly not allowed to touch the meat. I am salad or sides regulated only.

The only time I’m allowed to encroach on this domain is when we’re having chicken on the braai. This is due to my secret recipe Chicken Marinade (a traditional South African recipe passed on from my Gran) which I’m encouraged to make. The funniest thing about this delicious marinade is that it has the most basic of ingredients: – tomato sauce (ketchup), fresh garlic and Worcestershire sauce – and it’s a total hit with everybody!

Other than the amazing marinade, the only other braai domain I’ve been allowed to commandeer are the refreshments. Braai time in our summer months can reach as high as 42°C, and as I believe there is more to quenching my thirst than with an icy cold beer, I have a few beat-the-heat and thirst quenching braai cocktails and mocktails in my repertoire.

I like my liquid refreshments to be pretty as all get out; colourful and very girlie – the more a cocktail tastes like a soft drink, and looks all Island style – the better.

My current favourite summer cocktail at the braai is The Watering Hole:


  • Watermelon
  • Vodka
  • Sprite Zero
  • A few Limes or Lime juice
  • Lots of ice

Method: Scrape the flesh out of the watermelon, discarding the pips; add the vodka; a dash of lime; top up with Sprite Zero and lots of ice.

If you’re feeling more communally minded, you could always pour your combined ingredients back into your watermelon half, add straws and that’ll complete your ‘watering hole’ or; you can pour into chilled glasses, add garnish, a cocktail umbrella or two and heat beating hydration is on track.

Although the ice, fruit juice and heck, even the alcohol in the cocktails definitely contribute towards the water quotient of your drink, it’s always a sensible (tasty cocktails, hot summer’s day – sensible?) idea to match each cocktail drunk with a glass of water. Not only will the water keep you hydrated, but it’ll also help to keep you from drinking your cocktails like soft drinks and suffering from a bit of hangover-it is – a not so rare side effect of a braai.

Cheers everybody!

*Shelly Crawford heads up the AquAid Africa office in South Africa.