Skip to comments.The Bottle with the Stork - Dutch gin as a Ghanaian tradition
Posted on 04/19/2002 4:55:35 PM PDT by Shermy
One brand of gin, the Dutch drink par excellence, has fans in an unlikely corner of the world West Africa. It's especially popular in Ghana, and not only for drinking.
Number one in the Ghanaian gin market is the Dutch distiller Bols, from the town of Schiedam. The distillery exports some 63,000 litres of gin annually to Ghana. Bols produces an extra strong blend of gin especially for the West African market, with an alcohol percentage of 42%. The drink is sold under the name Henkes Schnaps, and is so popular that a Bols employee in Ghana has even been made a chief!
Marketing Before Literacy
The so-called Schiedam firewater was introduced to Ghana some 150 years ago by slave traders. At that time, gin was still sold in The Netherlands in casks, but for export to Africa the drink was put into one-litre bottles, which were then packed and shipped out in chests. That had a big advantage: you could either give then away or keep them. So a bottle of gin quickly became a form of exchange and payment.
The distilleries carried a trademark on their bottles. In the case of Bols it was a stork. In retrospect, a brilliant piece of marketing, concludes African specialist Dmitri van den Bersselaar, who has studied the use of gin in West Africa. "Even today, there are Ghanaians who can recall that as small children they were sent to the liqueur store on special occasions to buy a bottle of gin with a stork on it. The 'bird gin' was a status symbol: when this expensive gin was served at weddings and parties instead of a bargain-priced local brand, it showed a Ghanaian what he was worth."
All the same, drinking is not the most common use for Dutch gin. Van den Bersselaar explains that, in a list of situations where gin is used, rituals take first place for example at a wedding, birth or funeral. Its use by herbalists in the preparation of medicines comes second, and ordinary drinking comes in third place. Because Henkes Schnaps is so expensive, Ghanaians see a bottle as a valuable gift for gods and ancestors.
The same applies to Ghanaians living in The Netherlands. Although the Henkes Schnaps is specially distilled for export, the drink is available in the Bijlmermeer district of Amsterdam, which is home to many Ghanaians. André de la Porte, Overseas Director of Bols explains that "to our surprise, just after the crash of the Israeli cargo jet on the Bjlmer in October 1992, our sales increased substantially. Gin is used in Africa as an offering; the drink is sprinkled around as homage to the departed. Ghanaians here do the same."
A Visit from Bols
Nowadays Bols has a sophisticated marketing strategy for the Ghanaian market. "An advertising campaign goes somewhat differently there compared to The Netherlands", says André de la Porte. "Here we make TV commercials and organise in-store promotions. In Africa, it's important that the factory allows itself to be seen by leaders of the community. So we go on visits to pay our respects to tribal chiefs, village chiefs and kings. On such visits we obviously offer our product, and that is highly appreciated by the leaders. And if they are persuaded, the rest of the people follow." It's probably for that reason that a Ghanaian Web site recommends Henkes Schnaps as "the choice of paramount chiefs."
FYI, Radio Netherlands has interesting articles. eg,
Now it's time to learn some Dutch:
Zuipen = quickly drinking large amounts of booze
Kater = hangover
Een olifant een pootje lichten = from a Bols commercial. A man lifts his glas of Bols while saying this.
Kroegentocht = when a group of people (mostly students) go out and visit many cafes while doing a lot of "zuipen"
Je het apelazarus zuipen = drinking booze until you see flying monkeys!
Thanks! Now you have one on me.
I've invited some paramount chiefs -- great pals o' mine -- to observe the local customs.
Schiedam en jenever noemt men in één adem en we bedoelen ook hetzelfde.
Want bij "een Schiedammertje" bedoelt niemand een klein mens die in Schiedam woont, maar een "relatief" klein glaasje met geestrijk vocht.
Sinds jaar en dag wordt er al jenever of genever in Schiedam geproduceerd, maar ook geschonken. In vele cafés, bij feesten en recepties vloeit het levenswater als geen andere sterk alcoholische drank. Er zijn vele producten voortgekomen uit deze drank, of uit het oerproduct (de moutwijn) ontstaan.
Overal ter wereld is de naam bekend, ook al spreken ze het soms wat vreemd uit; gin, genièvre, schnapps, geneva, ginebra, skiedam, etc., maar hierover later meer.
In Nederland wordt het product in sommige "proeflokalen" zo veel gedronken en/of kan je er zo veel speciale jenevers drinken dat zij het predikaat 'genevercafé' hebben gekregen. Deze titel wordt verleend door het Genever-Genootschap dat zetelt in Utrec
Trivia: The Dutch word for "bagpipe" is "doodlesuck" (sp?).
Chief Raid On Queen Olive Jar like-um quality, not quantity. And How!
Happy Sunday to ya!
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