[highlight color=”black”]THIRSTY THURSDAY[/highlight]

I usually try to stay away from cream liqueurs, mostly because the consistency reminds me of half & half and I have an irrational fear that the smallest drop of anything thicker than skim milk will make me morbidly obese. However, there is a spiked dairy product from Africa called Amarula that I am willing to try, despite my crippling aversion to milkfat.

Unlike most cream liqueurs (which commonly use ingredients like whiskey or rum), Amarula’s alcohol content comes from the fermented fruit of the marula tree found only in the sub-Saharan plains. This alternative inebriant sets Amarula apart from its Irish competitor and makes the drink a truly unique export of Southern Africa.

Besides being the producer of Amarula’s alcoholic component, the fruit-bearing marula tree plays an important part in sober sub-Saharan life as well. There are many legends attributed to the tree, and its bark, leaves, and roots are utilized as everything from medicines and emergency water sources to omens for determining the gender of an unborn child. But the fruit is the real star of the tree, having been consumed by commoners, kings, and elephants alike for centuries.

How did humans originally decide to take the fruit from this revered tree and turn it into booze? Perhaps they noticed how much fun animals were having after eating it. According to the 1974 nature documentary Animals are Beautiful People, when animals consume overripe marula fruit it ferments in their bellies and gets them wasted. This theory has been questioned, but I still like to believe that there’s a monkey somewhere with a wicked hangover searching desperately for the primate equivalent of a Bloody Mary.

However it was first made, Amarula is now called the “Spirit of Africa” (love the wordplay) and has become a major product of South Africa. Oh, and the ecologically-minded social drinkers out there will be pleased to know that the company producing Amarula gives plenty of their revenue back to the environment — they have partnered with several wildlife conservation initiatives, and even started their own Amarula Elephant Research Programme that studies the behavior of the marula-loving giants.

The best way to try it is at Amarula Lapa, the “hospitality center” for the spirit located just outside of Phalaborwa, South Africa and the famous Kruger National Park. But if a trip to South Africa isn’t on your 2012 travel itinerary, you can always order a bottle of Amarula online and sneak a splash into your coffee on those mornings when you need a little extra pick-me-up. Screw Coffee-Mate!

Photo courtesy of rob_rob2001 via Flickr (CC BY-SA 3.0) 

Steven tried out for The Amazing Race one time and was denied. We're not saying this is why he started this site, but it may have been a contributing factor in his decision to explore the world online and share his travel inspiration with others.

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