Monday, August 27, 2012

The World's Shortest War, and The Zanzibar Cocktail

On this day in 1896, the shortest war (Anglo-Zanzibar War) ever fought occurred. For many years prior to 1896 Zanibar, a small island off the coast of what was then German East Africa and British East Africa, had very friendly relations with the United Kingdom. Zanzibar participated in the lucrative slave trade that was predominant in the area and gave trading rights to Germany in the territory of Tanganyika and Britain in the territory of Kenya.

Britian was anti-slavery and so was Sultan of Khalifah of Zanibar and he worked with the British to ban all slave trade (although owning slaves was still legal). This upset the Germans, who were finding it very profitable and some Zanibar citizens who felt Britian was having too much influence in their internal affairs. Civil unrest and violence followed and in 1890 Ali bin Said became Sultan of Zanzibar and to keep the peace and prevent a possible invasion of the country by Germany declared Zanzibar a British protectorate and appointed a British First Minister to lead his cabinet. Also, the British were given veto power over any future appointments of sultans.

Peace lasted until 1896 when then Sultan Hamad died suddenly and his nephew Khalid bin Bargash, who some suspected of having a hand in his uncle's death, assumed the post. Pro slavery and anti-British Khalid did not seek approval from Britain before taking his role as Sultan and the British would not recognize him as Zanibar's ruler. Instead, on August 26th, with battle cruisers anchored in the harbor near the palace, they issued Khalid an ultimatum to lower their flag and to vacate the palace by 9:00am August 27th.


At 8:30 on the morning of the 27th, Khalid sent word to the British that "We have no intention of hauling down our flag and we do not believe you would open fire on us". At 9:02 the cruisers batteries opened up on the palace. The guns would go silent at 9:45 with the palace in ruins. The war had ended. The story goes that Sultan Khalid "fled at the first shot with all the leading Arabs, who left their slaves and followers to carry on the fighting". Khalid would escape but a few months later slavery in all forms was abolished.

It did recover.

The Historical Inebriant: The Zanzibar Cocktail


several dashes of orange bitters3/4 oz lemon juice
2-3 oz dry vermouth1 oz Plymouth gin1 tsp sugar syrup (or to taste)
lemon peel
Pour the ingredients into a shaker with cracked ice. Shake well. Strain into a chilled hurricane glass.  Twist the lemon peel over the drink and drop it into the glass.
Unlike the typical variations of the Martini the Zanzibar uses more dry vermouth than gin. The cocktail is enhanced with a nice blend sweet and sour tastes from the lemon and sugar syrup. Either blended or shaken, a Zanzibar is perfect for summer days.

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