Chapman – a drink for the champs!

Surely, any drink that has a double-barelled reference to men in one word is worth a closer look. Enter Chapman.

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def. Chapman – an archaic term for an itinerant peddler     

I assure you that this refreshing cocktail (contrary to the suggestions above) is neither come and go (it is here for ALL seasons) nor unstable in its nature (consistent in how to make it and its great taste). So, I rapidly discard that definition and go for it in all its grace and strength – male and all.

I’ve always known Chapman. It is a very Nigerian drink. And that I’m 90% sure off.  I’ve never had it in any other country and I remember my friends in the UK being delighted and suprised when I made it for them a few years ago. This citrusy (non)alcoholic cocktail has accompanied many a dinner date with teenagers and adults alike. When I was young, it was the in-thing. And boy did we enjoy it.

For many years, I completely forgot it existed. Those were my years in Liverpool (1997 – 2000) when I was busy exploring other delights like cider. And then, not even in any great depth. It wasn’t till I went home one summer for a couple of weeks and had it again that my head spun and determinedly, I brought back the recipe and the secret ingredient all the way from Naija (affecionate term for Nigeria).

Now while I won’t call it a Tropical drink at all, (I think) it has the look and feel of  warm climes, maybe because of all the ice and the cirtusy scents and flavours that accompany it. It is very easy to make, easy to customize and suitable for all ages and almost always comes out right.

Can you guess what’s in it?

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Were you right? Note that the key to this whole drink is a very special, not so secret ingredient…, and no, not the Fanta and Sprite! It looks tropical….doesn’t it? Set your mind in motion :-)….I should give you a tip though. Its not tropical! Cousins to Coca-cola,….and the like


Secret special is called Bitters – Angostura Bitters. Or shall I be exactly exact and say Angostura Aromatic Bitters. 45% alcohol but only a tiny splash or a couple of drops are needed. And the transformation, the uplifting is complete. Ready to serve. Although Bitters have a high alcohol content, they generally consist of gentian, aromatic herbs and spices, probably preserved in alcohol. Angostura gives this drink its characteristic and unique flavour! You can still make it if you cant find this specific brand or bitters at all but….


My funniest memory of  Chapman though was a few years ago – 2003 to be exact. I remember ’cause I was very pregnant with J (#1 girl) and we were at a wedding with my sister and her family. Of course Chapman was served, in copious quantities. Well, my niece took a liking to the somewhat red colour and kept drinking from the mugs we were being served. Unbeknownst to us….something funny was going down. The more she drank, the more active she became – dancing and displaying her talents at 2 years old. And then, amazed at her energy levels, someone figured out that perhaps there was something in the drink which was causing this……and there was: Campari. That put a quick stop to her self-watering. Thankfully, there were no adverse effects.

In Nigeria, Chapman is almost always served in a beer mug. I have made it in so many ways – in a punch-bowl for a kids party; in dainty cocktail glasses for grown-ups and just as a refreshing drink at home in a beer mug. Each one calls for its own ‘container’. None affect the taste. Whatsoever.

Beer mug 

What I love about it

– its easy to make, no special knowledge or skills required, save slice and squeeze

– You can make both junior and senior versions

– You can make it in any quantity

– Varying the combinations and permutations are a snap

Recipe for your Chapman

The following quantity will fill

1 beer mug or 4 cocktail glasses or about 10 little plastic cups

You will need

Ice cubes
3-4 tablespoons of Blackcurrant/ Cassis cordial/syrup/squash (In Nigeria and in the UK, I used Ribena)
350 ml Sprite or 7 up, preferably cold
350ml Fanta, preferably cold
1/8th of a teaspoon of  Angostura Bitters
Squeeze of Lemon
Squeeze of Lime
Squeeze of Orange
To garnish: Cucumber slices, Citrus quarters
The garnishes

Put the about half of the Icecubes in a glass or jug or bowl, saving the rest to serve the drinks. Pour the blackcurrant cordial in.

IMG_4950 Ice in a beer mugCassis/Blackcurrant cordial Cassis/Blackcurrant cordial

Add the Sprite and Fanta.

Fanta and Sprite

Then add the bitters, being careful not to add too much. We’re aiming for a smooth balanced finish and not the taste of trees!

Almost ready

The next step are the citrus twist – add a squeeze of Lemon, Lime and Orange.

Citrus trio Squeeze of limeSqueeze of orange Squeeze of Lemon juice

That’s it. Almost ready.

Give the mix a good stir and pour into glasses or cups. Top up with the remaining Ice cubes. And garnish.

Limes et al



Note that there are several variations on this theme

1. You could use fruit flavoured icecubes

2. Instead of the Blackcurrant cordial, you could use Grenadine syrup or even Pomengranate syrup. The key thing is to get the ‘Chapman red’ colour

3. You could swap some or all of the Fanta and Sprite with Ginger ale or Bitter Lemon

4. You could easily transform this from non-alcoholic to alcoholic by adding a capful or two (use your discretion) of your favourite spirit. Or add some Campari.

5. You determine your garnishes  – mint, cucumbers, citrus slices. I’ve read of people loving bananas in it. Personally, I’m a cucumber babe but you just might be a Pineapple kinda guy, who knows. Go with the flow and do rock the boat i f you must. Expand your horizons and mine.

Whatever you decide, please make this and share your favourite combos with me.

Thanks and TTFN. Oh, if you want to do more with Angostura, check out their recipe links.

cocktails glasses


  1. Hi, I came across your recipe when searching for a recipe from my youth. I remembered the Chapmans we would drink around the pool at the Ikoyi Club in Lagos 1965-1968. As I remembered it, the drink was Ginger Beer based and light tan in colour. Do you know if there was an early version predating the Fanta and Ribena style? Regardless thank you for your version.

    • Many thanks, Mark. I’ve read that too and tried to find out more but haven’t been successful. Do you remember much about the version you tried? Any ingredients that featured? Thanks

  2. I remember drinking Chapman (though I feel sure we pronounced it Chapmans with an s) in Maiduguri, Nigeria, in the mid-60s. There were two recipes
    – the basic Chapmans made from lemonade (always Sprite) or Ginger Ale, Angostura bitters and ice.
    – Chapmans Special which had orange cordial added.

    I am not surprised it made it’s way to UAE, Zambia and beyond. Many road construction companies moved between these locations taking the recipe with them. Certainly my Father went from Nigeria to UAE (Abu Dhabi & Al Ain) taking his favourtie non-alcaholic drink recipe with him.

  3. I first had a Chapman’s in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates at the Sharjah Wanderers, and also in Dubai. My husband had worked in Zambia and had the same drink but with a different name.
    The drink we had in the UAE was not made with ribena or cordial.

    It was made with ginger ale and 7 up and Angostura Bitters. I loved it since I don’t generally drink alcohol, and it was refreshing after a game of squash.

    • No, you dont have to add any alcohol – the bitters are very nice to have but not essential. They do give the Chapman a unique flavour but can be omitted if you have difficulty finding it.

  4. Am so happy and grateful for this information on how to make chapman, i never knew it would be this easy and to think of i know sm1 who knows of it and is demanding for money before she puts me through. Thanks so much

  5. i got to know about the recipe for chapman from my school, but i never imagined it could be this simple. it’s great a nigerian is sharing this secret. most people i know won’t even dare. thanks a lot. i’ll try it and get back to you

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