Keeping things Lo-cal

So I’ve been quiet lately, I do apologise for neglecting you.

Among other things, I’ve been working on the Shake, Stir, Muddle book, which will move slowly through the glacial processes of the publishing industry and you will be the first to know all details on that front.

The other things I’ve been doing is boring, but relatable.

I’ve been off the booze to try to shift some weight. So tedious. And to date – two long weeks – not very bloody successful.

And I’ve been stuck on this post for days on end because it is simply not possible to write about dieting without being a crashing bore.

So let’s cut to the chase; if you want to drink cocktails and not blow your diet, here are the drinks to consider ordering.

And sadly, probably just one.

They’re not calorie-free, they’ll each cost you around 200 calories of whatever your daily limit is – for me, that’s 1200 calories a day right now.

And if you’re wondering why I, an Australian, am talking calories rather than kilojoules, it’s because drinking something that’s 836 kilojoules seems a lot more than 200 calories. It’s stupid, but I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that it won’t even be close to being the stupidest thing you’re going to see on the internet today.

Case in point.


It is a tough time to be avoiding booze friends.


If Gin’s your thing, ordering a Dry Gin Martini with two olives will only set you back about 200 calories (and will improve your demeanor immeasurably).

martini free use

Or a Gimlet (gin, lime juice and soda), will be about 10% fewer calories.

But ordering a Gin and Tonic (which we all know to be a mixed drink, not a cocktail), adds calories but also really ups your sugar intake so be careful there. There are diet tonics, they don’t taste great, but if you’re dieting, it’ll taste like heaven.


A Manhattan (Whiskey, sweet vermouth, bitters) will bring you in about 160 calories for a 90 mL drink and no one eats the maraschino cherries anyway, so you can ignore that.

Maybe steer clear of the Old Fashioned for a while. Even though the sugar cube doesn’t contain much in the way of calories (a surprisingly-low 12 or so calories per cube), it is sugar. And therefore contains sugar (again, not the stupidest thing you’re going to read on the internet today) which we try to avoid when we’re dieting. Ok?


You can have two nips of Scotch Whisky, neat or on the rocks for about the same. Never a bad idea. Ever.


Now this one’s a cracker, especially if you’re funny about grains. It’s plant-based, being made from the agave plant, so perhaps you can call it Paleo too. Up to you. (Any sentence containing the word “Paleo” is getting closer to the stupidest thing you’re going to read today).

Pete Evans idiot

Stay away from the Tequila Sunrise and opt for a Paloma which contains tequila, grapefruit juice (make sure there’s no sugar added, fresh is best), soda water, lime. It’s pretty and tangy and will cost you about 170 calories.


It may surprise to you that Rum is no more of a problem than other spirits. Rum and Coke though, that’s a problem. Pina Colada, that’s mucho problemo.

You could have a Diet Cuba Libre (and check out THIS POST for an explanation why the Fijian Tourism Board has seen fit not to appoint me as one of their social media influencers) – although possibly against the spirit of liberating Cuba to be calorie counting – rum, Diet Coke and lime, but I’d suggest sticking to the White Rum even though it’s less piratey.


Mix up an artificially-sweetened Daiquiri if you must – white rum, lime juice, soda water, artificial sweetener. Most bartenders aren’t going to play if you ask for this, so it’s probably an at-home job. Add muddled mint leaves to make it a Mojito. Both hover around the 170 calorie mark.

So there you go.

Plenty of options.

None of them as interesting to talk about as they are to drink.

200 calories will also buy you about half a litre of full-strength beer, just under half a bottle of champagne, about a third of a bottle each of red or white wine – somewhere between two and three standard drinks, depending on what you choose.

This photo, which I assure you is of glasses filled with water, not Martini (sigh), shows you how much of each that is.

Water glasses
L-R Beer x 2, Wine, Martini, Whisky, Champagne x 2

Yep, it’s boring, but it’s also good to know this stuff. It’s what grown-ups do.

So please, eat, drink and be knowledgeable.


PS I’m giving this non-drinking malarkey until the weekend. Then I’m flipping onto this amazing-sounding diet.

Martini diet book


Boulevardier of Broken Dreams

Asking me to name my favourite Bourbon cocktail is a bit like asking me to name my favourite child – I know what the answer is straight away but fear you will judge me if I don’t pretend it’s a difficult task.

So ahead of one of the happiest days of the year – World Bourbon Day, this Thursday 14 June – I’d like you to spend a few moments reflecting on the merits (many that they are) of the Manhattan, the Old Fashioned, the Mint Julep and the Whiskey Sour before ordering up a Boulevardier.



The Boulevardier is like the bourbon whiskey cousin of the Negroni (which celebrated its own week last week and we wish it well and thank it again and again for its service to cocktailia).

Although we can abbreviate the recipe by just saying “substitute the gin in a Negroni for Bourbon, everything else stays the same,” actually nothing stays the same*. The Bourbon changes the complexion of this delightful cocktail to another, equally delightful offering.

Outrageously, the Boulevardier isn’t on the IBA List of Official Cocktail. Another nail in the coffin of relevance for those clowns as far as I’m concerned.

Anyway, sip this and thank me later.

But do spare a thought thought for those people for whom June 14, 2018 isn’t such a happy day. No, not the non-drinkers, the soccer fans.

Some soccer fans.

You may have picked up already that if I were on a game show, those topics I’d name as my areas of expertise would not include soccer. Or football, whatever you want to call it. I don’t care.

Soccer fans.jpg
Not all of these wholesome young people are as happy as the advertising would have you believe

But I have travelled, and do know that others do care. Very much.

There are countries around the world where qualifying for the soccer World Cup is very important.

Countries like Italy, which has won the whole shebang almost as many times as any country (4 times – same as Germany, but one fewer time than Brazil), and the Netherlands which has never won but has come 2nd on three occasions.

Sad Dutch soccer fans
Here are some sad Dutch soccer fans at Euro 2012 which is apparently another soccer event that is different to the World Cup. Whatever. (Geert Vanden Wijngaert/Associated Press)

Yes, it’s important there.

And in Wales and Scotland and Austria and Chile and Greece and South Africa. And even though it’s not the main sport, it’s important in the USA and New Zealand and a whole bunch of other places where the national team didn’t qualify and where there will be some genuine sad sacks over the next couple of weeks.

209 countries tried to gain one of the 32 positions in the World Cup that starts later this week in the beating heart of the American democratic process.

That’s a lot of disappointed people.

Many of theseGeneral_Pascal_Olivier_Count_de_Negroni countries do have a strong cocktail pedigree that they can look to for solace, so if you’re entertaining during the World Cup, consider pouring up a couple of the following cocktails and try to seem sympathetic.

For your Italian friends: try not to get into a discussion about the Negroni, it was actually invented by a Frenchman (albeit a Corsican). Instead, maybe steer them towards a Cardinale – it’s like a Negroni but switch out the sweet red vermouth for a dry white vermouth and tell them that this was invented in the 1930s in Rome or Venice and is guaranteed to soothe the broken heart (that last bit is made up, but you’re trying to help, right?).

Pour your Dutch friend a genever based cocktail and let them know that you KNOW that without genever, there would be no gin, so to hell with England and what fun are they without David Beckham anyway? The flare of orange juice in the glass in front of them when you mix up a creatively-named Genever Cocktail will be enough to produce tears.

Beckham Haig

For your sad Welsh friend, reminding them that England came second-last in the Six Nations and didn’t make it through to the qualifiers of their own Rugby World Cup will cheer them up immensely. Then mix them up a Red Dragon (gin, Grand Marnier, blood Orange Juice, lemon juice and grenadine) and encourage them to sing.

They’ll be the life of your party within minutes.

Again with the Scots, find your favourite “Scotland is superior to England” fact and your problems evaporate. Then whip up a Rob Roy (a Manhattan with Scotch whisky) and enjoy a few moments of conversation because after their second, you won’t be able to understand a word they’re saying, but it’ll be cheerful.

And look, your friends from the USA won’t really care THAT much that their team didn’t qualify (they would if their women’s team didn’t qualify though – they are the most successful team in international women’s soccer), but they are having a rough time, so I’d say whip up a Manhattan, a Mint Julep and a Martinez to cover the whole country and reassure them that we all know HE isn’t THEM.

Or ignore the whole shooting match, surround yourself with like-mindeds and enjoy your Boulevardier this World Bourbon Day (and gird your loins for World Martini Day coming fast at us on June 19).



*Mix equal parts Bourbon Whiskey, Campari, sweet red Vermouth in a glass over ice, garnish with an orange twist.

You are cordially invited….

Sometimes life is surprising.

Seems that by the end of this week, I’ll be able to add “Royal Wedding Expert Commentator” to my list of achievements.

Image result for prince harry wedding invitation
Not my personal invitation…

This is particularly interesting in that all of the following fall outside of my area of expertise:

  1. Royal Family
  2. Wedding etiquette

What I do know though, better than most, is how to make any event an excuse to drink cocktails, as long as you’ve put the right amount of thought into your theming.

So that’s what I’m focusing on.

Related image
Not my actual crew for my Royal Commentary gig

If you can’t tune in to join me on ABC Radio Sydney at 5:15pm AEST this Thursday, here’s a bit of a cheat sheet for what you should be starting to plan for yourself for the big day (which is Saturday, in case, like me, you didn’t care know).

  1. Royals start their weddings really early. Saturday at midday, which is a massive pain in the arse for anyone with children. And if you were trying to squeeze a quick gym session in on Saturday morning, it’ll be tricky for you too because your bus that takes you to St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle arrives in the grounds at 9:30am, so you’ll obviously be queuing somewhere a good hour before that and even though I’m a really new Royal Wedding Expert Commentator, I’m gonna chance my hand here and say it’s probably good form to have a shower after Zumba if you’re going to a Royal Wedding.
  2. If you aren’t one of the 600 heading into the Chapel, the best place in the world to watch the wedding from is probably Perth in Western Australia. The whole shindig kicks off at 8pm Perth time, finished by 9pm, and then you’ve got another hour or so to talk about it as you watch people who live off the public coffers get ferried about in carriages on their way to a party being hosted by Charles and Camilla. You’re in bed by 10pm on a Saturday night. Bliss.
  3. If you’re in North America or New Zealand, you’re going to need to be really committed to watching this sucker live. Even here in Sydney, I’m going to have to plan my evening carefully to be able to stay up until it’s over at 11pm local time. (Do you ever get the sense that the colonies just don’t feature much in their minds when the Royal Family plans these things? Yeah. Me too)

Assuming you still want to go ahead with it, consider the following libations to keep you in good wedding spirits;

  1. Penicillin – Saturday May 19 was World Whisky Day LONG before Harry and Megs claimed it as their wedding day, so you MUST have a Scotch Whisky cocktail. This Whisky wonder which we covered HERE, is perfect for Harry drinking a cocktailstaving off colds, but also features ginger, a tribute to world’s most famous ginger who is the star of the whole show
  2. Coronation Cocktail No 1 – this Fino Sherry, dry vermouth, maraschino liqueur and orange bitters sensation may seem to fit another Royal experience entirely, but it was created by Harry Craddock at the Savoy Hotel so I think we can slip in here
  3. White Lady – another Savoy creation, this tasty gin offering can be served in homage to the White Lady who presides over the whole circus
  4. Champagne Cocktail – cos’ we’re dead posh (even though we’re Commoners hey Guv’nor?)
  5. Espresso Martini – if you’re not in London or Windsor, it’s either an ungodly early start or a supremely late finish and coffee is very handy for bolstering middle aged stamina
  6. Meghan drinking beer.jpg
    Yes, you can take the girl…

    Old Fashioned – yep, surely we can admit that the whole idea of Royals and Commoners has had its day now?

There you go. Consider yourself schooled by a Royal Wedding Commentator and Cocktail Advisor to the House of Windsor Watchers.



PS If you are in Windsor and they do that thing that sometimes happens at weddings where you have to hang around for hours between the ceremony and the reception, I can recommend the lasagne at that pub near the gates.


Sea Breeze: Forgotten cocktails and Dreams remembered

Big day today. To celebrate the end of the school holidays, we’re taking the kids to get flu vaccinations.

Who says parenting can’t be fun?

And with that impending shot in arm, I think we can call the longest summer in living memory (and beyond, this month was Sydney’s hottest April in nearly 160 years) to have come to a close down here. Yes, it was only 15 days ago that I was swimming in the Pacific Ocean (ok, there was swearing involved as the chill of the water momentarily knocked the breath out of me, but it was swimming), but I’m calling it.

Summer is over.

Release the sheepskin slippers!

To mark the end of the season, last night we mixed up a round of Sea Breezes, a pretty and tangy mix of vodka, cranberry juice and grapefruit juice that sits on the IBA’s list of Contemporary Classics.

The Sea Breeze predates its more famous cranberry cousin, the Cosmopolitan (which we covered HERE), by many decades. It seems to have started life in the 1920s life as a gin and grenadine cocktail until being hijacked by Ocean Spray marketers in the 1950s as they tried to build their business. Vodka also made its big move on the USA in the 1950s and that’s when the Sea Breeze abandoned its gin roots.

You’ll be unsurprised to hear that I think this cocktail would be better with gin, but the Sea Breeze has moved into first place as my favourite pink cocktail.

Cool Ellen
Looks like a Cosmo (exactly), tastes better and no self-loathing aftertaste

I hadn’t had one in nearly two decades, the last time being at my ill-considered first wedding, the event that proved once and for all that a great wedding is not necessarily a sign of success to come.

The Sea Breeze is one of those illusive cocktails that you can mix up in a batch without suffering too much. As with all batch cocktails, your problem will be keeping it cold. Ice will melt and dilute the cocktail, but back in 2001, when my soon-to-be-now-ex-father-in-law mixed a mass batch in a plastic garbage bin (it was new and clean, but this story does serve to prove the point that my friend Carla made to me; a party is like a sausage, it’s better if you don’t see it being pulled together, just enjoy the finished product), none of us knew as much about cocktails as we do now and everyone thought it was t’riffic.

Plus, it matched my pink dress which was another GOOD THING about that day.

Whatever hue you’re wearing, the Sea Breeze can join the Pimms Cup and Sangria as pretty drinks you can make in a jug and still serve with your head held high.

(Note: You cannot serve a martini this way. Always worth reinforcing that.)

Fast forward nearly 17 years, one of my highlights of the summer just gone was lying with husband no 2 (aka The Good One) and a dear friend of nearly 20 years’ on the lawns of Taronga Zoo overlooking Sydney Harbour as the sun set, drinking fairly crappy sparkling wine out of plastic glasses at a Cloud Control concert.

Taronga glass

It was already magic, and then they played The Cranberries’ Dream in a tribute to Dolores O’Riordan who had died suddenly the month before.

I had thought that I’d recorded a few moments of it on my phone, but it appears that there may have been something in my eye and I only snapped still shots.

But take my word for it, it was sublime.

I hadn’t thought much about The Cranberries in years, but their music was very important to me in my 20s, especially around the time that I started seeing the guy who I eventually married (and soon after divorced) and I’ve bundled a bunch of these memories together as belonging to another, less happy, part of my life.

They were up in the attic, with my Sony Discman, my Beverly Hills 90210 Annual and the Floppy Disks that contained the research for my 1991 Honours thesis. Stuff that one could argue may have outlived its useful purpose in my life and could possibly be chucked out.

(Except the 90210 Annual. There’s moving on and then there’s just historical vandalism).

But that night, what a gift. Extracting The Cranberries from the 1990s and forwarding to me for repurposing.

Which I have.

So as this Summer finally closes, having lingered long into the Autumn I’ve been hoping for, I’m reclaiming some of my history. The Cranberries and the Sea Breeze – which finally gives a perfect use for the countless grapefruit our tree throws off each year – are both back onto higher rotation and becoming part of new memories.

I hope Dolores would have approved of that.



D-Day for Angel Face shakers

Less than a week until Easter and my children are going through the annual ritual of exposing my complete inadequacy in explaining the basics of Christianity. Seriously though, no one knows what Easter Monday is, do they?

But I do know how to match a cocktail to a holiday and this week, would like to introduce you to my new friend, Angel Face, which due to alphabetical determination, you’ll find sitting almost at the top of the list of The Unforgettables in the IBA list of Official Cocktails.

You’ll need equal parts of Calvados, Gin and Apricot Brandy. Shake or stir with ice.

Here’s a tip; when you’re reviewing a cocktail and you do it at a bar, take your cocktail photos before you take your cocktail.

Angel Face IBABecause I didn’t have this wisdom last week when I had dinner with one of my weirder friends, I’m using a photo of the Angel Face from the IBA website since I figure they owe me a break after all the tips for improvement I offer them on these pages.

Anyway, my friend told me a great story about Calvados.

First, the boring stuff.

Calvados is an apple brandy from Normandy in France. It’s classified as a cider brandy because the process to make it involves harvesting fruit (and it’s not uncommon for said fruit to constitute more than 100 different varietals of apple and pear), pressing it into juice, fermenting that into cider, distilling that into spirit, then ageing that for a minimum of two years in oak casks.

Anyway, blah blah, we’re not interested in the finer points of booze production, we like a rollicking yarn with our tipple here.

Back in 1944, on a Tuesday in June, my friend’s then 16 year old father was one of 156,000 Allied troops involved in the largest seaborne invasion in history, when they landed on beaches in Normandy on D-Day.

We’ll call him John, since that was the most popular boys name for babies born in England in 1924 and that’s close to 1928 when he was born.

Image result for maternity ward 1928
L to R: Babies John, John, John, John, John, John, John and John

John was 16 and his job was to drop open the front of the Landing Craft Assault so the troops inside could run out, then he had to head to the back of the boat and fire the machine gun to give them cover.

Again, for clarity, he was 16.

Thanks Wikipedia


John told his son that he thought that harrowing first scene in Saving Private Ryan was actually a fairly good representation of what it was like. I don’t know about you, but I emerged from that movie feeling like I needed counselling, and my experience of D-Day involved popcorn and air-conditioning.

Fast forward a couple of days (post D-Day, not when I saw the movie), and 16 year old Johnny and his surviving mates were given a day off. They wandered into the nearest village, where they were greeted by a grateful community who offered them Calvados.

And because he was 16, he got hammered. They all did.

There’s no cruel punchline here, they weren’t killed by Nazis when they passed out, but clearly there was a lot more crappy stuff ahead of those young men, so I’m happy they had the Calvados moment and whatever comfort it provided.

Now the great thing about this story, is as well as giving us all something awesome to raise our glasses to every time we have a Calvados, when my friend told me about the other small spots of comfort for these guys on those scary days and nights, it gave me the religion I will convert to if I ever stop being an Atheist.

The Quakers.

Quakers have been around since the mid-1600s and essentially believe in equality and tolerance and niceness and looking after the environment.

In 1963, the Quakers published “Towards a Quaker view of sex” which espoused a positive view of same-sex relationships, making them more progressive than any other religion I know and most Governments.

Here’s how they – and their religious peers – encouraged their members to vote in last year’s Marriage Equality postal survey in Australia.

From Eternity News, published weekly by The Bible Society Australia

Quakers are also pacifists, which brings us back to war-time John.

Quakers were told that they needed make individual decisions about how to reconcile their religion with the war. Many of them served in the Friends Ambulance Unit, which placed them close to the front without engaging in fighting.

Some of them – often the older guys – would go to the battlefields and try to provide comfort to the Allied soldiers in the form of cups of tea. Many of the Quakers got their heads blown off as they offered soldiers – and yes, let’s remember that 16 thing again – a cup of tea and a biscuit. And that’s something that John remembered 7 decades after those awful days.

Others were involved in getting children out of Nazi-occupied Europe, they were among the first into Belsen after the British liberated it, providing comfort and support there, others have helped establish Oxfam and Amnesty International.

Useful. Nice.

There’s a heap of other cool stuff to like about the Quakers.

They don’t drink, so that’s a problem for me, as is their belief in a God. Also, they don’t do Christmas or Easter, both of which I really like. But other than that, I think we’re a good fit.

So knowing that they wouldn’t join me, but also knowing that they wouldn’t judge me cos’ that’s not their bag, I’m going to toast the Quakers who delivered a cup of tea to my friend’s father, a child in a hideous place, with an Angel Face.

And with a neat Calvados, to John.

And you should too.

Whether or not you celebrate Easter for religious reasons, have a good one.


These arseholes are mine and eat the garden. Try THIS LINK to see another poorly-behaved Easter bunny


PS I can’t talk about the cricket yet. But we will.


I’m the Mary (Pickford)

Yes, we ran this last year. But we still love Mary, and Mary, and Mary.

So here it is again, your International

Women’s Day cocktail offering.




Today is International Women’s Day.

This is a huge day for some white blokes who lament the good old days of beheading unsatisfactory wives to complain about how they don’t get a day. You do actually, 19 November is International Men’s Day, but please, don’t let that get in the way of a good rant.

But on International Women’s Day, let’s celebrate a coupla kick-arse Marys who should be thanked for their lifetime work.

As they say on Survivor, first things first. The cocktail.

2016-01-12 19.44.21
Mary Pickford

The Mary Pickford is a rum-based cocktail that, like so many other rum cocktails – the Mojito, the Daiquiri, the Cuba Libre – was invented in Cuba aka the Paris of the Caribbean during Prohibition.

In 1928, a fellow named Basil Woon, who clearly knew how to spend his time wisely, penned “When it’s cocktail time in Cuba”, describing the country as “a land where personal liberty and climate are blended in just the right setting of beauty and romance.”

Who wouldn’t want to go there? Everyone who had the coin headed south for a break and some booze, including the biggest stars in the world.

It obviously became quite a scene, with good bartenders from all over the world heading there, including Fred Kaufman, the Brit who likely created the Mary Pickford.

Imagine you’re a bartender and in walk Jay-Z and Beyoncé and she asks you to make her a cocktail.

Now multiply that by about 1000.

In 1920, Mary Pickford walked into the Hotel Nacional de Cuba with husband Douglas Fairbanks and Charlie Chaplin and asked for a cocktail. Fred delivered.

You’ve likely heard of Dougie and Chuck, but Mary? Well back in the day, she was about the most famous woman in the world. And she used that fame to establish a legacy that you probably benefit from a couple of times a week.

Born in Canada, Mary was known as American’s Sweetheart and was a massive star of
silent films.

She didn’t do as well with talkies (she completely 220px-mary_pickford-ziegfeldunderestimated the impact of sound in movies, claiming that “adding sound to movies would be like putting lipstick on the Venus de Milo” – yeah, whoops) but shook off her poor judgement and with Fairbanks and Chaplin established United Artists in 1919.

Yes, that United Artists, bringer of such joy as Skyfall, Hot Tub Time Machine and Survivor.

Pickford, Fairbanks and Chaplin set up United Artists to gain greater control of their careers from Studios in response to what they felt was unfair control exercised by over them. It was a massive move in an industry where actors hadn’t even been credited for their work just a few years earlier.

Mary and Doug were big news though.

When they honeymooned in Europe in 1920, there were near-riots as people tried to see them.

They had a house in Hollywood called Pickfair and had amazing dinner parties in their 16 year marriage – get invited and you might expect to exchange witticisms with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Greta Garbo, Albert Einstein, Amelia Earhart, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Noël Coward, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt and of course Fairbanks’ bestie, neighbour and perennial third-wheel Chaplin.

Pickfair (also the inspiration for Krusty the Klown’s house Schtickfair – genius) was fkp7am5zd9gx9dxmdemolished in 1990 by dickhead actress, singer and hair product enthusiast Pia Zadora – winner of the Razzies “worst new talent for the decade of the 1980s – apparently because of termites, a claim met with wide scepticism, something that was referenced by Blondie and Iggy Pop in 1990’s Well, did you evah?.

Zadora later changed her story and claimed that the house had been haunted by a former lover of Fairbanks.

An extraordinary coincidence that this landed her flagging career a gig on an episode of Celebrity Ghost Stories. Hmmm.

Mary and Doug were also among the 36 founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1927 (an initiative of the Studios, so pragmatism seemed to overcome any lingering resentment there), the same year they were also the first to put their hand prints in cement at Mann’s Chinese Theatre.

That’s what I said, big deals.

Sadly Pickford died an alcoholic in 1979, so might have been a good time to change the name of the cocktail but it remains in the IBA official list of cocktails – sitting alongside the Dry Martini in the category “The Unforgettables”.

This sweet, pink offering is made up of white rum, pineapple juice (fresh, please), grenadine and maraschino liqueur.

You’ll probably get Bacardi unless you ask otherwise, but I humbly suggest that with so many superior offerings available, it is time we moved on from our misplaced loyalty to the bat-logoed turpentine which is no longer even Cuban so that justification is gone (to be fair, not Bacardi’s fault, they were driven out of Castor’s Cuba and assets seized – we covered this is more detail HERE).

Go to a good rum bar like Sydney’s Lobo Plantation and ask the bartender for a white rum recommendation.

1806 in Melbourne is going a bit rogue and making Mary Pickfords with whisked egg whites – I haven’t tried that their offering but we know that SSM loves a good egg white cocktail and I can highly recommend their other offering8331244-3x2-700x467s so I’d say go for it.

Melbourne often leads the way in Australia, just as they are with crossing signals which seems to have a whole lot of dickheads up in arms this week.

Ya know, sometimes addressing the little things is what brings about the big changes.

Like our next Mary.

When you raise your glass tonight, I suggest quoting from 1997’s under-rated cinematic 220px-romy_and_michele_s_high_school_reunionmasterpiece “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion” (please can we have more of Alan Cumming and Janeane Garofalo in the same movie?) and loudly claiming “I’m the Mary.”

This is, of course a reference to Mary Tyler Moore.

Some 50 years after Mary Pickford got her signature cocktail, Mary Tyler Moore kicked off a seven season run of a sitcom that starred an unmarried career woman aged 30. What was notable about this was that she was smart, happy and successful WITHOUT a husband or children. She wasn’t a widow, she was single by choice, having left her fiancé and moved to Minneapolis and started her job as a junior television executive.

Seems astonishing that this could have been so astonishing when it first aired, the day
before my first birthday. But it

Mary asked for equal pay. Mary stayed out all night on a date. Mary used birth-control pills. Phyllis’ brother was gay.

These were big issues in the 1970s and by using humour and pathos, the show managed to gently shift some attitudes.

Mary with her fabulous pants-suits and turning the world on with her smile, showed a generation of girls that being single and having a career needn’t be a consolation prize.

It’s you girl and you should know it.

If you grew up with Mary, you had a new normal.


You also had the brilliant Sue-Ann Nivens (hands-down best television character ever created – go to THIS POST where we covered her work, watch the clip and tell me I’m wrong?), Rhoda Morgenstern, Lou Grant, Ted Baxter, Georgette Baxter, Murray Slaughter and Phyllis Lindstrom (and the ever-off-screen Lars). Great characters and actors all.

And it is still hilarious and relevant.

So on IWD, thank you, Mary Pickford for using your fame to create a new role for women in Hollywood (and for the enduring charitable legacy you created), thank you Mary Tyler Moore and Mary Richards for gently creating positive options for young women, thank you Dame Mary Gilmore for fighting for the disadvantaged, thank you Mary Wollstonecraft for being the original suffragette, thank you Mary J Blige…

Today, J’suis Mary.


Cosmo? No, cos…

When I was at University, there was no-one quite as patronising as the Mature-Aged Students.

In spite of also being First Years, they seemed to have an extraordinary amount of wisdom that they needed to impart to me and my cohort.

This wisdom covered many areas, and group assignments were an excellent opportunity for me to receive vital and comprehensive tips on how to improve the way I lived my life. Tips mostly completely unrelated to our course of study.


One particularly special piece of advice I received was that ladies don’t drink beer, they drink wine or cocktails.

Thanks Ken, in return, I’m offering you the handy tip that your moustache is out of date and you can probably fuck off.

Image result for stalin moustache

Fast forward a few decades and I think there would be a few people very surprised to learn that simply by virtue of changing tastes, apparently I am now a lady.

A cocktail and wine-chuggin’ lady.

Oh I know, the times they are a-changin’ and I’m sure that Mature-Aged Students can acquit themselves with more collegiality now, and that we are all smart enough to know that there’s no such thing as a gender-specific drink anymore.

But what cocktail do we cover ahead of that most beautiful celebration of love and equal rights, the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras?

Well I was stumped.

So imagine my surprise and delight when I was scrolling through the website of one of my favourite liquor retailers this morning and discovered (as I put a way too large and loud Dorito in my mouth, seriously, when are we going to address this issue with an appropriate lady-snack?) that there are indeed gender-determined drink categories we should be sticking to.

For Men, it is beer (of course), American Whiskey/Bourbon and Red Wine.

For Ladies, it is Champagne, White Wine and Vodka.

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So it seems that in spite of what I thought back in University, in this week before International Women’s Day, the answer is actually clear.

I need to order up a Cosmopolitan.

I’ve been avoiding the Cosmo, not because I dislike it, but because of the association with a show that, while entertaining, did what I consider to be an enormous amount of damage to the image of modern women around the turn of century.

Sex and the City.

And frankly, it’s still causing problems.

My beef with SATC is long and multi-faceted and to be honest, far too dull to grace these pages. But in brief, shoes are not a substitute for personality, women can also be arseholes and isn’t is fucking marvellous to be rich and white and living in NYC and still living way beyond our means because we know a bloke will save us from ourselves soon?

But in spite of all of that, apparently the Cosmopolitan exists independent of the Carrie/Samantha/ Sarah-Jessica/Kym feud and I should give it a red-hot go.


SATC Cosmo on a plane

The Cosmopolitan’s history apparently dates way back to a time when the Huxtables were showing us the raise way to raise our families and wear our awesome sweaters.

1987 (also a time when Mature-Aged Student Life Advice entered my life).

The IBA recipe calls for citrus vodka, Cointreau, cranberry juice and lime juice.

It’s sweet and pleasant enough and the cranberry juice will help you ignore your cystitis symptoms until the hangover moves in to eclipse them.

So that’s a nice bonus.

For me, and you know my feelings on vodka, I think if you’re going to use flavoured vodka, you might as well use gin (even though we now know ladies aren’t supposed to be drinking that).

So I’d suggest shaking up a new cocktail, one more interesting than a Cosmo and named after someone who did much more interesting things on television around the turn of the century. I kind of made it up so I get to name it.

The Ellen de Marvellous.

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Shake 40mLs of GIN (that’s the part I made up, substitute the vodka for gin, we used Hendricks), 15mLs Cointreau, 30mLs of Cranberry juice and 15mLs of fresh lime juice with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

In 2018, Ellen de Generes turns 60, celebrates her 10th wedding anniversary and marks 20 years since her show Ellen was cancelled after the network cut back on the promotion of it following her coming out the year before. The Walt Disney Company was parent company of ABC and apparently didn’t like the subject matter.

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Yes, fortunately the times have indeed a-changed but that was CRAZY BRAVE at the time and by being brave – and nice, Ellen’s comedy isn’t mean or exclusive – Ellen de Generes has contributed mightily to that change to the point that maybe even moustachioed Ken could begin to accept that a lady can drink whatever she damned-well pleases.

And this lady and her bloke damned-well please to throw off the strictures of what we’re apparently meant to drink by virtue of our chromosomes and sit on the couch, watch the Mardi Gras Parade on television and down some cool Ellens this weekend as we raise a glass in gratitude to all the warriors for equality.


Giving me the Spritz

OK, I’m going to ask you to remain calm and stay the course with me here. What I’m about to tell may be uncomfortable.

It was for me.

But in the 1982 words of KC and the Sunshine Band, it’s time.


No we’re not giving up drinking, nothing that dramatic (and seriously, we all need a drink after witnessing those moves in those pants, don’t we?). But after this week’s Cocktail Shakedown, I think you’ll agree that it is definitely time to move on from the cool orange drink we’ve all been enjoying.

The Spritz Veneziano – an IBA New Era cocktail, or as you probably know it, the Aperol Spritz can possibly be retired.

Now don’t panic. We aren’t turning our backs on Aperol, we like Aperol.

You probably know it, it’s orange in colour and flavour and has a slight bitterness that comes from its secret recipe of herbs and roots. And, at only 11% alcohol, is about half as potent as its stable-mate Campari.

Aperol SpritzMix it with some Prosecco and soda water, add a bunch of ice and an orange slice, and you have the Aperol Spritz, or the Spritz Veneziano.

And that’s partly where this drink starts to go wrong.

Spritz Veneziano means Spritz of Venice. Except it wasn’t from Venice, it was from Veneto, the district that includes Venice but also Verona, the home of ill-fated lovers Romeo and Juliet, and Padua.

Aperol was created by brothers Luigi and Silvio Barbieri after they inherited an alcohol company from their father in 1912. It was debuted at the Padua Exhibition in 1919.

So it should really be called Spritz Veneto or Spritz Padua. That’s important but it is fairly typical of the IBA to get it wrong and if the cocktail tasted AMAZING, of course it wouldn’t matter.

A rose by any other name and all that tangentially-relevant malarkey.

But whatever you call it, it should taste better. The Aperol Spritz is OK. It’s a great day-time cocktail which is why it is making an appearance at fashionable brunch venues as an all-you-can-drink option to rival that other IBA travesty, the not-cocktail Mimosa. It’s like a little glass of liquid sunshine in appearance and their brand team has done some great work in creating pop-up bars where it just looks impossible to have a bad time on a summer’s day, but…

I’m going to show you a better way, something that should be your new Go-To for an Aperol cocktail.

The Montserrat.

Montserrat.jpgGoogle “Montserrat cocktail” and you’ll get two versions. One has Irish Whiskey and is a take on an old-fashioned. The other, the one we’re talking about, was created in New York and named after the Virgin of Montserrat aka the Black Madonna.

I don’t want to brag, but I think we’ve improved on that at Shake, Stir, Muddle. OK, I do want to brag, we’ve done some really great work at the cocktail cart here.

Channel KC and Shake, Shake, Shake equal parts Aperol and Red Vermouth (we used Martini Rosso) with ice, put in a glass with lots more ice, pour over a little Cava and garnish with three green olives.

Because it’s a take on the Montserrat, we’re calling it R.O.U.S. which everyone of good taste will know to be a reference to monster rats in The Princess Bride.


Because it is so beautiful to look at, you may also choose call it a “Goldman” after William Goldman who wrote The Princess Bride (the novel and the screenplay) and a million other books, plays and screenplays that you’d doubtlessly enjoyed.

Whatever name you go for, you’ll definitely call it delicious.

Now before you ask, Cava isn’t the Fijian muddy water that does little for you except slightly numb your lips (that’s Kava), it’s a Spanish sparkling wine – and just as Prosecco can be substituted for any other sparkling wine in an Aperol Spritz, so too can Cava be substituted for Prosecco or Australian sparkling (which we need a cooler name for) or champagne.

I’ve tried them all.

Like the Veneziano or Aperol Spritz, the R.O.U.S. is easy to mix up for a crowd, so if KC and the 15-strong Sunshine Band drop over for brunch, this’ll have you covered.

Trust me. Swap out your Aperol Spritz for a Goldman and remember, never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line.

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Don’t. Just don’t.

We interrupt this Summer Hiatus to address a serious, and very surprising, issue.

It’s something that I thought we’d never have to address at Shake, Stir, Muddle due to the abundance of common sense we have between us.

But it seems some of us didn’t get the memo. Because I’ve had a disturbing number of requests for a Camping Cocktail.

On paper, camping seems fun. The romance of climbing into your feather-weight and just-warm-enough sleeping bag at the end of a day of fresh air, giant belly laughs and just enough sunshine to give everyone a Melanoma-free glow. Warm days and cool, crisp nights leading to eight solid hours of sleep where your bladder behaves itself to the point that the question of how far good manners requires you to walk in the pitch blackness away from your tent before relieving yourself remains irrelevant.

Yes, camping as a holiday seems like a great idea but is inevitably a case of just counting the hours until you can go home.

Camping is to relaxing holidays as Midori is to quality cocktails. Yes, they are thematically coherent but the match ends there.

You’re completely at the mercy of the weather (we’re talking camping here, not the Midori). You can never find anything in your tent. Except sand, there’s always shitloads of that in your tent. You have no choice but to listen to your neighbours’ endless cycle of Kid Rock or Celine Dion ballads.


And I know kids love it, but kids also love Fanta. Doesn’t make it good.

And the children of other camping families have zero respect for boundaries. You always end up with some complete stranger wandering into your campsite as you’re sorting through all your clothes, wondering how it is possible that after only two days, six days of previously-clean clothing now requires urgent laundering.

The list is endless and it is time we stopped romanticising what is, in effect, a rolling back of several centuries of civilised living.

Case in point: you can’t get a decent cocktail.

camping bar

Unless you are the sort of person who camps with a fridge, your cocktail options are extremely limited. And if you are the sort of person to camp with a fridge, why the fuck don’t you just go to a hotel?

Anyway, there’s no perishables (bye-bye fruit based cocktails), not a decent knife for 200kms (bye- bye proper twists) and worst of all, there’s no damned ice.

Way back in 1748, a canny guy at the University of Glasgow, one William Cullen, invented the first artificial refrigeration.

It is no coincidence that zero good cocktails were invented before 1748.

So the correct answer – if you must camp – is to accept that you will need to wait until you get home for a cocktail. Since my camping tolerance is 72 hours (and that’s in perfect Spring or Autumnal conditions, none of this 40 degree plus camping (that’s 104 degrees to my North American friends) and blue skies only, no rain and only the slightest of zephyrs so any month starting with J is completely unsuitable for camping anywhere in the world), I can go without a camping cocktail.

But if you must, here is my suggestion for an ice-free camping cocktail.

It’s a Rob Roy. And it’s not an IBA Official Cocktail.

Rob Roy the bloke, was Rob Roy MacGregor, a Scottish outlaw who lived in the late 1600s, dying just 14 years before his countryman did us all a solid with the domestic refrigeration revolution you seem hell-bent on disregarding.

Rob Roy the cocktail was invented at the Waldorf Astoria (apples, celery, walnuts, grapes) in New York City in 1894 and was created to celebrate the opening of an operetta based loosely on RR MacGregor’s life.

To be clear, it is intended to be served with ice.

But if you must, take your crappy enamel mug and mix up 2 parts Scotch Whisky (must be Scotch, and since MacGregor was born at Glengyle, you might want to consider Kilkerran whisky which is made in the area, or any Highland whisky) to one part Sweet Vermouth and add a dash of Angostura Bitters.

Drink enough to drown out the sounds of the mosquitoes and your camp-ground neighbours and don’t say I didn’t warn you.



So much fun (to be fair, that’s the Great Victorian Bike Ride, image from Wikipedia)

Trump’s Moscow Mule

So I’m not proud to say it, but I’ve given Donald Trump some money.

Wait. It’s not what you think.

In early 2016 – back when it was still funny that Donald Trump was the Republican Presidential Candidate (remember that? Simpler, happier times), I stayed in a Trump hotel in Honolulu.

I won’t do that again.

While I was there though, I did have a Moscow Mule, and oh how we laughed at the hilarious prospect of Trump and Pooty-Putin making nice at APEC and G20 Summits (again, happier times).



Anyway, these two besties won’t be able to catch up at the sidelines of the Winter Olympics next year because Donny’s mates the Russians have been slapped with a ban on participating in next year’s Winter Olympics for systemic doping, thus opening the metaphorical door for an SSM Cocktail Shakedown on an IBA Contemporary Classic, the Moscow Mule.

The vodka, bitters, ginger beer and lime juice mix was not invented in Russia. There is also no evidence to suggest that it is particularly popular over there, but there are three Russian-themed cocktails on the IBA’s list and we haven’t hit any of them.

And so to the Moscow Mule.

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As is so often the case, a cocktail has paved the way for smashing of prejudices (possibly something in that with the whole Middle East thing, I’ll leave that idea to the UN to follow up).

Back in the 1940s, the American aversion to all-things Soviet was high. This included vodka.

Legend has it that the guy who had the rights to sell Smirnoff Vodka in the USA faced some fairly tough times in getting people to accept the drink. American whiskey was a much stronger seller, with people opting to demonstrate their patriotism through drinking that over what was referred to as “Communist tap-water”.

Now, I’m certainly not going to swing into the defence of vodka (I’ve kind of already done that HERE and I still think that most vodka cocktails would taste better by substituting the vodka for gin), but human beings really are a bit ridiculous sometimes, aren’t we?

Some bright spark came up with the idea of serving the Moscow Mule in a copper mug and hey presto, we had the IT cocktail of the 1940s.

That’s about as interesting as the Moscow Mule story goes. It’s tasty enough but that’s the good work of the ginger beer.

I’m about to go on holidays and will use that time to consider SSM’s relationship with the IBA. Regular readers will know that I am already troubled by what I consider to be real credibility issues with the IBA. Like not even knowing what a cocktail is.

But also this.

Those shitheads at the IBA require the Moscow Mule to be served in a long glass. Which is just sloppy.

You CAN serve it in a glass, but you SHOULD serve the Moscow Mule in that copper mug (just make sure it’s plated inside with nickel or stainless steel to avoid copper toxicity, sure to give you a massive hangover).

Fill the mug with ice, add 50mL vodka (Smirnoff if you’re being historically accurate), 17.5mL of lime juice (squeeze it fresh you lazy bugger), 120mL of ginger beer and add a dash of Angostura bitters.

Done. Tasty enough, refreshing, a trigger for Cold War reveries and showcasing savvy geo-political analysis.

Coupla problems with this cocktail shakedown.

Firstly, I don’t know why it is called a Moscow Mule (and don’t look to Urban Dictionary for assistance; that just brings up some eye-watering suggestions of a “fun” nocturnal activity involving prime numbers).

Secondly, I don’t have a movie or film clip to pair with this.

Even Cheryl Charming’s Cocktail Cinema hasn’t been able to help me find a movie in which Moscow Mules are served (please let me know if you find one), but I won’t let you down, so am pursuing the Russian theme this week back to 1984, with the cinema classic Red Dawn.

Red Dawn

There’s so much to love about this ludicrous movie. Patrick Swayze and his brother Charlie Sheen lead a band of high-school guerrillas working under the banner of “Wolverines” (because that was their high school football team) in disrupting the plans of the invading Soviet forces (helped by some Cubans and Nicaraguans I think).

It was made by MGM in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and released during the 1984 LA Olympics where there were also no Russians, although this time due to the boycotts that accompanied every Olympics from 1972 to 1992.

Incidentally, Harry Dean Stanton played Pat and Chuck’s father and I think we would all have lost money if we’d bet on which of the three of those guys would be the last one to die. Maybe Sheen does have tiger blood.

Anyway, it was 80s in the way that The Outsiders was 80s. Everyone was in it. Everyone was so good, so misunderstood. Watch this one, definitely not the 2012 remake (seriously Hollywood, can we just stop that now please?).

A final – perhaps surprising – note on the Moscow Mule: this is one of the few cocktails I’ve covered that I think could stand without their constituent alcohol and still be just as tasty.

I’ve had a few readers ask me for a non-alcoholic cocktail suggestion over the years and have been tardy in responding, mostly because I didn’t think “tea” or “sparkling water” were really in the spirit of the question.

But Tess, Maria, Genevieve, I’d say spiced ginger beer, lime juice and bitters, together with a whack of muddled mint leaves would make for a delicious non-alcoholic cocktail.

And Stuart, I still have your request for a beer-based cocktail. There’s none on the IBA, but to hell with them, look out for that in January!