Seems that by the end of this week, I’ll be able to add “Royal Wedding Expert Commentator” to my list of achievements.
This is particularly interesting in that all of the following fall outside of my area of expertise:
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.
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).
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.
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.
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;
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 staving off colds, but also features ginger, a tribute to world’s most famous ginger who is the star of the whole show
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
White Lady – another Savoy creation, this tasty gin offering can be served in homage to the White Lady who presides over the whole circus
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Because 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
PS I can’t talk about the cricket yet. But we will.
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.
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
She didn’t do as well with talkies (she completely underestimated 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 demolished 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 offerings 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 masterpiece “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 was.
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…
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.
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.
For Men, it is beer (of course), American Whiskey/Bourbon and Red Wine.
For Ladies, it is Champagne, White Wine and Vodka.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Mix 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.
Google “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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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!
Yes, together, you and I have mixed up a lot of cocktails and metaphors, and I thank you for joining me to cut the virtual cake today.
Secondly, the more important SSM.
Same Sex Marriage.
Australians voted overwhelmingly in favour of legislating to change the Marriage Act and yesterday, our parliamentarians passed the legislation to enact that. Today our anachronistic but avuncular Governor-General signed it into law.
16 years after the Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalise Same Sex Marriage, Australia has joined the ranks of the cool kids and now there are 26 countries where this is legal (with Taiwan and Austria soon to join after Bills passed earlier in 2017).
A happy day (and as an aside, in spite of the dire warnings, I woke up the day after to find that the worst thing that was happening was a hangover from the 95 champagnes I had yesterday to celebrate. The sky has not fallen and my heterosexual marriage seems just as valid as it did yesterday. Go figure).
So it will be an even greater pleasure to publish our next cocktail shakedown as a tantrum-free two year old who lives in a world that is less ugly than it was yesterday.
But this week, we’re downing bar tools.
You won’t hear me say this often, but I think that this week we can close our cocktail cabinets and instead pop more corks, listen to George Michael on endless repeat and bask in the warm glow of a pointless barrier being smashed.
Don’t worry, I’ll be back to the shaker next week, with a journey to Mother Russia (with an Olympic-cock up theme rather than an Equality theme, for reasons which are sadly obvious) for an IBA Contemporary Classic that also comes with a very vulgar lesson from Urban Dictionary.
Through the 23 cocktail shake-downs we’ve shared in 2017, each has filled me with a mounting dread of failure.
Could 2017 pass without me finding a way to weave a very important anniversary into one of the shake—downs?
Well, at the third last edition of this very strange year, I have rid myself of that burden.
The Japanese Slipper is possibly the vilest concoction I have ever consumed in the name of research. I could not choke down more than a few sips of this cocktail, nor could I convince any of my drinking companions to finish it for me.
To be fair, I came to it closed-minded. Midori, Cointreau and lemon juice served with two sunken maraschino cherries.
You’d know Midori, it is Japanese for green and that is the most positive thing I can find to say about it. It is not an ingredient in a single IBA Official Cocktail – and while I have laid out in these pages my concerns about the judgement of that body – this to me seems a measure of good taste.
But Midori is an important liqueur in that it forms part of the alcohol apprenticeship for so many of us. I confess to a short dalliance with the melon liqueur in the 1980s.
But arguably the most important contribution Midori has made to the cocktail world is today, in allowing us to finally mark the 40th anniversary of Saturday Night Fever (and if you want to be precise, prepare to raise your glass on 12 December 2017).
See Midori was launched by Suntory at a party for the cast and crew of Saturday Night Fever at Studio 54 in New York.
Now that we have made that link, there should be no further requirement for us to discuss this sickly melon-flavoured liqueur.
But because I am nothing if not professional, I took to the bars of Sydney yesterday to see if bartenders could convince me that Midori can be served in a fashion acceptable to anyone over 21.
Three bartenders refused the challenge.
Calvin at Untied gave it a solid crack though and came up with a nameless drink that was Bombay Sapphire gin, a modicum of Midori, passionfruit and pineapple juice, served with a lot of crushed ice, mint and a slice of blow-torched pineapple.
I am about to give this cocktail the highest praise I can ever imagine giving something containing Midori.
It was ok.
But I’m done with the experiment and done – permanently – with Midori.
So back to Saturday Night Fever. A timeless classic, worthy of our attention.
You know the story, Vinnie Barbarino, having graduated from the Sweat-hogs worked (not terrifically hard) in a hardware store by day and carved up the dance floor at disco 2001 Odyssey by night under a new name, Tony Manero.
Let’s set aside the most implausible part of this movie – that anyone could slide on a dance-floor in the 1970s and not come up covered in cigarette ash and butts, booze stains and in all likelihood, vomit.
Let’s also set aside the plot which is just bad.
Instead let’s focus on the DANCING. The FASHION. And especially the MUSIC.
Saturday Night Fever, the album, was released on November 15, 1977 and is still the highest selling soundtrack album of all time (which is especially remarkable when you remember that the Footloose album had Let’s Hear it for the Boy, Footloose and Holding Out for a Hero – not the shitty 2011 remake which, as a matter of principle, I have never watched. The 1984 original).
The Bee Gees apparently wrote pretty much all the SNF songs in a single weekend and weren’t involved until post-production, so all the Travolta dancing scenes were originally to Boz Scaggs and Stevie Wonder.
I bet you haven’t thought about Boz Scaggs in a while.
No, none of us has.
In another excellent quirk of fate, in SNF’s opening scene as Tony gets ready for his big night out, we see the posters on his bedroom wall. One of these posters is of Wonder Woman.
It’s the Lynda Carter version, but 2017 being the 40th anniversary of Tony/Vinnie/John Travolta’s dance-floor Odyssey also saw the release of the new WW movie. Nice one, Universe.
So you could embrace that theme in working out what to drink while you watch SNF (or just skip the movie and put the soundtrack on repeat, closing your eyes and imagining a sunken lounge room with shag-pile carpet up the walls).
There is a Wonder Woman cocktail which I haven’t found the origins of but does pre-date the Gal Gadot movie and disappointingly but also symmetrically, does contain Midori.
It sounds bloody awful – Midori, peach schnapps and three types of juice – so I’m going to pass on that one and will instead opt for an IBA cocktail that was big in the 1970s, maybe an Alexander or possibly even the very first cocktail covered in Shake, Stir, Muddle, the Tequila Sunrise.
Whatever you do, don’t let this opportunity pass to review Barry Gibb’s testicle arrangement in his tight white Stayin’ Alive pants and stay clear of the melon liqueur.