Monthly Archives: April 2016

Cock-trails: Or, How to keep cocktailing when you travel


Remember when Fonzie went to sunny California and water-skied over a shark? Of course you do.

Back in the late 1970s/early 80’s, water-skiing promised to play a much bigger part in my adult life – particularly vacations – than has eventuated to date.

It seemed inevitable that there would be many episodes of matching-outfitted in-formation water-skiing with my friends on endless summer days, like The Go-Go’s 1982 clip for Vacation. (Watch this and tell me you won’t want to be sassy brunette guitarist Jane Wiedlin too. I did in 1982 and I’m pretty sure I still do).

Not once. Not even living an hour from the Gold Coast.

SUP Caz.jpg

(Although more recently life has included this magnificent Stand-Up Paddle-boarding form so there has, in fact, been some of the anticipated water-based glamour the 1980s promised).



It seems water-skiing doesn’t occupy to same place in popular culture that it did four decades ago. And frankly, we’re all the poorer for it.

But Fonzie jumping the shark has survived in many memories.

You’d remember that some studio heavies had their car break down in Milwaukee. There they discovered the charismatic mechanic and called him out to Hollywood for a screen test.

You’d remember it was Ralph Malph who managed to get Fonzie into the situation of needing to jump the shark for a dare. And no doubt you’d remember that within hours of arriving, the multi-talented Richie Cunningham had bravely transcended the ginger’s natural aversion to the bright California sunshine and mastered speed-boat driving to tow the Fonz to victory.

What you may not remember is that it was actually FANTASTIC.


You may have forgotten this important fact because Jon Hein decided to use the expression “Jump the Shark” as shorthand for something that has its best days behind it. And we have all been doing it.

Easy to mock it now, in this age of television like Breakilonestarng Bad and Game of Thrones, but this was the 1970s.

And consider this; the Jumping the Shark episode first appeared on George R.R. Martin’s 29th birthday in 1977 (right about the time this photo from his website was taken).

Two years later he became a full-time writer. The link is obvious – it INSPIRED him.

As it does another writer with a birthday on the SAME DAY – me.


Sure Happy Days did limp on long after it had run its course, but I submit Your Honour, that the real decline did not occur until nearly three seasons after their return from California (the beginning of Season 5).

Exactly the time Richie stopped making regular appearances on the show. At the end of Season 7.

In Neighbours, they send everyone to Queensland, in Happy Days you’re sent to join the Army (except Chuck, where I don’t think they even bothered explaining).

If you’re desperate to make an argument that Happy Days started to die when everyone went to California, make it not about the shark-jumping, but something that happened in the exact same story-line.

In the first of the three Hollywood episodes that culminated in the dramatic shark-jump (featuring actual Henry Winkler water-skiing – don’t see that on Game of Thrones now do you?) we were introduced to a sinister new character.

Yes, noted Donald Trump supporter, Scott Baio imposed himself on us as Chachi Arcola in the Hollywood story line. And he was there when Happy Days breathed its last breath.

I rest my case.

So how about we stop saying something jumped the shark and instead say it “Coughed up 280px-chachi_arcolaa Chachi”.

Who’s with me?

Well that’s settled then, back to your holiday planning.

Anyway, when the Fonz went to Hollywood he took everyone. Everyone. Because we all need a vacation every now and then.

Even you. And you’ll need to leave your cocktail cart at home.

Fear not though, with a little planning, you can take your cocktail show on the road without blowing your baggage allowance.

  1. No Ice? No Dice.

I’m assuming you’re holidaying somewhere with a freezer. Because it’s 2016, and what sort of holiday makes you pretend it’s 1840?

If you don’t have ice, you’re probably staring down the barrel of a cocktail-free holiday.

So pack an ice tray and consider investing a few dollars in one like this that makes larger cubes.

2. Your cup runneth over

Then think about your available glassware.

Nothing screams “I’m relaxing” more than a martini in my hand. But after recent experiments, I have decided to leave that to the professionals when I travel.

2016-02-28 18.32.37-2.jpgFor one reason. Martini glasses.

Last summer we experimented with plastic martini glasses – no good, it made even the ice-cold, high-quality gin we used taste like rocket fuel.

A better option – and one embraced by some bars (but I disapprove) – is to use a wine glass. It tastes better, but somehow doesn’t feel like a real martini.o

Most places you go – even crappy motels – will have glassware that can serve as an adequate low-ball. This is perfect for many cocktails.


3. Base camp

Then have a think about your base spirit and pick one.

Look for a spirit that gives you at least two cocktail options. A Cocktail Hour without options is really just having a drink.

In most cases you’ll be looking for cocktails you can stir rather than shake.

Of course you can – and I do – travel with your cocktail shaker, but I accept that not everyone feels the need to do that. Do take your vegetable peeler though. A good twist should not be left to chance.

And while it’s cheating, since it is another bottle of alcohol and I’ve said you only need take one, there is no recorded history of anyone ever regretting taking a bottle of bitters on holiday.

2016-04-15 14.18.04.jpgYou choice may well be weather dependent. I went away to the beach last week and the forecast was for rain and cold so took bourbon and whisky but would probably have preferred some gin and citrus cocktails in the warm weather.

Live and learn.

Gin. Vodka. Rum. They’re probably your best base spirits to create a range of quality cocktails without needing a lot of sophisticated equipment. The list below offers links to simple but delicious holiday cocktail options.

Remember that a cocktail has at least three ingredients but only one of them needs to be alcohol – all the other ingredients should be relatively easy to access in most holiday destinations.

It won’t be the greatest cocktail of your life in terms of bartending finesse, but everything, everything tastes better on holidays.




Tom Collins – gin, sugar syrup, lemon juice, soda water, bitters

Salty Dog – gin (or vodka), grapefruit juice, salt

Red Snapper – gin, tomato juice, lemon juice, garlic, horseradish, tabasco etc etc – recipe plus bonus Bronze Fonz statue



Bloody Mary – vodka, tomato juice, tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper

Moscow Mule – vodka, ginger beer, lime juice

Screwdriver – vodka, orange juice, soda water


Rum (and if you’re looking for a new rum to try, The Grove Caribbean Spiced Rum from Western Australia just won Best in Show for Flavored Rums at San Francisco World Spirits Competition in March 2016. I haven’t tried it yet)

Cuba Libre – rum, coke, lime juice

Dark N Stormy – rum, ginger beer, bitters, lime

Aunt Agatha – rum, orange juice, pineapple juice, bitters


Land of the Rising Suntory

2016-04-06 08.21.48.jpgIf you look very carefully at this photo of me at work in Osaka in 1992, you might see the trusty boom box that was exclusively tuned to Funky 802 accompanying us in our busy recruitment consulting work.

Funky 802 was – and possibly still is – Osaka’s hot radio station amongst twenty-somethings.

Funky 802’s corporate philosophy privileged consistency over diversity, evidenced in their playing Vanessa Williams’ “Saved the best for last” approximately hourly for the six months I worked in the office.

The other thing you might notice by all this close looking is that there’s nothing on my desk that would indicate I did much in the way of work.

But look, let’s not get distracted by that.

I lived on the Hankyu line, shuttling back and forth between my homestay and my various jobs around the Kansai region – Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto.

There was the Funky 802 listening job (and at the head of the table you’ll see my old boss who did even less than I did, and once brought his guitar to work, something I didn’t see
again until David Brent did it in The Office)2016-04-06 08.34.32.jpg, a couple of English teaching gigs and the odd trade fair where I was required to wrap myself in clichés and display my sunny-as-Surfers Aussie disposition. Cobber.

Osaka Trade Fair 2.jpgThe Canadians suffered similar indignities though.

I was 22, single, straight out of University.

(These combined facts were alarming to many Japanese men who expressed concern about my unfortunate marital state at my advancing years. Just to recap, I was 22).

In spite of this social peril, I blithely travelled the Hankyu line and relished my freedom.

In doing so, the Hankyu  line put me near two other points of interest, Takarazuka Revue and Yamazaki.

The education I’d received in 4 years of University studying Japanese language and politics was nearly eclipsed in a single afternoon when one of my students invited me to some Japanese theatre.

Expecting Kabuki, I got something I still can’t get my head around.

The Takarazuka Revue.


Takarazuka Revue encapsulates a lot of the head-fuckery that goes on when you’re a gaijin – foreigner – in Japan.

This all-female musical theatre group was established by the Founder of Hankyu Rail in 1913.

More than 100 years later it is, in the words of someone I expect was another Funky 802 favourite – Shania Twain – still the one, still going strong, with massive fan clubs and sell-out seasons.



If you could extract DNA from My Little Pony and the Rockettes, get David Gest to produce with a massive budget and no need to worry about critical reviews, simultaneously messing with Japan’s very rigid conceptions of gender roles, you might be coming close.

But you’d still be scratching your head.

Like I was, when I saw the all-singing, all-dancing, all-ostrich feather version of Spartacus.

If you haven’t been to Japan, you must go. Go now. And go to Takarazuka.

And when you’re done, the Hankyu Line can take you to Yamazaki, where the Japanese whisky industry was born.

Much easier to understand.

In 1854, as Japan was forced open for trade with the USA, Matthew Perry (no, not that one),pay-friends a Commodore in the US Navy, presented the Emperor with 110 gallons of whiskey – you’ll note the whiskey having an “e” because it came from the USA.

While attempts were made to replicate a distilled liquor in Japan, it wasn’t until Suntory’s Yamazaki distillery started commercial production in 1924 that things took off.

And in Japan it’s definitely whisky. No e.

That’s likely because one of the earliest influencers in Japanese whisky, Masataka Taketsuru from a sake brewing family, travelled to Scotland to study his craft.

Masataka went on to establish the company that makes Nikka Whisky, after using his skills to help Shinjiro Torii set up the company we now know as Suntory.

To be clear, Suntory does not make Scotch.

It makes Japanese whisky.

Suntory’s whisky is designed specifically for the Japanese palate, and occupies a different place on the taste spectrum.

2016-04-05 16.10.42.jpgThe signature Yamazaki 12 Year Old would be a great place to start drinking single malt whisky. It’s very smooth and you won’t find the heavy smoke or peat that many new whisky drinkers find tough going with Scotch whiskies.

It’s delicious, but if you’re like me and prefer something peatier like Laphroaig (now a stablemate of Suntory’s under the Beam Suntory company banner), it may not be for you.

But I recommend Scotch drinkers try Japanese whisky, especially if you favour a Speyside or Lowlands Scotch.

And in true Japanese form, you’ll also find there is artistry in the presentation of your whisky.

Another of my lovely students took me to a bar where I ordered the only Scotch I knew – Glenfiddich (still a favourite)  – and the bartender set about chilling my glass with a perfectly formed sphere of ice and water, before discarding the water and pouring over the whisky, gently rotating the ice ball until the temperature was uniform.

Then he handed it over.

I haven’t seen this level of care in delivery a drink since.

If you get one like this, you should savour it like Nick Offerman savours his preferred Lagavulin.

In Japan, you’ll also find that drinking whisky with a meal is much more commonplace.

Back in the 1950s, Suntory opened a string of bars – Suntory Whisky Bars – to try to make the consumption of whisky more commonplace. Enter the Highball.

Anywhere else and a highball refers to a tall glass with a spirit accompanied by one other ingredient and a garnish. Think G&T. Not Cuba Libre, because as we’ve already discussed, the lime is not a garnish, its juice is a key second ingredient added to the rum.

In Japan, in large part due to canny Suntory marketing and advertising, the Highball has cdonrulw8ae0vawbecome synonymous with a whisky and soda mix of about 1:3. This makes it about as potent as beer and repotedly sits lighter in the belly, making it better for consuming with meals.

The Highball is apparently the preferred way of drinking of Suntory’s Chief Blender Shinji Fukuyo.

There’s a couple of ways of getting your Highball.

There’s hand-crafted method, characterised by Japanese kodawari – the fastidiousness and attention to detail typically associated with Japanese cuisine.

shiba-inu-omurice-kawaii-kakkoii-sugoi-01Like this video which will show married women how to make omurice – rice and omelette – into cute dog shapes for their children. The video is 9 minutes long, which is about 8 minutes longer than I am prepared to spend on plating up rice and eggs for my children.

Please don’t ever show them this video, I am flat out keeping up with Tooth Fairy duties in a timely manner.


In the whisky world, kodawari is showcased much more constructively, although no less painstakingly. Firstly, by adding hand-cut ice to a glass and chilling it before pouring in the whisky and gently stirring it – clockwise – precisely 13.5 times before gently adding the soda water and gently stirring it clockwise precisely 3.5 times. Then you gently remove the spoon.

This is a mizuwari.

It is made gently and precisely and should be enjoyed accordingly.Suntory vending machines.jpg

Or, you can just belly on up to a street vending machine and buy it in a can – possibly after you’ve purchased a strangers’ underpants and gone to the rabbit café.

Perhaps a couple of cans of Suntory highball in my bag back in 1992 would have helped me understand Takarazuka Revue better.

Or shaken that Vanessa Williams Funky 802 ear-worm.

Even so Suntory, this will be hard to forgive…


PS Looks like I saved the best for last hey?



Salut, my friends!

We’re gearing up for a trip to Japan this week.2016-04-06 08.35.03

Not a future trip, but a journey back in time
to 1992 to when my fascination with rockmelons was clearly at its peak.

There will also be Japanese whisky, Spartacus and a Ken Done jumper.

But that’s tomorrow.

For now, we need to do some important glass raising to a couple of Shake, Stir, Muddle friends who are having big weeks.

Liz Ellis, a kick-arse broad who is as sassy and smart as Mae West and Katharine Hepburn, has delivered another project this week with the arrival of a baby boy.

While2a6f2515aeb34615777c36c7930cc349 she’s been out of action as a research partner for nine months, we had a couple of great cocktailian chats on ABC Radio earlier this year.

So, although she’s a while off being able to enjoy one herself, I’m raising a Bellini to Liz this week – Prosecco and peach puree – sweet, light and joyful. Everything I hope these next few months will be for her.

And Dom Knight finishes up on ABC Radio’s Evening Show this week. Tune in for his remaining shows.

We had a fun chat a few weeks ago about the very first classic coca-farewell-to-hemingway-smallktail – the Old Fashioned.

But to toast his next move, which I assume will involve more writing, I’m pulling out the cherry brandy and mixing up A Farewell to Hemingway.

Liz and Dom, the Muddlers salute you.