Monthly Archives: May 2016

World Whisky Day Waits Not for Sniffles

What do you get when a head cold and a hangover collide?

A late post from Shake, Stir, Muddle.

2016-05-13 18.51.26.jpgYes, dear Muddlers, it was a tough time last weekend. As promised, I marked World Cocktail Day on Friday 13 May by One-for-the-Road Testing the Bronx Cocktail and will review it here soon.

Spoiler Alert: It was really good. Too good.

But this week we need to talk about Whisky-without-an-e because Saturday May 21 is World Whisky Day and it behoves us to treat this day with the reverence it deserves.

No rest for we Muddlers.

Because it is also Sydney Writers Festival this week, I was keen to tie in a whisky cocktail with a writing theme. Problem is, there are many more cocktails for whiskey-with-an-e than there are for Whisky and many more writers who favoured a whiskey cocktail than a whisky cocktail.

So I lay in my sick bed, thinking about cocktails and writers but really just craving a hot lemon and ginger drink and wanting some medical angel to swoop in with magic to fix my cold.


With thanks to Alexander Fleming and Australian Howard Florey, Penicillin is estimated to2000px-penicillin_core-svg have saved 80 million lives. Good work gents.

Here’s the recipe if you want to whip some up.

Now as anyone with half a brain knows, Penicillin is of no use in curing a cold and the world would be a better place if people would stop requesting antibiotics for head colds. It is also of absolutely no use in dealing with a hangover.

Both afflictions require a treatment for the symptoms and will pass in their own sweet time. Both also call for the patient to drink lots of water.

Work with me here.

See, whisky comes from the Gaelic “uisge beathe” or Water of Life.adelaide-town-hall-nov-1985

And Fleming was a Scotsman (from Ayrshire, a Lowlands region that produces fine whisky and Hendrick’s gin) and Florey was from Adelaide (pictured here on a Friday night), so clearly a fan of strong alcohol.

Surely then there is a link to be found with World Whisky Day?

Enter Penicillin, the cocktail.

Penicillin ticks boxes, many boxes (as long as you consider three to be many).

Whisky cocktail suitable for profiling for World Whisky Day? Check.

Lemon and ginger for addressing cold symptoms? Check.

Invented by an Australian to allow for parochialism? Check.

Yes, Melbourne bartender Sam Ross moved to New York and invented the Penicillin rivera-penicillin-cocktailcocktail. A gentle blend of blended scotch whisky, an Islay single malt, ginger, honey, lemon and water.

There’s a range of recipes available, this one requires starting the day before to make a honey-ginger syrup which you refrigerate overnight (hassle), this one of which suggests you can use a premade ginger, honey and lemon cordial (I haven’t tried this but have an in-principle objection to it) and one that meets in the middle and involves – for the first time in Shake, Stir, Muddle’s history – the use of the muddler!

Here’s how I think you should make it:

Take a 2 or 3 of slices of fresh ginger and muddle (mash) them in the bottom of your cocktail mixer. Or you can grate a knob of ginger straight in.

Mix equal parts honey and hot water and mix, allow to cool before adding 45mL of mix to muddled ginger.

Pour in 60 mL of blended Scotch whisky (Dewar’s or The Famous Grouse are recommended)

Add 45 mL of freshly squeezed lemon juice

Shake with ice until cold (about 30 seconds).

Strain into ice-filled Old Fashioned glass and pour 15mL of Islay scotch (Laphroaig works well) gently over the back of a spoon onto the top of the mixture.



A few cheats here to help you sound knowledgeable.

Islay (pronounced eye-la) is a small island off the west coast of Scotland with a very high concentration of distilleries. It is called the Queen of the Hebrides and has large areas of peat bog which winter gales keep saturated with sea spray.

Not great images for the local tourism marketing body to work with, but these elements combine to give Islay whiskies a distinctive smoky, peaty flavour (except Bunnahabdain, which is surprisingly smoke-free in its flavour, making it a great place to start if you’re new to Islay whisky).

age-gateSome find the peaty flavour medicinal. It was this flavour trait that allowed Laphroaig (pronounced la-frayg, don’t be distracted by the O) distillers to get around the Prohibition bans in the USA by selling it for medicinal purposes. Canny.

You don’t just mix your Laphroaig into the Penicillin, the idea is to get the strong smoky taste up front. Patience is required, but no great skill. Anyone with a reasonably steady hand can do it.

Or, do as Don Draper bid us do and co-opt a passing child in the exercise. At very least it will be educational, but the involvement in the delivery of a cure could see that child inspired to enter one of the caring professions.

Which we need.

The Penicillin is a variant on the Whiskey Sour, which is whiskey (usually Bourbon), lemon juice and sugar or sugar syrup (sugar and water solution), a recipe that first appeared in print back in 1862 but probably had its origins earlier when sea-farers were worried about scurvy and drinking dodgy water so combined their lemon ration with rum, creating the sour cocktail. That’s ingenuity.

So it’s historical then too. Let’s add that to the list of rsharpentongueeasons why we should have a Penicillin cocktail as the weather gets colder.

And finally – as if you need another reason – the Whiskey Sour, the Mother of the Penicillin, was one of my favourite writers, Dorothy Parker’s drink of choice.

So let’s remember her words as we find our wits returning with every fortifying swig of Penicillin.

“There’s a hell of a distance between wise-cracking and wit. Wit has truth in it; wise-cracking is simply calisthenics with words.”

Aim to be a wit this World Whisky Day. Try not to do it by halves.


Drop everything and get cocktailing!

Muddlers, today – May 13 – is World Cocktail Day.

Good news is, it falls on a Friday this year.

I hope that most of you already have plans to weave a cocktail into your day today, but if not, get planning now.

There’s three reasons to get your cocktail on today. Plus, Friday. So that’s four.


On May 13, 1806, Editor of The Balance and Columbian Repository, Harry Croswell answered the question “What is a cock-tail?”.

Given both Australia and the USA are knee-deep in election mode right now, it becomes particularly relevant. Let us numb our sensibilities in order to get through the weeks and months ahead.

“Cock-tail is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters—it is vulgarly called bittered sling, and is supposed to be an excellent electioneering potion, in as much as it renders the heart stout and bold, at the same time that it fuddles the head. It is said, also to be of great use to a democratic candidate: because a person, having swallowed a glass of it, is ready to swallow any thing else.”

In what I thought unusually unprofessional of a newspaper editor (who am I kidding?), Harry not only shows us his political leanings here, but openly pushes us towards an Old Fashioned.

If that’s your chosen path, remind yourself how to – and how not to – make an Old Fashioned in this Shake, Stir, Muddle offering from February here.

(While you’re considering what to drink, take a listen to this great song Old Old Fashioned by Scottish band Frightened Rabbit. There’s no clip so just let it play in the background while you read on about World Cocktail Day. Full multi-media experience here at SSM).

But there are plenty of options to mark World Cocktail Day.

May 13 , 1931 also saw the opening of Harry’s Bar in Venice. This legendary bar is the
03vebarbirthplace of the Bellini. While not technically a cocktail (certainly not by Harry Croswell’s definition, nor by the standard definition of it having a minimum of three ingredients, at least one of which is alcohol), it is an official IBA cocktail and it is delicious so convention be damned.

And according to Eric Felten in The Wall Street Journal, one Sunday in May 1917 also saw the very first recorded cocktail party.

The 13th was a Sunday in 1917, so 1 in 4 chance.

A Mrs Julius S. Walsh Jnr of St Louis invited 50 guests to her house at noon, many of the guests coming straight from church and I imagine feeling as though their Sunday was looking markedly better when the sun was highest in the sky.

Dunno what Mrs Walsh’s first name was before she married old Julius but let’s just agree that we ladies being graciously allowed to keep as many of our names as we like when we get married is a step forward. That’s one hundred years of progress peeps, you don’t have to call me Mrs Peter.

Anyway, The St Paul Pioneer Press reported that the one hour party was an instant hit, no doubt fueled by the Manhattans, Martinis, Sazeracs, Gin Fizzes, Clover Leafs and Mint Juleps served during the 60 minutes of fun.

Apparently the most sought-after cocktail at the party though was a Bronx Cocktail, and that’s what I’ll be One-for-Road-Testing tonight in celebration of World Cocktail Day. It’s essentially a perfect Martini with orange juice. I’m anticipating that it might be a little sweet for my liking, but I do feel a little cold coming on, so I’ll consider it medicinal.

To stay on the3b82ae521230960b219d582069c46556me, I’ll be listening to Happy Hour, a 1986 classic from The Housemartins who I’ve forgotten about, but who will be back on high rotation now due to increased happiness factor. Watch this great clay-mation clip (pasted below) and tell me you don’t feel at least 3% cheerier.

I’ll be back on Tuesday with a full report.

Happy World Cocktail Day – let me know what you drink to mark the day!







The incomparable Margarita

happy-cinco-de-mayo-mouses-glitter-300x251Cinco de Mayo this week. On the 5th of May to be precise.

Although it has largely been misappropriated for undignified marketing purposes (I’m looking at you and your chipmunks Spring Lake Dental Group), Cinco de Mayo actually commemorates 1862’s Battle of Puebla, when Mexican forces withstood an attack from the much larger and better-armed French invading forces.5_de_mayo_1862

But like 138 cm Mexican President Benito Juárez, the sweet taste of victory was short.

The French advanced again in 1863 and seized power.

Napoleon III installed his cousin Archduke Maximilian as Emperor of Mexico, declaring him to be Max of Mex (can’t actually find any evidence of this, but surely?).

It was all over by May 1867 and Juárez had 34 year old Maximilian executed (in spite of Max having done some undeniably positive things during his reign – like abolishing child labour).

71546-004-58042bccMax’s wife Charlotte was declared insane but it was Max who refused efforts to help him escape because he felt shaving his beard to avoid recognition would ruin his dignity if he were to be recaptured.


So Cinco de Mayo commemorates an unlikely victory – like the Battle of Thermopylae in 480BC, immortalised by Gerard Butler and a supporting cast of abdominal muscles in underwear shouting “Spartans!” in the hilariously-inaccurate 2007 movie 300.


Another unlikely victory that hasn’t had the benefit of a Hollywood treatment (probably because acne is marginally less sexy than abs) is the Battle of Saumur in 1940. A bunch of new teenage recruits from the Cavalry School at Saumar held off 10,000 German soldiers for two days.

The Germans captured 216 cadets but released them a few days later, no doubt thinking that having a POW camp full of bored teenagers was more trouble than it was worth.

Legendary stuff, but Saumur should be celebrated for replacing the bitter taste of the Battle of Puebla and its aftermath with a much more harmonious blend of France and Mexico.

00013974___marie_brizard__triple_sec-gallerySaumur is the home of Triple Sec, the bitter orange liqueur that together with lime juice and tequila, makes up the most famous (and abused) cocktail in the world: the Margarita.

The origins of the Margarita are hotly contested, with at least half a dozen credible competing claims for ownership.


So here’s what we know for sure. The Margarita was probably invented sometime between 1930 and 1948. Probably in Mexico.

Don’t tell me this blog isn’t informative.

But look, none of that really matters now. What matters is that we get the Margarita back on track. It has been in perilous danger since 1971.

frozen-margarita-mariano-bandido-outfitSee on May 11 1971, Dallas restauranteur and general killer of class and culture, Mariano Martinez, introduced the world’s first frozen Margarita machine, a scourge more difficult to eradicate than polio.

Martinez says he was inspired by the slushie 858bb026eb1eedf9bbe43fd44270a831machines in a 7-11. Now I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that if you are inspired to do anything while in a 7-11, you can assume it’s a BAD IDEA.

Martinez’ bad idea no doubt made him a lot of money and his original machine is in the Smithsonian Institute.

I understand the Smithsonian Curators’ objectives here, it is important to preserve this relic in the same way it is important to preserve records of Prohibition – SO IT CAN NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN.

The 1970s were hard in another way. Jimmy Buffett released what would go on to become a massive hit “Margaritaville”.

This is a truly terrible song.

Its genesis may also be from a 7-11 store since Jimmy starts the song with quite possibly the most bizarre opening line ever. Apparently he is nibblin’ on sponge cake.

Jimmy then tortures us for over four minutes with a simplistic and repetitive AABCCB rhyming pattern until our ears bleed.

220px-will2Four. Minutes.

Try holding your breath for four minutes, it is a loooong time – ask Kiwi William Trubridge who this week set a world free diving record with a dive to 124m which in true under-stated Kiwi fashion, he described as “pretty difficult”.

I was born in New Zealand so I can tell you that listening to Margaritaville the whole way through is “pretty difficult”.

I don’t mind AABCCB – Johnny Cash’s A Boy Named Sue  (here) is a great example of it – but Margaritaville is like reading the poetry of a Year 10 student. I can see what you’re trying to do here, but let’s just pop this in a journal, never to be seen again hey?


The sort of shitty writing that would have noted Margarita fan Jack Kerouac rolling in the
grave he went to age 47 after bleeding to death from drinking-related liver damage.

(So Margaritas in moderation please Dear Muddlers).

Yep, Jimmy Buffett is to Music as Slushie-machines are to Margaritas.

Meanwhile, by some cosmic coincidence, I’m writing this post at exactly the same time that hundreds of people are queuing for a chance to work at Buffett’s new Margaritaville Resort.

I am now in possession of the unfortunate knowledge that there are already several Margaritaville resorts, “inspired by the lyrics of Jimmy Buffett”.

Not sure quite what they’re hoping to convey with this but I’m not interested in a holiday where I can expect to spend a lot of time looking for my lost salt shaker and my Havaianas are likely to break.

Margaritaville’s website lets people on-the-go buy their own travel frozen margarita maker. This proves JB is the devil since we have already covered how easy it is to travel and cocktail elegantly.

See, a Margarita is not hard to make (here’s the official IBA recipe). It isn’t a Ramos Fizz where you could be forgiven for taking a couple of short-cuts. It’s a simple recipe, easy to create at home for even the most novice bartender.

You’ll need:

Tequila (I used Silver Patron and it’s much better show-cased here than in our very first post on the Tequila Sunrise)

Cointreau or other brand of Triple Sec (IBA official recipe calls specifically for Cointreau but I road-tested Cointreau and a cheaper version and they both work well)

Lime juice – freshly squeezed


Coarse salt for the rim of your glass


2016-05-01 17.12.17First, rub a wedge of lime around the rim of your glass, then invert it onto a plate of salt.
The edge doesn’t need to be perfect, you’re not photographing the damn thing (unless you’re me).

Shake 2 parts tequila, 1 part Triple Sec and 1 part lime juice with large cubes of ice, then pour into your glass.

Place a small wedge of lime on the side of the glass.



If you want a frozen version, put it all into a blender and blend until the ice is crushed. Be warned though, this will significantly dilute the taste.

But still, simple.

So there’s simply no need for something out of a slushie machine. No bartender is so busy that they can’t whip up a decent Margarita. If they offer you that machine crap, walk straight out.

Let’s band together like those plucky Mexicans on Cinco de Mayo 1862 and rise up against the destruction of the Margarita. Never again let us allow the tyranny of the slushie-machine to imprison our Margaritas.

Lime juice belongs inside a lime, liberated just before consumption. Bottles of Mexican and French spirits should proudly stand shoulder to shoulder, together but separate, until it is time to come together to be celebrated, enjoyed and appreciated.

And finally, when you think Margarita, think not of Jimmy Buffet.

Instead, appreciate the incomparable musical stylings of Margarita Pracatan on the Clive James Show as she offers up New York, New York in front of Liza Minelli.