Monthly Archives: August 2016

It’s pronounced “Fronkensteen”

Shake, Stir, Muddle has a heavy heart this week after learning of Gene Wilder’7796850-3x2-940x627s death.

For those who can do arithmetic and have worked out that being 17 in 1986 meant I was born in 1969, you’ll know that my formative television and movie-viewing years occurred from the mid-70s to mid-80s, an era dominated by Gene Wilder comedies.

Wilder’s list of movie credits is long and many remember his partnership with Richard Pryor first.

7796822-3x2-940x627But the true Willy Wonka (there can be only one) should also be remembered for his on-screen partnerships with strong female actors – Gilda Radner, Madeleine Kahn and Carol Kane – who were all allowed to be funny on-screen with Wilder.

They didn’t have to settle for just being pretty love interests as is so often the case in Hollywood comedies.young_frankenstein_movie_poster

If you’re not familiar with Wilder’s work beyond the chocolate factory, start with Young Frankenstein and enjoy Wilder as well as Madeleine Kahn and Cloris Leachman’s genius Frau Blücher.

You may not be able to immediately place her, but you’d know Leachman from The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Malcolm in the Middle, both shows you need to start catching up on now if you haven’t.

(The Mary Tyler Moore Show should also be watched to appreciate the magnificent Betty White as narcissist Sue Anntumblr_lgklt48sow1qzu4mko1_500 Nivens – watch this to see them both in action, or better yet, find 26 minutes to watch this classic Sue Ann episode).

But to the great Gene Wilder.

Turns out there’s no natural cocktail to toast Gene Wilder.

Anything with a Willy Wonka theme is full of the sugary crap that I can’t stand in cocktails (note: if it has a popping candy garnish, it’s a dessert with alcohol, not a cocktail).

waco-kidWilder played the alcoholic Waco Kid in Blazing Saddles so we could all swig whiskey straight from the bottle but that’s kind of undignified and anti-social.

So what to drink?

Wilder starred in 1984’s The Woman in Red, so we could reach for the Campari and have a Negroni.

There is also an on-theme gin cocktail called Hanky Panky that could go with the 1982 movie of the same name.

But this weekend, I’m going to go with a Frankenstein, which I suspect will be too sweet for me, but I am trying to be open to new experiences.

Speaking of which, since Tuesdays are alcohol-free days for me, I had a mocktail for last night’s toast to Mr Wilder.

Well, not s2016-08-30 18.36.53o much a mocktail as a drink that is a blend of things that are not alcohol.

Ok, it was juice.

Although we know drinking fruit juice is about as nutritionally helpful as taping Mars Bars to our arses, vegetable juices are apparently ok. Even store-bought ones.

So I bought a bottle of Wilder-endorsed V8 juice and pulled together a Virgin Mary (aka a Bloody Shame) to tide me over until this weekend’s adventures in apricot brandy.

Here’s to you Gene Wilder, and thanks for the wonderful, whimsical memories and the great big belly laughs.





Oh Mojito, you will never know

I’m often asked what cocktail I would recommend for children.

Actually I’ve never been asked that, but if I was, I know what I would answer.

Firstly, I would say that cocktails are not for children. Yes I would.

Then, apropos of nothing, I would mention the Mojito.

The IBA lists this long drink amongst its “Contemporary Classics” despite it potentially being one of the world’s oldest cocktails, possibly dating back as far as 16th century Cuba.

220px-1590_or_later_marcus_gheeraerts2c_sir_francis_drake_buckland_abbey2c_devonLike many cocktails, “El Draque” as it was originally called in honour of Sir Francis Drake, it appears to have been created to cover the taste of the alcohol.

No need to dissect Drake’s interest in cocktails, other than to say there was dysentery and scurvy involved and we all know cocktails are necessary to stay in tip top health.

So, Mojitos.

The Mojitos are neither too sweet nor too alcohol-y in flavour to offend most palates.

Hence they are a good “starter” cocktail.

They are easy to make at home, although definitely better suited to a summer afternoon than a cold winter night in Sydney.

2016-08-21 17.50.18

Muddle 6 mint sprigs (spearmint if you can) with 2 teaspoons of sugar and 90 mL lime juice.
Add splash of soda water and fill glass with cracked ice. Pour 120 mL rum and top with soda water.
Stir well

I’m going to add some fresh ginger to my muddling next time too.

The IBA recipe calls for White Cuban Rum and the name Bacardi has been synonymous with the Mojito.

But Bacardi is no longer a Cuban rum.

2016-08-21 17.46.37Bacardi was established in Cuba in 1862 and its signature bat dates back as far. A good omen apparently.

(This was clearly before the Lyssavirus which will kill you if you are bitten or scratched by an infected bat. So don’t touch goddamned filthy bats – dead or alive – in Australia and instil the fear of God into your children about bats and if anyone does get bitten or scratched, tell a doctor immediately and get on the medication cos’ then you won’t die. Ok? Good).

Anyhoo, in 1960, Fidel Castro’s revolutionary regime in Cuba seized all of Bacardi’s assets and they had to make a treacherous voyage across the sea to Miami.

Castro, who now looks like someone’s lovely old uncle, was responsible for thousands of 95863447_fidel_castro_who_claims_that_he_will_die_soon-large_transeo_i_u9apj8ruoebjoaht0k9u7hhrjvuo-zlengrumadeaths as boats would ram-raid smaller vessels full of refugees, and made the rest of his populace suffer in poverty for many decades.

This is the “charming” Cuba everyone is desperate to see before it changes.

Remember if you go there that what is slipping away are the vestiges of oppression. You’ll feel less sad about losing the charm that way. Read THIS great article for a Cubano’s view on the matter.

Legend has it that Ernest Hemingway drank a lot of Mojitos in Cuba, but reliable sources – including Philip Greene in his tome “To Have and Have Another”, a book that specifically addresses the issue of what Hemingway drank – believe this to be untrue.

Hemingway left Cuba in 1959, a year before those plucky Bacardis fled and set up shop again – the distillery is now in Ricky Martin-land – and their white rum is taking over the world in the way that Castro and his ideology didn’t.

Apart from Halle Berry emerging from the ocean (in Spain masquerading as Cuba) in an orange bikini in THIS SCENE from Die Another Day, to meet Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond being super-creepy in talking about Mojitos and “the view”, the Mojito is surprisingly absent from popular culture.

Except Miami Vice


I’m advised – but won’t bother checking myself – that the Mojito features heavily in the 2006 movie of the same name. I have as much interest in this remake as I did in the Footloose remake. Some art just needs to be left alone, on its pedestal. Respected and revered.

Miami Vice is one of those.

If you missed it, it was about two flawed but dedicated cops trying to tackle the drug barons in Miami in the 1980s. They weren’t undercover but never wore uniforms, just uniformly-awesome clothes, and drove Ferraris and had fancy boats like Stefan (on cops’ pay – hmmm).

It was remarkable for many things:

  • It launched the careers of so many actors that I can’t list them here – but go to this link to be amazed
  • It had very high production values (and an implausible pet alligator – bonus points if you can name it without Googling – the answer is at the end of the post)miami-vice-elvis-dj
  • Everyone managed to keep a straight face when Sheena Easton played Don Johnson’s primary love interest in spite of him never having once caught a morning train12783d316c66686d76731e375e694bbb
  • And the fashion. The extraordinary fashion. Which influenced everyone everywhere. miami-vice-1984

Including apparently me. Here is a late 1980s photo of me and my brother which I can only assume we intended to serve as the album cover for our upcoming boy band. Perhaps we would have been called “Brows”.

2016-08-24 15.15.33

In the final episode, we see Crockett and Tubbs (least sexy combination of surnames ever) farewelling a fine partnership. Ricardo Tubbs was heading back to The Bronx and Sonny Crockett, well he was off to somewhere where the water would be warm, the hair products plentiful and the drinks – in all likelihood Mojitos – would be cold.


But even Miami Vice didn’t give us a Mojito song. There have been a few, terrible attempts – Google Kate Yanai or Alan Ritchson if you have too much time on your hands (actually, don’t) – but I think we can nominate our own.

The 1980s was great for music and fashion. But look, it wasn’t perfect.

We still had thecoldwarperceptions-139x150 Cold War.

And we had to pretend everyone was straight all the time even though none of us really believed it.

Fortunately we have moved on from a lot of that now and the world, while still being shit in many ways, is mostly better than the 1980s.

But there is a creative casualty that I would like to resurrect from the era.

In 1986, Elton John donned his natty boater and sat in the back of his convertible Rolls article-2227404-15d56307000005dc-339_468x335Royce (gag), lamenting a love that could never be while handing her the world’s best passport photo.

Nikita was beautiful.

But a Commie.

A soldier on the wrong side of history (and also a woman, but at this stage, I think Elton was still notionally married to a woman so we all went along with it even faced with evidence such as the almost unbearable awkwardness of the slow dance at 3:40).

To my untrained eye, she appeared to also be a barely competent border guard (but later reveals hair that could have made her the third member of “Brows”).

So I’d like to reclaim this song.

Let’s change “Nikita” to “Mojito” and give this cocktail an anthem and give this musical gem a resurrection.

“Oh Mojito is it cold?….”



*Elvis – that’s how cool they were.

Whiskey Sour


I feel it only fair to warn you, this post contains the word “moist” four times.

I know. But sometimes it’s necessary.

We’ll get to that later, but first, to business.


Whiskey Sour business.2016-08-09 18.31.07.jpg

We’re just a few short weeks away from Whiskey Sour Day on August 25 and while you’ve probably heard of a Whiskey Sour, I’m going to guess that you’ve probably never had one.

Having been around since 1870, and being hugely popular until about the 1960s, it’s fallen out of favour.

Up until about 1960, it was the go-to cocktail for many Americans.

David Wondrich’s excellent cocktail tome Imbibe! quotes the 1879 Atlanta Daily Constitution even going as far as to say “when American meets American then comes the Whiskey Sour.”

Big then.

pw4974Like most cocktails, it was likely invented in the USA, although modified from the tradition of British Royal Navy sailors (let’s just call them sea-men because that’s more fun) taking their daily ration of a lemon or lime and mixing it with booze – traditionally rum.

This is where the Brits get the name “limeys”.

Different spirits were tried and there are many variants on the Sour, but we have Prohibition to thank for its crowning glory, the egg white.

The period 1920 to 1933 wasn’t a great time for professional development for American bartenders and most had to decamp to Europe or Cuba. The egg white is a European influence and joined the standard recipe post-Prohibition when bartending became a legal pursuit in the USA again and skills learned from over a decade abroad wereggs-maine brought home.

It’s a tasty cocktail and easy to make – don’t let the egg white put you off, that’s just a bit of shaking to turn it frothy.

Plus you can do that thing where you use the shell to separate the yolk from the white and feel like you’re some sort of kitchen genius.

Simply mix 3 parts Bourbon with 2 parts lemon juice and 1 part sugar syrup in a cocktail shaker with an egg white and then give it a good, strong dry shake – at least 30 seconds.

A dry shake is when you shake the cocktail ingredients without ice. This process again shows how ignorant I was of how critical ice (shape, size and timing) is in cocktail making when I started this blog.


Finally, shake it again with ice, then strain into a glass.

So it’s simple and delicious. Why isn’t it having a boom?

swingers_ver2If we look to popular culture as a barometer for a cocktail’s cool, we see Martinis getting Swingers and James Bond, Old Fashioneds getting Frightened Rabbit and Ryan Gosling in Crazy, Stupid, Love.

Pretty good.

Compare this with the daggy-but-delicious Pina Coladas which get creepy Rupert Holmes’ pre-Tinder workover.

Or our Whiskey Sour.

Since peaking with Marilyn Monroe’s 7 Year Itch, has more recently been relegated to seven_year_itchmentions in Barry Manilow and Hall & Oates songs (and am I the only one surprised to learn that Hall & Oates are confident enough to still have Out of Touch in their set-lists for concerts in 2016? Surely that’s just leading with your chin?).

Anyway, not quite as cool.

But together, we’ve done a stellar job of bringing back the Rusty Nail, so I’d like you to consider a Whiskey Sour sometime this month.

You’ll need to tinker a bit to find your preferred level of sweetness, but I do recommend using Bourbon instead of Rye (and although it’s got the “e”, don’t use an Irish Whiskey).

Why Bourbon?

2016-04-09 19.00.33Bourbon is a lighter, sweeter flavour than most whiskies, especially Scotch, which means it mixes better in cocktails. Personally I don’t like it as much as Scotch for straight sipping, but it makes a mean cocktail.

Things to know about Bourbon.

Bourbon is protected under USA law, meaning that you cannot call something Bourbon unless it meets a few criteria.

  1. It needs to be made in the USA (not necessarily in Bourbon County, Kentucky)
  2. It needs to be made from a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn
  3. It needs to be aged in new, charred oak barrels (since they can only be used once, the barrels are then generally shipped to Scotland for use in ageing Scotch Whisky – something that would be a problem for world Scotch production if the law changed to allow for Bourbon to re-use barrels)

There’s some other stuff too, but those are the biggies. So you can only drink American Bourbon – be it Jim Beam (Kentucky), Jack Daniels (Tennessee), Hudson Baby Bourbon (New York) or any of the hundreds of others on the market.

Many of these distilleries have rich histories, but before you plan a visit, we need to talk about something delicate.

(Gird your loins, here it comes.)

Although Prohibition was repealed under Federal Law in 1933, it can still be imposed under State and Local Laws and there are many Counties in the USA that are “dry” counties ie liquor cannot be sold there.

The Jack Daniels Distillery is in Moore County, Tennessee, a DRY county.

This means if you go to the Distillery, you can’t reward yourself for all that learning with a drop of the local product at the end. It cannot be sold in stores or restaurants in the County.

And obviously, there are no bars.4X BreweryTour SPECIAL Simple

I must have done the XXXX Brewery tour in Brisbane half a dozen times during University (and for my non-Aussie Muddlers, XXXX is pronounced “Four-ex”).

Yes, yes, hops, yeast, water – but what exactly does your product TASTE like? (Kind of shit, if you must know, but University students are rarely discerning judges of alcohol).

Jim Beam is produced in Bullitt County, Kentucky. This is a WET County. Meaning – you guessed it – you CAN buy a drink.

2016-03-10 19.28.53My favourite Bourbon, Jefferson’s Aged at Sea, is from Kentucky’s Oldham County which transitioned from DRY to MOIST in December 2015, meaning that alcohol can be sold in certain situations.

So on a continuum here, MOIST is better than DRY, but WET is better than MOIST.

That’s it for the moist. We’re done. You made it through (but read this if you wonder why that word seems so distasteful).britney-lifedanger

After all that, we need a drink and some good news.

Order yourself a Whiskey Sour (and I can report that Opera Bar at Sydney Opera House does not disappoint on this front).

And the good comes in the form of a song.

Whiskey Sour Day falls on the birthday of one Declan Patrick Aloysius Macmanus (not Rove McManus whose first name you should bank for future Trivia Nights as John, also remember that the Capital of Burkina Faso is Ouagadougou for another likely gimme).

You may know Macmanus better as Elvis Costello and he has saved SSM’s perfect record of 1980s references by releasing a song in the dying days of the 1980s.

You likely don’t know this song and I can’t find a clip for it, but listen to Dip Your Big Toe in the Milk of Human Kindness for the Whiskey Sour reference and then watch the Oliver’s Army film-clip to see EC drinking cocktails that are most likely Blue Hawaii and a Pink Lady.

And finally, in the words of British comic Dorian Crook, who may indeed model his entire look on Elvis Costello, the only three things you need for a perfect night are

“a whisky sour, a meteor shower and a cab that arrives before you put your hand out.”

Think about that as you watch the Perseid Meteor Shower this month and tell me you weren’t destined for a little Sour.