Monthly Archives: September 2016

Anyone for Sherry?

It’s become quite fashionable in journalistic circles to introduce a story about a particular cocktail as being something you might have expected to see your grandparents drink but that you should try it anyway.2016-09-27-16-57-13

I’m going to suggest it’s time to retire this approach.

I didn’t know my grandfathers well but when I reflect on my grandmothers I remember two women who loved laughing loudly, group singalongs and a drink. Or two.

I also remember the stylish cocktail carts and elegant vintage-smoking-ianthe-smokers-stand-ashtray-ash-tray-chrome-wood-effect-circa-1960s-sold-2-4356-pekm600x600ekmfreestanding ashtrays of their houses.


Nothing out of date about that (except smoking I suppose).

I also remember the Sherry.

My grandmothers – the delightfully symmetrically-named Mabel and Muriel (Mae and Mu) embraced the full potential of Sherry as a pre-lunch tipple.

Poet Maya Angelou apparently did same so they could have had a Mae, Mu and Maya Mid-Morning Sherry Drinkers gang. And if they’d ever worn a t-shirt, that would have been a good thing to put on them.

But Sherry, after centuries of having proven its worth is now on the social outer.

Christopher Columbus loaded his ships with Sherry, making it the very first wine to be drunk in America.

And when Magellan set out to circumnavigate the globe in 1519, he spent more on Sherry than on weapons.

Fast-forward to the 1970s, Sherry was still everywhere.

Here’s Sean Connery in 1971’s Diamonds are Forever. James Bond using his superior knowledge of Sherry to assert himself in a genteel cock-fight.



Harvey’s Bristol Cream Sherry HERE was even a call-to-arms for emancipated women to just bloody invite themselves over for a shag if that’s what they wanted.

A valiant, somewhat feminist-if-you-squint-your-eyes message for the 1970s.

The good news though is Sherry is BACK.46760175-cached

And better than ever.

Before I get to my evidence for that claim, a few things to know about this versatile fortified wine which can be equally at home as an aperitif or digestif, at 11am or 11pm.

Firstly, Australian Sherry died in 2010.

The good news was that it was reborn on roughly the same day as Australian Apera, tasting pretty much the same.

Like Champagne – which we are getting used to calling Sparkling Wine now unless it is from Champagne – the drink was redesignated as being primarily about the growing location of the grapes (which you’ll remember is the opposite of Japanese Sake).

In this case, Sherry is only from white grapes grown in a specific region of Andalusia in Spain. You may have heard of Andalusia because of the bizarre dancing horses that tour every couple of years.

180px-flor-valdiviajerez59Apera is the Australian version, made with the same process.

Basically, the wine-maker deliberately leaves some space at the top of the barrel in which the wine is aging and introduces flor, which is a yeast (a word I enjoy almost as much as “Moist”), and oxidisation occurs, turning it into a fortified wine.

A good Sherry or Apera is delightful on its own – take the Pedro Ximinez here at Sydney’s2016-09-16-22-31-53 The Bridge Room.

Fun to order, you get to try out your Inigo Montoya accent, with the double benefit of tasting great.

But Shake, Stir, Muddle is about cocktails so to talk Sherry, we need to talk Sherry cocktails.

And through this investigation, I have gathered the evidence that we are at the precipice of a Sherry Revolution.

Cue dodgy 80’s music HERE.

For once, we aren’t looking to popular culture for our proof.

It was used as a character device in 2011’s fun Cedar Rapids to show how Ed Helms’ Tom Lippe is supremely uncool because he orders shots of Cream Sherry.



Not a positive reference. And quite isolated.

But popular culture is not everything, not even at Shake, Stir, Muddle.

What does feel like everything though is entering Jorn Utzon’s Sydney 2016-09-20-19-48-08Opera House.

In the smallest sail, the only freestanding one, is Bennelong, a restaurant of white napkins, neat-bearded waiters and $5 oysters (totally worth it).

Sit at the bar and peruse the cocktail list, you’ll find a lot of tortured puns among the 8 featured cocktails.

Notable among these is the Rye’it in the Middle with You, a delicate and delightful creation of rye whiskey, fino Sherry, tangy pink grapefruit, orange and raspberry.

Sip and ponder this extraordinary cathedral of the Arts that was opened in 1973 from a design dating back to the 1950s.

Yet no one would write it off as being too old fashioned to be relevant or cool.

So it is appropriate that it is here that we see the resurrection of this classic drink; 2016-09-20-19-54-06 a bit like the Sydney Opera House in that it belongs to this age as well as those past.

In recognising that beauty is not only found in the new or the complex, to complement the cocktail they’ve got two Sherries on the Digestif Menu – a Fino and an Amontillado.

You can order these as my Grandmothers enjoyed them, old school, straight up.

Like all wines, there is a spectrum of sweetness – or dryness if you prefer – in Sherryland.

Fino is the driest style, Amontillado still dry but slightly sweeter.

Harvey’s Bristol Cream, in spite of its undeniable role in bringing the gender pay gap to only 20%, joins other cream sherries as being the sweetest.

There’s no actual dairy in them, the story goes that it was once described as being “the cream” of the sherry crop. (It’s not).


Its sweetness tells me that it was quite likely what my grandmother was serving in the early 1970s when my brother – then a toddler – walked cutely around from lady guest to lady guest in my grandmother’s social gathering, sipping a minuscule and seemingly harmless amount from each glass before wandering out into the garden and pulling up ALL the flowers and trashing it in his pissed state.

A lovely family story.

The other Sherry story from family lore is that my other grandmother – with a theatrical flair her life and 46379871_000960173-1marriage didn’t really leave room for but way ahead of her time and setting the pace for Keith Floyd some decades later – liked to tuck into the cooking sherry while she prepped meals for her five children in the 1940s and 50s.

My grandfather was a very kind man but when I think of my paternal grandmother, I think of a Maya Angelou’s caged bird singing in the apparent freedom of white middle-ish class NZ.

And for the removal of doubt, drinking the cooking Sherry is not a solution to anything.

So seek out the good Sherry or Apera and break out those tiny glasses that are useless for anything else, or order a Sherry cocktail.

I’d suggest a pre-Prohibition cocktail, the Up-to-Date.

Drink it in memory of three people born about the same time as the cocktail was invented.

Jorn Utzon, who never got to see his masterpiece completed, and to my fabulous grandmothers who I would love to have had a Sherry with (or a Scotch, they were quite tolerant of diversity).

30 mL Amontillado Sherry

30 mL Rye Whiskey

5 mL Grand Marnier

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Stir over ice. Drain into a cocktail glass. Serve with a twist of lemon.


PS Please, please watch The Ship Song Project clip below, it is a remarkable tribute to this beautiful building and I promise you, you will LOVE it



FF Sake

So Shake, Stir, Muddle is soon to become required reading for Australia’s Diplomatic Corps.*90379549_boris

Not for nothing either. Where else are you going to get tips that only diplomats with the skills of Boris Johnson can confidently claim?

Like this: When sharing a drink in a foreign country, instead of repeating the toast your hosts are offering, for a genuine ice-breaker, try shouting an obscene name for male genitalia.

More on that later.

First, the weather.

2016-08-24-11-17-52-1For several weeks the blossoms have been heralding the arrival of Spring.

Naturally, thoughts are turning to the life-affirming rituals of modern Australia; scheduling hair removal and purchasing anti-histamines.

And shifting our drinking patterns away from the heavier cocktails of winter.

But in Australia, we really lack a drinking tradition that appropriately marks the season.

Unlike the Japanese who celebrate Spring by gathering under the cherry blossoms for Hanami – literally “flower viewing”.

I don’t know what the Japanese word for “getting riotously pissed at a picnic under a thick castle_himeji_sakura02layer of pink foliage” is but I imagine it wouldn’t be as pretty as Hanami so they stuck with that instead of aiming for more truth in advertising.

Everyone should experience Hanami at least once and sake is the preferred beverage for complete cultural immersion.

In spite of this connection, sake is tricky for SSM because there isn’t an IBA Official Cocktail that calls for it. But a policy exception has been made (without any reference to a democratic process) and we have One-for-the-Road Tested a sake cocktail.

One reason for this departure from policy is a couple of traditions associated with sake in Japan that are consistent with our ethos here at SSM.

Like, don’t pour your own sake. Your job is to keep an eye on your companions’ drinks and 20090805-japan20zonepouring_sake2to top them up. Their job is to keep an eye on your drink. It’s very sociable and convivial.

I like that.

And drink less, but drink good.

Truth be told, I don’t adore sake so I was a little apprehensive about trying sake-based cocktails. Sake is also difficult from a 1980s movie perspective because it just doesn’t offer the fodder of some of the cocktail tie-ins we have delighted in with past cocktails.

But soldier on we will (and HERE is a David Bowie Sake ad from the very early 1980s so we aren’t completely neglecting the SSM promise).

So this weekend we tried the Sake-Tini.

2016-09-11-16-16-07In spite of SSM’s oft-stated aversion to anything anointing itself with the “Tini” suffix, the Saketini is gin based and to be fair (something we are inconsistently interested in), the Martini is the SSM Tasting Panel’s favourite cocktail and therefore the one we feel best able to judge.

Using the first recipe we could find on Google, we mixed up a 50:50 gin (we used excellent young Sydney brand Poor Tom’s Fool Proof) and sake cocktail. Now, 50:50 is not our preferred ration of gin to vermouth, but it was important we give the sake a chance to shine.

And the verdict?

Surprisingly tolerable. There’s a slight nuttiness you don’t get with vermouth but it is not unpleasant.

For the second round, we went with a ratio closer to our preferred gin to vermouth ratio and were equally pleased. If there is ever a vermouth emergency and we have only gin and sake (and olives), we’ll be just fine.

Now some may be thinking that this is because sake and vermouth are similar because they are both wines.

But you wouldn’t, would you?

See while we know vermouth is a fortified wine, in spite of what people say, sake is NOT a 220px-aspergillus_oryzae_28e9bab929rice wine. Sake’s manufacturing process is more like brewing beer than making wine – just try stomping a vat of dry rice sometime if you doubt me (but store it like wine – it only keeps for a couple of days after opening so keep it in the fridge or better yet, try to get through the bottle on the night you open it).

No, sake is produced in much the same way it has been for about 1000 years, just adding a few more women into the process now that we’ve all worked out that the oestrogen doesn’t actually change the flavour at all (der).

But something sake does now that is very cool is rebuild lives.

Earlier this year, Fukushima Prefecture became Japan’s leading region for sake production. If Fukushima seems familiar, it’s because you heard it was hit hard by an earthquake, a tsunami and a nuclear accident in 2011. That’s some really shit luck.

800px-jrballe_sake_barrels_japan_001But local sake manufacturers – usually businesses too small to have earthquake insurance – were also local employers and were urged to get back to production as soon as possible after the March 11 earthquake. So some were back up and running within two days.

There was a lag in sales since everyone was scared of possible contamination of the product, but unlike wine, where the grapes have to be grown locally, the rice from sake can come from anywhere. Most Japanese sake is made with rice from the west coast of Japan.

So the Japanese people turned their drinking preferences back to sake to help small businesses and families rebuild after the earthquake.

Drinking for social good.

I like that.

And in blind tastings at this year’s 104th Annual Japan Sake Awards, the Fukushima Sake producers took out more gold medals than any other region.

A small sample of bottle-shops in Sydney didn’t yield a lot of success in getting Fukushima Sake but we did find an Australian-made Sake. Go-Shu from Penrith made by Sun Masamune from Australian rice, but exporting to Japan and allowed to call itself Japanese Sake.

Whichever you drink though, let’s all make a pact to NEVER have a Sake Bomb. Please?

sake_bomb_foamy_singleThis troglodytic custom involves balancing a shot of warm sake on two chopsticks over a glass of beer. Then you count down from 3 (presumably since Sake Bomb drinkers would struggle to count backwards from 10) and then bang the table so the shot drops into the beer and you down both quickly.

Maybe a good solution for crappy beer and crappy sake, but why would you bother with either?

And when you consider that the Sake Bomb was likely invented by American soldiers in post WWII Japan, the name seems as culturally inappropriate as another drink atrocity – Guinness with a Bailey’s shot dropped in it which is called an Irish Car Bomb. Nice.

New SSM rule: We don’t drink cocktails that celebrate death and suffering.

Instead we’ll open12543146954_fa7689b38c_z our minds to sake cocktails. At least once.

But before you head off to buy your bottle of sake, that toasting tip.

From someone who knows.


In cocktail diplomacy, when you raise a glass to wish your companio2016-07-24-15-59-50ns good health,
perhaps stick with the traditional “Cheers” or the Japanese “Kanpai”, rather than opting for the Italian “Cin Cin”.

Because apparently shouting “Cock” in Japanese when someone toasts you is a little

Live and learn hey?



*Rumour status only