Monthly Archives: December 2016

Ringing in the New Year

So tonight I joined the fabulous Josh Zepps on ABC Radio to talk about cocktails for the New Year.

Here’s a few of the cocktails we covered.

For those who haven’t been here before, I’m a writer and a drinker, not a bartender, so I’ve linked to proper recipes from proper bartenders (click on the name of the cocktail).

Shake, Stir, Muddle is like a cocktail party – there will be enough good drinks to keep things moving, but you won’t care as much about what’s in your glass or who made it as you will the entertaining conversation you’re part of. So join us here every fortnight to talk drinks and movies and books and politics and history and 1980s music.

It’s fun, and it’s free and if you subscribe, we’ll send you an invitation every second week to come back for more. That’s all you’ll ever get from us, I promise.




Champagne Cocktails for New Year’s Eve

Classic Champagne Cocktail

Put a sugar cube in the bottom of a champagne flute, add two drops Angostura Bitters and one part Cognac. Pour over 9 parts Champagne


Mix champagne, cranberry juice and triple sec (Cointreau) to suit your taste

Kir Royale

1 part creme de cassis to 9 parts champagne (or plain white wine for a Kir)


Drinking to forget?

French 75

6 parts champagne, 3 parts Cognac or gin, 1.5 parts lemon juice, 2 dashes simple syrup (sugar and water)

Long Island Ice Tea

Throw every hard liquor you have in a glass, add a shot of Coca-Cola. Please don’t drink this, life is too short for shitty cocktails

Drinking to find romance on NYE?


Equal parts gin and sweet vermouth, 2 dashes fernet branca

The Love Potion

Equal parts vodka, Amaretto, peach schnapps, orange juice, cranberry juice


Hoping for something better in 2017? (Aren’t we all?)

Fresh Start

Equal parts raspberry vodka and sour mix (to make sour mix, dissolve 1 cup sugar in 1 cup boiling water, when cooled, add 1 cup lemon juice and 1/2 cup lime juice), with 0.5 parts peach brandy and 0.25 parts Campari







Where you Bellini my whole life?


Dear Muddlers

Our last post of the year features a festive bent – not sure if you have noticed, but it is Christmas THIS WEEKEND.

Christmas Day presents a cocktail challenge in the sheer length of the event. It really is the one day of the year where it is acceptable to drink from the pre-breakfast gift frenzy until you fall into your bed soon after the sun has sunk below the horizon.

The challenge then is what to drink. While heretical, I generally don’t opt for cocktails on Christmas Day, but know I have a moral obligation to examine all matters cocktail for you, dear Reader.

There are 76 IBA Official Cocktails and one that seems to offer the perfect solution for festive tippling.

After all, what could sound more cheerful than white peach puree and Prosecco?

Technically, by having only two ingredients, the Bellini doesn’t pass the Shake, Stir, Muddle cocktail test – it’s a mixed drink and I’ll be filing an injunction with the Supreme Court of Cocktails next year to get it removed from the IBA Official Cocktail list.

Setting that aside though, the Bellini sounds like an idyllic holiday on the Amalfi Coast.

Indeed, the Bellini has a rich Italian heritage, having been invented at Harry’s Bar in Venice and named after Italian Renaissance painter Giovanni Bellini.

Those Bellini boys were a bit like the Sheens of the Venetian art scene.

Father Jacopo was the Martin Sheen Bellini,a well-respected founder of Renaissance style painting.

Then came son Gentile, a talented artist who had an early career surge (think Emilio Estevez in Breakfast Club and St Elmo’s Fire, anything that came before Mighty Ducks- which secretly, I love, and would even if it didn’t feature the bonus of starring Pacey Witter from Dawson’s Creek), before being surpassed by younger brother Giovanni for the rest of their careers.


(Key differences are that Giovanni might not have been an anti-vax nutter with a massive substance abuse problem. Not sure.)

Since life in the 15th century was so bloody serious, all the Sheen-ellini boys focused on painting religious works.

Disappointingly, I misread Emilio’s job as the official portrait artist for the Dogs of Venice.


Turns out the Doges of Venice was the Chief Magistrate of the leader of the Most Serene Republic of Venice for 1,100 years. That’s cool too I suppose.

Anyway, a couple of centuries after Venice stopped being so serene in 1797, Harry’s Bar opened.

We’ve looked at Harry’s Bar back on World Cocktail Day – May 13 (put it in your diary) – since the bar that was a regular haunt of Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles was founded on May 13 1931, but its real claim to fame is the Bellini.

Setting aside what a miserable and unserene establishment Harry’s Bar must have been with blowhards Orson and Ernie in attendance, it is said that the gentle pink blush of the Bellini reminded Giuseppe Cipriani, founder of Harry’s Bar and inventor of the Bellini cocktail, of one of Giovanni (Charlie) Bellini’s paintings. Beautiful.

Problem is, the reality never matches the hype.

The reality of the Bellini is that when the glass gets presented, it generally looks like something you might need a course of anti-biotics for, rather than fun in a glass.

Look at this photo of the miserable Bellini next to the magnificent negroni my husband refused to swap with me when I was conducting field research.


(Pssst, that pink blush Cipriani loved so much? It actually comes from a little shot of raspberry or cherry juice – neither of which are in the IBA recipe. Stupid things is, not only would it make the Bellini look better, it would make the recipe an actual cocktail).

The second problem I have with the Bellini is a philosophical one.

Prosecco is an Italian sparkling wine. It costs about one-third of the price of champagne.

So why then do most bars continue to charge the same price for a Bellini as they do for a proper cocktail?

Even if they get the rosy glow situation sorted out, the Bellini should be much cheaper than a proper cocktail.

But it isn’t.

Perhaps it is these factors that have led to it not featuring strongly in popular culture.

There is some talk that Mae West’s Peaches O’Day had a Bellini in 1937’s Every Day’s a Holiday (which the magnificent West directed), but the cocktail wasn’t invented until 1942 aaawatch5at the earliest, so clearly that’s just wishful thinking.

I’m sure someone had one once in Sex and the City, but it doesn’t appear to feature in a single George Michael film-clip.

But Christmas is a marathon, not a sprint, so I’ll be taking the Bellini spirit and pouring it into my drink selection.

I’m just planning for it to be a damn sight more pleasing to the eye.

Unless you want to unleash the truth monster early in the day, I suggest parting with IBA lists and recipes but sticking with cocktails made with a fruit base for December 25.

I’ll be making cocktails – and I’m going to break with SSM tradition and use vodka for the first time – with a handmade cordial that I’ll mix with a generous slug of vodka whenever the mood takes me.

We live in a fortunate age where such nectars are quite widely available, but I’m opting for the Lime from Katie Swift Cordials that makes me feel like I have a perfect magazine-Christmas family and house.

They are not only delicious and pretty (even prettier when you lift one of Luisa Brimble’s shots from the website), but have the added benefit of looking like you are sippikatie-swift-drinksng on something that you MIGHT have made with that pointless and expensive nutribullet someone gave you instead of the pointless and expensive gift you really wanted.

If you’re going to adopt this covert strategy though, keep an eye on your drink – kids think everything they can lay their hands on is theirs on Christmas Day.

Merry Christmas Muddlers – whether or not the day has any religious significance for you, I hope the year ahead brings you plenty of pretty drinks and I look forward to sharing some more with you.

Cheers, Carolyn

Remember, remember the 5th of December

1449304634I know it’s Monday, and we are traditionally abstemious on this day, but if you have a sneaking suspicion you should be celebrating something today, you’re right.

Today, dear Muddlers, is Repeal Day.

On this day, 83 years ago, Utah ratified the 21st Amendment to the USA Constitution.

The 21st Amendment over-turned the ridiculous 18th Amendment which banned the sale of booze for nearly 14 years.

Given the conservative religious character of mormon-temple-utahUtah, perhaps it is understandable that some were keen to get back on the drink.

But for it to be the trigger for the end of Prohibition, surprised many.

On 5 December 1933, it became the 36th State to ratify the Amendment, giving it the required support from ¾ of the States some eight months after Michigan – which has been quite a disappointment to me in 2016 – became the first to sign (Mississippi kept Prohibition until 1966, possibly worried no one would be able to spell their own State if they were given a Tia Maria).

In spite of the tenaciousness of the residents of Elvis Presley’s birthplace, Prohibition had actually been opposed for a long time – Maryland never bothered enforcing it and New York repealed it at a State level in 1923.

So there were plenty of places to get a drink in most of the country – but by 1933, the Great Depression had made it clear that the policy which denied Governments much-needed tax revenue as it stimulated just one industry – organised crime – had to officially go.

Good-bye to the world’s dumbest public policy idea (although, watch this space on that front).

But let’s not throw the baby out with the bath-tub gin.

There was, in fact, some good to come out of those 13 years 10 months and 18 long days and nights of Prohibition.

A bunch of damn fine cocktails still worth drinking today.

Thanks primarily to the appalling taste of most of the booze available in the USA during Prohibition, many well-known cocktails were invented.

If you’ve got a glass in your hand with gin and muddled fruit – particularly citrus fruits – there’s a good chance it was invented or adapted during Prohibition. Throw in the strong taste of citrus juice, a bunch of sugar or honey and suddenly your rocket fuel becomes palatable.

medicinal-whiskeyThe closure of the official whiskey-for-fun business in the USA (there was still a steady trade in whiskey for “medicinal” purposes), saw a rise in the whisky business from other areas, notably Scotch whisky.

So we all win there.

And as the USA’s skilled bartenders headed off-shore, they were exposed to a range of liquors and influences from Cuba and Europe that might have otherwise taken decades to hit the USA, but were instead brought home in 1933 and introduced to a huge market.

And we saw the rise of the gin cocktail.

As bad as the bath-tub gin was, it had the advantage of not needing to be aged in the way Bourbon or Rye did, so it became more popular and as a result, features today in more cocktails than it otherwise might.

Again, a win for us all thanks to the unintended consequences of Prohibition.

So next time you order a cocktail, perhaps consider one of these Prohibition cocktails (which happily for those of us living in the Southern Hemisphere, are especially good for summer).

Mary Pickford – it’s pretty, it’s pink and it’s summery – Cuban rum, pineapple juice, 2016-01-12 19.44.21maraschino liqueur and grenadine – and was invented in Havana for one of the world’s biggest movie stars (who also went on to establish United Artists).

Gin Rickey – although originally made from Bourbon, gin was substituted into the F. Scott Fitzgerald favourite because it was readily available. Get the good stuff, add lime and soda.

foghorn_leghorn_decorating_his_treeMint Julep – invented before Prohibition but really took off because the mint and sugar hide a number of tastebud evils. Bonus points for letting you trot out your Melanie Hamilton Wilkes and/or Foghorn Leghorn impersonations.


Sidecar – mix up Cognac, Cointreau and lemon juice and6 you’ve got half of my all-time celluloid hero Aunty Mame’s morning-after breakfast.

The other half – black coffee – is entirely optional.

So here’s to unintended consequences and Happy Repeal Day!