Monthly Archives: August 2017

I’m turning you down, Tom Collins

It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that Jane Austen would have been a cool chick to have a cocktail with.

But were she to show up at my door at 5pm on Friday evening, expecting a cocktail and some stimulating conversation, what would I serve?

Last night I went to the Sydney Opera House to listen to some very clever Science-types talk about Life on Mars. Seems NASA has plans to have people in orbit around the red planet in the 2030s and living on the surface a decade later.

Opera House and Bridge.jpg

This seems awfully soon – and terribly exciting – and logic tells me then that other smart Science-types may be closer to nailing the whole time travel thing than I thought. If so, the prospect of Jane Austen showing up at my door, demanding a decent cocktail, may indeed be closer than I thought.

So on this day, which is exactly 100 years and one month after she died, it’s high time we considered what to serve Ms Austen. It needs to be a drink that demonstrates an appreciation of her fine body of work, allows for witty quips to fly like tits (stop being so juvenile, it’s a bird) and above all, needs to be a damned fine cocktail.

You’re never going to get two chances to whip up a cocktail for Jane Austen.

Logic says we start with an IBA Unforgettable Cocktail, the Tom Collins.

Now the Tom Collins is a gin cocktail and that’s always a good place to start.

And it comes with a great story.

Back in 1874 (and remembering that this is some six decades after Jane’s death, have a few bits of 1874 trivia to hand, tell her it was the year Winston Churchill was born, then tell her who Winston Churchill was and that he got the Nobel Prize for Literature, tell her that 15 out of the 113 Nobel Laureates for Literature have been women, show her your jeans and tell her Levi Strauss got a patent for these in 1874, tell her the ladies wear them all the time now and that should make up for the lack of Nobel prizes), the Tom Collins cocktail was at the heart of an hilarious hoax.

At this point you could offer her a Piecost or a Henway.

It’s always a good day when you can land one of those, but your triumph should be tempered by knowing that Jane’s wit (we’re on first name basis now) may have been dulled by a century of being, you know, dead.

Anyway, back in New York in 1874, funsters would tell a friend (read: sucker) that a fellow named Tom Collins had been talking trash about them down at the tavern. When said friend would go down to the tavern and demand that Tom Collins be brought forth to account for himself, the cocktail would be placed on the bar and we’d all fall apart laughing.

This was before shows like Charles in Charge showed us what real humour was in the 1980s so don’t judge them too harshly.

So that’s the Tom Collins, but how does it link to Jane’s work?

Your segue here is to talk about one of Jane’s greatest creations, Mr Collins in Pride and Prejudice.

Pride and Prejudice 2.jpg

Mr Collins (William, not Tom but it’s a cocktail party so just relax a bit, would you?) was the pompous and ludicrous heir to the Bennet estate who proposed to that sassy Eliza Bennet and thought she was being coy when she told him she rather would die alone and penniless than marry him.

If you haven’t read it, you must. Or watch the 1995 six-part BBC series with Jennifer Ehle and and Colin Firth (it is much better than the Keira Knightley movie, even in spite of the glorious Dame Judi Dench appearing in the latter) and David Bamber as Mr Collins.

Anyway, in brief, Eliza knocks him back and ends up marrying broody Mr Darcy and Eliza’s best friend Charlotte, surprises us all by marrying Mr Collins, thinking it better to have a shit husband than none at all.

And sadly, while the Tom Collins offers much in the way of relevance as a cocktail to serve Jane, it is the cocktail equivalent of Charlotte Lucas’ life – a compromise, not entirely unpleasant but somewhat tedious and not something you are asking for more of

You really wanted something else. Something heaps better.

I ordered a Tom Collins at Bennelong in the Opera House last night. I knew what was in it, and I believe it to have been made exactly as the recipe directs.

Tom Collins.jpg

But even sitting in my favourite place on earth, this cocktail was a Mr Collins to my palate.

It’s gin, lemon juice, sugar syrup and soda water.

I just don’t know why you would bother.

A gin and tonic – while not a cocktail – is a much tastier way to drink gin. The Tom Collins feels like an expensive can of Solo.

Don’t be sad though, I just ordered another drink – a Red Rye Hand in homage to Nick Cave whose magnificent Ship Song has been used in a video about the Opera House that makes me weep with joy every time I see it.


So what then to serve Jane?

Don’t panic friends, the answer is clear.

Given that 1813, the year Pride and Prejudice was released was the same year that Vickers Gin and Noilly Prat vermouth were created, were Jane Austen to show up in my house tonight, I’d offer her a gin martini. Same as I’d offer anyone.

Because you’re dead a long time and life’s way too short to drink a Mr Collins.


Ground up what? I’ll pass. Thanks

I feel I need to start with an apology this week as I know our cocktail under the spotlight will cause some of you to cross your legs in discomfort.

Monkey Gland.jpg

It’s a delicious and beautiful offering that almost glows. Orange juice (fresh please), gin, absinthe and grenadine. Easy to make, pleasing to the eye.

And sure, maybe calling your son Sue is an effective substitute for hands-on parenting in some quarters, but sometimes a name can break bad.

And I think that’s what’s going on with the Monkey Gland.

This unfortunate handle is inspired by the work of a fascinating Russian-born Frenchman by the name of Serge Voronoff operating in the early decades of the 1900s.

Dr Serge’s hypothesis was that hormones, such as the testosterone produced in the testes, would reverse ageing with a process he called “rejuvenation”.

I can see the Eastern half of Sydney sitting up and taking notice here but I must warn you that this is a little more extreme than injecting a bit of life-threatening Botulism into your face.

First, Serge tested upon himself, injecting ground up dog and guinea pig testicles under his own skin.

Yes, you read that correctly.

He was disappointed that there were no discernible results (other than to induce vomiting I suspect).


A political cartoon of Voronoff performing an appendectomy in Egypt. (Image: Wellcome Images/Wikipedia)

Instead of accepting that you can’t be good at everything and moving onto to a sensible career like accounting or writing horror stories, Serge pressed on, determined to prove that living grafts of organ tissue, rather than the injections, were the answer.

Quite the early adopter of recycling, our man Serge harvested nuts from executed criminals and stitched slices of them into the ball-bags of rich white men.

I think it says more about the perennial desire of wealthy people to use their money to overcome their mortality than it does about the early 20th century justice system that Voronoff ran out of dead men’s nuts to slice before he ran out of willing recipients of such.

The forces of Supply and Demand forced Voronoff to look elsewhere and he started monkey farming for his supplies.

Serge conducted more than five hundred of these procedures and the scientific world was curious and watchful. Supportive. He even branched out into planting a monkey ovary into a woman (and I’m sure Mrs Trump loved her baby very much – boom boom).

But the sceptics finally caught up to Serge and his work was discredited and he died in obscurity in the 1950s.

Sad thing is, by the 1990s, his work was being looked at by the scientific community with a more sympathetic eye and is being credited with shaping some of the thinking that forms the basis of more credible, modern medical practices.

So let’s pause a moment a show some respect to the countless medical researchers who spend their entire careers testing hypotheses just so they can say “Nope, the answer’s not here” in the hope the next white coat can build on that to find the cure. You guys are awesome.

Serge’s story (and fortunately not the practices) inspired Harry MacElhone to name a cocktail after old Voronoff’s life work.

To allow you to unclench your nether regions, we’ll stop focusing on Serge’s work and focus instead on Harry’s extensive body of work.

Scotsman Harry took over the New York Bar in Paris in 1923 and called it Harry’s New York Bar.

Harry claims to have invented the Bloody Mary, the French 75, Boulevardier, Side Car, White Lady and the Blue Lagoon. And he’s got a pretty credible claim on most of them (although, I did give the Bloody Mary to another bartender in THIS POST, I did also say it was based on what he was serving to guests in the Paris at Harry’s Bar).

MacElhone's cocktails.jpg

But his Blue Lagoon is the one MacElhone creation that likely will never get its own review on these pages.

Because it’s blue.

And blue drinks don’t work.



No they don’t.


I like blue, and I liked the most of the delightful offerings of the same hue in Hawaii.

Which 3 things


But that, bottom right, is a Blue Hawaii cocktail photographed at point-blank range. Appetising, right?

No. Blue cocktails – the Blue Hawaii or the Blue Lagoon – seem mired in the 1980s.

And not in the good way. More in the Daryl Somers way.

Where it might work nicely is with an in-home screening of the totally excellent 1980 movie of the same name. The movie for which the beautiful Brooke Shields quite deservedly won a Razzie for Worst Actress.


Back in the days of VCR, I once spent a solid hour with my friend trying to get the picture to pause at just the moment when you can see Christopher Atkins’ simeon-free wang as he slid down the waterslide.

That’s University for you. As well as being a place of learning, it is also a place of far too many free hours in the hands of people just learning how to come to grips with being allowed to drink legally. It is also the time when you think blue drinks are a great idea and often have a blue tongue to show for your night out.

Treat the Blue Lagoon cocktail and movie with the same respect, a potentially enjoyable diversion, but both pretty much a waste of time.

By contrast, the the Monkey Gland deserves so much better.

As a cocktail, it is a superior offering but by virtue of a crappy name, it doesn’t get the love or attention it deserves.

So perhaps we should call it a Voronoff (he’s certainly more deserving of a cocktail named after him than that dullard Gibson)

Whatever you call it, this is a tasty cocktail, worthy of your attention. So uncross your legs, get out your orange juicer and get shaking.

50mL of gin (I used Archie Rose)
30mL of orange juice
2 drops of absinthe
2 drops of grenadine
Shake well over ice cubes in a shaker, strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
PS If you’re in Australia, you can tune in to Hard Quiz on ABC television at 8pm on Wednesday September 20th to see exactly how much I know about monkeys