All posts by Shake, Stir, Muddle

Auspicious occasions

Coupla big things in the SSM world this week.

Firstly, this SSM – Shake Stir Muddle – turned 2.

Yes, together, you and I have mixed up a lot of cocktails and metaphors, and I thank you for joining me to cut the virtual cake today.

Secondly, the more important SSM.

Same Sex Marriage.

Australians voted overwhelmingly in favour of legislating to change the Marriage Act and yesterday, our parliamentarians passed the legislation to enact that. Today our anachronistic but avuncular Governor-General signed it into law.

It’s done.

16 years after the Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalise Same Sex Marriage, Australia has joined the ranks of the cool kids and now there are 26 countries where this is legal (with Taiwan and Austria soon to join after Bills passed earlier in 2017).

A happy day (and as an aside, in spite of the dire warnings, I woke up the day after to find that the worst thing that was happening was a hangover from the 95 champagnes I had yesterday to celebrate. The sky has not fallen and my heterosexual marriage seems just as valid as it did yesterday. Go figure).

So it will be an even greater pleasure to publish our next cocktail shakedown as a tantrum-free two year old who lives in a world that is less ugly than it was yesterday.

But this week, we’re downing bar tools.

You won’t hear me say this often, but I think that this week we can close our cocktail cabinets and instead pop more corks, listen to George Michael on endless repeat and bask in the warm glow of a pointless barrier being smashed.

Don’t worry, I’ll be back to the shaker next week, with a journey to Mother Russia (with an Olympic-cock up theme rather than an Equality theme, for reasons which are sadly obvious) for an IBA Contemporary Classic that also comes with a very vulgar lesson from Urban Dictionary.

Cheers!

Use your melon and don’t drink this

Through the 23 cocktail shake-downs we’ve shared in 2017, each has filled me with a mounting dread of failure.

Could 2017 pass without me finding a way to weave a very important anniversary into one of the shake—downs?

Well, at the third last edition of this very strange year, I have rid myself of that burden.

The Japanese Slipper is possibly the vilest concoction I have ever consumed in the name of research. I could not choke down more than a few sips of this cocktail, nor could I convince any of my drinking companions to finish it for me.

2017-02-25 19.22.46

To be fair, I came to it closed-minded. Midori, Cointreau and lemon juice served with two sunken maraschino cherries.

You’d know Midori, it is Japanese for green and that is the most positive thing I can find to say about it. It is not an ingredient in a single IBA Official Cocktail – and while I have laid out in these pages my concerns about the judgement of that body – this to me seems a measure of good taste.

But Midori is an important liqueur in that it forms part of the alcohol apprenticeship for so many of us. I confess to a short dalliance with the melon liqueur in the 1980s.

But arguably the most important contribution Midori has made to the cocktail world is today, in allowing us to finally mark the 40th anniversary of Saturday Night Fever (and if you want to be precise, prepare to raise your glass on 12 December 2017).

Saturday Night Fever.jpg

See Midori was launched by Suntory at a party for the cast and crew of Saturday Night Fever at Studio 54 in New York.

Now that we have made that link, there should be no further requirement for us to discuss this sickly melon-flavoured liqueur.

But because I am nothing if not professional, I took to the bars of Sydney yesterday to see if bartenders could convince me that Midori can be served in a fashion acceptable to anyone over 21.

Three bartenders refused the challenge.

Calvin at Untied gave it a solid crack though and came up with a nameless drink that was Bombay Sapphire gin, a modicum of Midori, passionfruit and pineapple juice, served with a lot of crushed ice, mint and a slice of blow-torched pineapple.

Calvin's cocktail

I am about to give this cocktail the highest praise I can ever imagine giving something containing Midori.

It was ok.

But I’m done with the experiment and done – permanently – with Midori.

So back to Saturday Night Fever. A timeless classic, worthy of our attention.

You know the story, Vinnie Barbarino, having graduated from the Sweat-hogs worked (not terrifically hard) in a hardware store by day and carved up the dance floor at disco 2001 Odyssey by night under a new name, Tony Manero.

Let’s set aside the most implausible part of this movie – that anyone could slide on a dance-floor in the 1970s and not come up covered in cigarette ash and butts, booze stains and in all likelihood, vomit.

dance floor splits

Let’s also set aside the plot which is just bad.

Instead let’s focus on the DANCING. The FASHION. And especially the MUSIC.

Saturday Night Fever, the album, was released on November 15, 1977 and is still the highest selling soundtrack album of all time (which is especially remarkable when you remember that the Footloose album had Let’s Hear it for the Boy, Footloose and Holding Out for a Hero – not the shitty 2011 remake which, as a matter of principle, I have never watched. The 1984 original).

The Bee Gees apparently wrote pretty much all the SNF songs in a single weekend and weren’t involved until post-production, so all the Travolta dancing scenes were originally to Boz Scaggs and Stevie Wonder.

I bet you haven’t thought about Boz Scaggs in a while.

No, none of us has.

In another excellent quirk of fate, in SNF’s opening scene as Tony gets ready for his big night out, we see the posters on his bedroom wall. One of these posters is of Wonder Woman.

Tony Manero bedroom

It’s the Lynda Carter version, but 2017 being the 40th anniversary of Tony/Vinnie/John Travolta’s dance-floor Odyssey also saw the release of the new WW movie. Nice one, Universe.

So you could embrace that theme in working out what to drink while you watch SNF (or just skip the movie and put the soundtrack on repeat, closing your eyes and imagining a sunken lounge room with shag-pile carpet up the walls).

There is a Wonder Woman cocktail which I haven’t found the origins of but does pre-date the Gal Gadot movie and disappointingly but also symmetrically, does contain Midori.

It sounds bloody awful – Midori, peach schnapps and three types of juice – so I’m going to pass on that one and will instead opt for an IBA cocktail that was big in the 1970s, maybe an Alexander or possibly even the very first cocktail covered in Shake, Stir, Muddle, the Tequila Sunrise.

Whatever you do, don’t let this opportunity pass to review Barry Gibb’s testicle arrangement in his tight white Stayin’ Alive pants and stay clear of the melon liqueur.

Cheers!

Mint Juleps and don’t spare the horses!

Perhaps my favourite thing about writing about cocktails, is how far we can travel with each cocktail shakedown.

This week is no exception. The Mint Julep, an IBA Contemporary Classic.

Today we journey from the spiritual home of the Mint Julep to Jolly Olde England. From Melbourne through the desert on a horse with no name to the Kimberley in the far North-West of Australia (and before Twitter lost its way, one of the most memorable tweets I saw was someone pointing out that nine days in the desert was plenty of time to have given that horse a name).

Broome Highway

 

 

The Mint Julep is bourbon, mint leaves, powdered sugar and water, served with crushed ice. It’s notable in that you do a bit of muddling – something we rarely do on these pages in spite of our moniker – and for the crushed ice.

The Julep has a long proud history and is apparently perfect for sipping on during hot afternoons while you set awhile on the porch in your rocking chair, possibly over-looking your tobacky plantation.

Mint Julep

My field testing occurred on a rainy night at Bar 1806 in Melbourne, in full view of Bill Nye, The Science Guy (to be clear, he was just in the same bar, not supervising the scientific validity of my testing techniques). I had a Georgia Julep which contains Cognac and Peach-infused Armagnac and tasted like a delicious iced-tea, and a more traditional Mint Julep, albeit with a bit of rum.

They both looked the same, tasted great and neither challenged the Boulevardier for its place as my Bourbon-based cocktail of choice. It’s the ice you see.

For mine, a cup full of crushed ice is like a grown-up sno-cone, which I have always found to be a disappointment in the iced-treat department. So too with the Julep, I prefer a cocktail with as much ice in as few pieces as I can get. Cool the drink without diluting it.

But the ice is a critical part of the Mint Julep and it is designed to be sipped very slowly. And I will acknowledge that many, many people love a Mint Julep.

Indeed Theodore Roosevelt faced charges of being a drunk in office because he was known to favour a Julep. Apparently he wasn’t pissed, just prone to exuberance, and in the Court case, both sides acknowledged that being partial to a Mint Julep didn’t make you a bad person (read David Wondrich’s Imbibe! For the full story).

 

Now the Mint Julep is the official drink of the Kentucky Derby, the USA’s and possibly the world’s most famous horse race.

Kentucky Derby.jpg

On the first Saturday in May, they sell 120,000 Mint Juleps to 170,000 punters. You can even fork out $2,000 for a Mint Julep if you’re feeling particularly stupid thirsty.

Now I’m not even slightly interested in horse racing as a sport or a social event, but it is horse racing season in Australia and we are about to hit summer so it seemed the perfect time to review this cocktail.

So giddy-up!

Young Royals Derby
Just average young people of England enjoying a day at the races

The Derby of Kentucky Derby is named after the Derby Stakes held at Epsom Downs in England.

The Derby Stakes is well-posh and was named after the 12th Earl of Derby who inaugurated the race in 1780 (the Kentucky Derby started in 1875).

Traditionally, a Derby is a 2 – 2.5km race for three year olds, both fillies and colts. A filly (and I’m telling you because I had only vague understanding of these terms) is a female horse up to 3 years old, a colt is a male of same age.

In the USA, of course they pronounce “Derby” “dur-by”, rather than the English (and Australian) version “dah-by”. Like a lot of what comes out of the USA, I don’t really understand why, since the entire racing industry – concept, nomenclature, the works –  was lifted directly from England and English.

Fun fact: at 1913’s Derby Stakes, suffragette Emily Davison threw herself in front of KingEmly Davison George V’s horse Anmer and she died from wounds four days later, never to receive my grateful thanks for her part in letting me vote.

It is possibly for this reason that a different race day, The Oaks, is designated as Ladies Day (named after the good Earl’s estate). It’s run by fillies.

The Kentucky Carnival has a Derby, an Oaks and also the curious Thurby, which is a portmanteau of Thursday and Derby.

Down in Melbourne, the Cup carnival takes its cue from the same horse-racing tradition and has a Derby, a Cup, an Oaks and a Stakes Day.

In Melbourne, the Cup is King. It is also well-posh (ish).

Warnie Melbourne Cup
See? Posh

We don’t have an official Melbourne Cup cocktail (I was considering proposing the IBA Official Cocktail Horse’s Neck given how many racehorses have to be euthanised each year, but that’s probably not in the festive spirit of the Spring Racing Carnival) although I’m advised that some 46,570 bottles of “champagne” get downed on Cup Day. That’s on top of the beer and pre-mix spirits and there’s only 100,000 people at Flemington.

Horse Racing - Melbourne Cup - Flemington Racecourse
Young people of Australia enjoying a day at the races

The Melbourne Cup was first run in 1861, before Australian Federation and when we were still counted among the British colonies. So there is no doubt that we would pronounce Derby the way we do today “Dah-by”.

But up in the far north-west coast of Western Australia lies a town called Derby and they most definitely pronounce it the American way.

I rang the Derby Tourism office to check and Yvette assured me that this was definitely the correct way to pronounce Derby up there.

While not necessarily welcoming my question as to why this was the case, she was happy to inform me that the town was named not after a horse race, but after a Lord Derby who was Secretary of the Colonies and had been in Canada before coming to Australia. No, she couldn’t find her piece of paper to give me any more specifics on that.

By my reckoning, I think this must be after the 15th Earl of Derby.  Derby was declared a township in 1883 when he was Secretary of State of the Colonies.

15th Earl of Derby
Young lady, I do not take kindly to having my name mispronounced.

So that being the case,it’s most definitely “Dah-by” and I’m thinking one of us needs to ring Yvette and tell her that they’re making a mistake.

You do that, I’ll mix us up a long Mint Julep and we can test the theory of Mrs Trollope, author of 1832’s Domestic Manners of the Americans, that “it would, I truly believe, be utterly impossible for the art of man to administer anything so likely to restore them from the overwhelming effects of heat and fatigue”.

Cheers!

 

Deploy Clover Clubs to deliver Dots

It’s true. We may be guilty of being a little old-fashioned at Shake, Stir, Muddle.

In fact, if we ever ran a wanky corporate workshop to figure it out, we’d probably come together behind a vision that included preservation of cultural heritage.

In the glass, on the screen, on the Walkman.

We value wit and whimsy and we are inspired by the great Dorothy Parker. Writer, humourist, cocktail-appreciator.

But nomenclature is another heritage front that’s opened up that we’re concerned about.

Yes, we have encountered the disturbing news that the name of the Patron Saint of SSM may be on the verge of extinction.

Seems that we are in danger of running out of Dorothies and being over-run by Olivias.

Think of that.

Image result for Dorothy Parker

The Dorothies of the world say things like:

The first thing I do in the morning is brush my teeth and sharpen my tongue.

The Olivias of the world say things like:

Family, nature and health all go together.

Yawn.

Olivias are very nice and pretty and some of them can really turn a high school gang on its head and then release history’s worst Christmas song.

 

Yes, the world would be a poorer place without the Olivias.

But there is zero danger of that happening, Olivias are on the rise. We are, however, facing a problem in the Dorothy pipeline.

A dearth of Dorothies awaits us.

So consider this post a Call to Arms Muddlers. We need to rise up and use the power of the cocktail and possibly George Michael music to address the impending Dorothy shortage.

Now, I’m doing my bit. Every second child I give birth to has been named Dorothy, but we cannot rely solely on me.

This is a name that was once so popular, that in 1979, two consecutive Playmates of the Month were named Dorothy.

Yes, the list of famous and fabulous Dorothies is long and remarkable.

Lamour, Hamill, Dandridge, Metcalf-Lindenburger. Actors, Olympians, Astronauts. Trailblazers.

If you look up the list of famous Carolyns, the first six listed are actually Carols (totally not the same thing), and the first proper Carolyn you get is a porn star.

Now Dorothy Parker’s drink of choice – the Whiskey Sour – has been covered in these pages HERE, as has the Martini HERE, another favourite about which she probably did not write these most excellent lines often attributed to her but it sounds like something she would say so let’s not quibble over facts.

I like to have a martini,

Two at the very most.

After three I’m under the table,

After four I’m under my host

Today we’re serving up a Clover Club. While I thought that it was a Parker favourite, I must have imagined that because I can’t find any evidence of it now, but we will run with it for several reasons;

  1. It’s a Sour, and she favoured a Sour
  2. It’s gin-based, also not disagreeable to Ms Parker
  3. It’s an IBA Official Cocktail, an Unforgettable no less, and that’s our job at SSM

The Clover Club was invented pre-Prohibition in a Philadelphia club of the same name.

The Club met monthly from 1882 until the 1920s at the Bellevue Hotel. There, a select group of journalists and lawyers would eat and drink and talk.

So a bit like the Algonquin Round Table of which Dorothy Parker was a Charter Member. The Round Table met once a week for lunch and unlike the Clover Club which was only blokes, welcomed members on the basis of their demeanours, not their penis.

Image result for algonquin round table

To be fair, it started in 1919, so perhaps the Clover Club would have had female members had it been established later.

Like nowadays, I imagine they’d welcome Philly native Tina Fey, who could set up her own Algonquin and invite other Philadelphians, Will Smith and Noam Chomsky and Kevin Bacon. And possibly Bill Cosby.

(But keep a very close eye on your drinks Tina).

So, the Clover Club.

45ml Gin

15ml Lemon Juice

15ml Raspberry Syrup

1 Egg White

Dry shake the ingredients to emulsify (ie shake without ice), add ice, shake and serve straight up.

 

We One-for-the-Road-tested two Clover Clubs in recent field testing.

1806 Clover ClubRed Spice Road CloverOn Tuesday, Melbourne’s Bar 1806’s Clover Club (left). My photo doesn’t do it justice because I was sitting ten feet from Bill Nye the Science Guy and wanted to look cool.

On Wednesday, still in Melbourne, at Red Spice Road with their creditable variant the Kyoto Clover Club .

I’d go back for both.

What does this have to do with Dorothies?

It is widely accepted that drinking and conception are frequent bed-fellows. There is a reason that September has a higher birth rate than any other month*, Christmas and New Year cheer is that reason.

So go now and find some people of child-bearing age, and offer to buy them drinks.

They’ll accept, they can’t afford to buy a home, let alone a decent drink.

Make it a Clover Club, what you will. As they drink, turn up the music – say Alison Moyet’s Dorothy and whisper quietly in their ears, “Dorothy, Dorothy, Dorothy”.

 

Then send them home to their beloveds and hope for the best.

This time next year we’ll look at our results and start to address the Critical Clive Shortage that we’re also about to face.

Good work Muddlers, it’s a public service we’re doing.

Cheers!

*Not based on any valid statistical survey or even the most basic internet research

 

Past your bedtime? Order carefully

Like most sensible people, when faced with a dilemma, I ask myself what Naomi Campbell would do.

Take last week for example, when I was finally going to be able to use those Book of Mormon tickets I bought AGES ago, but knew that if history has shown us anything, it’s that no matter how good the production, an 8pm curtain can prove challenging for my stamina.

What would Naomi do if faced with the need to stay up past her bed-time?

Naomi Gif.gif

Back in the 1980s, the savvy super-model tasked bartender extraordinaire Dick Bradsell (who sadly died at just 56 last year and we did a little salute to him HERE) with giving her a cocktail that would “wake her up and fuck her up”.

Thus began the dawn of the Espresso Martini Era.

We are now deep in the second wave of the Espresso Martini Era, as our society’s ridiculous obsession with coffee collides with the cocktail renaissance to such an extent that tickets for an Espresso Martini Festival in Melbourne sold out in less than ten minutes in 2016.

That it was created in the 1980s should give us reason to approach this IBA Cocktail with some degree of caution.

Firstly, of course, the Espresso Martini is not really a Martini.

No, it’s not. Just like the Flirtini, the Appletini and all the imposters that come in a Martini glass, calling something a Martini is not enough to make it a Martini.

A Martini has gin or vodka and vermouth. Full stop.

The Espresso Martini – a cocktail Bradsell originally dubbed “Vodka Espresso” and later tried to rename “Pharmaceutical Stimulant” when the Martini nonsense took hold (making him even more of a legend in my eyes) – contains vodka, coffee liqueur, espresso and sugar syrup. HERE’s the recipe.

As part of our Mormon mission, Shake, Stir, Muddle bundled into Federici Bistro in Melbourne and discovered a THOROUGHLY delightful service where you can pre-order drinks for Intermission. Not just crappy sparkling wine in plastic glasses, but proper cocktails, consumed at your dedicated table or seat at the bar. It’s heavenly.

Possibly actual Heaven in fact.

Book of Mormon

There was zero doubt we would avail ourselves of this magnificent service, but the question was what to order for the post-bed-time mission.

Coffee helps, of course.

That the wakey-wakeyness of coffee peaks about an hour after consumption makes it a perfect choice for both pre-theatre and Intermission.

But do we go for an Espresso Martini (which I’m told makes proper bartender roll their eyes – HERE’s a great story from The Guardian which includes a tale of a bunch of women on a Hen’s Night carrying signs saying “Espresso Martini” and just waving those around when they wanted a drink), or an Espresso and a Martini?

Espresso and Martini

Obviously that’s an issue of taste, but if calories are relevant to you, Bradsell’s creation will hit your daily budget about 284 calories a pop, but the Espresso and Martini combo comes in at about 174 calories and that includes two olives.

Regular readers could be forgiven for assuming that I’d always go for the combo. Truth is though, I have a bit of a soft spot for old Naomi’s cocktail and will periodically opt for it in lieu of dessert and Federici had a Dark Chocolate offering that clearly had added benefits of anti-oxidants (whatever those are).

We divided and conquered and road-tested both. I’m happy to report that no one had to be nudged into wakefulness during the fabulous Book of Mormon.

So I can recommend either path as a sure fire way of staying the course (unless you’re at Waiting for Godot, in which case I suggest just giving into the Sleep Gods and enjoying the nap).

Now you could listen to the soundtrack of Book of Mormon while you down your Pharmaceutical Stimulant but I think that would be wasting a golden opportunity.

Let’s take the birth decade of this cocktail and travel back to 1983.

220px-whamfantasticYes, the year that the cavalcade of pop classics that is Wham! Fantastic was bestowed upon on us.

You could sing Bad Boys, but since Patron Saint of SSM, George Michael didn’t actually like that song, let’s not. Instead you could opt for Wham! Rap, or one of THE BEST songs ever recorded, Club Tropicana (which we have covered HERE).

 

You could watch Risky Business, also released in 1983. Or Our Nicole (wh220px-bmxbanditsposter83en she still had curly red hair) in BMX Bandits. Or Terms of Endearments. Or the best yet, Flashdance.

Seriously, 1983 is possibly the most magnificent year ever for music or movies.

 

But how about this? How about watching The Commitments instead.

Confession time, I’ve never seen it so have no idea whether it’s any good, and it came out in 1991, so may not seem entirely relevant, but bear with me.

You know that song Mustang Sally, right? It was written in the mid-1960s, but if you were around in the 1990s, you’d know it from it being on rotation on dance floors at the same unwelcome regularity as Dave Dobbyn’s Slice of Heaven. That’s because of The Commitments.

So we all know the lyric “Ride, Sally ride.”

We’ve gone back to 1983 (which to be perfectly honest is a few years before the 13 year old Naomi started ordering cocktails), that most spectacular year of screen and sound, to talk about a woman named Sally Ride who in June of that year became the first US woman in space.

1200px-sally_ride_in_1984

This is cool on many levels.

Sally was super-smart and inspired many girls to study science. Sally had a fantastic perm. And Sally Ride was the first known LGBTQI astronaut.

Sadly, this last part wasn’t publicly acknowledged until her obituary in 2012 when she died aged 61, having spent 27 years with Tam O’Shaughnessy.

There are people in Australia who would still like us to have our LGBTQI brothers and sisters live their entire lives pretending not to be who they are.

But I say, let’s raise a glass of Pharmaceutical Stimulant – or whatever you fancy – to Sally Ride, and let’s treat hiding your sexual orientation as being as culturally-relevant as Sally’s perm.

Questionable in 1983, down-right comical in 2017.

So as they say in The Commitments*, Sláinte mhaith, and if you haven’t yet, please vote YES (it’s what Naomi would do).

Cheers!

*Probably

 

vote-yes.jpg

 

 

 

Screw you Screwdriver

Look, breaking up is never easy, I know (and dear Muddlers, at least some of you will now have an ABBA song on repeat in your heads so you’re welcome), but it may be time for Shake, Stir, Muddle to move on.

The International Bartenders Association, which has provided the official list of cocktails that SSM has based several years of research from (after an admittedly half-arsed and somewhat arbitrary decision back in the early days of SSM), has been throwing up some red flags for a while.

We’ve all had those relationships where we turn a bit of a blind eye to some of the more “charming” aspects of the other party. You know, the daggy website, the insistence on maintaining a Flairtending Award several decades after that has been put to death in most good bars, that sort of thing.

But the biggest of these red-flags is that the IBA may not actually know what a cocktail is.

Oh I’m sure if I threw two ingredients at them – say gin and tonic – they would be able to differentiate between a mixed drink and a cocktail. The G&T – a truly magnificent alcoholic drink and possibly the cornerstone of civilisation – is worthy of cult status, but a cocktail it ain’t.

See, while two ingredients can indeed make a cocktail, it is only if they are both alcoholic.

Otherwise, it’s a mixed drink.

Like this week’s offering which, not only does the IBA incorrectly classify as a cocktail, but it actually categorises it as an Unforgettable, joining the Martini, the Old Fashioned, the Negroni and more than two dozen other actual important cocktails on that list.

But the Screwdriver – an adolescent combination of one part vodka to two parts orange juice – surely, surely has no place on this list?

And yet, the IBA insists.

So, until such time as we officially break up with the IBA, SSM is honour-bound to review it.

So there, it is. Vodka and orange. Whoopty-doo.

It seems to have been around since just after WWII, although how its “invention” could possibly have been held off for this long is beyond me.

harry_stamperOne cool(ish) story is that oil rig workers in the Persian Gulf found the work hot and that some wowsers deemed that super-dangerous work (watch Bruce Willis in 1998’s classic film Armageddon to gain an expert knowledge in deep sea oil stuff) should probably be done sober, so they started drinking “Orange juice” which they stirred with the only bar tool handy – a Screwdriver.

If you like Orange Juice, you’ll like a Screwdriver. That’s why so many under-age drinkers favour the Screwdriver (and I was one of them).

I’m not even going to give you a picture of one. The very best Screwdriver looks like a glass of OJ.

GallianoThe sole remaining interesting fact about the Screwdriver is that if you can master it, you are but one dash of Galliano away from nailing another IBA cocktail – the Harvey Wallbanger.

The three-ingredient Harvey Wallbanger does indeed qualify for cocktail status and the IBA has included it in Contemporary Classics.

Where does the name Harvey Wallbanger come from? Well that’s disputed, but most likely it joins last week’s actual cocktail, the Alexander, in having marketers to thank for its prominence. In this case, the importers of Galliano, the sweet bright yellow Italian liqueur found in some other questionable IBA cocktails such as the Yellow Bird and Golden Dream, both of which SSM is girding our collective loins before reviewing.

They wanted a cool, laidback surfer dude to advertise the drink and someone dubbed him Harvey Wallbanger. So it’s about as glamorous as Rhonda and Ketut.

 

From the Screwdriver and the Harvey Wallbanger, a world of mediocre cocktails is just a step and a 1970s sly wink at your bartender away.

Take your Screwdriver and substitute vodka for Sloe Gin and you get a Slow Screw (geddit?).

Take your Slow Screw and add some Southern Comfort (which is actually changing its century-old recipe this year to include actual whiskey instead of whiskey flavouring) and you have a Slow Comfortable Screw (seeing the pattern here yet?).

And add Galliano – our old friend from the Harvey Wallbanger – to your mix and you can ask your bartender for a Slow Comfortable Screw Against the Wall.

Sigh.

The variations on this theme are disappointingly numerous.

But given I’m contemplating ending a relationship, I’m going to have to think seriously over a good drink.

And sure, at 11am tomorrow if I’m still in need of a drink, I’ll turn to some navel-gazing, and pour myself a Screwdriver (unlikely, but possible), but otherwise, I’ll opt for a cup of tea, a proper cocktail or just stick to mixed drinks that have the courage to be unashamedly who they are and stop screwing with the cocktail list.

Cheers!

 

Get on board the Alexander train

Brideshead AlexandersBack in 1981, when I still thought Evelyn Waugh was a woman*, Brideshead Revisited came to television and everyone started ordering Brandy Alexanders.

Even in Brisbane.

The cocktail, which started life as part of a clean coal marketing campaign (more on that shortly) was most likely created in the early 1900s by Troy Alexander and originally contained gin, white crème de cacao and cream. The gin was swapped out for brandy and lately, the Alexander has dropped the brandy handle entirely and is now more routinely made with cognac, brown or white crème de cacao and cream.

But is actually not ordered very often and is kind of daggy.

There is nothing Shake, Stir, Muddle likes more than discovering something – especially something that was big in the 1980s – that has fallen out of fashion and assess its right for a revival.

Step forward Alexander.

I’m not a huge dessert fan and don’t generally go for cocktails with cream in them, but there is certainly merit in the concept of drinking one’s dessert and there is something old-worldy about the Alexander that does charm.

Also charming is the clean coal history of the cocktail.

Now I think “clean coal” is a genuinely hilarious expression. I have seen Billy Elliott four times so definitely know my coal mining and it is not a clean business. It may indeed be getting cleaner, but it is in no way clean.

The thing is, most of us never have to see coal in our daily lives, so the concept of clean coal is quite seductive.

Back in the early 1900s though, when trains were powered by coal, people were confronted with the unclean-ness of coal every time they wanted to go anywhere more than 2kms from their homes.

Recognising this was a problem for them, the canny marketers at Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad connecting Buffalo, New York with Hoboken, New Jersey, engaged the services of advertising whiz Earnest Elmo Calkin, who promptly came up with the fictitious Miss Phoebe Snow (actually I have no idea if it was prompt or not).

Miss Phoebe Snow, New York Socialite, didn’t go all Sheena Easton and just let her baby ride the Morning Train. Hell, no. She put on her best white dress and happily rode the DL&W Railroad herself, safe in the knowledge that her dress would remain pristine because DL&W locomotives used Anthracite.

lackawanna_railroad_phoebe_snow_anthracite

Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, PHMC

Anthracite is a very hard coal that burns a blue, smokeless flame and does throw off less crud than normal coal, which is why it can used in places like central London.

There you go, truth in advertising.

Now before we get all excited, Australia produces between zero and bugger-all Anthracite.

But back to Miss Phoebe Snow. DL&W held a fancy dinner to promote the clean coal and bartender Troy Alexander whipped up a cocktail that was white and fluffy, evocative of the lovely Miss Snow’s dresses and generally Virginal-demeanor.

That was the gin variation.

The Cognac version is now one of the IBA’s Unforgettables. In fact, due to alphabetical good fortune, the Alexander is the very first Unforgettable cocktail listed.

It’s another shaker and easy to make.

Alexander

The IBA recipe calls for 30 mL each of Cognac, Crème de Cacao and Fresh Cream shaken over ice (give it a really good shake, it’ll make the cocktail frothier and give you a tiny workout before you pour all that cream and sweet booze into your body).

Strain it into a chilled cocktail glass and sprinkle with nutmeg.

Enjoy.

In moderation.

This thing tastes like a milkshake but is as powerful as any other more alcoholy-tasting cocktail.

As part of our One-for-the-Roadtesting, SSM tried the gin and cognac variations. Opinions were divided exactly 50:50 (between the two of us) as to the superior offering.

Regardless, we both agreed that dialing back the Crème de Cacao made for a better cocktail. You can always add more but it does tend to dominate.

Dessert in a glass, genius.

So that’s what to drink today. But why to drink?

Today, friends, 15 September, is not only a Friday – the happiest day of the week – it is also the anniversary of many things worthy of celebration.

Over the past 70 or so years, 15 September has seen the premiere of many TV greats – The Lone Ranger (1949), Lost in Space (1965), CHiPs (1977) and LA Law (1986) – which together have accounted for literally hundreds of hours of my life.

Ok, so not life-saving, but definitely life-affirming (especially CHiPs).

Something that does fall into the life-saving camp though is this: On this day in 1928, Alexander Fleming (later Sir Alexander) discovered penicillin while studying influenza.

gonorrhea

A huge shout out to Sir A for that work and apologies that less than a century later we have compromised the value of it through over-use. It’s pretty much what we do now, with everything.

But you sir, have saved the lives of millions and millions of people and I salute you with a cocktail that shares your name.

240px-The_Party_MachineSadly, 15 September is also the anniversary of some sad things. Like 1991, when we saw the very last episode of Party Machine with Nia Peeples go to air.

Party Machine was a bit like actually going to a nightclub in the very early 1990s, all the clubs were obsessed with dance floors over several levels and bike pants were indeed worn with high heels and shoulder pads (yes, even in Brisbane).

The only thing they’ve neglected is that everyone had cigarettes on the dance floor and you’d go home smelling worse than a day on a non-Anthracite train and sporting burn holes in your cool clothes.

In its brief but bizarre and beautiful run, Party Machine had one guest host almost unrecognisable to her true fans, those of us who didn’t really like the anti-feminist message behind Morning Train (why don’t you get your own damned job Sheena? Take him to a movie, slow dancing, anything he wants) but still quite fancy hanging off the end of a locomotive and dancing to this classic ear-worm.

Sheena, that new song you sang on Party Machine is shit though.

Party Machine also had the curious combination of a bartender but a non-alcoholic bar (we call this “the tap” at our house – or “faucet” for my American friends) so he couldn’t have shaken up an Alexander for you, but there’s possibly no better way to mark the passing of this intriguing relic than with another relic.

Welcome back Alexander, you’ve got a place at the bar here at Shake, Stir, Muddle.

Cheers!

 

*I know this implies that I discovered my error soon after 1981. This may or may not be the case.

Bee’s Knees, the absolute Dog’s Bollocks

 

Wally

This is Wally.

He is a one-time shelter cat who has lived in the lap of luxury with my family for 11 of his 12 years. He is much nicer than our last cat Georgie who was definitely smarter but showed her hatred of him to her very last breath at 19 years old.

Old Wally here is a lovely guy, but he’s no Einstein. And frankly, he’s a bit of a disappointment to us.

Not solely because he urinates in the heating vents – although that is indeed challenging – but because he does nothing that would ever get him on Cats Make You Laugh Out Loud.

Wally can’t play the piano, use the toilet, nor will he ride around on a robotic vacuum cleaner in a shark suit. To be fair, we don’t have a robotic vacuum cleaner and have never tried to put him in a shark outfit but we just know.

Wally’s not that kind of cat.

We love him but could never put him in a onesie and say he was the cat’s pyjamas.

 

 

And look, maybe that’s ok.

Maybe I don’t need any more excuses to make poor puns and dredge up old-fashioned expressions.

In the 1920s though, when I would have been a bobbed-hair, sassy-chattin’ flapper, Wally’s ordinariness would have posed a problem. When everyone was trotting out the cat’s pyjamas, the duck’s nuts and the elephant’s adenoids by way of saying that something was the best, having a cat that was neither the pyjamas nor the whiskers could have been a struggle.

Small wonder then that during Prohibition some canny cocktail creator mixed a slug of bath-tub gin and lemon juice and then tapped into both the honeycomb and the Zeitgeist to mix up the cocktail known to this day as the Bee’s Knees (we should be thankful that it has retained its 1920s name rather than the updated version – I’m not sure I’m that keen to order a Dog’s Bollocks).

The Bee’s Knees is like the Wally of cocktails. Not famous and possibly a bit too simple.  But lovely all the same.

Take:

60 mL (2oz) Gin

22 ml (0.75oz) freshly squeezed, strained lemon juice

15mL (0.5 oz) honey syrup (mix your honey 50:50 with warm water or it will just shake into an ugly ball in your shaker)

Shake it up with ice. Strain it into glass. Garnish with lemon twist.

(I’m going to slightly up the amount of honey next time – you’ll need to play with it to get your preferred flavour).

Bees Knees.jpg

The Prohibition theory was that the honey would hide the smell of alcohol. I guess that depends on how much you have, but given we are still in flu season, consider the honey and lemon and therapeutic combination.

That aside, it’s tasty, but I’m not sure really is the Bee’s Knees.

No one really knows where the Bee’s Knees expression came from.

One theory is that it is paying homage to one Beatrice “Bee” Jackson, a dancer from the 1920s who could Charleston like nobody’s business with knees flying everywhere. Watch this video and note that she does it in heels too.

She is the Snake’s Hips.

 

 

The expression could also be a corruption of “busy-ness”. As we know, bees are a diligent lot, getting on with the job of packing pollen into their knee sacks with narry a thought for hayfever nor ever stopping for a cappuccino to bitch about how busy they are.

That bees are so busy is important.

 

Bee and blossom.png

 

I think we can all agree that Albert Einstein was a Smart Guy.

He was credited with a lot of important and clever things (ok, he never rode around in a shark suit on a vacuum cleaner but he did conclude in his theory of special relativity that the speed of light in a vacuum is always constant, and that’s also quite impressive I suppose).

But one of the things he’s been credited with is this:

“If bees were to disappear from the globe, humankind would only have four years left to live.”

For good reason, this freaks a lot of people out.

But there’s apparently no evidence that it was actually said by Einstein, although plenty have people have said it does sound like the sort of thing Al would say.

Because he was the cat’s pyjamas (like these Australian scientists who won Eureka Prizes earlier this week for doing some kick-arse work for which we should all be worshipping them like rock stars).

Regardless of who said it, bees are important (and here you can see I am making a play for a Eureka Prize of my own next year) and should definitely have a cocktail named after them.

Things have been looking grim on the bee front for a few years although there has been some reported improvement in 2017 (it is possible that this is what stock-market types refer to as a Dead Cat Bounce but I don’t want to say that out loud in case Wally panics and pisses in the heating vent).

But good news is good news and the Bee’s Knees is a great cocktail to toast the turning of the seasons and the rise in backyard bee-keeping in almost every country Shake, Stir, Muddle gets read in.

Go beekeepers!

The Bee’s Knees isn’t an IBA Official cocktail though and maybe that’s why it hasn’t been getting its time in the sun from a movie perspective.

I haven’t found a movie or television reference to the cocktail, but have found this week’s birthday boy, Jack Black, trotting it out in 2003’s guide to teaching excellence, School of Rock (watch it if you haven’t and watch it again if you have).

 

I love this movie, not least for my alter-ego Summer Hathaway’s demonstration that no matter how cool your rock band is, it don’t mean squat if you haven’t got someone to organise your bus to the gig, appropriate insurances and adequate hydration for your roadies.

That’s right, rock stars. Solid admin is the Bee’s Knees too (so thank your Band Manager or Cocktail Reviewer today).

Cheers!

 

Summer is efficient
Not everyone adequately appreciates efficiency

 

PS There’s a variation called the Oldest Living Confederate Widow which adds two drops of orange bitters and two dashes of Absinthe and I think lifts the cocktail from Wally to the cat’s actual pyjamas.

 

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 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.

Cheers!

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).

Voronoff.jpg

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.
Cheers!
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