Category Archives: Behind bars

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!

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



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.








Negroni, how do I love thee? Let me Count the ways

If you visit Sydney, you need to know this.

If you live in Sydney, you need to be reminded of this.

Just beside the northern pylons of the Sydney Harbour Bridge is a public swimming pool
2014-10-23 10.46.17that offers some of the best – and most peaceful – views of the Harbour and the Opera House. It’s heated, salty instead of chloriny and is rarely as busy as it deserves to be. With a Negroni-buzz, it is paradise.

But they have no bar.

Upstairs, over-looking the pool and with even better views of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House, is a restaurant that could conceivably claim to be one of the inspirations behind this blog and to which my thoughts return as I contemplate next week’s Negroni Week.

Who knew the Julian calendar was packed full of so many cocktaily days we need to mark? 2016-02-29 13.14.30.jpgGreat, isn’t it?

But it is Negroni Week that has brought forward the post on the favourite cocktail of Muddler Laura Dalrymple of Sydney providore Feather and Bone (if you care about where your food comes from, check out their website HERE and if you have a cocktail request, let me know).

Aqua Dining has sadly changed their signature Negroni offering (the one with the blood orange juice ice ball), but I will continue to reflect affectionately on it and will keep asking for it until they get sick of me. You always remember your first.

Ask most people what’s in their Negroni – the cocktail Conde Nast magazine has described as being this decade’s response to the Cosmopolitan – and they’ll likely list gin first. And while gin is one of the three ingredients of a Negroni – the others being, in equal parts, Campari and Vermouth – it is perhaps more historically correct to call it a Campari cocktail. Or even a Vermouth cocktail.

2016-05-06 20.24.52See, back in the early 1900s, the Negroni’s precursor was the Americano. The Americano contains Campari, Vermouth and soda water (like the one on the left from Gardel’s Bar).

Legend has it, a bloke with the fabulous handle of Count Camillo Negroni sauntered up to the bar at Caffe Casoni in Florence and asked the bartender to beef up his Americano.

Camillo had just returned from a stint in the wild west of the USA where he acquired a taste for strong liquor as he plied his skills as a rodeo clown (bet you didn’t see that one coming). Fast forward to Florence in February (I don’t know if it was February but the alliteration was too tempting) and Camillo needed a real belt.

So bartender (most reports name him as Fosco Scarselli but the Campari website says it was Luca Picchi) replaced the soda water with gin and switched out the lemon twist for orange. Hey presto, a star is born.

So perhaps it is a gin cocktail since that’s what changed and since that’s what really lifts the Americano, but Campari has pretty well stamped a claim on it – including launching Negroni Week with Imbibe Magazine in 2013.

Celebrated English writer and drinker Kingsley Amis wrote of the Negroni that “it has the power, rare with drinks and indeed with anything else, of cheering you up”.

Negroni Week should make it doubly so.

The basic thrust of Negroni Week is that you go to a participating bar (find your nearest HERE), order a Negroni and a $1 from each goes to charity.

It is at this point in most posts that I make you watch an 80s movie. I’ve struggled to find a lot of references to the Negroni in movies, primarily because it isn’t an American cocktail.

220px-roman_springA notable exception is the The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone, a 1961 offering based on Tennessee Williams’ book of the same name from 1950 (and a 2003 telemovie remake).

The basic themes of this movie are;

  • Italians are evil and will corrupt Americans
  • Rome makes women lose their better judgement

The 1961 version stars Vivien Leigh in one of her last movie roles, and Warren Beatty in one of his first. After this, I think old Wazza was channeled into roles that called for a little less in the exotic accent department and more of the just being Warren. Quite right.

Vivien plays Karen Stone, an actress who is too old to play the roles she has become famous for (isn’t it marvellous how consistent Hollywood is? This book was written more than 60 years ago but we still let men in their 70s be sex symbols while we value female actors over 40 as much as a fungal nail infection. Amy Schumer deals with it beautifully below – white spiders people).

Anyway, Old Lady Stone’s husband dies suddenly and she is in Rome when handsome gigolo Paolo (Warren) is paid to seduce her 48 year old near-corpse. Paolo’s paycheck comes from the conniving Contessa Magda Terribili-Gonzales, played by scene-stealer Lotte Lenya.

THIS LINK shows a short clip (4 mins) from the movie where you can see Lenya at her fabulous best AND see Wok’s Italian’s accent at its fabulous best.

Lotte also played the sadistic Colonel Rosa Klebb in 1963’s From Russia with Love. Klebb wasrosa_klebb_by_lotte_lenya the first female villain in a Bond movie (there wasn’t another until 1999’s The World is Not Enough – female henchmen, but not a villain) and has inspired many other on-screen villains, including Mindy Lee Sterling’s Frau Farbissina in the Austin Powers series.220px-frau_farbissina_apimom

Mrs Stone’s corruption is symbolically represented with her move from drinking Americanos to Negronis in the movie. A scarlet woman with a scarlet drink.

campari_no_gocce_100cl_new_low_rgb_2Until 2006, the bright red of the Campari came from carmine – crushed up cochineal insects. Those who have made a study of such things will tell you the  distinctive bitter orange taste did change – not for the better – when they replaced the carmine with artificial colouring, but it is still a fine liqueur and has provided a solution to what I call TPP.

The Pub Problem.

TPP started for me when I really threw myself into the field research component of this blog.

I love pubs, but most do not do either cocktails or wine particularly well.

Campari offers a solution. There is usually a bottle behind the bar and mixed with soda water or orange juice, makes for an aperitif that even an 18 year old can usually manage to present well.

There is a Milanese theory that you need to drink Campari three times before starting to like it and I would suggest that it needs the sweetness of the vermouth or orange juice to guide the first-timer.

At home though, a Negroni is easy to make, and easy to make well.2016-05-29 17.12.37

The recipe calls for equal parts gin, Campari and sweet vermouth over ice with a twist of orange (even though we used a slice of orange here).

Start there and adjust your recipe to your taste.

Apparently there is a Vodka Negroni, but for mine, I would stick with the less alcoholic Americano since the vodka won’t do the job for the taste of the cocktail the way the gin does.

If you don’t like the gin, there’s also a cocktail called the Boulevardier which substitutes whiskey (almost always bourbon) for the gin.

But the one thing you can’t substitute is the Campari.

And on that, an 80s movie.

The Campari website has examples of their advertising campaigns since it was invented in 1860. Not only did they have likes of David Niven and Humphrey Bogart, but another great campaign. With Kelly Le Brock.

Campari’s webmaster allowed this comment through “During the eighties, a period of great economic and cultural growth” which says to me that the 1980s were different in Italy than they were in Brisbane.

220px-womaninredposterThe link is obviously the movie “Woman in Red” – another example of how brilliant Hollywood has been to women.

Kelly Le Brock’s skirt blows up, causing Gene Wilder’s Teddy Pierce to believe he is in love with her. Man sees woman’s underpants, man loses his mind.

Doesn’t reflect well on anyone but on the other hand, does have both Gene Wilder and  Gilda Radner, the comic who inspired most of today’s biggest female stars of comedy before her death from ovarian cancer at age 42.

So this weekend, stay in and turn your hand to Negroni making as you watch Woman in Red.

Next week though, head out to a bar listed HERE and see how the professionals compare.

And take photos of both – I want to see them.



2016-06-05 17.22.00.jpg











Dust off the Rusty Nails

It’s Easter this week, so we’re talking Rusty Nails.

Because I’m guessing the Romans weren’t so worried about tetanus when they decided to placement_of_nailsnail a bloke they disagreed with to a cross.

Despite years of effort from Religious Education teachers at my high school, I’m pretty hazy on detail about Easter.

Like what’s Monday all about?

I do know that Jesus’ importance is recognised by many of the world’s major religions – Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism – and that by and large, Jesus seemed like a good bloke who would not be at all impressed with a great deal of the shit that goes down in his name nowadays.

And regardless of your religion or otherwise, I’m sure we can agree that nailing someone up for a long, painful and humiliating death is a bad thing.

Good news is that the origins of the Rusty Nail aren’t Pontius Pilate and his crew sitting around, drink in hand, watching the spectacle like it was a Sinatra concert.

23764966Although there are records of Scotch Whisky and Drambuie being combined in a glass as far back as 1937, it seems the cocktail as we now know it, was invented in the early 1960s at the 21 Club in Manhattan.

It couldn’t be easier to make.


3 or 4 parts Scotch Whisky (your choice – for this week’s 2016-03-20 16.55.04.jpgOne-for-the-Road Test, we used Dalmore 15 year old)

1 part Drambuie (a sweet, whisky-based liqueur made of a secret blend of aged Scotch
whisky, heather honey and spices – Drambuie says an apothecary whipped it up for Bonnie Prince Charlie in the early 18th century and he handed it on in thanks for safe harbour after the Battle of Culloden. Iain Banks says this is whiffle though and after reading The Wasp Factory, I am inclined to believe everything Iain Banks has to say. You should read this book).

Twist of lemon


Pour ingredients into a glass. Stir if you want. Enjoy.


Easy peasy.


See, the Rusty Nail is not a fashionable drink.

r-6431880-1419080544-8061-jpegIt was one of the drinks of choice of the Rat Pack in their Live at the Sands era. I’m listening to it now and Davis, Martin and Sinatra make great music but I am increasingly skipping over the dated patter between songs – something that was clearly hilarious to the 1963 Vegas audience shows up now as being just homophobic, sexist and racist.

The Rusty Nail‘s image is possibly unfairly tarnished by that association (also, in efforts to drive consumption levels back to the heady days of the 1970s, Drambuie seems to have engaged some really messed up creative advice – check out this 2012 commercial and try to sleep tonight).

The 21 Club does not even lay claim to its invention on their website – and bars love to brag about it when they have a claim to inventing a classic cocktail.

drambuieThe Rusty Nail hasn’t even had the post-Mad Men resurgence that many classics have had. You probably remember your grandparents having a dusty old bottle of Drambuie and you probably don’t remember anyone ever drinking it.

But you should, it’s good.

When we waved farewell to our baby-sitter on Saturday night and went out to do some field-testing, the first bar we went to – a serious bar with a serious cocktail list and serious bartenders (with and without beards serving more than 70 types of whisky/whiskey) – did not have a single bottle of Drambuie on the premises.

Not one. And you probably only need one.

I will definitely go back to this bar but in the name of research we had to head across the laneway to The Baxter Inn.

The Baxter Inn is one of those very cool places without a sign outside (whatever). Once you’ve finished wandering around like a fool trying to find the door, you are welcomed into a subterranean heaven for whisky drinkers.

Here we had more success. I asked the bartender (bearded, for those keeping track of such things) for a Rusty Nail and he didn’t bat an eye-lid, just set to work.

2016-03-19 19.33.43.jpgI asked him what whisky he favoured for it and he suggested the Glenlivet 12 year old.

He turned out a fine offering, albeit with an orange twist instead of lemon. But a perfectly fashioned orange twist. If I’m picky, tradition does call for an old fashioned glass.

The second round – an unbearded bartender – was less successful. No twist of lemon. Not even a twist of orange. Just a slice of orange.


(I did notice that The Baxter Inn also serves an Old Fashioned with a cherry – not a maraschino, but a cherry nonetheless – and you know my feelings on such matters).

But I am nothing if not open-minded (kind of) and will concede that the lemon/orange debate is a personal one.

My drinking companion and I came down on either side of the issue as we downed our delicious amber cocktails over bowls of pretzels and listened to the just-loud-enough jazz.

He likes orange, I like lemon. You choose what works for you, just remember how to make your twist.

And let me know what you decide.

Because we, dear Reader, are on a mission with this cocktail. To make it loved again.

To underline how uncool this drink currently is, in the opening scene of Better Call Saul, saul1we see Saul, collapsed in a chair after a long day at his new job managing a Cinnabon in Omaha, no longer Albuquerque’s most successful dodgy lawyer. As he watches his old commercials, he reminisces about his former fame and he drinks a Rusty Nail – of sorts.

We’ll get to his recipe in a moment, but we need to talk about Easter Eggs first.

See, in one of those lovely twists of Shake, Stir, Muddle fate, Saul’s new life which we see as he cradles our Easter cocktail – his version of a Rusty Nail – is an Easter Egg.

An Easter Egg is a device used in video games and on film – it’s like an intentional inside joke that we, the viewers and gamers are meant to go on a hunt for. You know, like an Easter Egg hunt.

In the last episode of Breaking Bad (no spoilers here, I promise), Saul tells Walt that if all goes well for him, the best he can hope for in a month is to be managing a Cinnabon in Nebraska.

And where does he end up? You got it.

Easter Eggs are everywhere.

Take a look at this from Raiders of the Lost Ark – in the hieroglyphics, you can see R2D2 and C3PO. I guess they were from a long time ago (albeit in a galaxy far, far away).


Alfred Hitchcock loved to make small appearances in each of his films. Pac-Man is in Tron. There are references to The Shining all through Toy Story. That ubiquitous R2D2 even shows up in 2009’s Star Trek 11. Take a look here for some more.


Saul uses a blended whiskey and lemon juice, but it’s definitely a Rusty Nail and if nothing else, his moustache will tell you how far this cocktail has to go before it sits alongside the Old Fashioned in the hearts of modern cocktail connoisseurs.

But I think we need to bring it back. That’s your job Muddlers.

In the spirit of Easter, let’s resurrect this sucker together.

Let me know how you go.



Bitter Tales

tumblr_m5f0omgjvn1rr6p72I’ve been guilty of a little hero worship on this site. I’ve focused on the big name booze that forms the basis of every cocktail and glossed over the importance of the other beautiful contributors.

But this week I’d like to focus on an unsung hero, one that I became interested in when writing about the Old Fashioned two weeks ago.


Not the aperitif bitters – like Campari, which although bitter to the palate is drinkable on its own – we’re talking about the smaller bottles that do for cocktails what spices do for cooking.

Without a few drops of Angostura Bitters, the Old Fashioned is just bourbon with a sugar cube. And yet we so often overlook these pungent little drops.

Bitters are liquid extractions or infusions of bark, herbs, seeds, roots, flowers, leaves and fruit and were originally used by apothecaries to cleanse the body of toxins and aid digestion.

Like me, you probably first heard of an apothecary in high school. The apothecary was the precursor to modern pharmacists – dispensing herbal 7b435793f92fe4690c4251dff54b49f4and chemical solutions to the old and infirm.  Like the buffoon from Romeo and Juliet.

“O true Apothecary! Thy drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die.”

Romeo’s last words. Then yep, he died.

Or more cheerfully, like Miracle Max in possibly the greatest movie ever made – The Princess Bride. If you haven’t seen this 1987 movie, immediately go and watch it. If you have seen it and don’t like it, we’re going to need to rethink our relationship.

Thanks to science, bitters have been extracted from the medicine cabinet and put behind the bar but we must pay homage to the apothecaries for this fine work (and simultaneously ask the homeopaths to stop peddling the same pointless shit).

250px-john_keats_by_william_hiltonReferences to apothecaries appear as far back as ancient Babylon. Notable apothecaries include Nostradamus, Benedict Arnold and ludicrous over-achiever John Keats, the English poet who wrote, amongst other things, Ode to a Nightingale, To Autumn and Ode to Fanny, while completing his apothecary apprenticeship.

All before succumbing to tuberculosis at age 25.

I know as much about Keats as I know about any poet, thanks to high school English. In Year 10, Keats was the source of much mirth in my class thanks to his reference to panting lovers on the side of that Grecian Urn and of course because he had several works that legitimised repeated use of the word “Fanny” in class. Never not funny.

Not quite as good as Religious Education classes affording opportunities to make our male teacher explain circumcision to our all-girls’ class, but entertainment aplenty on a hot Brisbane afternoon.

While there has been some maturing of my humour in the Dictionary photo
intervening decades, when you see the quality of the material I was producing 1982, we’d all agree I’ve wasted a genuine comic talent.

See? Here’s my school dictionary – the very tome designed to help you spell words CORRECTLY.


Look, it was the 1980s, we were close to two decades away from having the advantage of Dawson’s Creek’s Joey Potter showing us how to be proper 16 year olds.

“She’s sixteen years old and so are you. We talk like we know what’s going on, but we don’t. We don’t have any idea. Look, we’re really young and we’re gonna screw up a lot! You know, we’re going to keep changing our minds and…and sometimes even our hearts…Don’t let yourself get so angry that you stop loving because one day you wake up from that anger and the person you love will be gone.”


Because, yes. That’s totally how 16 year olds talk. Go to any Westfield Food Court and listen.

nup-104663-0090No, all we had was Mallory from Family Ties and Denise Huxtable from Bill Cosby’s knitwear-clad perv-fest. We were adrift in a sea of hormones – something an apothecary might have given me some bitters for in centuries past had that not fallen out of fashion.

And even the cocktail use of bitters nearly disappeared from use last century.

Thanks to our old friend, Prohibition.

Bitters were so heavily in use during the P – to mask the flavour of the booze – that they fell out of fashion after the 21st Amendment and only three pre-Pro brands still exist – Angostura Bitters, Peychaud’s Bitters and one that died and was resurrected.

extinct-abbotts-bitters-and-tempus-fugit-abbotts-bittersThe fantastically-named Abbott’s Bitters.1439370916609

Seriously. If there aren’t a few bars in Canberra stocking that right now, that is a real opportunity missed.

Bitters have had a resurgence in popularity though and there are hundreds of good ones on the market with different flavour bases for different uses – orange, grapefruit, chocolate and even celery bitters for your Bloody Mary or Red Snapper. Try here, or here.

But the one that I guarantee you know the best is Angostura BittersCourtney Love and it has led me to today’s unsung hero, Doña Manuela Sáenz, a broad I would love to have had a drink with (in kind of the same way I’d like to have a drink with Courtney Love – because you just know something really bizarre is going to happen before you’ve paid your bill).

angosturabittersAngostura Bitters was invented in 1824 by Dr Johann Siegert in Venezuela.

Siegert was Surgeon-General for Simón Bolívar. Simón José Antonio de la Santísma Trinidad Bolívar y Palacios was a South American soldier who was instrumental in the continent’s revolutions against the Spanish empire.

Siegert created the bitters in the town of Angostura (now Ciudad Bolívar) to treat tropical stomach ailments. Apparently many sailors would feel sick after their time on the Orinoco River and would feel less sick when they had the bitters.

Now as someone who gets horrendously seasick, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and suggest that some of the healing may have come from getting onto dry land, but that’s the tale anyway.

Angostura’s recipe is secret, but is apparently not from the root of the Angostura tree. It can be bought for less than $20 a bottle (and yes, the ill-fitting label is a design feature – it started as an administrative cock-up but is now a “signature feature”).

But Manuela.saenz1

Manuela was a Revolutionary and a Spy and Bolívar’s lover for the last eight years of his life. At age 26, Manuela ditched her lacklustre English husband and joined the rebels.

She saved Bolívar’s life twice by thwarting planned assassination attempts, including once by showing up at a Masquerade Ball she wasn’t invited to and making such a scene that Bolívar had to come out, thereby saving his life (see? There’s that Courtney Love thing).

For this, Bolívar gave her the nickname “the liberator of the Liberator”.

Manuela participated in some of the greatest battles of the revolution – as a combatant, sporting my old favourite, the fake moustache – and attained the rank of Colonel. Back in the cities, she would revert to the waist-cinching attire of a noblewoman and sniff out valuable intelligence under the guise of gossip.

There may or may not have also been a pet bear.

A true Renaissance woman (and read more about her and other kick-arse women at this fantastic site – Rejected Princesses from Jason Porath, former Dreamworks Animator who will soon have a book to go with his site about “Women too Awesome, Awful or Off-Beat for Kids’ Movies”).

Of course, Manuela died a pauper.

When Bolívar died in 1830, his enemies came to power in Colombia and Ecuador and she was unwelcome in those countries. She died in a diphtheria epidemic in Peru in 1856 and was buried in an unmarked, communal grave (where were the goddamned apothecaries then?).

Manuela was reburied in 2010, beside Bolívar’s grave in the National Pantheon of Venezuela, the final resting place for national heroes.

Given the nature of her original burial, some soil from the mass grave was treated as symbolic remains and it was those transported with much ceremony through Peru, Ecuador and Colombia before being given a full state funeral in Venezuela, 154 years after her death.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Manuela Sáenz – an unsung hero with every right to be


PS – Sit, Ubu, Sit. Good dog.

(Who knows where that’s from without looking it up?)

Here’s to you, Dick Bradsell

The downsides of having small children and liking cocktails are obvious.

The upside is that not only do I have a heightened sense of excitement every single time I enter a bar, but my adjusted sleep patterns have sparked some creativity.

Like whenever I have to test my party stamina that’s now more familiar with prFrench House, Sohoe-midday than post-midnight frivolity, I will order an Espresso Martini.

It’s not really a martini and should more accurately be ordered as a “Vodka Espresso” but it’s served in a martini glass and let’s not quibble over names.

Instead let’s pay homage to its creator, legendary London bartender Dick Bradsell who died over the weekend after more than 40 years of serving (and creating) cocktails.

I never had a cocktail made by Dick, but by all reports, he was the goods when it came to shaking, stirring and muddling and his legacy is an impressive list of well-known cocktails.

Legend has it that Bradsell invented the Vodka Espresso at Fred’s Club in 1984 when a now world-famous model (rumoured to be Naomi Campbell) requested a drink that would ‘wake me up, and then fuck me up’.

Hey presto, the Vodka Espresso was born.

50ml Vodka83914081657e5de230b96a68b8ff492b

5ml Sugar syrup

10ml Kahlua

10ml Tia Maria

1 short strong Espresso

Pour all ingredients into a shaker, and then add the ice. Shake hard, and then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with 3 coffee beans.

It’s often confused with the Black Russian – but Bradsell’s offering is different (and vastly superior in my view). The Black Russian contains vodka and coffee liqueur (like Kahlua or Tia Maria), but no coffee. It was reportedly invented in Brussels in the 1930s.

If you want to read more about Dick, here’s a great piece by Simon Difford from Difford’s Guide. It also includes a list of 30 cocktails Dick is credited with creating.

Cheers Dick Bradsell.






Just an Old Fashioned gal

1144798855-cashHappy birthday to The Man in Black.

Yes, today would have been Johnny Cash’s 84th birthday and as I’m writing this, I’m listening to Johnny’s Drink to Me and it makes me happy and sad at the same time.

I’m advised that in Johnny’s country of birth there are quite a few disgruntled white men belly-aching about being discriminated against (cry me a river guys) and that’s why Donald Trump is current front-runner for the Republican nomination to possibly become the President of the USA.

These are words I hoped never to write and on their own present a reason to drink.

But it’s always cocktail hour here at SSM, so that means focusing on positives. Like one gem from the world of cocktails for which we need to thank a disgruntled white man.

The Old Fashioned.

The world’s first classic cocktail. Its full name (because we like to be formal here at SSM) is the Old Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail (whiskey here definitely spelled with the e because it’s a rye or a bourbon whiskey) and we can thank our old friend Prohibition again for rebirthing it.

See although it dates back to the early 1800s, during the Big P, people who didn’t have bathtub-gin-672x372the readies to get down to Havana, would make their own booze.

And it would have been bloody awful.

To mask the taste, bartenders added pretty much anything they could think of to cocktails – fruit, honey, mint, sugar syrup, whatever.

Dark days my friends.

Fast forward to 1936, three years after the repeal of Prohibition, and the habit had stuck. A crotchety gent writing under the nom de plume “Old Timer” wrote to the NY Times to complain about the lost art of cocktail making. OT said in no uncertain terms that he wanted a return to the Old Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail.

Whiskey (probably rye since that was more readily available pre-Pro), ice, a sugar cube and 3 dashes of bitters.

That’s it. That’s the recipe.

If you doubt me (but seriously, why would you?), take a look at Robert Simonson’s definitive tome on the matter;415o2ehhxal-_sx346_bo1204203200_


Muddle the sugar, bitters, and a barspoon of warm water at the bottom of an Old-Fashioned glass until the sugar is dissolved. Add the rye or bourbon. Stir. Add one large chunk of ice and stir until chilled. Twist a large piece of orange zest over the drink and drop into the glass.

You do need to muddle the sugar cube because it won’t dissolve effectively in alcohol, but other than that, it isn’t a very fussy cocktail.

Not fussy but highly contested.

According to the IBA, you garnish it with a slice of orange and a maraschino cherry.

And look, I hate to say this, because it is a bit of a game-changer for SSM where we use the IBA as the authority for cocktail recipes, but the IBA is WRONG.

There’s no call for an orange slice – it’s a twist.

There’s an art to getting the twist right. Cut a slice of citrus peel, with minimal pith (flip it over and check if you can see the pores of the zest through the pith – if not, throw it away and try again. For a great how to guide on the twist, take a look at THIS) then you twist it over the drink until some of the citrus oil is released into the drink.

Then run it around the rim of the glass or drop it straight in.

So no orange slice, no maraschino cherry, no soda water and certainly no bloody LEMONADE.

Simple but seems it’s hard to get right.

The Old Fashioned is the drink of choice of Mad Men’s Don Draper and there’s a great scene where he makes one for Conrad Hilton.

Great scene, crap Old Fashioned.

Did you see what Draper gets wrong? He adds soda water.

Ryan Gosling gets it mostly right in this scene from Crazy, Stupid Love, but he sprinkles sugar just before serving. Unnecessary (so unnecessary that it makes me suspect it’s actually Rohypnol but let’s give him the benefit of the doubt).

Remember, we’re using good quality whiskey nowadays so we’re not trying to mask its flavour, we’re enhancing it.

It’s quite a blokey cocktail. As well as its origins, it isn’t presented much in popular culture as being popular among the laydeez.

One notable exception is Bette Davis’ 1942 film Now, Voyager which takes its title from a Walt Whitman poem The Untold Want.

“The untold want, by life and land ne’er granted.

Now, Voyager, sail thou forth, to seek and find.”

Although an admirable premise and with some interesting themes, this is kind of a shitty movie.

Its primary message is that if you have bad eye-brows as a woman, you are 1418892338166destined to be a self-conscious, unattractive spinster (but apparently if you’re a bloke with bad eye-brows, you can apply for all sorts of interesting jobs).

Fortunately, Davis’ Charlotte Vale puts us all out of our misery and casts off her glasses, has an eye-brow wax and becomes deserving of love. Phew.

Then she drinks a bourbon now-voyagerOld Fashioned with her love interest. Just to keep things balanced though, she doesn’t order it herself, in her journey of self-discovery a man orders it for her.

But screw all that. If you like a good cocktail, order an Old Fashioned, whatever your gender or eye-brow shape.

Feel free to leave it to the professionals though.2016-01-16 19.55.09

SSM did some field testing on a rainy night in January (not February, February is Prohibition and February is sucking).

First in Sydney’s subterranean Palmer & Co. The ice was the only problem – the Old Fashioned calls for one big ice cube, so it doesn’t melt too fast.

2016-01-16 20.55.16.jpgRevolving 47 floors above George Street at O Bar and Dining, absurdly handsome Swedish waiters will bring you drinks as you spin slowly, pausing in conversation to glory in the majesty and beauty of the Sydney Opera House every forty minutes or so.

When the aforementioned handsome one asked me how I would like my Old Fashioned, I stammered that I’d like bourbon, but wanted the bartender’s choice of bourbon. At altitude, seems bartenders favour Booker’s.

Booker’s is a Jim Beam Distillery product and was invented by Jim Beam’s grandson who had the spectacular name of Booker jb_bookers_433x650Noe.

Booker was the sixth generation of his family to make Bourbon and died, aged 84, in this week of 2004.

Booker’s was introduced in 1988, long after today’s birthday boy had given up the drink. In his drinking days though, Johnny Cash favoured a bourbon with a water, so you may like to raise an Old Fashioned to him this week. Or watch THIS CLIP for Hurt and try not to cry. There’s a great article HERE about the story behind the clip that makes it even sadder.

Cash and Elizabeth Taylor used to speak each year around this time since her birthda300866_v31y was the day after his.

No mention of whether Johnny would ring his other birthday pal, unlucky-in-love balladeer and walking advertisement for regular hot oil treatments, Michael Bolton.

Feel free to raise a glass to MB if that’s your bag (remember though, he said he love you…but he lied – please, please take 5 minutes to watch that clip – Eagles! Fire! Horses! Chest hair! Spectacular scenery and something very special at 1:34).

And just to finish back on a note that is my single biggest worry at the moment, there are two other white guys in the USA with more in common than you’d expect.

They don’t share a birthdate, but they do share a birthplace (Queens) and quite clearly a desire to do the same thing to the country.

Donald Trump and porn star Ron Jeremy.

I won’t drink to that, but next week I’ll drink to you.




Egg Whites Only Allowed

Last time, we saw Bryan Brown in Cocktail, boldly downing a Red Eye, an alleged hangover cure that contains tomato juice, vodka, beer, tabasco sauce and a whole egg in a drinkihqdefaultng experience that must be akin to vomiting in reverse.

It seems only fair to position the egg in a more positive light for its contribution to drinking. And it does feature in a surprising number of cocktails.

I’m not a massive fan of the Nogs or the Flips which contain a whole egg, but I will concede that I may not have explored these at their finest. I favour the Sour or the Fizz. A Fizz can contain the egg white, yolk or both, and the Sour contains the egg white only – if at all. The defining characteristic of a Sour is that it has a citrus base.

Like the Peruvian Pisco Sour, an excellent place to start.

Pisco is a brandy made in Peru and Chile (but the Chilean Pisco Sour doesn’t contain egg), and when mixed with lemon juice, egg white and couple of other simple ingredients (it’s another IBA Official Cocktail) creates a tangy and frothy cocktail.

I say leave matters to the professionals and can recommend a sashay down AC/DC Lane in Melbourne to Pastuso for their Journey Through Peru set menu and accompanying Pisco Sours. Yes I can.

Unsatisfied with leaving you, dear readers, with only one road-tested eggy cocktail, I worked tirelessly over my holiday and went to a bar in Christchurch.

Christchurch has had a bastard of a time since the quakes in 2010 and 2011 and there’s still parts of the city with extensive damage. But trust those plucky Kiwis, there are cool bars and restaurants aplenty, and to assuage parental travel guilt, try the brand spanking new Margaret Mahy Playground where you’ll need to resist the temptation to elbow the kids out of the way and hog the equipment.  Best playground ever.

But quick, back to the bar.

Jamaica Sour.jpgAt Mexicano’s I tested the rum-based Jamaica Sour, the hibiscus making it pretty but more sweet than sour, before shifting to the Loco Explosivo, a tequila, Grand Marnier, chili and egLoco Explosivo.jpgg-white offering. The egg-white in both adds little discernible taste, but the shaking makes the egg-white fluffy, with a latte-like foam on top. A counterpoint to the chili-burn.




Plus an option to buy a moustache.

After the Explosivo, this seemed a capital idea, although the $2 spent on my new look seemed an awful waste of the thousands of dollars I have spent on hair removal over past decades.


Sour done, on to the Fizz.

Back in the 1980s, you’ll remember a fantastic little quartet from England won Eurovision with THIS great song. Their name was Bucks Fizz (annoyingly without an apostrophe), which is also allegedly the name of a cocktail.

Except, much as you wouldn’t technically call Bucks Fizz a band (even if, like me, you know ALL the words to Land of Make Believe and Making Your Mind Up – and I defy you to name a single other BF song without using the internet), Buck’s Fizz the cocktail isn’t a Fizz, even though it does have an apostrophe. Nope. It’s just champagne and orange juice.

See real Fizz has egg. There’s Silver Fizz, which contains egg white, Golden Fizz with egg yolk and Royal Fizz with the whole enchilada. And the secret is in the shaking baby (and check out the shaking in the clip below, paying particular attention 1:17 where Cheryl expertly deals with a flaccid mike and to the extras throughout who apparently serve to make up The Land of (piss-weak) Make Believe – oooh it’s so mystical, a juggler, a fire-twirler, an old-fashioned couple and a body-builder doing pointless pec wiggling at 2:42. Ah, the 1980s).

And the Ramos Fizz, that’s a REAL Fizz. Created in 1888 in New Orleans by Henry C Ramos and becoming such a hit at Mardi Gras that Ramos’ bar employed 35 Shaker Boys working solely to meet demand for the cocktail in 1915. A great cocktail, but labour-intensive as this video shows. Your Shaker Boy or Girl will need to shake for between 1 and 12 minutes, first without ice (the Dry Shake), then with the ice. Don’t stand for a one minute shake, that’s just lazy. Don’t order one on a Friday night before Christmas at the255b3a1600000578-2940573-image-m-2_1423139839092 Opera Bar. That’s just rude. And tip your bartender. That’s just polite.

For reasons I can’t quite get to the bottom of, the cocktail is attached to Tennessee Williams and is drunk regularly in his honour in New Orleans. I can’t find much evidence of Williams favouring the cocktail, nor writing much about it. In this PARIS REVIEW interview, he speaks of his heavier-drinking days and of wine, but this isn’t a cocktail you’re going to be downing at a Hemingway rate. Too much effort and can’t be slipped into a flask for opening nights.

But Williams would no doubt have approved of the phalanxes of Shaker Boys, and his work has been important in “normalising” homosexuality in entertainment, in getting the conversation out of the closet. (And read Caitlin Moran’s excellent Gay Moon Landing piece from The Times in 2011 for a fab discussion about the importance of art in advancing human rights. Better yet, buy Moranthology and get this plus a great interview with Keith Richards that I was reading on plane as it landed, immersed in marveling that this man could still somehow be alive as phones around me were turned on and news spread that David Bowie had died. Still seems impossible).

Interestingly, Williams (again in Paris Review) explicitly says he never felt much of a need to explore homosexuality in his work, but he certainly does in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

p5702_p_v8_aaIf you haven’t read this, or seen the 1958 movie, I’d recommend you do both. The movie adaptation glossed over much of the relationship between Brick and Skipper, but it’s still a worthwhile watch, and not just for the exquisite beauty of Elizabeth Taylor or the blue of Paul Newman’s eyes.

There’s only one cast member from the movie still alive, Madeleine Sherwood who played “that monster of fertility, Mae” and owns every single scene she’s in. Pregnant Mae also reminds us of how pleasing it is that maternity fashions have progressed in recent decades. I have a massive girl-crush on Sherwood and would love to have a cocktail with her.screens_string2

In 1963, Sherwood was arrested and jailed in Alabama (in her grey plaid culottes) as she joined the Freedom Walk. The Freedom Walk was started by white mailman Bill Moore in April 1963 when he attempted to walk from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi to hand deliver a plea for racial tolerance to the Governor. He was shot dead. One week later, nine activists attempted to finish his walk but were beaten and jailed. This was the first of five unsuccessful attempts to complete Moore’s delivery. Sherwood risked her safety and her livelihood in this post-McCarthy-era but her presence drew important attention to the Congress on Racial Equality’s non-violent direct action (read Mary Stanton’s Freedom Walk: Mississippi or Bust for more).

0Sherwood also portrayed Mother Superior in The Flying Nun, the super-strange late 1960s TV series in which Sally Field’s Sister Bertrille can’t actually fly, is just so dangerously underweight that she gets lifted away by the wind under her coronet. There’s a good message for the kids. Here’s an episode where the nuns conspire to get their hands on a huge organ. (I don’t recommend you spend 23 minutes of your life watching it, but I wanted to make that organ joke).

But Sherwood’s greater work Cat on a Hot Tin Roof deals with gender roles and vicious fights for control of a dynasty. I’m sure it has been much on the minds of the various iterations of Bucks Fizz as they battled in court over who owns the name. Good news for fans is that you can catch one of the new iterations (there are two, Bucks Fizz is proliferating at a dangerous and unnecessary rate) at London Hippodrome on 1 April 2016 as they commemorate 35 years since their Eurovision win. Somehow there are still tickets available to a concert where people will know precisely two songs.

Maybe that’s unfair, there is possibly a new generation of fans (clearly not the guy who posted this on You Tube though, take a look at his commentary) who came from facial-hair-free-perpetual-blonde Bucks Fizz core member Cheryl Baker’s stint on BBC morning television with her fantastically and symmetrically-named Eggs ‘N’ Baker.