Category Archives: News

Hanky Panky and Ridiculous Feuds

I have recently engaged in that most frustrating and futile of pastimes, arguing with someone on the internet.

And it all started with a cocktail.

Last week I had 24 hours to myself in London and was drawn, as though in a tractor beam, to The American Bar at The Savoy Hotel for a bit of Hanky Panky.

Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, hey?

Not quite. The Hanky Panky was invented by one Ada Coleman.

Hanky Panky Savoy

Ada, or “Coley” as she was known (some nicknames startle with their originality and wit, some, not so much), was head bartender at The American Bar from 1903 to 1926.

Seems her Dad had been a steward at a golf course that Rupert D’Oyly Carte frequented and when he died, D’Oyly got her the job his fancy pants Savoy Hotel.

D’Oyly’s family produced Gilbert and Sullivan operas so there were lots of actors and acting types hanging about, the early-20th century equivalent of partying with Super-Models I guess.

A word here about The American Bar.

The Savoy’s isn’t the only American Bar in the world, possibly not even the only one in London. It used to be a term used widely to describe a bar that sold cocktails made in the American way, as opposed to a pub, which you would never want in anything other than an English way.

But The Savoy’s American Bar, really is The American Bar and in 2016 was named Europe’s Best Bar. Good job team.

American Bar Savoy 1

Anyway, Coley tended bar until 1926 when she was moved to the hotel’s flower shop. Not because she was off her game, but because Americans – who had given us all so much in their contribution to cocktails – fleeing their own oppressive alcohol-free regime in search of a decent cocktail, found themselves a little upset by the presence of a lady behind the bar.

Another crappy side-effect of Prohibition. Up until that point, roughly half of the bartending jobs in London were performed by women. Coley wasn’t even The Savoy’s only female bartender at the time

In our second ridiculous feud of this Hanky Panky post, Coley allegedly didn’t speak to her only female bartending colleague – Ruth Burgess – for twenty odd years and refused to share her cocktail recipes with her. Way to go on the supporting each other for success ladies.

Poor Ruth didn’t even get dispatched to the flower shop when ladies were moved out from behind the bar. She was just sacked. I guess her Dad didn’t know old Oily Cart and she’d just got there on her merits.

Sigh.

Anyway, Ruth and Ada were replaced by Harry Craddock who was the guy who really put the place on the map, writing The Savoy Cocktail Book which has influenced bartenders for generations.

Back to Coley. Setting the Ruth thing aside, by all reports she was a cracking bartender and The American Bar attracted a clientele that included Mark Twain, Charlie Chaplin, Marlene Dietrich and Charles Hawtrey, the stage actor and producer who mentored Noel Coward, and for whom the Hanky Panky was created.

And so to the Hanky-Panky. This, dear Readers, is not an IBA Official Cocktail so kind of doesn’t qualify for a Shake, Stir, Muddle One-for-the-Road-Test, but it is a damned fine cocktail and now sits in my personal Top 5.

I know. This is a BIG CALL.

But you should definitely try one.

It is Martini-ish, but Manhattan-esque. Negroni-like and The Last Word-y. As all really good cocktails though, it is like itself only and you could work your way through a dozen or more at The American Bar in search of its closest cousin and still declare that it doesn’t need to be like anything else, it is the distinctive Hanky Panky.

Please don’t order a dozen cocktails at The American Bar. Not only will you be unable to sashay down the stairs in the graceful manner of the stars who adorn the walls, but you will be out of pocket an eye-watering amount.

Bar plus stairs n stars

This is a cocktail experience to savour. It is good value, but not cheap.

And this is from whence my feud sprang.

I made a comment on a Facebook post regarding exactly how quiet good manners requires one to be in expressing one’s opinions about what the poor people should do to help themselves when one is approximately 22 years old and able to while away an afternoon sipping £20 cocktails at The Savoy, surrounded by one’s luxury-branded shopping bags.

My opinion is that one should be VERY quiet in said circumstances. That perhaps the staff at the bar – working, probably for somewhat less than your parents earn to support you in these leisurely afternoon endeavours – could be spared your views while they pleasantly and efficiently do their jobs.

Someone took exception to this (frankly, am still mystified by this) and I find myself engaged in that most 21st century of occupations, arguing on the Internet.

How does this happen? Was it the cocktail?

Fernet Branca definitely divides. It’s a bitter herbal Italian liqueur, 200px-fernetbrancathe recipe dating back to the mid-1800s.

It’s a very strong taste, not to everyone’s palate (I don’t love it straight but can see how one might grow to appreciate it more with practice).

It is also the cause of another excellent Ridiculous Feud.

Back in 1960, German-born actress Betsy Von Furstenburg (being her stage name – her real name was the absolutely marvellous Elizabeth Caroline Maria Agatha Felicitas Therese, Freiin von Fürstenberg-Herdringen) spiked co-star Tony Randall’s on-stage drink with Fernet Branca.

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Randall, clearly a bit of a Felix Unger in real life as well, assumed he was being poisoned with iodine and Betsy was apparently suspended from Actors Equity for time.

I have no idea why Randall would assume someone was trying to poison him when his drink tasted strange.

That aside, it wasn’t the Hanky-Panky’s fault, that was just Fernet Branca.

So we can’t blame the cocktail. For that, for my feud or Coley and Ruth’s.

Maybe the hotel?

You’d know The Savoy. It’s featured in many movies, including The French Lieutenant’s Woman, Entrapment and Notting Hill.

Interesting, in my cumulative 48 hours in London, I inadvertently went to three different places that people pointed out to me were used as locations for scenes from Notting Hill. I’m not sure doing a pilgrimage to the locations of a fun-but-hardly-brilliant 1999 Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant vehicle reflects well on me so let’s be clear that it was an accident, ok?*

(Although there is this clip which may PROVE MY POINT about keeping your obnoxious opinions quiet in public. Hmmm?)

Much cooler (cough) is to watch this 2011 Duran Duran clip for Girl Panic!

You’ve likely never heard Girl Panic! before but it sounds very much like they just remixed a bunch of bits of other Duran Duran songs from the 1980s so it feels comfortable and familiar (even for a rebellious soul like me who showed my non-conformity in the 1980s by wearing – wait for it – a badge that said “I Hate Duran Duran”. I was so counter-culture in my awkward mid-teens**).

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Apart from seeing the fancy rooms that we couldn’t afford at The Savoy, Girl Panic! has 1980s super-models playing the guys in the band (except Andy Taylor of course, because he left after a Ridiculous Feud), getting wasted and hanging out with super models, while the guys themselves play Savoy staff.

 

It’s so post-modern.

So, I didn’t know Andy Taylor had left the band, I had to Google who Yasmin Le Bon was playing and that’s how I found out that not only had A-Tay left, but that Roger Taylor, John Taylor and Andy Taylor weren’t brothers. They’re not even related.

Who knew?

INXS - March 1, 1988

Back before the internet, you had to buy expensive magazines to learn things like this, and growing up in Australia where we had INXS which not only featured a guy named Gary Garry Beers, but three Farris brothers, why would you question three guys in a hair band with the same surname being related?

You wouldn’t. You just wouldn’t.

spandau balletDuran Duran did have a ridiculous feud with a rival hair band from the 1980s, Spandau Ballet (featuring two guys named Kemp who were brothers).

This feud was apparently patched up the night before they recorded Do they know it’s Christmas? (watch it to see George smiling and Paul Weller looking super-bored) when the guys partied together.

And you know what they were drinking?

If you said Ada Coleman’s Hanky-Panky cocktails, you may well be right.

Probably not, I have no idea, but wouldn’t it be nice?

Cheers!

*Here. You can find them all here.

**I never hated Duran Duran. Adolescence is hard. May the ’80s Music Gods forgive me.

Sidecars and Salsa side-stepping

Cointreau advertising has led me astray before.

In the late 1980s when I donned my tight red pencil skirt and red jacket, and picked up a large phallic flashlight (which being Australian, I called a “torch”, but “phallic flashlight” has a much more pleasing alliteration) and kept the mean streets of Hoyts Regent safe during countless sessions of cinematic masterpieces such as Dirty Dancing, Licence to Drive and Kickboxer, Cointreau advertising was King.

Benson and Hedges advertising was joint King, so these were simpler, happier times, but Cointreau advertising promised me a life of elegant lounging in floor length gowns, sipping a certain brand of Triple Sec on the rocks with handsome men (one at a time) while Roxy Music’s Avalon played.

It all seemed very grown up, in a way that some 30 years later, I still don’t think I have attained.

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(Here is Hoyts Regent, now demolished. Because obviously, you’d hate to keep something like this when you could have a soulless multiplex and a brand new office building. Jerks).

I’m in London, writing this with a head cold, surrounded by a mountain of tissues and wanting my mother in the way the Cointreau advertising never alluded to.

So perhaps I should be suspicious of Cointreau advertising as the one source of truth (and potentially explore its possibilities as the one source of cold relief).

But thanks to Cointreau, never have I had an easier time in researching the history of a cocktail as the Sidecar.

In truth, it could have been invented in London or Paris and while we have agreement on the standard ingredients – Cognac, Cointreau and lemon juice – the proportions are contested.

But Dita Von Teese via Cointreau advertising tells me that the Sidecar was invented in Paris just post WW1 where a dashing lieutenant would arrive at a bar every night in a sidecar and order a tipple to ward off the cold. Cognac not quite strong enough yada yada yada, the rest is history.

That’ll do me.

It’s an easy one to make, but I’m learning that it isn’t an easy cocktail to make well. Firstly, you need to get your proportions sorted, something that calls for experimentation.

The English version calls for proportions of 2:1:1, the French versions variously 1:1:1, 3:2:2 or 8:2:1.

Around 1934, we start seeing mentions of the cocktail requiring a sugared rim, something I don’t love.

If it’s done with granulated sugar, that’s a very sweet advance party for any cocktail. If it’s done with a sugar syrup, it has the unfortunate visual effect of toothpaste.

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I’ve ordered Sidecars at four different bars in four countries (that’s dedication folks), and tried to make it at home and here’s what I’ve learned.

  1. Most bartenders will need to Google it first (that’s ok, this entire blog is powered by Google research)
  2. The better the raw ingredients, the better the Sidecar (Robert Simonson says that the Sidecar is “a drink that knows a diamond from a rhinestone” – I have found this to be true, you want good Cognac, Cointreau or another premium brand of Triple Sec and fresh, well-strained lemon juice)
  3. My favourite Sidecar is not a Sidecar at all, rather a variation on it from London’s The Blind Pig where handsome and clever bartender Gio (who did not need to Google anything in the hour I sat at the bar and watched him work) served up a variation of the Sidecar – the Lime Leaf Side Car made from Martell VS cognac, kaffir lime leaf, lime, honey and egg white. Delicious, and you can see its Sidecar roots, but it ain’t really a Sidecar.

Blind Pig Lime Leaf Side Car.jpg

And 4? Anything called a Gin Sidecar – gin, triple sec and lemon juice – is an entirely different cocktail – it’s on the IBA Official List as White Lady, a cousin of the Sidecar, but not a Sidecar. So please, let’s stop that practice immediately.

The Sidecar’s pedigree makes it easy to find in movies.

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In the wonderful Mame, the morning after a big party, Aunty Mame, tells Patrick to “run along to Ito and tell him to bring me a light breakfast, black coffee and a Sidecar”.

Not only does she have a butler named Ito, Mame has no qualms about co-opting a child into fetching her drinks. These are the sorts of behaviours that will find you frowned upon by parenting websites, but we’ve all been there and who are we to judge another’s parenting styles?

You’ll also find Sidecars featured in The Bonfire of the Vanities, where Arthur Ruskin declares that he loves a Sidecar and then drops dead after consuming several. Caveat Bibitor “Let the Drinker Beware” (and big thanks to Google for my Latin studies).

But these are both movies we have covered in Shake, Stir, Muddle already – Mame for her stellar coaching of young Patrick in the delicate art of martini making, and Bonfire for the reference to The Bronx which used to be a scary place for wealthy white people but is now a happy hunting ground for affordable real estate as well as being the name of a fine, Vitamin C-bearing cocktail.

16148So if you’re looking for a cocktail partner for the Sidecar, I’d go with 1982’s Evil Under the Sun, based on the Agatha Christie novel, where Maggie Smith, playing the fabulous Daphne Castle, offers Peter Ustinov’s Hercule Poirot his choice of a White Lady, a Sidecar, a Mainbrace (a White Lady with grapefruit juice instead of lemon juice) or a Between the Sheets (which is a Sidecar with added white rum).

Poirot rejects them all and asks for a Crème de Cassis or a sirop de banana and I have zero words for this man and his appalling taste.

Zero.

Speaking of taste, if you are ever given a chance to visit the site of my first White Lady, you MUST.

The Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo may call a White Lady a Gin Sidecar (and truth be told, may be a little light-handed on the gin), but it is truly a place that dreams are made of.

Declaring that any idiot can design a single hotel room and roll out the same décor across a hotel, some 60 years ago the visionary Alex Madonna and his wife Phyllis started a hotel in southern California that has 110 rooms and suites, each one of them different.

And each an extraordinary visual assault.

We checked into the Austrian Suite – some 76 feet from one wall to the other – and immediately felt the urge to swan about my overnight Archduchy yodelling and eating strudel. I imagine if fate had put us in the Caveman room, I’d have been Yabba Dabba Doo-ing, and the Western Room would likely have seen me endlessly quoting lines from the movies of the man who used to be a beef partner with Alex Madonna, one John Wayne.

The dining room – and the neighbouring café which ran a fine line in strudel – is what my four year old daughter would like our house to look like. The ceiling is festooned with pink flowers – not painted ones, giant cascading 3D objects like decorations for the world’s most privileged high school’s Spring Dance – and cherubs on swings. No can of gold paint between Los Angeles and San Francisco could consider itself safe.

Madonna montage

I pulled on the fanciest gear my road-trip wardrobe could support and did sip a Cointreau cocktail under this inverted wedding cake with a handsome man in a grown up fashion. It wasn’t Roxy Music, but Salsa, because Tuesdays are Salsa Night and the Madonna Inn throws its doors open to the local Salsa Club. They fill the floor with jeans and sneakers (a la Jerry Seinfeld, not Victoria Beckham) and enviable hip-swinging side-stepping moves that show that sexy exists outside Cointreau advertising after all.

Just as well.

Cheers.

 

 

A little ditty about Sazeracs and Diane

In 1987, at the beginning of the waitressing career that is possibly my true calling, I started working at New Orleans.

Not Louisiana.

New Orleans, Brisbane.

Tucked away in the back of a shopping centre on Queen Street Mall, New Orleans was essentially a fancy food court with a liquor licence. But in Brisbane, in those heady days when KFC was Kentucky Fried Chicken, and a hairdresser was Brisbane’s biggest celebrity, New Orleans was revolutionary.

I had an apron and a boater and some of those arm garter things. I looked a little like a 200px-homers_barbershop_quartetyoung and sassy tray-totin’ barber shop quartet mascot.

Beyond being called New Orleans and occasionally piping jazz through the PA, there was nothing particularly Big Easy-ish about this place. Demand was higher for Sweet and Sour Pork and local beer than for Gumbo and Sazeracs, the cocktail created in the real New Orleans, Louisiana (aka NOLA) around 1850.

Not once did I take an order for this fine old cocktail.

The Sazerac cocktail took its name from a brand of cognac that was popular in the USA until the Great French Wine Blight of the mid-1800s made it harder to come by.

Nowadays you will find it more frequently made with the rye whiskey that they swapped to when the cognac ran dry, but if you want the original, clearly you go for cognac. But either works well.

There’s a bit of simple but impressive-looking bartendery stuff in making it, so it’s a fantastic one for whipping up at home and having your guests ooh and aah at your skills and sophistication.

Wash the inside of an Old Fashioned glass with a small amount of Absinthe, fill it with ice and let the two sit in one another’s company for a while. Then up-end the glass with a flourish (or not), leaving just a coating of Absinthe. Place a sugar cube in the bottom of the glass and add a few drops of Peychaud’s Bitters.

Peychaud’s is one of the few aromatic bitters brands that existed before Prohibition. It’s an acquired taste, spicier and more peppery in flavour than Angostura. That it still exists is thanks solely to private social clubs which held fast to traditional NOLA cocktails requiring Peychaud’s.

(One of the theories behind the nickname The Big Easy is that it was easy to get hold of outlawed booze during Prohibition there, because virtually no effort was made to enforce the Federal ban. Which I like).

Over the top of your Peychaud’s you add your cognac or rye whiskey. Some recipes say rocks, some say straight up. Your choice.

Then drink it Freddy.Sazeracs and fixings

You won’t find an enormous number of references to the Sazerac in popular culture, although it did appear in Roger Moore’s first outing as James Bond in 1973’s Live and Let Die.

Moore was the fourth actor to play Bond (after Lazenby, Niven and Connery*) and did so over 12 ridiculous years and 7 ridiculous films. It is high camp James Bond era and I loved it, especially that apex of absurdity, Moonraker.

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Moore holds the record for being the oldest actor to play Bond for the first time – a ripe old 45 when he made Live and Let Die.

Of course his love interests in the movie were aged 22 and 24 years old. Because Hollywood.

The other movie where you’ll find a bunch of Sazeracs is State of the Union, a Katharine Hepburn/Spencer Tracy vehicle that involved a man’s run for the Republican Presidential nomination and the ultimate realisation that his values and the respect of a smart woman were more important to him than power.

Hepburn downs many Sazeracs and we all fall a little more in love with her and watch and hope for old Spence to grab her by the pussy in the fine tradition of Presidential candidates.

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Classic offerings both, but a fraction of the number of a cinematic features of the Sazerac’s IBA The Unforgettables stablemates like the Martini, Manhattan, Old Fashioned or Daiquiri. The reason for this, I suspect, is the great Absinthe ban that occurred in the USA from 1912 to 2007.

Absinthe was invented in Switzerland in 1792 by a man who, based on his mild-mannered alias, I suspect to have been an early Marvel superhero . Step forward Dr Pierre Ordinaire!

Our man Pete Ordinary, came up with an all-purpose remedy that was given to French troops as an anti-malarial in the 1840s. Everybody loved it and 5pm became known as The Green Hour (l’heure verte).

absinthefairyandglassBut then, because some people never know when enough is enough, the party was cancelled for everyone.

Absinthe is a heavy-duty spirit, no doubt about it. It has a very high alcohol content – 55 – 75%, compared with whisky’s 40% – which makes it 110 to 150 proof.

So yes, it is serious and should be diluted kids.

There is a technical term for what happens to the body when one has too much Absinthe.

It is known as getting “shit-faced”.

This condition does indeed impair one’s judgement.  But can occur with any alcoholic substance taken in excess.

Back in less-enlightened times though the green fairy was considered to be the root cause of both homosexuality and multiple-homicides and Absinthe was banned in the USA, Switzerland and a bunch of other places.

It’s back though and yea verily we no longer need to have our Sazeracs made with tumblr_n1av8ytqvq1sbdlmjo1_1280Herbsaint. We can have the damned Absinthe. And we can choose the damned rye whiskey or the damned cognac in our damned Sazeracs.

New Orleans Brisbane has long gone (a passing few would mourn I suspect) so we can’t test whether the cocktail is on higher rotation there (although Brisbane does now have its own Sazerac Bar with a proper – albeit rye – Sazerac recipe on the menu – so things have definitely changed in 30 years).

You could go to NOLA – where The Sazerac Bar at The Roosevelt Hotel serves up tens of thousands of Sazeracs each year, making it, I suspect, about an intimate a cocktail experience as a Singapore Sling at Raffles or a Daiquiri at La Floridita.

Or you can make this fine old cocktail a welcome addition to your domestic cocktail hour. Whip one up at home for a friend and enjoy your own l’heure verte.

Cheers!

 

cilentofamilysmall*You may be wondering about the Diane referred to in the title? James Bond #1 Sean Connery was married to one Diane Cilento who was born and died in Queensland and who, in all likelihood, never once visited the New Orleans restaurant in Brisbane.

A Salute to our cocktailing Forebears

Noosa cocktails

Dear Muddlers

This month marks the 100th anniversary of something very close to our collective warm hearts.

Head on over to Vocal.Media HERE where you’ll find a brief piece I wrote on the very first cocktail party and how we should be gearing up to mark that auspicious occasion (Hint: it may involve some of us having a cocktail. Or two).

I’ll be back here next week with another cocktail review, the field research for which may once have landed me in jail.

Cheers!

 

 

Kir – Royale and otherwise

I’m in the USA at the moment. California to be precise.

This means that there are two things constantly on my mind – Donald Trump and coffee.

I am pleased to be able to report that arriving at Tom Bradley International Terminal of LAX did not see me having to look at a picture of a grinning Trump after 14 hours of flying, seems they are in no rush replace the picture of Barack that replaced the picture of W that replaced the picture of Bill.

I wonder why.

The airport is named after Tom Bradley who was Mayor of LA for 20 years.

Bradley was the grandson of a slave, joined Council aged 45 in 1963, being the “first negro elected to Council”. He became Mayor on his second attempt in 1973, the city’s first and to date, only African-American Mayor.

In 1979, Bradley signed the city’s first homosexual rights bill and in 1985 the AIDS anti-discrimination bill which was possibly the first of its kind. So quite the legacy then.

Hence he gets an airport named after him. Fair enough.

It may surprise you to learn that the coffee you can find on the ground at Tom Bradley International is not spectacular. As an Australian, I am required by law to walk around loudly finding fault with the coffee in every other part of the world, especially the USA.

That the influx of Australian baristas to the USA is making it more and more easy to find coffee exactly like you have it every day at work (and isn’t that just the point of international travel?), threatens this national pastime and point of moral superiority so enjoy it while you can.

Melbournians particularly will find this challenging. They take coffee very seriously, and suffered some sort of moderate city-wide seizure when Lord Mayor Robert Doyle outed himself as a tea drinker a few years back.

(Just so you know, you only find Lord Mayors in Australia, Canada, England, Wales, Northern Ireland and surprisingly, the Republic of Ireland and Uganda).

So what will they name after Doyle? It’s going to be tricky.

Perhaps he could hope for a cocktail.

There is an IBA cocktail named after a Mayor – Felix Kir of Dijon, France.

Kir Royale calls for champagne and crème de cassis – a blackcurrant liqueur favoured by Hercule Poirot.  The Kir for white wine and crème de cassis.

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Pour one part crème de cassis into the bottom of a champagne flute and then add nine parts champagne. Facile.

I’m in two minds about the wine-based cocktail. Seems too close to a wine-cooler to actually qualify as a cocktail, and absolutely ripe for an unscrupulous bartender to rip you off by substituting sparkling wine for champagne (which is called a Kir Pétillant and should be priced accordingly). But that’s why we need to cover it.

Cocktailing is not without risks.

Fortunately the tending of bar is a generally honourable profession, you’ll rarely find them on a list of least-trusted jobs. Politicians though, they don’t fare so well in the public trust stakes.

Tonight I lay my head to rest in a hotel that served as inspiration for The Overlook in The Shining. It used to be called The Ahwahnee – had been called that since it opened in 1927, but now has to be called The Majestic Yosemite Hotel.

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That’s because of a massive tantrum being played out in the Courts by the former operator of the hotel.

When they didn’t get their contract renewed, said company apparently mounted a legal argument that they own a whole lot of names in the park, including Ahwahnee – which, by the way is a Native American Indian word meaning (as near as I can make it) “large mouth” which referred to the valley floor.

 

For clarity, this name was around long before said company took over the operations in 1993.

To be fair, it appears they were legally correct so they get to keep the name. Good on you guys, always go for being legally correct over being morally correct, because that’s the way to win hearts and minds. Dickheads.

And in this era of peaceful resistance, I want them to know that I have called this hotel nothing but Ahwahnee (ok, there may have been an occasional Wa Wa Nee thrown in) since we arrived.

That’s called stickin’ it to the man!

But in this most magnificent of buildings in this most magnificent of National Parks, I ordered a Kir Royale.

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It is pink and pretty and far too sweet for my taste. I’ll take a champagne over a Kir Royale.

But I sit and sip and consider that actually, a politician created the drink in my hand and the National Park in which I am sitting.

Felix was Mayor for a long time, and was famous for serving up the cocktail at civic events. The reason for this – the official reason anyway – was that the crème de cassis was locally produced and Felix took the opportunity to showcase it whenever possible.

Felix was once a priest and a resistance fighter and also used his position to champion the Sister-City movement. Sister-cities have been around for centuries, but Felix saw it as an important initiative for rebuilding links damaged or destroyed by WWII.

Often you’ll find Sister City pairings where there is a reasonably obvious link – like Orange NSW and Orange County, California.

Or, my favourite, Dull, Scotland and its Sister City, Boring, in Oregon.

But Dijon – where someone thought of mixing mustard with verjuice instead of vinegar (great work guys, I’m a big fan) – has 14 sister cities, none of which make a whole lot of sense to me on superficial glance.

But a good politician – the ones we like to call “leaders” – will do useful things, even when it isn’t immediately apparent to a cocktail writer on the other side of the world.

Like Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, the Presidents we can thank for National Parks and the the National Parks Service of the USA which continues to make these extraordinary places accessible to the people. That’s a great legacy.

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We can’t all create the National Parks Service, but sometimes great leadership is just about making sure the work that someone else has done doesn’t get fucked up on your watch.

And we raise our glasses in hope and trepidation and watch the clock count down the days…

Cheers!

 

I’m the Mary (Pickford)

Today is International Women’s Day.

This is a huge day for some white blokes who lament the good old days of beheading unsatisfactory wives to complain about how they don’t get a day. You do actually, 19 November is International Men’s Day, but please, don’t let that get in the way of a good rant.

But on International Women’s Day, let’s celebrate a coupla kick-arse Marys who should be thanked for their lifetime work.

As they say on Survivor, first things first. The cocktail.

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Mary Pickford

The Mary Pickford is a rum-based cocktail that, like so many other rum cocktails – the Mojito, the Daiquiri, the Cuba Libre – was invented in Cuba aka the Paris of the Caribbean during Prohibition.

In 1928, a fellow named Basil Woon, who clearly knew how to spend his time wisely, penned “When it’s cocktail time in Cuba”, describing the country as “a land where personal liberty and climate are blended in just the right setting of beauty and romance.”

Who wouldn’t want to go there? Everyone who had the coin headed south for a break and some booze, including the biggest stars in the world.

It obviously became quite a scene, with good bartenders from all over the world heading there, including Fred Kaufman, the Brit who likely created the Mary Pickford.

Imagine you’re a bartender and in walk Jay-Z and Beyoncé and she asks you to make her a cocktail.

Now multiply that by about 1000.

In 1920, Mary Pickford walked into the Hotel Nacional de Cuba with husband Douglas Fairbanks and Charlie Chaplin and asked for a cocktail. Fred delivered.

You’ve likely heard of Dougie and Chuck, but Mary? Well back in the day, she was about the most famous woman in the world. And she used that fame to establish a legacy that you probably benefit from a couple of times a week.

Born in Canada, Mary was known as American’s Sweetheart and was a massive star of
silent films.

She didn’t do as well with talkies (she completely 220px-mary_pickford-ziegfeldunderestimated the impact of sound in movies, claiming that “adding sound to movies would be like putting lipstick on the Venus de Milo” – yeah, whoops) but shook off her poor judgement and with Fairbanks and Chaplin established United Artists in 1919.

Yes, that United Artists, bringer of such joy as Skyfall, Hot Tub Time Machine and Survivor.

Pickford, Fairbanks and Chaplin set up United Artists to gain greater control of their careers from Studios in response to what they felt was unfair control exercised by over them. It was a massive move in an industry where actors hadn’t even been credited for their work just a few years earlier.

Mary and Doug were big news though.

When they honeymooned in Europe in 1920, there were near-riots as people tried to see them.

They had a house in Hollywood called Pickfair and had amazing dinner parties in their 16 year marriage – get invited and you might expect to exchange witticisms with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Greta Garbo, Albert Einstein, Amelia Earhart, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Noël Coward, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt and of course Fairbanks’ bestie, neighbour and perennial third-wheel Chaplin.

Pickfair (also the inspiration for Krusty the Klown’s house Schtickfair – genius) was fkp7am5zd9gx9dxmdemolished in 1990 by dickhead actress, singer and hair product enthusiast Pia Zadora – winner of the Razzies “worst new talent for the decade of the 1980s – apparently because of termites, a claim met with wide scepticism, something that was referenced by Blondie and Iggy Pop in 1990’s Well, did you evah?.

Zadora later changed her story and claimed that the house had been haunted by a former lover of Fairbanks.

An extraordinary coincidence that this landed her flagging career a gig on an episode of Celebrity Ghost Stories. Hmmm.

Mary and Doug were also among the 36 founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1927 (an initiative of the Studios, so pragmatism seemed to overcome any lingering resentment there), the same year they were also the first to put their hand prints in cement at Mann’s Chinese Theatre.

That’s what I said, big deals.

Sadly Pickford died an alcoholic in 1979, so might have been a good time to change the name of the cocktail but it remains in the IBA official list of cocktails – sitting alongside the Dry Martini in the category “The Unforgettables”.

This sweet, pink offering is made up of white rum, pineapple juice (fresh, please), grenadine and maraschino liqueur.

You’ll probably get Bacardi unless you ask otherwise, but I humbly suggest that with so many superior offerings available, it is time we moved on from our misplaced loyalty to the bat-logoed turpentine which is no longer even Cuban so that justification is gone (to be fair, not Bacardi’s fault, they were driven out of Castor’s Cuba and assets seized – we covered this is more detail HERE).

Go to a good rum bar like Sydney’s Lobo Plantation and ask the bartender for a white rum recommendation.

1806 in Melbourne is going a bit rogue and making Mary Pickfords with whisked egg whites – I haven’t tried that their offering but we know that SSM loves a good egg white cocktail and I can highly recommend their other offering8331244-3x2-700x467s so I’d say go for it.

Melbourne often leads the way in Australia, just as they are with crossing signals which seems to have a whole lot of dickheads up in arms this week.

Ya know, sometimes addressing the little things is what brings about the big changes.

Like our next Mary.

When you raise your glass tonight, I suggest quoting from 1997’s under-rated cinematic 220px-romy_and_michele_s_high_school_reunionmasterpiece “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion” (please can we have more of Alan Cumming and Janeane Garofalo in the same movie?) and loudly claiming “I’m the Mary.”

This is, of course a reference to Mary Tyler Moore.

Some 50 years after Mary Pickford got her signature cocktail, Mary Tyler Moore kicked off a seven season run of a sitcom that starred an unmarried career woman aged 30. What was notable about this was that she was smart, happy and successful WITHOUT a husband or children. She wasn’t a widow, she was single by choice, having left her fiancé and moved to Minneapolis and started her job as a junior television executive.

Seems astonishing that this could have been so astonishing when it first aired, the day
before my first birthday. But it was.gallery-1444665946-gettyimages-458912996

Mary asked for equal pay. Mary stayed out all night on a date. Mary used birth-control pills. Phyllis’ brother was gay.

These were big issues in the 1970s and by using humour and pathos, the show managed to gently shift some attitudes.

Mary with her fabulous pants-suits and turning the world on with her smile, showed a generation of girls that being single and having a career needn’t be a consolation prize.

It’s you girl and you should know it.

If you grew up with Mary, you had a new normal.

mary-tyler-moore-finale_l

You also had the brilliant Sue-Ann Nivens (hands-down best television character ever created – go to THIS POST where we covered her work, watch the clip and tell me I’m wrong?), Rhoda Morgenstern, Lou Grant, Ted Baxter, Georgette Baxter, Murray Slaughter and Phyllis Lindstrom (and the ever-off-screen Lars). Great characters and actors all.

And it is still hilarious and relevant.

So on IWD, thank you, Mary Pickford for using your fame to create a new role for women in Hollywood (and for the enduring charitable legacy you created), thank you Mary Tyler Moore and Mary Richards for gently creating positive options for young women, thank you Dame Mary Gilmore for fighting for the disadvantaged, thank you Mary Wollstonecraft for being the original suffragette, thank you Mary J Blige…

Today, J’suis Mary.

 

What’s the sexiest cocktail you can order?

Yo Muddlers, how about we get a little sex-y today?

Not sexy. Sex-y. There’s a difference.

It’s falling a little out of favour now, but in the decades that we will dub the Cocktail Dark Ages – the 1970s and 80s – bartenders who clearly weren’t getting enough action favoured sex-related names for their cocktail creations.

What a social success you can consider yourself when you get your rocks off as someone shouts at you that they’d like you to give them an Orgasm please. Or a Slippery Nipple or Sex on the Beach or an Angel’s Tit or a Cocksucking Cowboy.

Yes, you’ve made it. You’re a WINNER.

So there’s sex-related aka sex-y.  And then there’s sexy.

Different. So different.

But is there something more in the link? Does the name maketh the cocktail?

At Shake, Stir, Muddle we’ve been on a quest to discover whether a sex-y name makes for a better drink and have One-for-the-Road-Tested a few of these to save you the trouble.

drunk-hen-night-hens-party-secret-womens-business-l-plates-booze-e1393844243813Not surprisingly, most of these fall outside the IBA Official Cocktail purview, but we’re throwing caution to the wind today and ordering like we’re 23 and on a Hen’s Night at Kings Cross.

Slippery Nipple

This concoction was invented in the 1980s and contains Sambuca and Bailey’s. You’d drink it for two reasons – one is to get drunk quickly. The second is to showcase that you still think The Benny Hill Show is the height of sophistication.

Angel’s Titangels-tit-thumbnail

If you have mother issues, this is the drink for you. It’s white crème de cacao and
maraschino liqueur, topped with whipped cream and a cherry. So it tastes like vomit but looks like a boob. Tee hee right?

Look, if you can find a cocktail that looks like a knob, I’d go with that. It’ll match your outfit better.

Orgasm

There are many, many variations on the Orgasm (insert lewd joke here), but in its most basic form, it’s Kahlua, Amaretto and Bailey’s. A useful tip for bar owners wishing to keep their licence is that if someone orders one of these, there’s a fairly good chance they are underage.

Cocksucking Cowboys

So yes, back in early 2000s, I had my share of these layered shots of butterscotch schnapps and Bailey’s.

bon-joviBefore downing a shot, my compadres and I would loudly sing the chorus of Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive”.  Why? Because he’s a cowboy, on a steel horse he rides and he’s wanted – wanted – Dead or Alive, and because you are actually dead if you don’t think it’s fun to sing hair metal songs really loudly (even if Bon Jovi can’t punctuate correctly).

Reasons that have stood the test of time well.

As for the drink, I have no defence other than ignorance of decent liquor. (Yes Father, I’ll say ten Bloody Marys as penance).

If you blush easily, you can order a “CS Cowboy”, or better yet, follow the lead of my friend Donna and rename it a Helen Reddy and sing “I am Woman” every time you down one. Because that’s more fun and she punctuates properly.

You know, funny story, this song came out in 1972, and 45 years later women are still earning just 75% of what men earn to do the same job.

Hilarious.

But Helen Reddy still sings like a BOSS – watch her at the LA Women’s March in January. She’s introduced by Jamie Lee Curtis and wore her Ugg Boots because screw everyone, they’re comfortable.

Sex on the Beach

So this one is an IBA Official Cocktail.

It contains Vodka, cranberry juice, peach schnapps and orange juice. Again, a cocktail that you’d order because you want something where you can’t really taste the booze.

It doesn’t taste terrible. It’s ok.

So that’s why you would order one.

Why wouldn’t you? There’s a credible-though-contested theory that it was invented in Miami Beach during a minor Kennedy’s very public rape trial. Because rape on the beach is a lot like sex on the beach, right?

Yeah. Nah mate, it’s totally different Donald.

This concept seems to confuse a few people. In 1997, Dutch band T-Spoon released a single “Sex on the Beach”. As well as having a truly bewildering clip (HERE), at 1min47sec you get

“Met a girl named Eden

She comes straight from Sweden.

I gave her a Cuba Libre

Now she does everything I say.”

Ah, the timeless humour that is date rape.

The list of sex-y cocktails is long. Sadly I didn’t have time or energy to cover the Big Banana Dick-iry, the Panty Dropper or the Afternoon Delight but I couldn’t escape the nagging feeling that it was still too early to definitively assess how the Hilarious Sex-y Name = Great Cocktail equation stacks up.

Possibly. So to establish a control mechanism for this experiment, I sought out the least sex-y name for a cocktail.

The Income Tax Cocktail

This one dates back to the 1920s and was invented either in the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel London or more likely, in NYC.

It’s basically a Bronx cocktail with bitters. And the Bronx (as we know from THIS POST) is a Perfect Martini with orange juice.

Gin, sweet vermouth, dry vermouth and freshly-squeezed orange juice. Add a couple of dashes of bitters and Income Tax becomes a whole lot more than a pile of teeny-tiny receipts that you need to make sense of to send off to your accountant.

It’s a complex and dignified offering that won’t give your bartender a cheap giggle. lindsay-lohan

Happily, like cocktails, most bartenders have moved on and most cringe a little when you dial up the porn face and order one of these sex-y offerings.

Finally, just in case my Gen-Xiness was working against me, I supplemented my own vast knowledge of vulgar expressions with a quick check of Urban Dictionary to determine that Income Tax hasn’t been given some sex-y meaning by the Millennials.

Nope.

Income Tax Cocktail. Not sex-y, but sexy.3b82ae521230960b219d582069c46556

Like its namesake.

If you don’t like paying income tax, think instead of all the sexy things you can use it for it – hospitals, schools, dignified care for the elderly, renewable energy – or if you prefer, hilarious ad campaigns about the complete fairy tale that is “clean coal” – the Arts, public broadcasting.

And let’s not forget that in spite of every other dastardly deed, it was Income Tax Evasion for which they finally managed to put Al Capone behind bars.

More importantly, it was Income Tax Evasion that put James Court away, leaving the path clear for Lloyd Dobler to finally score that fancy Diane who totally didn’t deserve him when she ignored that In Your Eyes boombox thing he did in Say Anything which would have worked immediately and completely with me in 1989.

And possibly still today.

Sigh.

So ignore the sex-y cocktails and do your Income Tax people.

Cheers!

Mission: Imposter Martinis

In this era of striving to be more open-minded and actually considering the possibility that one’s views on something might be wrong, 2017 has seen me turning to vodka.

Here’s what I know about vodka – it has no taste and is made from potatoes.

And what I know about Martinis? Gin.

Anything that calls itself a “Martini” that does not contain gin, is not a Martini (I’m looking at you, Vodka “Martini”, Espresso “Martini”, and I’m not even talking to you Appletini).

So I’m conflicted about the so-called Vesper Martini. It has gin (tick). But also vodka (Clang).giphy

It was also invented by a fictional character, so walking up to the bar and ordering one seems a bit like looking to Homer Simpson for inspiration as to what to eat for lunch.

But the Vesper is an IBA Official cocktail, so it deserves its time in the Shake, Stir, Muddle spotlight.

casino-royale-bookIn 1953, Casino Royale first introduced us to James Bond.

Bond falls for a girl named Vesper whose parents presumably named her after evening prayers rather than the Italian motorbike. This is 2017 and we now know that a woman can shag whoever she pleases, but in the 1950s, there was a charming expression that would have deterred loving parents (even fictional ones) from naming their daughter after a town bike.

So yes, Vesper.

Bond goes undercover as a Jamaican playboy and is given a wad of public funds to play warnie-pokerbaccarat (it’s poker in the Daniel Craig movie, because poker is SO classy, which we know because Warnie plays it) and orders up what has become the Vesper cocktail.

You can’t order the exact cocktail anymore, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

First, a word on prudent Government expenditure.

I pay tax in Australia, where money is spent on important advertising campaigns that are intended to distract us from noticing Government inaction on climate change, but I still am outraged on behalf of the British taxpayers that Bond is given public money to gamble with.

I understand the mission imperative, but Bond is not the guy who should be given a weapon or cash.

Let’s ask some scientists to tell us why.

In December 2013, the British Medical Journal published THIS study that considered 007’s booze consumption.

Seems Bond had a weekly alcohol consumption of between 65 and 92 units, with a 1428456902445maximum daily intake of 49.8 units.

To put this in context, the British recommended limit for alcohol consumption for men in a week is 21 units.

But sure, here’s a license to kill Jimmy, we trust you.

2c9d420200000578-0-image-m-19_1442861027571Through the books and movies, Bond drinks anything from Heineken to Dom Perignon but he is best known for asking for vodka “martinis” shaken, not stirred.

Many, many people have view on the superiority of stirring a martini over shaking.

The primary objections are that it can “bruise” the gin (horseshit), or that shaking the ice may cause it to fracture and therefore put tiny shards of diluting ice in your drink (not horseshit, but a tolerable risk).

Bond’s recipe called for 3 measures of Gordons, 1 of vodka and half of Kina Lillet. Shaken.

Kina Lillet (pronounce it Keen-a Lillay) hasn’t been made for 30 years. It was an aromatised wine (like Vermouth and Dubonnet) that originally included cinchona bark from Peru, making it a quinine liqueur.

Back in the late 1800s, quinine liqueurs were considered “tonic wines”, in that they allegedly had some associated health benefits, but were bitter to the taste precisely because of the quinine.

170px-lilletFast forward to the decade that reinvented taste – the 1980s – and the bitterness had fallen out of favour and Kina Lillet was no more. You can go to the trouble of sourcing powdered quinine if you must, but the Lillet Blanc that replaced it is actually a lovely tipple.

You can also substitute the Gordons for a gin of your choice.

As for the Vodka, who cares? It has no taste, right?

Well, dear Readers, seems I may have been too hasty in making this assessment.

As regular readers know, my commitment to research is high, my methods mostly half-arsed.

But this time, I thought that I should challenge my prejudices properly so called upon the expertise of Scott Barber at the world’s coldest Vodka Tasting Room at the Bearfoot Bistro in Whistler, BC.

Apparently, donning an unflattering coat and entering an environment set at very antisocial temperaturesimg_7113 is optimal for challenging prejudices surrounding the potato drink.

First error. Not only is the vast majority of today’s vodka made from grain, not potatoes, it wasn’t even originally a potato-based recipe.

See, the first written reference that can be found for vodka dates back to 1405, and potatoes didn’t arrive in Europe from Peru until the mid-1500s.

Let’s pause a moment and reflect on how shit European cuisine must have been before murderous bastards like Drake starting coming home with string bags full of spices and spuds and quinine from the New World.

Potatoes dominated vodka in the late 1700s when they were a cheaper raw material than wheat.

Now, only about 10% of vodka is made from potatoes and if you’re gluten intolerant, there’s no need to tell me, but you can just order up on the potato vodka.

But back to the coldest place on earth (give or take) that was giving me a warm inner glow.

cofScott poured vodka like he was a Soviet double-agent and I was the beautiful and talented scientist who was the sole custodian of the secret formula that was needed to bring down the Western world.

You’ll be pleased to know that I held my liquor and the world is still safe(ish).

What is not safe though is my sweeping pronouncements about vodka.

Turns out vodka does have taste – in fact, it has four elements that we should all be paying attention to when we drink.

Fragrance. Feel (that’s in your mouth, don’t dip your fingers in it). Flavovodka-images-montageur. Finish.

We downed vodka from the Netherlands (Ketel One), Canada (East Van with the amazing label and Long Table from BC and Yukon Winter from yep, Yukon), Poland (Chopin and Zubrowka with bison grass and apparently not legal for sale in the USA) before Scott realised I was not going to crack under pressure.

As we left the ice chamber, Scott turned from Soviet double-agent to bartending wizard and served me up my very first Vesper.
img_7128

While some of the finer details are a wee bit hazy my friends, it was GOOD (and OMG, so was the French Onion soup which accompanied it).

The Lillet softens the punch of the gin and vodka and you should probably play with proportions to get your favourite, but this – this cocktail that goes against EVERYTHING I previously stood for – has come up as a credible addition to my Go-To cocktails.

No, we won’t call it a martini, nor will it come close to replacing the actual martini as my drink of choice, but Shake, Stir, Muddle will press on with investigations into vodka and we will take pride in being able to point to one thing we’ve changed our mind about in recent weeks months years.

I think that proves I’m a grown-up, right?

Cheers,

Carolyn

PS Here’s a photo of a Vesper I had at the Qantas Lounge at LAX –img_7514 I was waiting on a Negroni when I saw a bottle on a glass shelf with a handwritten label “Vesper, 8 week barrel-aged”.

See that warmth of colour?  That comes from barrel-ageing (like whisky).

I swapped my Negroni order for a Vesper (as I said, research never rests). It had a richness of flavour that I appreciated for precisely three sips before spilling the rest over my three year old daughter just before we boarded a 15 hour flight.

Excellent.

Ringing in the New Year

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

Here’s a few of the cocktails we covered.

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

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

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

Cheers,

Carolyn

 

Champagne Cocktails for New Year’s Eve

Classic Champagne Cocktail

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

Poinsettia

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

Kir Royale

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

 

Drinking to forget?

French 75

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

Long Island Ice Tea

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

Drinking to find romance on NYE?

Hanky-Panky

Equal parts gin and sweet vermouth, 2 dashes fernet branca

The Love Potion

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

 

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

Fresh Start

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where you Bellini my whole life?

 

Dear Muddlers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

gordon_d2-the-mighty-ducks-19640915-1710-1161

(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.

dog-steering-a-gondola-in-venice-94455

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.

bellini

(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