Category Archives: One for the Road Test

French 75: brave choices

Given this week has seen the first round of voting in the French Presidential election, some may accuse me of having jumped gun two weeks ago when I ran with the only cocktail that combines France and politicians.

Fear not, dear Reader, this week we are back to France for another IBA Contemporary Classic, the French 75.

Like most cocktails, its history is disputed.

My favourite theory involves a World War I flying ace named Gervais Raoul Lufbery.

Snoopy flying ace

Now, if you thought that “Flying Ace” was a term used only by Snoopy, you are wrong (although in good company…), but it refers to a military aviator credited with shooting down several enemy aircraft in combat – usually 5 is the qualifying number to become an ace.

 

So Lufbery. He was French, then American, and flew for both countries.

He also had two pet lions – Whiskey and Soda. Soda would try to maul anyone other than Lufbery who came near her.

 

I  like to think of him as a French accented Lord Flashheart, played by the late, great Rik Mayall in Blackadder.

 

Twenty minutes or not, there was a fairly high mortality rate amongst WWI combat pilots so I have no doubt Lufbery would have had a sense of urgency about all he drank.

So it seems entirely plausible that a high-flyin, lion-ownin’ ace might come in from a mission needing a stiff drink and demand that he be given something a little stronger than champagne.

Chuck in some cognac, lemon juice, sugar syrup and shake it up and top up with champagne.

Hey presto, French 75 – named after the 75mm Howitzer field gun used by the French and Americans in WWI.

Lufbery died at age 33 in May 1918 – details are conflicting but it seems he may have unbuckled his seat belt to allow him to fix something on his plane mid-air and then fell out. He may have survived but for the fact he was impaled on a metal fence. Gruesome.

So I’m giving the cocktail to Lufbery.

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The original recipe anyway. The IBA recipe calls for gin instead of cognac.

A gin variation may indeed pre-date Lufbery’s efforts, with Charles Dickens being known to serve guests gin and a Champagne Cup back as far back as 1867. The Champagne Cup was made up of sugar, citrus and champagne.

But it wasn’t called the French 75, so again we can reward our flying ace.

French 75 CognacFrench 75 Gin

Our panel One-for-the-Road-tested both and I can report that each has its merits.

Sacrilegious though it may seem, you could substitute a decent sparkling wine for the champagne with any significant diminution of the end product too.

While it deserves greater fame, the French 75 doesn’t show up much in popular culture.

However, it is one of only two cocktails mentioned by name in 1942 film Casablanca (and if you want to read the article that argues, successfully in my view, that this is the greatest movie about a cocktail bar ever made – read THIS FABULOUS PIECE from Josh Stein at eater.com. He does give the cocktail to bartender Harry McElhone but I don’t think Harry had any lions so clearly Lufbery is a better tale).

So, Casablanca.

Yvonne, after being rejected and then cut-off (booze-wise) by former lover and bar owner Rick, shows up with her new Nazi boyfriend and they order French 75s.

And then there’s a fight.

That Rick himself refers to his bar as a “gin joint” may lead us to assume that it was the gin version that gets served up, but it isn’t actually specified (and much cognac is drunk so it could quite easily have been the Lufbery Variation).

Yvonne’s role is small but important.

After seeking warmth in the arms of a Nazi, when she hears La Marseillaise, she jumps to her feet, singing and crying, calling out Viva La France! in the final bars. It is a brilliantly complex scene that captures so much of the moral difficulties that faced people in WWII.

casablanca-yvonne1

Remember that Casablanca when written, produced and released by 1942, so they didn’t yet have the benefit of history to tell them how this whole shebang was going to play out.

Actress Madeleine Lebeau who played Yvonne died last year May 1, aged 92. She was the last surviving cast member.

Lebeau was born in France and escaped to USA with her Jewish husband when they saw things going rapidly south. Upon arrival, she found she had been sold a dodgy visa and had to go to Canada on a bridging visa before making her way to Hollywood.

She was a refugee, as were many of the actors in the bar scenes in Ccasablanca-marketasablanca.

If you haven’t seen it, I’m not going to spoil it by telling you that it’s about trying to get out of warzones and people in very stylish clothes facing moral dilemmas about jeopardising their own interests and safety to protect others.

This film, made so many years ago, has echoes of a great new film by Director and Writer David Roach, The Surgeon and the Soldier, about Dr Munjed Al Muderis. (You can watch it for free HERE).

Al Muderis fled Iraq after being directed – at gunpoint – to mutilate people or face his own death.

He paid an Indonesian people smuggler to get him across the seas in a small boat and was put in a modern Government-run concentration camp (officially named “Immigration Reception and Processing Centres”) and referred to as “982” for 10 months before being allowed to live in Australia.

4-01-2016_2-39-27_pmOnce he got released into the general community, 982 set about subversive activities such as paying income tax and pioneering osseointegration surgery which is allowing amputees – particularly returned British service personnel – to walk again.

This made Prince Harry visit Australia, so we’ll chalk Dr Munjed Al Muderis up as a “good Aussie” then hey?

I’m a cocktail writer, I don’t claim to have the answers to complex policy issues and am somewhat persuaded by moves that will dissuade desperate people from attempting dangerous journeys where so many have died, but for fuck’s sake, can we not call people by their NAMES when they are in our protection? Can we not assume that they are good, desperate people who need safe haven, rather than assuming they are a lower form of life?

Due process with humanity anyone?

But Yvonne.

I don’t who I would have been in WWII.

I would love to think I would be the brave and clear-eyed Victor Laszlo, or even the casa_stairscynical Rick Blaine, but I suspect most of us would have been Yvonne.

Yvonne who was scared and likely under-estimating the situation the world was in, but when the moment presented, we’d probably rise to our feet in solidarity and sing passionately and mean it with every part of our beings, but we’d need a Victor or a Munjed to show us the way.

 

And bloody hell, wouldn’t we need a strong drink after that?

Well with a big merci beaucoup to Major Lufbery, we have exactly the right cocktail.

Viva la Soixante Quinze!

 

 

 

The Stinger, Sanctuary Cove and High-ish Society

I came to this week’s cocktail confused and trepidatious.

The Stinger is an IBA Unforgettable, a category that usually brings me nought but delight.

Negroni. Martini. Old Fashioned. Rusty Nail. The Unforgettables make for a happy hunting ground for Shake, Stir, Muddle.

The StinReginald Vanderbiltger, however, appeared challenging.

Reliable sources tell me it was likely invented by Reginald Vanderbilt in 1923.

A rich toff with a love of the afternoon Cocktail Hour (at least until his death from alcohol-related liver failure in 1925), Reggie whipped up a Stinger in his impressive home bar and it promptly became a Society favourite.

Fancy. Posh.

Certainly it contains Cognac, definitely swanky plonk. But what of its only other ingredient?

These pages have documented what an exciting time the late 1980s were for those of us making our first forays in legal drinking.mintpattienestle

My nascent palate favoured alcohol that tasted nothing like alcohol – Island Cooler, Southern Comfort with lemonade and the Holy Grail – Crème de Menthe.

It tasted like a Mint Pattie and could be thrown back with gay abandon in the brief minutes between cracking the seal on a bottle and the violent vomiting of that which had previously been so pleasing.

Fancy? Not on your life.

Creme de Menthe greenSo what of the Stinger?

Can a cocktail containing Crème de Menthe – no matter how well-balanced by Cognac – really be considered a stamp of one’s posh credentials?

As usual, we look to the Silver Screen for our answers.

Exhibit A

The year was 1988. One of my closest school friends had just lost her mother to cancer, so we loaded our permed heads and Portman’s jodhpur-clad tails into my hatchback and headed out. Let’s see a movie, I said. Take your mind off things for a bit, I said. Maybe have a couple of laughs, I said.

Here, this movie looks good. It’s got Bette Midler in it, that’ll be funny.

That movie was, of course, Beaches.

This tale of a lifelong female friendship cut short by a type of cancer that left you curiously good-looking in your final days was just the remedy for my friend’s raw grief.

Setting aside how shit I am at choosing appropriate entertainment for the recently-bereaved, the movie gives up important clues as to the poshness of this cocktail.

Midler’s Ceece Bloom sports an expertly-bedazzled cold-shoulder chambray ensemble
and voluminous red perm in this important scene of reconciliation where Barbara Hershey’s Hillary reveals her pregnancy.

Bette Midler

In need of fortification, a Stinger is ordered.

As we know, sleek brunette pony-tail sporter Hillary was the posh one in Beaches. She does not order a cocktail. Ceece is most definitely the NOT POSH one. But she is the one to order a Stinger.

1-0

Exhibit B

1983’s Gorky Park.

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Russian cop William Hurt orders a Stinger. New York cop Brian Dennehy tells him that it’s a whore’s drink. Implying that’s a bad thing.

Hard to tell which actor would win in the snazzy stakes since Dennehy has Emmys and Tonys and Hurt has an Academy Award and a BAFTA, but we’ll give it to Dennehy in this instance because it was a Cold War movie and he was playing the American.

2-0.

Exhibit C

One of my favourite movies, 1956’s High Society.

High Society

As the name suggests, this is about posh people doing posh things in posh houses. With lots of drinking.

Set in Newport, Rhode Island, a playground for the uber-wealthy, Grace Kelly’s character Tracy Samantha Lord gets hammered the night before her nuptials and has a cracking hangover as she greets her wedding day.

A Stinger is handed to her by ex-husband Mr CK Dexter Haven, played by Bing Crosby, with an assurance that it’ll ease the sting – as she contemplates the shocking possibility of her wedding eve indiscretion with journalist Mike Connor.

Connor is a journalist from Spy magazine, sent reluctantly and against his journalistic integrity, to cover Lord’s society wedding. Connor is played by Frank Sinatra.

That’s right, the same Sinatra who in 1974 referred to journalists in Australia as “parasites” and the female journalists as “hookers” who he “wouldn’t pay more than a buck-and-a-half for”. Delightful.

Just to be clear, the journalists were covering his tour of Australia. Doing their jobs then.

Barnaby-Joyce.jpgDown Under we just love to show fancy American celebrities who’s boss by grounding their planes, just as our erstwhile Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, did for Johnny Depp and his illegal immigrant pooches in 2015.

In Sinatra’s case, Trade Union leaders showcased their real value by collaborating to protect workers’ dignity (rather than renovating their homes with Union fees) and grounded Frank’s Fokker.

Enter one Robert J Hawke, Head of the ACTU who negotiated what was not quite an apology from the Chairman of the Boors, but an acknowledgement that his comments had been inappropriate.

Anyway, Ol’ Blue Eyes left, vowing never to return.

This principled boycott of Australia lasted until a million bucks was thrown at him to play
at Queensland’s Sanctuary Cove in January 1988. Gore SinatraSanctuary Cove, to quote the wonderful Clive James (as we all should, as often as we possibly can), was carved out of a swamp near Surfers Paradise so the well-heeled could make themselves safe from the less well-heeled.

Much like Newport, Rhode Island in concept.

But just so not in reality (and it’s worth finding an hour to watch this Clive James show on the opening of Sanctuary Cove and Sinatra’s concert – as well as having Richard Wilkins’ hair in all its mulleted glory at 25 mins, the vulgar Mike Gore tells you everything about Queensland in the 1980s).

But back to The Stinger.

Since it wasn’t consumed by the working-class Connors but definitely did feature in a movie called High Society, that’s one mark in the posh stakes FOR the Stinger.

2-1.

Exhibit D

Finally, nothing says posh like classical music.  Apparently Rachmaninoff himself,
otherwise a teetotaller, used to down a nip of Crème de Menthe to steady his nerves when playing the technically-demanding piano score on the 24th variation of Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.

While not a Stinger, this is a definite quaver in favour of the posh-cred of the dodgy ingredient in the Stinger.

2-2. Final score.

And so we approached our One-for-the-Road Test of The Stinger with no definitive answer as to whether drinking it makes us actual aristocrats.

Posh girls

Leaving only taste with which to measure its worth.

Fortunately, a quick review of the ingredients before pulling out my shaker, led me to discover that there is such a thing as white Crème de Menthe.

So mixing up the 5 parts Cognac to the 2 parts Crème de Menthe skirted the virulent green nostalgia of my early drinking days. Still, tasting a drop did evoke that just-brushed-your-teeth feeling that while not unpleasant, has no place in a cocktail glass.

Shake with ice, garnish with fresh mint.

First we drink with the eye.
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It pleases. White Crème de Menthe blends nicely with the Cognac to ensure this looks like a grown-up cocktail.

But the taste?

Also pleasing. Surprisingly so. Take it really easy with your Crème de Menthe pour here, it would be easy to overpower this cocktail, but there is a surprising balance and complexity in the flavours when blended correctly.

The IBA calls it an After Dinner Cocktail.  SSM had it before dinner – as Vanderbilt likely intended, Ms Tracy Samantha Lord downed one in the morning and Ceece Bloom mid-afternoon.

I’d say any of those times are appropriate for this cocktail.

Cheers!

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!

Manhattan Project 2.0 (aka Rye, Rye, Rye Delilah)

Let’s start the year with an appeal for moderation in our moderation.

spirulina-drinkAt this time of year it is easy to be seduced by charlatans peddling detoxes and to consider turning our minds away from the cocktail cart in favour of spirulina smoothies and other emotionally-toxic bullshit.

Indeed, many of you may be contemplating declaring the shortest month of the year to be your own personal Prohibition (you may remember that I did this last year – it was a trying and tedious period for us all).

Actually dear Muddlers, I posit that this quieter time that follows the excesses of the festive season is the BEST time to be trying cocktails you otherwise wouldn’t.

So let’s do exactly that.

At the beginning of 2017, seems there are more people with a view on the Old Fashioned cocktail than there are those with a view on who should form Government in Australia.

One such view is that it’s a bit too much fussing about to get it right.

While I disagree with this view, today I would like to present you with what Kingsley Amis describes in Everyday Drinking as “the not very energetic man’s Old Fashioned.”

If that doesn’t sound more appealing than over-priced coconut water, I’m afraid I have nothing with which to help you today.

We’ve covered The Bronx, the Queens, the Staten Island Ferry (and my improvements upon it in the 1980s) and we’ve declared our official boycott of the Brooklyn HERE.

Which makes it hard to say that first we take Manhattan, but let’s say it anyway and doff manhattanour metaphorical fedoras at the late, great Leonard Cohen.

True to SSM tradition, the Manhattan is an IBA Official Cocktail – in fact, it’s one of The Unforgettables.

The recipe, which has been around since the early 1880s and, not surprisingly, comes from New York City, calls for

  • 50 mL Rye Whiskey
  • 20 mL Red Vermouth
  • 1 dash Angostura Bitters

Shake over ice (to Foxtrot time, according to The Thin Man), serve in a martini glass (with a maraschino cherry if you absolutely must).

As we all know from Peggy Olson’s response to Joan Holloway’s direction in Season 1 of Mad Men that “Mr Draper drinks Rye”, Rye is Canadian, right?

Well sort of.

If we have learnt nothing else together at Shake, Stir, Muddle, we know that George Michael is the handsomest man in all of eternity and that correct spelling is absolutely critical in making cocktails.

Do you pick what’s wrong with that recipe?

There’s a pesky “e” in Whiskey.

There’s no “e” in Canadian whisky (nor Japanese, nor Australian, nor Scottish, nor Kiwi). So Rye is not Canadian then?

Well, the answer is yes. And no.

In the USA, Rye Whiskey must, by law, be made from a mash that is a minimum 51% rye grain. This gives it a distinct baking spices flavour.

Jump across the151020-justin-trudeau-boxing-mn-0840_5e019a3dfc22da3dcb1e7bf8147f62b6-nbcnews-ux-320-320 border to Trudeau’s Paradise of Social Progress and Swelling National
Pride though, and the term “Rye Whisky” is interchangeable with the term “Canadian Whisky”.

It’s still produced with rye grain, through more likely to be dominated by corn mash. It started life not with wholegrain rye, but with some bright spark taking the leftover waste of wheat milling and turning it into whisky.

Take that Jesus.*

Some purists like to refer to its lighter taste as “brown vodka”, but Canadian Whisky (aka Rye) outsells Scotch, Irish, Bourbon and USA Rye Whiskies co4835720312_bd11aa4864mbined in North America.

The best known brand is Don Draper’s favourite, Canadian Club.

It started life as a product of the USA, in Detroit, Michigan, a state that should forever hang its head in shame for its part in introducing the blight that is about to occupy the White House and start a public policy era of stupidity unseen since the 18th Amendment.

Back in the 1800s, grain merchant turned distiller Hiram Walker saw the Prohibition writing on the wall decades in advance and moved into Ontario, Canada, just across the river from Detroit.

Here, he produced a whisky that was seen as fancy, fancy enough to be served in one of those Gentlemen’s Clubs – Club Whisky as it soon became known.

Walker’s distilling rivals in the USA didn’t like this threat and lobbied their elected representatives to mandate that the country of origin be printed 80don the labels of all whisky sold in the USA.

That’ll show ’em, right?

Make America Great Again and all that?

Nup.

Spectacular backfire. Turns out the drinking public wanted the Canadian stuff.

And so Canadian Club was born.

Walker died in 1899, too early to see Prohibition hit the USA and most Canadian provinces follow suit in introducing shitty and counter-productive alcohol legislation.

In Ontario, the production and export of alcohol was still legal, so the Detroit River became a river of booze as the product legally left Canada to be transported illegally into the USA.

Al Cal-capone-mug-shot-40886apone himself – one of the biggest beneficiaries of Prohibition – would visit Walkerville, Ontario and pick up his booze to sell back into the USA.

Quite the day at the office for whoever had the misfortune of being rostered on to serve him.

Regardless of Canadian rye’s popularity and colourful history, there’s just no escaping that e which appears in every single Manhattan recipe.

My friends, the Manhattan needs to be made with USA Rye.

Or Bourbon. Also from the USA.

So I have failed in my quest to find a Canadian-themed cocktail for today’s post.

But let’s not dismiss the Manhattan on the basis of its nationality – there’s far too much of that going on the world right now.

The Manhattan is one of the few cocktails that even wanky cocktail writers concede is scalable.

Unlike most cocktails which need to be made only one or two at a time, you can whip up a big jolly batch of Manhattans at once and pour to suit a crowd (something you simply cannot do with a green smoothie).

Marilyn Monroe ably demonstrates this by mixing up a Bourbon brew en masse in a hot water bottle on a train in Some Like it Hot.  Last year we covered how to improvise with cocktails when you’re traveling but this is particularly resourceful.

This was the movie that has inspired the unparalleled comedic dress-donning genius of every single Footy Show host since the dawn of time.

Gents, wearing a dress does not make you Jack Lemmon.

Seems Marilyn Monroe was no Jack Lemmon either though, reportedly taking more than 60 takes to get the line “It’s me, Sugar” in the can.** (Imagine how many takes it would get for Sarah Wilson to be able to spit that line out of her sanctimonious sugar-quitting pie-hole).220px-marilyn_monroe_joe_dimaggio_january_1954

This week marks the anniversary of masterful Manhattan-maker Monroe’s wedding to Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio, the man with a Manhattan highway named after him.

While the marriage was shortlived, DiMaggio sent flowers to Marilyn’s grave three times a week for the 37 years between her death and his.

So Fatty Vautin was right then when he said that “Death ends a life, not a relationship.”

No. Wait.

That was Jack Lemmon.

Bern.pngI’d say that’s a sentiment worthy of a toast.

I’ll be raising my Manhattan glass to my wise, witty and wonderful uncle, Bernard Emerre who I will miss forever but with whom my relationship endures.

Whatever you’re drinking and whoever you’re missing, Happy New Year Muddlers. It’s great to be back.

Cheers!

*For complete clarity, the picture above is of the Canadian PM
**To be fair on Monroe, she was just the second woman in Hollywood to open her own production company – the first being the wonderful Mary Pickford who has an IBA Official Cocktail named after her.

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

Bombed out

Come what may in this crazy world that many fear is on track to go down in a ball of flames, the civility of Cocktail Hour must continue, so today we’re looking at an IBA Official Cocktail that is appropriate for a number of reasons (and comes with a message of hope).

The B52.

Invented in 1977 by bartender Peter Fich at Banff Springs Hotel, where he named it not after the massive long-range aircraft designed to carry nukes (cheery), but after his favourite band The B-52s (for the pedants out there, they dropped the apostrophe in 2008).

b52It’s easy to remember the recipe  – 20mLs each of Kahlua, Baileys (shockingly, another dropped apostrophe – doing my head in), Grand Marnier – pour in that order, carefully over back of a cold spoon to create layers and you can set fire to the top, or not.

It’s sweet and tasty, but like all shots, is more about getting bombed rather than enjoying a sociable time over a cocktail.

Surprising then that the band it was named after was formed after what is possibly the most sociable cocktail.

The B-52s came together in 1976 after the band members-to-be shared a Flaming Volcano cocktail at a Chinese restaurant in Athens Georgia (also birthplace of REM and Indigo Girls).

They didn’t have enough money to eat so chose to pool funds and share a cocktail.

The Flaming Volcano is not so much a cocktail as a s51s7qg-m-nl-_sx425_hared alcoholic experience. You don’t drink
it out of a glass, you pour a large amount of rum, brandy and juice into the purpose-built vessel like this one and drink through long straws.

The long straws are to avoid the dangers of head clashes and your hair catching hair on fire from the small flaming pit in the middle.

It’s just the sort of thing you drink in your 20s with your friend who you met at the local bong shop.

mi0003516017Thus, over a cocktail of sorts, a creative collaboration that is still delighting fans 40 years later, was sparked. And by the way, you can see The B-52s playing classics like Rock Lobster and Love Shack with Simple Minds and the Models around Australia in early 2017.

But sadly, without founding member Ricky Wilson.

December 1 is World AIDS Day.

The day is designed to raise awareness of issues surrounding HIV and AIDS.

HUGE news in 2016, with AIDS being declared to no longer be a Public Health Issue in Australia. This means that the number of people being diagnosed with AIDS each year in Australia is now so low that we can say that we are one of the only countries in the world to have beaten the AIDS epidemic.

This was inconceivable just a few decades ago when the world was gripped with a panic about AIDS. Bloody good job scientists.

Ricky Wilson, who died in October 1985 of AIDS-related illness, just ten days after Rock Hudson died, was one of the first celebrities to succumb to the disease that first started appearing in 1981.

USA President Ronald Reagan did not even mention the word – think 1101860707_400about that, a massive public health risk that was killing thousands but it was so contentious, the President of the USA wouldn’t even say its name until 1985 – perhaps inspired by the diagnosis of his friend Rock Hudson?

The 1980s were scary times and people behaved in an ugly way towards one another (see where I’m going with this?).

Families whose kids had HIV were being run out of their towns and having their houses fire bombed (good job West Virginia and Florida).

But it wasn’t just in the USA – on the same day Ricky Wilson died, this Good Weekend article appeared in Australia, looking at the cruel treatment of poor little Eve Van Grafhorst who was pushed out of day-care on NSW’s Central Coast because of fear and ignorance surrounding her AIDS. The family had to move to New Zealand to find a welcome.

Way to go Kincumber.

250px-thedayafterAdd to this the Cold War panic which gave us a genuine fear of nuclear attack by the USSR.

At school we were shown films about what we would do in the event of a nuclear attack – FYI, the answer is the same for school drills today – get under your desk. (Seriously, what do they make those desks out of?)

In 1983 we all watched terrifying movies like The Day After, to help us prepare.

The Day After is still the highest rated television movie of all time.

In brief, its message is: in times of crisis, even Steve Guttenberg may not know what to do.

gutenberg

These were dark times, filled with the dread and fear that many are feeling now about what one man moving into the White House might mean for peace and the treatment of minorities and women.

But here’s the thing, we got through the 80s.

Ok, there were precisely zero civil rights legislation for lesbian or gay individuals passed during Reagan’s 8 year tenure and there is still one of his appointees on the Supreme Court, 28 years after he left office.

But think of all that has been achieved in spite of that lingering – and yes, influential – legacy.

And we won’t go back because of a change in President, because Governments can’t actually tell us what to think. And we do think differently now.

The first Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras was held in 1978 as a protest march and the police beat the shit out of peaceful marchers and arrested 53 of them. Now the organisation is able to tell the Prime Minister he is unwelcome.

323c5eac00000578-3494517-image-m-8_1458109805975This is the same country that ignored the USA’s inaction on AIDS and started a massive public education program.

The Grim Reaper campaign had the double impact of showing us that there are actually men walking around in our country spelling Simon with an extra i, and no doubt, contributed to this year’s declaration of the AIDS crisis in Australia to be over.

Those of us old enough to remember the 1980s not only have the moral superiority of knowing that our music really was the best, we have lived through what seemed like scary times before.

So on December 1, to celebrate the amazing work of our medical scientists, public health officials and men named Siimon, have a cocktail – flaming or otherwise – and have a little faith.

Cheers!

 

 

FF Sake

So Shake, Stir, Muddle is soon to become required reading for Australia’s Diplomatic Corps.*90379549_boris

Not for nothing either. Where else are you going to get tips that only diplomats with the skills of Boris Johnson can confidently claim?

Like this: When sharing a drink in a foreign country, instead of repeating the toast your hosts are offering, for a genuine ice-breaker, try shouting an obscene name for male genitalia.

More on that later.

First, the weather.

2016-08-24-11-17-52-1For several weeks the blossoms have been heralding the arrival of Spring.

Naturally, thoughts are turning to the life-affirming rituals of modern Australia; scheduling hair removal and purchasing anti-histamines.

And shifting our drinking patterns away from the heavier cocktails of winter.

But in Australia, we really lack a drinking tradition that appropriately marks the season.

Unlike the Japanese who celebrate Spring by gathering under the cherry blossoms for Hanami – literally “flower viewing”.

I don’t know what the Japanese word for “getting riotously pissed at a picnic under a thick castle_himeji_sakura02layer of pink foliage” is but I imagine it wouldn’t be as pretty as Hanami so they stuck with that instead of aiming for more truth in advertising.

Everyone should experience Hanami at least once and sake is the preferred beverage for complete cultural immersion.

In spite of this connection, sake is tricky for SSM because there isn’t an IBA Official Cocktail that calls for it. But a policy exception has been made (without any reference to a democratic process) and we have One-for-the-Road Tested a sake cocktail.

One reason for this departure from policy is a couple of traditions associated with sake in Japan that are consistent with our ethos here at SSM.

Like, don’t pour your own sake. Your job is to keep an eye on your companions’ drinks and 20090805-japan20zonepouring_sake2to top them up. Their job is to keep an eye on your drink. It’s very sociable and convivial.

I like that.

And drink less, but drink good.

Truth be told, I don’t adore sake so I was a little apprehensive about trying sake-based cocktails. Sake is also difficult from a 1980s movie perspective because it just doesn’t offer the fodder of some of the cocktail tie-ins we have delighted in with past cocktails.

But soldier on we will (and HERE is a David Bowie Sake ad from the very early 1980s so we aren’t completely neglecting the SSM promise).

So this weekend we tried the Sake-Tini.

2016-09-11-16-16-07In spite of SSM’s oft-stated aversion to anything anointing itself with the “Tini” suffix, the Saketini is gin based and to be fair (something we are inconsistently interested in), the Martini is the SSM Tasting Panel’s favourite cocktail and therefore the one we feel best able to judge.

Using the first recipe we could find on Google, we mixed up a 50:50 gin (we used excellent young Sydney brand Poor Tom’s Fool Proof) and sake cocktail. Now, 50:50 is not our preferred ration of gin to vermouth, but it was important we give the sake a chance to shine.

And the verdict?

Surprisingly tolerable. There’s a slight nuttiness you don’t get with vermouth but it is not unpleasant.

For the second round, we went with a ratio closer to our preferred gin to vermouth ratio and were equally pleased. If there is ever a vermouth emergency and we have only gin and sake (and olives), we’ll be just fine.

Now some may be thinking that this is because sake and vermouth are similar because they are both wines.

But you wouldn’t, would you?

See while we know vermouth is a fortified wine, in spite of what people say, sake is NOT a 220px-aspergillus_oryzae_28e9bab929rice wine. Sake’s manufacturing process is more like brewing beer than making wine – just try stomping a vat of dry rice sometime if you doubt me (but store it like wine – it only keeps for a couple of days after opening so keep it in the fridge or better yet, try to get through the bottle on the night you open it).

No, sake is produced in much the same way it has been for about 1000 years, just adding a few more women into the process now that we’ve all worked out that the oestrogen doesn’t actually change the flavour at all (der).

But something sake does now that is very cool is rebuild lives.

Earlier this year, Fukushima Prefecture became Japan’s leading region for sake production. If Fukushima seems familiar, it’s because you heard it was hit hard by an earthquake, a tsunami and a nuclear accident in 2011. That’s some really shit luck.

800px-jrballe_sake_barrels_japan_001But local sake manufacturers – usually businesses too small to have earthquake insurance – were also local employers and were urged to get back to production as soon as possible after the March 11 earthquake. So some were back up and running within two days.

There was a lag in sales since everyone was scared of possible contamination of the product, but unlike wine, where the grapes have to be grown locally, the rice from sake can come from anywhere. Most Japanese sake is made with rice from the west coast of Japan.

So the Japanese people turned their drinking preferences back to sake to help small businesses and families rebuild after the earthquake.

Drinking for social good.

I like that.

And in blind tastings at this year’s 104th Annual Japan Sake Awards, the Fukushima Sake producers took out more gold medals than any other region.

A small sample of bottle-shops in Sydney didn’t yield a lot of success in getting Fukushima Sake but we did find an Australian-made Sake. Go-Shu from Penrith made by Sun Masamune from Australian rice, but exporting to Japan and allowed to call itself Japanese Sake.

Whichever you drink though, let’s all make a pact to NEVER have a Sake Bomb. Please?

sake_bomb_foamy_singleThis troglodytic custom involves balancing a shot of warm sake on two chopsticks over a glass of beer. Then you count down from 3 (presumably since Sake Bomb drinkers would struggle to count backwards from 10) and then bang the table so the shot drops into the beer and you down both quickly.

Maybe a good solution for crappy beer and crappy sake, but why would you bother with either?

And when you consider that the Sake Bomb was likely invented by American soldiers in post WWII Japan, the name seems as culturally inappropriate as another drink atrocity – Guinness with a Bailey’s shot dropped in it which is called an Irish Car Bomb. Nice.

New SSM rule: We don’t drink cocktails that celebrate death and suffering.

Instead we’ll open12543146954_fa7689b38c_z our minds to sake cocktails. At least once.

But before you head off to buy your bottle of sake, that toasting tip.

From someone who knows.

 

In cocktail diplomacy, when you raise a glass to wish your companio2016-07-24-15-59-50ns good health,
perhaps stick with the traditional “Cheers” or the Japanese “Kanpai”, rather than opting for the Italian “Cin Cin”.

Because apparently shouting “Cock” in Japanese when someone toasts you is a little
alarming.

Live and learn hey?

Cheers!

 

*Rumour status only

 

 

Oh Mojito, you will never know

I’m often asked what cocktail I would recommend for children.

Actually I’ve never been asked that, but if I was, I know what I would answer.

Firstly, I would say that cocktails are not for children. Yes I would.

Then, apropos of nothing, I would mention the Mojito.

The IBA lists this long drink amongst its “Contemporary Classics” despite it potentially being one of the world’s oldest cocktails, possibly dating back as far as 16th century Cuba.

220px-1590_or_later_marcus_gheeraerts2c_sir_francis_drake_buckland_abbey2c_devonLike many cocktails, “El Draque” as it was originally called in honour of Sir Francis Drake, it appears to have been created to cover the taste of the alcohol.

No need to dissect Drake’s interest in cocktails, other than to say there was dysentery and scurvy involved and we all know cocktails are necessary to stay in tip top health.

So, Mojitos.

The Mojitos are neither too sweet nor too alcohol-y in flavour to offend most palates.

Hence they are a good “starter” cocktail.

They are easy to make at home, although definitely better suited to a summer afternoon than a cold winter night in Sydney.

2016-08-21 17.50.18

Muddle 6 mint sprigs (spearmint if you can) with 2 teaspoons of sugar and 90 mL lime juice.
Add splash of soda water and fill glass with cracked ice. Pour 120 mL rum and top with soda water.
Stir well

I’m going to add some fresh ginger to my muddling next time too.

The IBA recipe calls for White Cuban Rum and the name Bacardi has been synonymous with the Mojito.

But Bacardi is no longer a Cuban rum.

2016-08-21 17.46.37Bacardi was established in Cuba in 1862 and its signature bat dates back as far. A good omen apparently.

(This was clearly before the Lyssavirus which will kill you if you are bitten or scratched by an infected bat. So don’t touch goddamned filthy bats – dead or alive – in Australia and instil the fear of God into your children about bats and if anyone does get bitten or scratched, tell a doctor immediately and get on the medication cos’ then you won’t die. Ok? Good).

Anyhoo, in 1960, Fidel Castro’s revolutionary regime in Cuba seized all of Bacardi’s assets and they had to make a treacherous voyage across the sea to Miami.

Castro, who now looks like someone’s lovely old uncle, was responsible for thousands of 95863447_fidel_castro_who_claims_that_he_will_die_soon-large_transeo_i_u9apj8ruoebjoaht0k9u7hhrjvuo-zlengrumadeaths as boats would ram-raid smaller vessels full of refugees, and made the rest of his populace suffer in poverty for many decades.

This is the “charming” Cuba everyone is desperate to see before it changes.

Remember if you go there that what is slipping away are the vestiges of oppression. You’ll feel less sad about losing the charm that way. Read THIS great article for a Cubano’s view on the matter.

Legend has it that Ernest Hemingway drank a lot of Mojitos in Cuba, but reliable sources – including Philip Greene in his tome “To Have and Have Another”, a book that specifically addresses the issue of what Hemingway drank – believe this to be untrue.

Hemingway left Cuba in 1959, a year before those plucky Bacardis fled and set up shop again – the distillery is now in Ricky Martin-land – and their white rum is taking over the world in the way that Castro and his ideology didn’t.

Apart from Halle Berry emerging from the ocean (in Spain masquerading as Cuba) in an orange bikini in THIS SCENE from Die Another Day, to meet Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond being super-creepy in talking about Mojitos and “the view”, the Mojito is surprisingly absent from popular culture.

Except Miami Vice

miami-vice-detective-ricardo-tubbs-james-crockett-promo-style-picture-800x1031

I’m advised – but won’t bother checking myself – that the Mojito features heavily in the 2006 movie of the same name. I have as much interest in this remake as I did in the Footloose remake. Some art just needs to be left alone, on its pedestal. Respected and revered.

Miami Vice is one of those.

If you missed it, it was about two flawed but dedicated cops trying to tackle the drug barons in Miami in the 1980s. They weren’t undercover but never wore uniforms, just uniformly-awesome clothes, and drove Ferraris and had fancy boats like Stefan (on cops’ pay – hmmm).

It was remarkable for many things:

  • It launched the careers of so many actors that I can’t list them here – but go to this link to be amazed
    838full-miami-vice-screenshot
  • It had very high production values (and an implausible pet alligator – bonus points if you can name it without Googling – the answer is at the end of the post)miami-vice-elvis-dj
  • Everyone managed to keep a straight face when Sheena Easton played Don Johnson’s primary love interest in spite of him never having once caught a morning train12783d316c66686d76731e375e694bbb
  • And the fashion. The extraordinary fashion. Which influenced everyone everywhere. miami-vice-1984

Including apparently me. Here is a late 1980s photo of me and my brother which I can only assume we intended to serve as the album cover for our upcoming boy band. Perhaps we would have been called “Brows”.

2016-08-24 15.15.33

In the final episode, we see Crockett and Tubbs (least sexy combination of surnames ever) farewelling a fine partnership. Ricardo Tubbs was heading back to The Bronx and Sonny Crockett, well he was off to somewhere where the water would be warm, the hair products plentiful and the drinks – in all likelihood Mojitos – would be cold.

Perfect.

But even Miami Vice didn’t give us a Mojito song. There have been a few, terrible attempts – Google Kate Yanai or Alan Ritchson if you have too much time on your hands (actually, don’t) – but I think we can nominate our own.

The 1980s was great for music and fashion. But look, it wasn’t perfect.

We still had thecoldwarperceptions-139x150 Cold War.

And we had to pretend everyone was straight all the time even though none of us really believed it.

Fortunately we have moved on from a lot of that now and the world, while still being shit in many ways, is mostly better than the 1980s.

But there is a creative casualty that I would like to resurrect from the era.

In 1986, Elton John donned his natty boater and sat in the back of his convertible Rolls article-2227404-15d56307000005dc-339_468x335Royce (gag), lamenting a love that could never be while handing her the world’s best passport photo.

Nikita was beautiful.

But a Commie.

A soldier on the wrong side of history (and also a woman, but at this stage, I think Elton was still notionally married to a woman so we all went along with it even faced with evidence such as the almost unbearable awkwardness of the slow dance at 3:40).

To my untrained eye, she appeared to also be a barely competent border guard (but later reveals hair that could have made her the third member of “Brows”).

So I’d like to reclaim this song.

Let’s change “Nikita” to “Mojito” and give this cocktail an anthem and give this musical gem a resurrection.

“Oh Mojito is it cold?….”

Cheers!

 

*Elvis – that’s how cool they were.

Whiskey Sour

gif-disgust-disgusting

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.

Sorry.

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.

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wanna party like it’s 1979?

I know you rely upon me to cut through all this red tape and tell you when to celebrate important dates on the cocktail calendar, but I have failed you.

July 10 passed without fanfare. Not because I didn’t notice, but because it just felt like a worn out recording, of a favourite song.

Yes, with apologies for the ear-worm, it was International Pina Colada Day.rmbotebg

Pina Colada comes from Puerto Rico and not one, but two Governors have deemed that it was invented under the swaying palms at San Juan’s Caribe Hilton.

This is a country that in 1978 declared the Pina Colada to be its national drink, so who are we to argue?

A word here about Puerto Rico.

It isn’t actually a country, it’s an Unincorporated Territory of the USA. I have an expensive Masters degree in International Relations which affords me an excellent opportunity to segue into a lengthy explanation of what that means, but would rather focus on Puerto Rico’s most important export, Enrique Martin Morales.

Ricky Martin

Ricky Martin, Christmas gift to the world,43973484 was delivered on December 24, 1971.

This singer, actor, humanitarian and apparently author who implored us to shake our Bon-Bons is second only to George Michael in world-beating handsomeness and whiteness of teeth. And probably in island ass-riding that we covered HERE.

1971 is also the year that Kingsley Amis published his first book on drinking, recently re-released in Everyday Drinking: The Distilled Kingsley Amis which I’m reading now.

2016-07-20 08.23.41.jpgAs both writer and drinker, it makes me feel simultaneously inadequate but excited by the possibilities.

This tome, as well as revealing much about booze and language mastery, tells me that Sir Kingsley was tolerant of champagne, but as a nice breakfasty drink.

I suspect he was not into yoga, nor would he have been into health food and I know he was sporting much more than half a brain. However, without a direct response to Rupert Holmes’ 1979 masterpiece on the glamour of adultery (HERE), I can only surmise that Sir Kingsley would have dealt with it mercilessly.

One clue comes in his writings on the Pina Colada itself.

He refers to it as an “atrocity”, a “disgusting concoction…made by pouring…something called Malibu which describes itself as tropical coconut laced with light Jamaican rum, and filling up with a semblance of pineapple juice…”

Now to be fair, Sir K (as he would have been ok for me to call him since had we met, we would have been best friends) had clearly not had the benefit of tasting a proper Pina Colada, because there is simply no call for Malibu.

Muddlers who came to The Bronx with me know that I know a thing or two about Malibu and Pineapple and that it is actually a Staten Island Ferry.

True to our form here at Shake, Stir, Muddle, we will look to the International Bartenders Association for the official recipe. The IBA recipe does not include Malibu and nor does any self-respecting bartender have a need for it in anything except the drink I pioneered in the late 1980s (henceforth to be referred to as the Staten Island Hillbilly).

2016-05-28 18.28.13In this more cocktail-enlightened decade, the Pina Colada is hard to find on menus. Even in Hawaii, where one would suspect the combination of sun, Dole Pineapple Plantations, water-based yoga and regular tropical rain to get caught in would put the PC back in hot demand, 3 out of 4 places we tried did not have it on their cocktail menu.

 

The one that did have it – the delightful Hy’s Steak House in Waikiki – still has menu
items that would not have been out of place in any fancy restaurant in the 1970s.

Think prawn cocktails, oysters Kilpatrick, but sadly no deep-fried Camembert.

Yes, the Pina Colada seems to have peaked in 1979.

Except for Brisbane and for me.

For us it peaked in 1987.

Brisbane in the 1980s was a bit like somewhere good in the 1950s.
Our biggest local celebrities were a smart-arsed hand puppet named Agro (which incidentally, I screen-tested to be the side-kick for – 849068-43ca11ba-dbe7-11e3-917f-8bca2ad8cf46I got down to the last two and they went with a blonde) and a hairdresser named Stefan*.

Stefan had a chain of hairdressing salons AND a series of infomercials that opened the eyes of Brisbane ladies – and gentlemen – to their beautiful possibilities that existed just the length of teasing comb away.

 

Stefan also opened Jo-Jo’s on Queen Street Mall. Jo Jo’s was (and is) a bit like a fancy food court but in early 1980s Queensland, it seemed impossibly glamorous. It still uses the same tagline “Meet you at Jo Jo’s”.

In my first year of University, we took heed of that tagline and discovered frozen Pina Coladas on Thursday afternoons at just 2 for $4. This was in 1987, the year that The Bold and the Beautiful first aired on Australian television, an undeniably exciting time to be alive.

Love You Brisbane.

And on reflection, I think that the Pina Colada may be The Bold and the Beautiful of cocktails. It shouldn’t be taken too seriously, it also isn’t about Malibu and is really, really white.

That Ricky Martin did not appear in The Bold and Beautiful is a missed opportunity for us all, but I have two happy facts to impart;

19911. Ricky did have a role on General Hospital for three years (so same same really – and I’ve got $17 that says he’s had Stefan’s ladies tell him how to manage his curly hair)

2. Fellow Puerto Rican, Erik Estrada did appear on Bold (as you are welcome to refer to it when you are in the know).

Cosmic symmetry.

Millennials may be interested to learn that Erik Estrada was an international sex-16symbol.

It was a confusing time for us all. Too many Pina Coladas perhaps. Everyone else needs to know that Erik was such an awesome cop in CHiPs that he became one in REAL LIFE.

Anyway, Rupert Holmes may try to lay claim to popularising the Pina Colada in this era, but a full year before his creepy Ashley Madison precursor song came out, Warren Zevon saw a Werewolf drinking the cocktail at Trader Vic’s in London.

A full year.

Yet the Holmes song continues to carry the weight of Pina Colada attention, popping up in many movies over the last two decades.

One of those movies is Bewitched.

stepbrothersmp08Will Ferrell usually can’t displease me (if you haven’t seen Stepbrothers, you must), but this was appalling.

I travelled to Perth overnight for work in 2005 and had to endure this as the in-flight movie in both directions.

Another interesting historical fact for the Millennials – back in the day there was one TV screen to be shared among rows and rows of passengers and what was on, was on.

Bewitched. With Nicole Kidman. Twice in two days. That is bad luck.

 

Let’s erase that disappointment by focusing instead on its inspiration, the charming wk_0_wk23wittv_216978_0623Bewitched TV series that ran from 1964 to 1972.

Based largely around a woman’s efforts to host cocktail parties for her husband’s boss, the central premise was that if your husband is threatened by your magical powers, hilarity will ensue if you confine yourself to preparing the high-balls and fondue the mortal way.

It had a great supporting cast but it was Elizabeth Montgomery’s show.

Not only was Montgomery talented enough to play some of her own supporting cast, she was an early gay-rights advocate in Hollywood and one of the first celebrities to advocate for AIDS patients.

And when she was dying of cancer in 1995, she asked for the contents of her IV drip to be replaced with a certain cocktail.

Yep.

2016-05-24 20.12.49So for me, that’s reason enough to stage a late International Pina Colada Day – to have that drink for her.

And here’s the verdict.

You’ll love it. It’s delicious, super-fattening (whatever, everyone can afford to have one), kinda daggy and desperately in need of a musical makeover.

But if you close your eyes and take a sip, you could be livin’ La Vida Loca on the white sands of Puerto Rico.

And (apart from the Zika Virus) who wouldn’t want that?

Cheers!

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*Stefan came to Australia from Lebanon as a teenager, did his hairdressing apprenticeship while learning English at night school and has gone on to employ thousands of people, pay many millions of dollars in taxation and indeed revolutionise hair-dressing in Queensland. I would not be one bit surprised if Pauline Hanson herself had used Stefan’s services.