Category Archives: One for the Road Test

A Bronx? Yes thonx

So Ogden Nash wrote almost these words in a poem for the New Yorker in 1931.220px-ogden_nash

He was, of course, referring not to the cocktail (which I can only assume that the writer of “Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker” would have wholeheartedly approved of), but to one of New York’s five boroughs when he wrote “The Bronx? No Thonx” a witty but cruel sentiment he publicly recanted some decades later.

Nash wasn’t alone in deriding The Bronx, and for years it had a reputation of being a rough, working class borough.

bonfirewolfIn Tom Wolfe’s 1987 novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities, the problems start for Wall Street Bond Trader Sherman McCoy when he takes the wrong exit and finds himself in The Bronx. McCoy panics and hits a young African-American man with his car before fleeing the scene.

The book was a reflection of the excesses of Wall Street and the social inequities in NYC in the 1980s (a bit like Sydney in 2016).

Incidentally, McCoy drinks Sidecars not Bronx Cocktails.

I don’t know what Roxy Jacenko drinks.

32466_ctek_indie80s_truelove_613x463Rather than watching the just ok 1990 movie of the same name though, I’d highly recommend a bit of a Bronx history and language lesson in the form of 1989’s movie True Love about a young Italian-American couple Donna and Michael planning their wedding in The Bronx.

Watch it if only for the genius idea of dying the mashed potato the colour of the bridesmaids’ dresses. In their case, a rainbow palate.

If I hadn’t eloped, I would totally have made my nearest and dearest enjoy pale blue mashed potato.

Being the 80s, the drinks would have been terrible too. Not a Bronx Cocktail in sight.

I had not heard of the Bronx Cocktail until recently, in preparation for World Cocktail Day on May 13.

Breaking with usual SSM protocol – yes, we have protocol here, rich traditions dating back as far as last December – I One-for-the-road-tested a cocktail that is not on the International Bartenders Association’s list of Official Cocktails.

If you’re worried that I’m getting ahead of myself here, let’s borrow some wisdom from82da9b00-9612-0133-9835-0a6c20e5e327 one of The Bronx’s finest, J-Lo – don’t get put off by rules I break, I’m still Carolyn from the blog.

Described by David Wondrich (in his 2007 book Imbibe!) as having done in the early 20th century what the Cosmopolitan did at the end – made it safe for a “nice, middle-class person to have a Cocktail before a meal” – I stumbled across the Bronx Cocktail in descriptions of the very first cocktail party.

We’ve touched on this briefly in THIS POST, but in May 1917 in St Louis, Missouri, a Mrs Julius S. Walsh Jnr invited a few people over for drinks at midday on a Sunday.

The whole shooting match finished – as planned – at 1pm, but in that single hour, The St o-cocktails-facebookPaul Pioneer Press reported that the 50 guests downed cocktails including Martinis, Manhattans, Old Fashioneds, Clover Leafs, Gin Fizzes, Mint Juleps, Sazeracs and Bronx Cocktails and had a rip-roaring time.

How could they not have?

The Bronx is essentially a Perfect Martini with some orange juice.

A Perfect Martini (as we’ve discussed in one of my favourite posts HERE) has equal parts sweet and dry vermouth.

It also has a gin to total vermouth ratio of 2:1, compared with the IBA’s recipe for a Dry Martini which calls for a 7:1 ratio with the vermouth being exclusively dry (with other recipes calling for 10:1 or 15:1).

A Perfect Martini is a little sweet for my liking but a great way to have a Martini if you find the other too astringent.

It’s also not as strong as a Dry Martini. Generally speaking, the alcohol content of vermouth is 15-18%, compared with gin’s alcohol 2016-06-10 20.24.02.jpgcontent which is 40 – 50%.

My maths career was short-lived, but if you have a perfect martini, you’ll have a drink that’s somewhere north of 32% alcohol by volume (ABV), compared to a Dry Martini that weighs in at more than 37% ABV.

Compare them both with a glass of wine which is about 12.5% ABV.

The Bronx doesn’t seem as strong as a Perfect Martini because of the juice, but that’s deceptive.

So much so that the first alcoholic drink one William Griffith Wilson can remember having was when a socialite pressed a Bronx Cocktail into his hand during WW1. After his second, the shy Wilson said he felt that his “gaucheries and ineptitudes magically disappeared”.

If the name doesn’t seem familiar, the organisation he founded certainly will.  Better known as Bill W, Wilson was a co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935.

So take it easy.

Here’s your basic Bronx Cocktail recipe – it’s an easy to cocktail to make at home and to make well.

2016-05-13 18.51.2630mL Gin

15mL Sweet vermouth

15mL Dry vermouth

30mL Orange juice – squeeze it yourself (or get your guests to do it), the finished product is so worth the additional effort

Shake or stir with ice, strain into a chilled martini glass, garnish with orange slice or twist

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In 1934 film, The Thin Man (a bit like Hart to Hart with a wealthy husband and wife crime-solving team – and if you watch THIS CLIP, aren’t they just the teensiest bit like Malcolm and Lucy?), William Powell coaches the bartenders to shake cocktails with a rhythm – martinis in waltz-time and Bronx in two-step time.

Watch and learn.

Back in 1934, the first full year post-Prohibition, the Bronx came in 3rd on a list of the 10 most popular cocktails, behind only Martinis and Manhattans (which you now know to shake to foxtrot time).

It was an official IBA cocktail but has since been dropped (for reasons unknown and doubtlessly unjust) and has fallen into relative obscurity.

Its origins are disputed but there is credible evidence to suggest that it wasn’t named after the borough, rather the Bronx Zoo. The theory behind this is that one of the bartenders who claims to have invented it (Johnnie Solon at the Waldorf) had been to the Zoo earlier in the week and made some parallel between animals in the zoo and the behaviour of some of the Waldorf regulars.

What a wag.

Regardless, there are five cocktails for the five boroughs of New York.

2016-05-24 20.12.14.jpgManhattan – rye whiskey, sweet vermouth and Angostura bitters, maraschino cherry (pictured)

Brooklyn – like a Manhattan but with maraschino liqueur and Amer Picon bitters instead of Angostura (I’m not trying that and you can’t make me – send me a photo if you do though)

The Bronx Cocktail

Queens – like a Bronx but with pineapple instead of orange juice

And finally, deliciously…

Staten Island Ferry – simply a Malibu Rum and pineapple juice. I love this because at about logo-164x128the same time as Donna and Michael were considering potato hue options, I was favouring quite a zany drink order when I’d go to Friday’s on Brisbane River every Friday night.

I’d order, not one, but TWO drinks – a Malibu and pineapple (I wish I’d known to ask for a Staten Island Ferry) and a Southern Comfort and Lemonade. (This was long before anyone asked – and failed – to get me to call it SoCo).

I’d put one in each hand and sip simultaneously through two straws for a sugary-sensation and a super-cool image-builder in one hit.

You can totally use it if you want.

Ah, the 80s.

Setting aside this delightful stroll down memory lane, from a cocktail perspective, there’s only two NY boroughs worth exploring, the Manhattan and its less-known but delicious cousin, the Bronx Cocktail.

Cheers!

 

PS Hey, we’ve got a  Facebook page now – upload your cocktail adventures. Sharing is caring folks

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

If you visit Sydney, you need to know this.

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

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

But they have no bar.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Negroni Week should make it doubly so.

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

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

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

The basic themes of this movie are;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Pub Problem.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Start there and adjust your recipe to your taste.

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

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

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

And on that, an 80s movie.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

 

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World Whisky Day Waits Not for Sniffles

What do you get when a head cold and a hangover collide?

A late post from Shake, Stir, Muddle.

2016-05-13 18.51.26.jpgYes, dear Muddlers, it was a tough time last weekend. As promised, I marked World Cocktail Day on Friday 13 May by One-for-the-Road Testing the Bronx Cocktail and will review it here soon.

Spoiler Alert: It was really good. Too good.

But this week we need to talk about Whisky-without-an-e because Saturday May 21 is World Whisky Day and it behoves us to treat this day with the reverence it deserves.

No rest for we Muddlers.

Because it is also Sydney Writers Festival this week, I was keen to tie in a whisky cocktail with a writing theme. Problem is, there are many more cocktails for whiskey-with-an-e than there are for Whisky and many more writers who favoured a whiskey cocktail than a whisky cocktail.

So I lay in my sick bed, thinking about cocktails and writers but really just craving a hot lemon and ginger drink and wanting some medical angel to swoop in with magic to fix my cold.

Antibiotics?

With thanks to Alexander Fleming and Australian Howard Florey, Penicillin is estimated to2000px-penicillin_core-svg have saved 80 million lives. Good work gents.

Here’s the recipe if you want to whip some up.

Now as anyone with half a brain knows, Penicillin is of no use in curing a cold and the world would be a better place if people would stop requesting antibiotics for head colds. It is also of absolutely no use in dealing with a hangover.

Both afflictions require a treatment for the symptoms and will pass in their own sweet time. Both also call for the patient to drink lots of water.

Work with me here.

See, whisky comes from the Gaelic “uisge beathe” or Water of Life.adelaide-town-hall-nov-1985

And Fleming was a Scotsman (from Ayrshire, a Lowlands region that produces fine whisky and Hendrick’s gin) and Florey was from Adelaide (pictured here on a Friday night), so clearly a fan of strong alcohol.

Surely then there is a link to be found with World Whisky Day?

Enter Penicillin, the cocktail.

Penicillin ticks boxes, many boxes (as long as you consider three to be many).

Whisky cocktail suitable for profiling for World Whisky Day? Check.

Lemon and ginger for addressing cold symptoms? Check.

Invented by an Australian to allow for parochialism? Check.

Yes, Melbourne bartender Sam Ross moved to New York and invented the Penicillin rivera-penicillin-cocktailcocktail. A gentle blend of blended scotch whisky, an Islay single malt, ginger, honey, lemon and water.

There’s a range of recipes available, this one requires starting the day before to make a honey-ginger syrup which you refrigerate overnight (hassle), this one of which suggests you can use a premade ginger, honey and lemon cordial (I haven’t tried this but have an in-principle objection to it) and one that meets in the middle and involves – for the first time in Shake, Stir, Muddle’s history – the use of the muddler!

Here’s how I think you should make it:

Take a 2 or 3 of slices of fresh ginger and muddle (mash) them in the bottom of your cocktail mixer. Or you can grate a knob of ginger straight in.

Mix equal parts honey and hot water and mix, allow to cool before adding 45mL of mix to muddled ginger.

Pour in 60 mL of blended Scotch whisky (Dewar’s or The Famous Grouse are recommended)

Add 45 mL of freshly squeezed lemon juice

Shake with ice until cold (about 30 seconds).

Strain into ice-filled Old Fashioned glass and pour 15mL of Islay scotch (Laphroaig works well) gently over the back of a spoon onto the top of the mixture.

Enjoy.

 

A few cheats here to help you sound knowledgeable.

Islay (pronounced eye-la) is a small island off the west coast of Scotland with a very high concentration of distilleries. It is called the Queen of the Hebrides and has large areas of peat bog which winter gales keep saturated with sea spray.

Not great images for the local tourism marketing body to work with, but these elements combine to give Islay whiskies a distinctive smoky, peaty flavour (except Bunnahabdain, which is surprisingly smoke-free in its flavour, making it a great place to start if you’re new to Islay whisky).

age-gateSome find the peaty flavour medicinal. It was this flavour trait that allowed Laphroaig (pronounced la-frayg, don’t be distracted by the O) distillers to get around the Prohibition bans in the USA by selling it for medicinal purposes. Canny.

You don’t just mix your Laphroaig into the Penicillin, the idea is to get the strong smoky taste up front. Patience is required, but no great skill. Anyone with a reasonably steady hand can do it.

Or, do as Don Draper bid us do and co-opt a passing child in the exercise. At very least it will be educational, but the involvement in the delivery of a cure could see that child inspired to enter one of the caring professions.

Which we need.

The Penicillin is a variant on the Whiskey Sour, which is whiskey (usually Bourbon), lemon juice and sugar or sugar syrup (sugar and water solution), a recipe that first appeared in print back in 1862 but probably had its origins earlier when sea-farers were worried about scurvy and drinking dodgy water so combined their lemon ration with rum, creating the sour cocktail. That’s ingenuity.

So it’s historical then too. Let’s add that to the list of rsharpentongueeasons why we should have a Penicillin cocktail as the weather gets colder.

And finally – as if you need another reason – the Whiskey Sour, the Mother of the Penicillin, was one of my favourite writers, Dorothy Parker’s drink of choice.

So let’s remember her words as we find our wits returning with every fortifying swig of Penicillin.

“There’s a hell of a distance between wise-cracking and wit. Wit has truth in it; wise-cracking is simply calisthenics with words.”

Aim to be a wit this World Whisky Day. Try not to do it by halves.

Salut!

The incomparable Margarita

happy-cinco-de-mayo-mouses-glitter-300x251Cinco de Mayo this week. On the 5th of May to be precise.

Although it has largely been misappropriated for undignified marketing purposes (I’m looking at you and your chipmunks Spring Lake Dental Group), Cinco de Mayo actually commemorates 1862’s Battle of Puebla, when Mexican forces withstood an attack from the much larger and better-armed French invading forces.5_de_mayo_1862

But like 138 cm Mexican President Benito Juárez, the sweet taste of victory was short.

The French advanced again in 1863 and seized power.

Napoleon III installed his cousin Archduke Maximilian as Emperor of Mexico, declaring him to be Max of Mex (can’t actually find any evidence of this, but surely?).

It was all over by May 1867 and Juárez had 34 year old Maximilian executed (in spite of Max having done some undeniably positive things during his reign – like abolishing child labour).

71546-004-58042bccMax’s wife Charlotte was declared insane but it was Max who refused efforts to help him escape because he felt shaving his beard to avoid recognition would ruin his dignity if he were to be recaptured.

Right.

So Cinco de Mayo commemorates an unlikely victory – like the Battle of Thermopylae in 480BC, immortalised by Gerard Butler and a supporting cast of abdominal muscles in underwear shouting “Spartans!” in the hilariously-inaccurate 2007 movie 300.

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Another unlikely victory that hasn’t had the benefit of a Hollywood treatment (probably because acne is marginally less sexy than abs) is the Battle of Saumur in 1940. A bunch of new teenage recruits from the Cavalry School at Saumar held off 10,000 German soldiers for two days.

The Germans captured 216 cadets but released them a few days later, no doubt thinking that having a POW camp full of bored teenagers was more trouble than it was worth.

Legendary stuff, but Saumur should be celebrated for replacing the bitter taste of the Battle of Puebla and its aftermath with a much more harmonious blend of France and Mexico.

00013974___marie_brizard__triple_sec-gallerySaumur is the home of Triple Sec, the bitter orange liqueur that together with lime juice and tequila, makes up the most famous (and abused) cocktail in the world: the Margarita.

The origins of the Margarita are hotly contested, with at least half a dozen credible competing claims for ownership.

 

So here’s what we know for sure. The Margarita was probably invented sometime between 1930 and 1948. Probably in Mexico.

Don’t tell me this blog isn’t informative.

But look, none of that really matters now. What matters is that we get the Margarita back on track. It has been in perilous danger since 1971.

frozen-margarita-mariano-bandido-outfitSee on May 11 1971, Dallas restauranteur and general killer of class and culture, Mariano Martinez, introduced the world’s first frozen Margarita machine, a scourge more difficult to eradicate than polio.

Martinez says he was inspired by the slushie 858bb026eb1eedf9bbe43fd44270a831machines in a 7-11. Now I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that if you are inspired to do anything while in a 7-11, you can assume it’s a BAD IDEA.

Martinez’ bad idea no doubt made him a lot of money and his original machine is in the Smithsonian Institute.

I understand the Smithsonian Curators’ objectives here, it is important to preserve this relic in the same way it is important to preserve records of Prohibition – SO IT CAN NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN.

The 1970s were hard in another way. Jimmy Buffett released what would go on to become a massive hit “Margaritaville”.

This is a truly terrible song.

Its genesis may also be from a 7-11 store since Jimmy starts the song with quite possibly the most bizarre opening line ever. Apparently he is nibblin’ on sponge cake.

Jimmy then tortures us for over four minutes with a simplistic and repetitive AABCCB rhyming pattern until our ears bleed.

220px-will2Four. Minutes.

Try holding your breath for four minutes, it is a loooong time – ask Kiwi William Trubridge who this week set a world free diving record with a dive to 124m which in true under-stated Kiwi fashion, he described as “pretty difficult”.

I was born in New Zealand so I can tell you that listening to Margaritaville the whole way through is “pretty difficult”.

I don’t mind AABCCB – Johnny Cash’s A Boy Named Sue  (here) is a great example of it – but Margaritaville is like reading the poetry of a Year 10 student. I can see what you’re trying to do here, but let’s just pop this in a journal, never to be seen again hey?

 

The sort of shitty writing that would have noted Margarita fan Jack Kerouac rolling in the
grave he went to age 47 after bleeding to death from drinking-related liver damage.

(So Margaritas in moderation please Dear Muddlers).

Yep, Jimmy Buffett is to Music as Slushie-machines are to Margaritas.

Meanwhile, by some cosmic coincidence, I’m writing this post at exactly the same time that hundreds of people are queuing for a chance to work at Buffett’s new Margaritaville Resort.

I am now in possession of the unfortunate knowledge that there are already several Margaritaville resorts, “inspired by the lyrics of Jimmy Buffett”.

Not sure quite what they’re hoping to convey with this but I’m not interested in a holiday where I can expect to spend a lot of time looking for my lost salt shaker and my Havaianas are likely to break.

Margaritaville’s website lets people on-the-go buy their own travel frozen margarita maker. This proves JB is the devil since we have already covered how easy it is to travel and cocktail elegantly.

See, a Margarita is not hard to make (here’s the official IBA recipe). It isn’t a Ramos Fizz where you could be forgiven for taking a couple of short-cuts. It’s a simple recipe, easy to create at home for even the most novice bartender.

You’ll need:

Tequila (I used Silver Patron and it’s much better show-cased here than in our very first post on the Tequila Sunrise)

Cointreau or other brand of Triple Sec (IBA official recipe calls specifically for Cointreau but I road-tested Cointreau and a cheaper version and they both work well)

Lime juice – freshly squeezed

Ice

Coarse salt for the rim of your glass

 

2016-05-01 17.12.17First, rub a wedge of lime around the rim of your glass, then invert it onto a plate of salt.
The edge doesn’t need to be perfect, you’re not photographing the damn thing (unless you’re me).

Shake 2 parts tequila, 1 part Triple Sec and 1 part lime juice with large cubes of ice, then pour into your glass.

Place a small wedge of lime on the side of the glass.

Enjoy.

 

If you want a frozen version, put it all into a blender and blend until the ice is crushed. Be warned though, this will significantly dilute the taste.

But still, simple.

So there’s simply no need for something out of a slushie machine. No bartender is so busy that they can’t whip up a decent Margarita. If they offer you that machine crap, walk straight out.

Let’s band together like those plucky Mexicans on Cinco de Mayo 1862 and rise up against the destruction of the Margarita. Never again let us allow the tyranny of the slushie-machine to imprison our Margaritas.

Lime juice belongs inside a lime, liberated just before consumption. Bottles of Mexican and French spirits should proudly stand shoulder to shoulder, together but separate, until it is time to come together to be celebrated, enjoyed and appreciated.

And finally, when you think Margarita, think not of Jimmy Buffet.

Instead, appreciate the incomparable musical stylings of Margarita Pracatan on the Clive James Show as she offers up New York, New York in front of Liza Minelli.

 

 

Cock-trails: Or, How to keep cocktailing when you travel

100903happydays1

Remember when Fonzie went to sunny California and water-skied over a shark? Of course you do.

Back in the late 1970s/early 80’s, water-skiing promised to play a much bigger part in my adult life – particularly vacations – than has eventuated to date.

gogos
It seemed inevitable that there would be many episodes of matching-outfitted in-formation water-skiing with my friends on endless summer days, like The Go-Go’s 1982 clip for Vacation. (Watch this and tell me you won’t want to be sassy brunette guitarist Jane Wiedlin too. I did in 1982 and I’m pretty sure I still do).

Not once. Not even living an hour from the Gold Coast.

SUP Caz.jpg

(Although more recently life has included this magnificent Stand-Up Paddle-boarding form so there has, in fact, been some of the anticipated water-based glamour the 1980s promised).

 

 

It seems water-skiing doesn’t occupy to same place in popular culture that it did four decades ago. And frankly, we’re all the poorer for it.

But Fonzie jumping the shark has survived in many memories.

You’d remember that some studio heavies had their car break down in Milwaukee. There they discovered the charismatic mechanic and called him out to Hollywood for a screen test.

You’d remember it was Ralph Malph who managed to get Fonzie into the situation of needing to jump the shark for a dare. And no doubt you’d remember that within hours of arriving, the multi-talented Richie Cunningham had bravely transcended the ginger’s natural aversion to the bright California sunshine and mastered speed-boat driving to tow the Fonz to victory.

What you may not remember is that it was actually FANTASTIC.

 

You may have forgotten this important fact because Jon Hein decided to use the expression “Jump the Shark” as shorthand for something that has its best days behind it. And we have all been doing it.

Easy to mock it now, in this age of television like Breakilonestarng Bad and Game of Thrones, but this was the 1970s.

And consider this; the Jumping the Shark episode first appeared on George R.R. Martin’s 29th birthday in 1977 (right about the time this photo from his website was taken).

Two years later he became a full-time writer. The link is obvious – it INSPIRED him.

As it does another writer with a birthday on the SAME DAY – me.

Conclusive.

Sure Happy Days did limp on long after it had run its course, but I submit Your Honour, that the real decline did not occur until nearly three seasons after their return from California (the beginning of Season 5).

Exactly the time Richie stopped making regular appearances on the show. At the end of Season 7.

In Neighbours, they send everyone to Queensland, in Happy Days you’re sent to join the Army (except Chuck, where I don’t think they even bothered explaining).

If you’re desperate to make an argument that Happy Days started to die when everyone went to California, make it not about the shark-jumping, but something that happened in the exact same story-line.

In the first of the three Hollywood episodes that culminated in the dramatic shark-jump (featuring actual Henry Winkler water-skiing – don’t see that on Game of Thrones now do you?) we were introduced to a sinister new character.

Yes, noted Donald Trump supporter, Scott Baio imposed himself on us as Chachi Arcola in the Hollywood story line. And he was there when Happy Days breathed its last breath.

I rest my case.

So how about we stop saying something jumped the shark and instead say it “Coughed up 280px-chachi_arcolaa Chachi”.

Who’s with me?

Well that’s settled then, back to your holiday planning.

Anyway, when the Fonz went to Hollywood he took everyone. Everyone. Because we all need a vacation every now and then.

Even you. And you’ll need to leave your cocktail cart at home.

Fear not though, with a little planning, you can take your cocktail show on the road without blowing your baggage allowance.

  1. No Ice? No Dice.

I’m assuming you’re holidaying somewhere with a freezer. Because it’s 2016, and what sort of holiday makes you pretend it’s 1840?

If you don’t have ice, you’re probably staring down the barrel of a cocktail-free holiday.

So pack an ice tray and consider investing a few dollars in one like this that makes larger cubes.

2. Your cup runneth over

Then think about your available glassware.

Nothing screams “I’m relaxing” more than a martini in my hand. But after recent experiments, I have decided to leave that to the professionals when I travel.

2016-02-28 18.32.37-2.jpgFor one reason. Martini glasses.

Last summer we experimented with plastic martini glasses – no good, it made even the ice-cold, high-quality gin we used taste like rocket fuel.

A better option – and one embraced by some bars (but I disapprove) – is to use a wine glass. It tastes better, but somehow doesn’t feel like a real martini.o

Most places you go – even crappy motels – will have glassware that can serve as an adequate low-ball. This is perfect for many cocktails.

 

3. Base camp

Then have a think about your base spirit and pick one.

Look for a spirit that gives you at least two cocktail options. A Cocktail Hour without options is really just having a drink.

In most cases you’ll be looking for cocktails you can stir rather than shake.

Of course you can – and I do – travel with your cocktail shaker, but I accept that not everyone feels the need to do that. Do take your vegetable peeler though. A good twist should not be left to chance.

And while it’s cheating, since it is another bottle of alcohol and I’ve said you only need take one, there is no recorded history of anyone ever regretting taking a bottle of bitters on holiday.

2016-04-15 14.18.04.jpgYou choice may well be weather dependent. I went away to the beach last week and the forecast was for rain and cold so took bourbon and whisky but would probably have preferred some gin and citrus cocktails in the warm weather.

Live and learn.

Gin. Vodka. Rum. They’re probably your best base spirits to create a range of quality cocktails without needing a lot of sophisticated equipment. The list below offers links to simple but delicious holiday cocktail options.

Remember that a cocktail has at least three ingredients but only one of them needs to be alcohol – all the other ingredients should be relatively easy to access in most holiday destinations.

It won’t be the greatest cocktail of your life in terms of bartending finesse, but everything, everything tastes better on holidays.

Cheers!

 

Gin

Tom Collins – gin, sugar syrup, lemon juice, soda water, bitters

Salty Dog – gin (or vodka), grapefruit juice, salt

Red Snapper – gin, tomato juice, lemon juice, garlic, horseradish, tabasco etc etc – recipe plus bonus Bronze Fonz statue

 

Vodka

Bloody Mary – vodka, tomato juice, tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper

Moscow Mule – vodka, ginger beer, lime juice

Screwdriver – vodka, orange juice, soda water

 

Rum (and if you’re looking for a new rum to try, The Grove Caribbean Spiced Rum from Western Australia just won Best in Show for Flavored Rums at San Francisco World Spirits Competition in March 2016. I haven’t tried it yet)

Cuba Libre – rum, coke, lime juice

Dark N Stormy – rum, ginger beer, bitters, lime

Aunt Agatha – rum, orange juice, pineapple juice, bitters

 

Land of the Rising Suntory

2016-04-06 08.21.48.jpgIf you look very carefully at this photo of me at work in Osaka in 1992, you might see the trusty boom box that was exclusively tuned to Funky 802 accompanying us in our busy recruitment consulting work.

Funky 802 was – and possibly still is – Osaka’s hot radio station amongst twenty-somethings.

Funky 802’s corporate philosophy privileged consistency over diversity, evidenced in their playing Vanessa Williams’ “Saved the best for last” approximately hourly for the six months I worked in the office.

The other thing you might notice by all this close looking is that there’s nothing on my desk that would indicate I did much in the way of work.

But look, let’s not get distracted by that.

I lived on the Hankyu line, shuttling back and forth between my homestay and my various jobs around the Kansai region – Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto.

There was the Funky 802 listening job (and at the head of the table you’ll see my old boss who did even less than I did, and once brought his guitar to work, something I didn’t see
again until David Brent did it in The Office)2016-04-06 08.34.32.jpg, a couple of English teaching gigs and the odd trade fair where I was required to wrap myself in clichés and display my sunny-as-Surfers Aussie disposition. Cobber.

Osaka Trade Fair 2.jpgThe Canadians suffered similar indignities though.

I was 22, single, straight out of University.

(These combined facts were alarming to many Japanese men who expressed concern about my unfortunate marital state at my advancing years. Just to recap, I was 22).

In spite of this social peril, I blithely travelled the Hankyu line and relished my freedom.

In doing so, the Hankyu  line put me near two other points of interest, Takarazuka Revue and Yamazaki.

The education I’d received in 4 years of University studying Japanese language and politics was nearly eclipsed in a single afternoon when one of my students invited me to some Japanese theatre.

Expecting Kabuki, I got something I still can’t get my head around.

The Takarazuka Revue.

ft20130414a1b-870x489

Takarazuka Revue encapsulates a lot of the head-fuckery that goes on when you’re a gaijin – foreigner – in Japan.

This all-female musical theatre group was established by the Founder of Hankyu Rail in 1913.

More than 100 years later it is, in the words of someone I expect was another Funky 802 favourite – Shania Twain – still the one, still going strong, with massive fan clubs and sell-out seasons.

 

 

If you could extract DNA from My Little Pony and the Rockettes, get David Gest to produce with a massive budget and no need to worry about critical reviews, simultaneously messing with Japan’s very rigid conceptions of gender roles, you might be coming close.

But you’d still be scratching your head.

Like I was, when I saw the all-singing, all-dancing, all-ostrich feather version of Spartacus.

If you haven’t been to Japan, you must go. Go now. And go to Takarazuka.

And when you’re done, the Hankyu Line can take you to Yamazaki, where the Japanese whisky industry was born.

Much easier to understand.

In 1854, as Japan was forced open for trade with the USA, Matthew Perry (no, not that one),pay-friends a Commodore in the US Navy, presented the Emperor with 110 gallons of whiskey – you’ll note the whiskey having an “e” because it came from the USA.

While attempts were made to replicate a distilled liquor in Japan, it wasn’t until Suntory’s Yamazaki distillery started commercial production in 1924 that things took off.

And in Japan it’s definitely whisky. No e.

That’s likely because one of the earliest influencers in Japanese whisky, Masataka Taketsuru from a sake brewing family, travelled to Scotland to study his craft.

Masataka went on to establish the company that makes Nikka Whisky, after using his skills to help Shinjiro Torii set up the company we now know as Suntory.

To be clear, Suntory does not make Scotch.

It makes Japanese whisky.

Suntory’s whisky is designed specifically for the Japanese palate, and occupies a different place on the taste spectrum.

2016-04-05 16.10.42.jpgThe signature Yamazaki 12 Year Old would be a great place to start drinking single malt whisky. It’s very smooth and you won’t find the heavy smoke or peat that many new whisky drinkers find tough going with Scotch whiskies.

It’s delicious, but if you’re like me and prefer something peatier like Laphroaig (now a stablemate of Suntory’s under the Beam Suntory company banner), it may not be for you.

But I recommend Scotch drinkers try Japanese whisky, especially if you favour a Speyside or Lowlands Scotch.

And in true Japanese form, you’ll also find there is artistry in the presentation of your whisky.

Another of my lovely students took me to a bar where I ordered the only Scotch I knew – Glenfiddich (still a favourite)  – and the bartender set about chilling my glass with a perfectly formed sphere of ice and water, before discarding the water and pouring over the whisky, gently rotating the ice ball until the temperature was uniform.

Then he handed it over.

I haven’t seen this level of care in delivery a drink since.

If you get one like this, you should savour it like Nick Offerman savours his preferred Lagavulin.

In Japan, you’ll also find that drinking whisky with a meal is much more commonplace.

Back in the 1950s, Suntory opened a string of bars – Suntory Whisky Bars – to try to make the consumption of whisky more commonplace. Enter the Highball.

Anywhere else and a highball refers to a tall glass with a spirit accompanied by one other ingredient and a garnish. Think G&T. Not Cuba Libre, because as we’ve already discussed, the lime is not a garnish, its juice is a key second ingredient added to the rum.

In Japan, in large part due to canny Suntory marketing and advertising, the Highball has cdonrulw8ae0vawbecome synonymous with a whisky and soda mix of about 1:3. This makes it about as potent as beer and repotedly sits lighter in the belly, making it better for consuming with meals.

The Highball is apparently the preferred way of drinking of Suntory’s Chief Blender Shinji Fukuyo.

There’s a couple of ways of getting your Highball.

There’s hand-crafted method, characterised by Japanese kodawari – the fastidiousness and attention to detail typically associated with Japanese cuisine.

shiba-inu-omurice-kawaii-kakkoii-sugoi-01Like this video which will show married women how to make omurice – rice and omelette – into cute dog shapes for their children. The video is 9 minutes long, which is about 8 minutes longer than I am prepared to spend on plating up rice and eggs for my children.

Please don’t ever show them this video, I am flat out keeping up with Tooth Fairy duties in a timely manner.

 

In the whisky world, kodawari is showcased much more constructively, although no less painstakingly. Firstly, by adding hand-cut ice to a glass and chilling it before pouring in the whisky and gently stirring it – clockwise – precisely 13.5 times before gently adding the soda water and gently stirring it clockwise precisely 3.5 times. Then you gently remove the spoon.

This is a mizuwari.

It is made gently and precisely and should be enjoyed accordingly.Suntory vending machines.jpg

Or, you can just belly on up to a street vending machine and buy it in a can – possibly after you’ve purchased a strangers’ underpants and gone to the rabbit café.

Perhaps a couple of cans of Suntory highball in my bag back in 1992 would have helped me understand Takarazuka Revue better.

Or shaken that Vanessa Williams Funky 802 ear-worm.

Even so Suntory, this will be hard to forgive…

Cheers!

PS Looks like I saved the best for last hey?

 

 

Dust off the Rusty Nails

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

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

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

Like what’s Monday all about?

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

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

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

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

It couldn’t be easier to make.

 

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

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

Twist of lemon

Ice

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

 

Easy peasy.

Ish.

See, the Rusty Nail is not a fashionable drink.

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

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

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

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

But you should, it’s good.

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

Not one. And you probably only need one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hmmm.

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

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

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

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

And let me know what you decide.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And where does he end up? You got it.

Easter Eggs are everywhere.

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

indiana-jones

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

 

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

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

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

Let me know how you go.

Cheers!

 

Hair of the dog anyone?

The first day of the New Year. Another rolling over of the clock, another chance to tut-tut about how each one rolls by a little faster than it used to.

And we seek to wrest control of that ticking clock by making resolutions about the year ahead. This year I will be in control of my weight/smoking/drinking/budget/relationships/swearing.

 

I’ve pretty much had them all, and every year I plan to travel more and vacuum less. One year I resolved to spend the year talking more like the Fonz and did indeed tell a few people to “Cool it” and once said “Exactamundo” so I guess you would call it a moderate success. (It wouldn’t qualify for a gold medal, but perhaps a bronze – like this Bronze Fonz 507d4a58-cd26-429a-89ef-cd263757dee8statue I bet you didn’t know existed in Milwaukee).

But this year  my resolutions are all about the writing – more and better.

I’ve often entertained romantic notions of how much writing I would get done if we could just pack up as a family and move somewhere isolated for a couple of months.

Like being winter caretakers in a big hotel. Somewhere the children could the-shining1-600x337joyfully ride their tricycles down long, empty corridors and pass the time having unsupervised carefree adventures. If you haven’t seen The Shining, it’s a great advertisement for any career other than being a writer and offers solid rationale for parents of identical twins not to dress them in the same outfits.

Unfortunately, neither hotel used in the film has such an employment opportunity. Both The Stanley Hotel in Colorado which was Stephen King’s inspiration for the book, and Timberline Lodge in Oregon which gave the external shots for the 1980 film are open for guests over winter. You can go to both and even work on your hangover next New Year’s Eve at a fancy party.

But in Kubrick’s film, we see Jack Torrance as he descends into madness, jack-nicholson-at-the-bar-shining1bellying on up to The Gold Room at The Overlook and asking creepy Lloyd for another New Year’s tradition – a hair of the dog that bit him. Jack’s is bourbon on the rocks. That’s hard-core.

There is some bio-chemical logic behind the hair of the dog, about moderately replenishing ethanol levels while you suffer alcohol withdrawals, but its origins are super-dodgy. The idea was that if you put some dog hair in the open wound you received from the bite of the same rabid dog, you wouldn’t get rabies. I think medical science has moved on somewhat – if you do suspect you’ve been bitten by a rabid dog, here’s NHS Rabies advice on what to do. It isn’t booze or quick trip to the dog-grooming salon.

I’m similarly sceptical about the notion of drinking when you have a hangover. You never forget being so sick you have to throw up in your handbag on the Tube. And after that, heading for the nearest pub isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you’ve finally surfaced to suck down some fresh London air.

Or so I’m told.

But I do love the occasional matutinal drink. Lest you think I am a massive wanker, “matutinal” is a new word for me – one I picked up in researching this blog post. It means “of or occurring in the morning” – isn’t it nice? A matutinal champagne or scotch on Christmas Day really adds to the festivities.

And then there is the queen of all matutinal drinks – the Bloody Mary.

The Bloody Mary was scientifically short-listed as a Xmas One-for-the-Venn diagramRoad-Test due to its prime position in the Venn Diagram at Shake, Stir, Muddle HQ and because of all the interesting stuff there is to know about it.

Like all good cocktails, its origins are contested. If you want to read a full history, you can do that here, but in brief, it looks like bartender Fernand “Pete” Petiot likely invented it at King Cole Bar at St Regis Hotel in New York – “invented” in this instance meaning enhancing the existing vodka and tomato juice combination that had been regularly served at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, where Pete worked before moving to St Regis.

It had to have a different name at St Regis because Bloody Mary offended the sensibilities of the NY establishment. And probably not without cause.

220px-mary_stuart_queenBloody Mary was named after Queen Mary I, who, among other things put a lot of non-Catholics to death before her sister Queen Elizabeth I took the throne and re-balanced the population by putting a lot of Catholics to death.

If you fancy some good amateur occult stuff, you can try chanting Bloody Mary three times into a mirror and she will appear before you. It didn’t work for me, possibly because I didn’t have the lighting right. Certainly when I opened my eyes, there was a woman in the mirror and she did look a bit rough, but that’s nothing a bit of lipstick won’t fix.

Dot red dress 90 left.jpg
My daughter in her Xmas dress not giving a rat’s about her future husband’s face

Apparently if you see Bloody Mary, you should taunt her about her childlessness – this in reference to Queen Mary’s multiple miscarriages and false pregnancies. Seems to me like doing that makes you a massive jerk though.

Or you can engage in the Bloody Mary ritual that encourages young women to walk up a flight of stairs backwards, holding a candle and a hand mirror. Possibly a recipe for a sprained ankle and one burnt-down stately manor, but if you can negotiate the hazards of a maxi dress, you’ll see in the mirror either the face of your future husband, or a skull, which will indicate that you will die before you marry.

Another source tells me that the avenging spirit in the Bloody Mary myth is sometimes called “Mary-Jane”. This, I think, explains a lot.

At this point in the blog post I generally like to reference a mediocre Michelle Pfeiffer movie but sadly, I’ve come up short this time. I’m sure she has thrown a Bloody Mary back somewhere in her celluloid history, but I haven’t found it.

Rather than harassing long-dead childless monarchs or wasting time on Michelle Pfeiffer back-catalogue though, I decided to make lemons into one tablespoon of lemon juice and add it to a cocktail.

Bloody Bulldog left 90.jpgBloody Mary’s cousin, Red Snapper. A gin-based variant which pre-dates old Mary and which has become my new preferred tomato-based cocktail.

  • 4 parts tomato juice
  • 2 parts Gin (I used Tanqueray)
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tbsp horseradish
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 dashes ground black pepper
  • 4 dashes Tabasco
  • 1 celery stalk for garnish

It couldn’t be easier to make – fill a tall glass with LARGE ice cubes (small ones melt too fast and dilutes the tomato juice, changing the taste), pour in ingredients, stir, drink.

Repeat as necessary.

The Red Snapper does lose a bit of the brilliant red of the Bloody Mary and the horseradish does look unsettlingly like fly larvae in your glass but you don’t see that from above. And it’s so worth it.  This baby tastes

Bloody fine Bloody Mary
Biltmore’s Bloody fine Bloody Mary

nourishing, especially if you crank up your garnishing levels like they do at Frank & Albert’s at the Arizona Biltmore and add pickles, salami, mozzarella cubes and olives. Have two and you can call it brunch.

And before you go, there is a happy ending with this post.

The Red Snapper is also referred to as “The Snapper”.

This is also the title of a 1993 movie where unmarried 20 year old Sharon Curley upsets the balance in her small Irish village by becoming pregnant to an undisclosed source. During the pregnancy, Sharon sports a perm just like the one I had in the late 1980s (hers was longer than the jaunty crop in this photo, but Hong Kong permfor obvious reasons, little evidence survives of my long perm, large shoulder pads era – and in my defence, it was well gone by 1993) and throws up into her handbag, just like someone I know has done.

Stephen Frears directed.

He also directed The Queen, High Fidelity and Dangerous Liaisons.

Which starred none other than Michelle Pfeiffer as Madame Marie du Tourvel.

Bam.

Cheers and Happy New Year beautiful people.

 

 

 

 

Tequila Sunrise: Dawn of a disappointing drink?

 

So yesterday, Shake, Stir, Muddle launched with the very first One for the Road-Test – an amateur but enthusiastic home bartender’s crack at a classic cocktail. The Tequila Sunrise.

There is a painful extended metaphor here about the sunrise of this blog, the dawn of a new life in bringing together SSM’s great loves – writing, travel and booze – but like many things Tequila Sunrise, this is probably best avoided.

Take for instance The Eagles’ unwelcome ear-worm (you know you want to…) or the execrable 1988 Michelle Pfeiffer/post-mullet Mel Gibson/Kurt Russell offering of the same name which made a very 8d128e993344638414db5e54790c1d7eoriginal story-line link between drug trafficking and Tequila because you know, Hollywood loves a lazy racist cliché (so you don’t have to bother watching the whole movie, look at this photo – once you know Leo is a cop and Mel an ex-drug dealer trying to go straight for the sake of his son, this love triangle pretty much covers it all).

To be fair, it was the 1980s, an era not exactly known for fine movie making (with the notable exception of pretty much everything from John Hughes – all 23 of them ranked from worst to best here for real Gen X controversy).

But is the cocktail a different story?

I don’t love a sweet cocktail and I’m more a scotch fan than tequila, but it was a particularly good travel experience that led me to pondering the history of the Tequila Sunrise. So all in the name of research, this blog is born.

Here’s what we know; the Tequila Sunrise was not invented in Mexico. There are currently two claimants on the dawn of the sunrise – in Arizona (coincidentally the same state in which John Hughes briefly attended University), and in Sausalito, California.

National Geographic blogger Jeff Burkhart did a great job of assessing the two claims in 2012 (here) and seems to come down on the side of California, but the birth of the question for me rose at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix.

Wander into this Art Deco beauty and you’ll be as keen as I was to believe their claims. Join a Biltmore History Tour and you’ll hear a lot of forgettable stats about square footage of ballroom space, but you’ll also get a few gems to keep. About honeymooning actors who became PresidentsIMG_1486, about bungled Prohibition raids and Marilyn’s preferred swimming pool. You’ll hear about Irving Berlin writing “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” by the Catalina Pool, and about a cocktail with a famous name. And you’ll want it all to be true.

And when you’re in a bar, surely wanting something to be true is true enough?

So, yes. The Biltmore. In brief, this is one of my favourite hotels in the world, and I would go back to Phoenix in a heartbeat. Frank Lloyd Wright (who had very little to do with the design of the Biltmore but whIMG_1414ose influence is evident everywhere) established his winter residence, Taliesin West, in Phoenix, inspired by the colours of the desert.

And we think we know heat in Australia but go to Arizona and you’ll learn that a couple of 40 degree plus days a year in summer do not a swallow make. Or something like that.

The Biltmore is the opposite of those hotels that we all stay in sometimes, comforting ourselves that we only go to our cell-size room to sleep anyway. At the Biltmore you want to make time to lounge around. You want to trIMG_1265.JPGy the restaurants (Wright’s – where dinner is followed by a plate of green fairy floss the size of a human head,  and where they have a single bottle of Australian wine – Grange Hermitage – on the wine-list for a pretty good price. Not a good enough price for me to buy it, but remarkable anyway) and Wright’s Bar. I’d suggest you probably don’t need to spring for the extra to stay in the Ocatilla Wing though, although they do kick in a “free” breakfast and a couple of wines before dinner.

But quick, let’s get back to the bar.

The Wright’s Bar menu has both recipes – The Classic and The Biltmore Original – and details their claim that bartender Gene Sulit invented The Biltmore Original version in the late 1930s. It’s here.

Since the One for the Road-Test is about recreating classic cocktails at home with no training, it seemed logical to start with more familiar version, The Classic. It has four ingredients – tequila, ice, orange juice and grenadine.

It’s kind of hard to call ice an ingredient and keep a straight face but given how important it is in some cocktails, I’ll begrudgingly keep it in here. Really open to debate on the validity of that though.

I used Silver Patron tequila – not the best tequila money can buy, but a good quality offering. It’ll cost you about $85 for 750mLs. The Wright’s Bar Menu lists Sauza Blue Agave Tequila as their primary ingredient,Silver Patron tequila.jpg Silver Patron is also made of 100% blue agave so I gave myself some license with that. (The NY Times had quite a good piece on the hierarchy of tequilas if you’re interested – spoiler alert, if it’s called tequila, it has to be 51% blue agave. See it here).

Grenadine and Orange Juice I got from the supermarket. I got the best pulp-free juice I could find there and the only grenadine on offer – Cawsey’s Grenadine Cordial. That was about $14. I got the ice out of my freezer (genius).

You’ll have seen Grenadine, it’s the red cordial used in most bars to make pink lemonade. It’s really red and really sweet. It was originally made from pomegranate and I suspect if you went to the trouble to make your own grenadine (here’s a link to someone who wants to tell you how but I haven’t tried it and can’t vouch for it), this cocktail would benefit, but it was a Sunday afternoon, I was on deadline. Judge me if you will.

The Wright’s Bar Menu doesn’t list quantities so I turned to Google and found this;

1 cup tequila

2 cups orange juice

1.5 tablespoon grenadine

Half a cup of crushed ice

  1. Put ice in glass
  2. Pour in tequila
  3. Pour in orange juice
  4. Lastly, pour grenadine carefully into the centre of the glass so it falls to the bottom and creates the signature sunrise effect
  5. Enjoy responsibly

 

And here it is (amateur bartending status evident in presence of lemon pips).Tequila Sunrise.jpg

So what did SSM think of the Tequila Sunrise?

Well, it’s pretty, and easy to make. An impressive-looking start for the amateur home bartender.

But it also seems a little like a breakfast cocktail. Or something you’d drink when you were 19. SIMG_1262.JPGo we followed it with a martini and that seemed a whole lot more satisfactory.

I’ll try the other recipe in a few weeks and am a little more optimistic since it has a fair whack of lime in it, but it really doesn’t matter, I’m in love with the myth more than the cocktail.

Next time: we get some Kiwi professionals to strut their martini magic.

Cheers xo

PS Before you go, this from the final, brilliant scene in 1987’s Planes, Trains and Automobiles should erase The Eagles and leave you with a peaceful, easy feeling (sorry).