Connecticut – Yale Cocktail

Each week, the Sip Advisor will alphabetically travel the United States, discovering the best each state has to offer in a variety of subjects. Connecticut is known by many nicknames – Constitution State, Nutmeg State, Arsenal of the Nation – so let’s dig deep and learn what these Nutmeggers are really all about:

Motto: “He who is transplanted still sustains” – Well, that’s a relief!

Food: Connecticut has laid claim to creating some of the Sip Advisor’s favourite all-time foods, including Lobster Rolls, Hamburgers and Hotdogs. For folks with a sweet tooth, the state is also the birthplace of lollipops and PEZ.

Drink: Foxon Park Beverage Company, based in East Haven, are famous for their White Birch Soda, among other flavours. They are the commonly paired with New Haven-Style Pizza, for a complete, balanced Connecticut meal.

Pez

Site to See: Yale University, one of the country’s oldest and most prestigious schools, is home to museums and picturesque grounds. Visitors can also try to locate the hideaways of Yale’s infamous secret societies, such as Skull and Bones and Scroll and Key.

Street: Described as “the most beautiful street in America” by both Mark Twain and Charles Dickens, Hillhouse Avenue in New Haven is lined with 19th century mansions, including Yale Univeristy’s president’s house.

TV Show: Who’s the Boss, starring Tony Danza, was set in Fairfield. Danza played a widowed former baseball player, who becomes the live-in housekeeper for a divorced ad exec. The series lasted eight seasons and 196 episodes and is best known for introducing the world to Alyssa Milano.

Movie: The Tim Burton classic Beetlejuice, is set in the fictional Connecticut town of Winter River. Here, young couple Adam and Barbara Maitland tragically die and experience life after death, including the zany Beetlejuice. Just don’t say his name three times.

Tony Danza

Book/Author: In 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe (from Litchfield) published Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which highlighted the suffering of African-American slaves. Later, during the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln is said to have said to the author: “so you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war”.

Fictional Character: Professional wrestler Hunter Hearst Helmsley (later shortened to Triple H), was originally billed from Greenwich, using a Connecticut Blueblood gimmick. After some ups and downs to start his WWE career, Helmsley has gone on to be one of the most successful wrestlers of all-time and the real-life Paul Levesque is now an executive with the company that made him famous.

Fictional City: Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls is a small town home to many unique characters. As a teenage mother, Lorelei Gilmore escapes here, leaving behind her parents and the privileged life she’s known in Hartford.

Actors/Actresses: Seth MacFarlane, creator of Family Guy, American Dad and The Cleveland Show, was born in Kent. Aside from providing his voice talents to many projects, McFarlane has also appeared in live action fare, including The Orville and A Million Ways to Die in the West.

Triple H

Song: For whatever reason, Yankee Doodle is the State Song of Connecticut, but Connecticut by Judy Garland and Bing Crosby really should be. The tune is extremely complimentary song about the state, with lines like “No matter where I’d chance to be, Connecticut is the place for me.”

Band/Musician: I have to go with crooner Michael Bolton here, best known for the hits “When A Man Loves a Woman” and “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You”, both of which he won a Grammys for. It’s hard to believe Bolton got his start in hard rock and heavy metal bands in the 70’s and 80’s.

People: P.T. Barnum, a founder of the Barnum & Bailey Circus, was born in Bethel. He would later become the Mayor of Bridgeport and a member of the Connecticut House of Representatives, serving Fairfield. Barnum has been featured in a number of film and TV projects, most notably portrayed by Hugh Jackman in The Greatest Showman.

Animal: Sergeant Stubby became the mascot of the 102nd Infantry Regiment, serving with the unit in World War I. The mixed-breed mutt saved troops from mustard gas attacks and helped medics locate wounded soldiers. His story was documented in the 2018 animated movie, Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero.

Michael Bolton

Invention: Of the many products created in Connecticut, I have to choose the vacuum cleaner, invented by Ira Hobart Spencer, of Hartford. However, if you want to avoid doing chores, you could get caught up playing outside with another invention from the state, the Frisbee.

Crime: The murder of 15-year-old Martha Moxley, in Greenwich, may not have garnered as much attention as it did, if it hadn’t been for one of the potential suspects being Michael Skakel, a relation of the famous Kennedy clan. Skakel was convicted in 2002 of the 1975 murder, although the conviction was vacated in 2018.

Law: It is illegal to keep town records where alcohol is sold. There goes my dream of a city hall/liquor store combo!

Sports Team: The only professional team to exist in Connecticut was the now defunct Hartford Whalers of the NHL. The team relocated to Raleigh, North Carolina following the 1996-97 season, renamed the Carolina Hurricanes. The Whalers may be best remembered for their official theme song, Brass Bonanza.

Athlete: Chris Drury (born in Trumbull) and Brian Leetch (raised in Cheshire) have a lot in common. Both were multi-sport athletes growing up – with Drury being the winning pitcher at the 1989 Little League World Series – choosing careers in hockey. Each would win the NHL’s rookie of the year award, as well as a Stanley Cup championship for Leetch in 1994 (also named MVP of the playoffs) and for Drury in 2001.

Famous Home: Legendary author Mark Twain moved his family to Hartford in 1873. There, he wrote his most popular works, including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The home has been restored, with National Geographic calling it one of the ten best historic homes in the world.

Urban Legends: Lake Compounce, the oldest continuously operating amusement park in the U.S., is said to be haunted and cursed. The land where the park now sits was sold by Chief John Compound to white settlers. Legend has it, Chief Compound died soon after and other deaths have occurred on the grounds since, including drownings and construction accidents. Lake Compounce was also where the band Milli Vanilli were first exposed as lip-synchers.

Museum: Connecticut’s Trash Museum has been permanently closed, so I’ll have to settle on the Lock Museum of America, in Terryville. Here, you can check out a massive collection of locks and keys, as well as try on hand cuffs and leg irons, for kinkier visitors.

Mark Twain

Firsts: Some important American versions of books were first published in Connecticut, including the telephone book (containing only 50 names and numbers) and dictionary. Noah Webster, you know, of Webster’s Dictionary fame, published A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language in 1806. His next edition, An American Dictionary of the English Language, took two decades to complete, containing 70,000 words.

Company: TV production is a big industry in Connecticut, with companies such as ESPN (in Bristol) and WWE (in Stamford) setting up their headquarters in the state. It should also be noted, Subway is based in Milford, with the first restaurant, dubbed Pete’s Super Submarines, opened in 1965, in Bridgeport.

Events: With slavery outlawed in 1848 and the Underground Railroad travelling through the state, Connecticut participated on the Union side of the Civil War. Although no fighting took place in the state, what would become the Yale-New Haven Hospital treated thousands of injured soldiers, while the New Haven Arms Company and Colt’s Manufacturing Company provided fighters with weaponry.

Miscellaneous: Connecticut is unique in having a State Hero (Nathan Hale) and State Heroine (Prudence Crandall). Hale was a soldier and spy during the American Revolutionary War, hanged by the English for treason, at the age of 21. Crandall was a teacher and activist, who taught the first racially integrated class in the U.S.

Yale Cocktail

Yale Cocktail

  • 2 oz of Gin
  • 0.75 oz Crème de Violette
  • 0.25 oz Maraschino Liqueur
  • 0.25 oz Dry Vermouth
  • Dash of Orange Bitters
  • Garnish with a Lemon Twist

This cocktail is named after Yale University, thanks to the drink’s bluish hue, which matches the school’s colour. There are many variations to this drink recipe, including using Blue Curacao instead of Crème de Violette. I used the recipe straight from Yale’s Alumni Magazine… go straight to the source, is what I always say!

Colorado – Colorado Bulldog

Each week, the Sip Advisor will alphabetically travel the United States, discovering the best each state has to offer in a variety of subjects. Nicknamed the Centennial State, after joining the union in 1876, Colorado is our mile high destination today. Let’s see what trouble we can get up to:

Motto: “Nothing without providence” – Well, it’s nice to be protected!

Food: Jolly Ranchers were created in Golden, by company founder Bill Harmsen. The brand is now owned by the Hershey Company. I’m not a big candy guy, but a flavourful Jolly Rancher can sometimes hit the spot.

Drink: Colorado is a beer-lovers heaven. For those who prefer mass-produced products, you have Coors Brewing, while the craft beer connoisseur has multiple options, with companies like New Belgium Brewing tops among them.

Jolly Ranchers

Site to See: The state’s national parks are must-see attractions, including Rocky Mountain National Park, Mesa Verde National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park. Mesa Verde features the carved-in-cliff homes of the Pueblo people, including the impressive Cliff Palace.

Street: Running east-west through Denver, Colfax Avenue is the longest continuous street in the U.S. The route has been nicknamed the “longest, wickedest street in America” and stretches for 42 miles. Along the road, highlights include the State Capitol and a Voodoo Doughnut location.

TV Show: South Park is one of the longest running shows of all-time, currently at 23 seasons and 307 episodes aired. South Park is probably a place you wouldn’t want to live if it existed, but it’s fun to watch the mayhem from afar. The citizens of the “quiet, little mountain town” really make the show, with each viewer having their own favourites.

Movie: The Shining, starring Jack Nicholson, is set in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. The Stanley Hotel, which was the inspiration for Stephen King’s Overlook Hotel in the novel, can be visited in Estes Park. With this, I can segue to the second half of Dumb and Dumber (perhaps the Sip Advisor’s favourite all-time film, much to Mrs. Sip’s chagrin) taking place in Aspen, with the Stanley Hotel used for the Hotel Danbury in that film.

The Shining

Book/Author: Speaking of book-to-movie adaptations starring Jack Nicholson, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was written by Ken Kesey, who was born in La Junta. The controversial book has been banned in some places, despite its commercial and critical success.

Fictional Character: One of the greatest characters ever created is Eric Cartman from South Park. Sure, the little bastard is as evil as they come, but he’s also endearing in his own way. At the same time, you can both rout for and revile the foul-mouthed youngster.

Fictional City: With South Park already getting some ink above, here I’ll highlight Greendale from Community. Greendale Community College may be one of the wildest schools in existence, highlighted by annual paintball battles that engulf the entire student body. If given the opportunity, I would certainly enroll.

Actor/Actress: Tim Allen, the star of TV shows such as Home Improvement and Last Man Standing (set in Denver), as well as films including The Santa Clause trilogy, Galaxy Quest, Christmas with the Kranks, and the Toy Story franchise, was born in Denver.

Eric Cartman

Song: Rocky Mountain High by John Denver became Colorado’s second State Song in 2007. Denver’s ode to the state came a few years after moving to Aspen, where he would live for much of his life. Born Henry John Deutschendorf Jr., when a name change was suggested, he chose Denver for a surname, the capital of his favourite state. After tragically dying in a 1997 plane crash, his ashes were scattered in the Rocky Mountains.

Band/Musician: Pop rock band OneRepublic was formed in Colorado Springs. The group is best known for their hit Counting Stars, which topped music charts in six different countries, including Canada and the U.K., but peaked at number two in the U.S.

People: Former senator and presidential candidate John Kerry was born in Aurora. Kerry served as U.S. Secretary of State during Barack Obama’s second term as president, retiring with the end of that administration.

Animal: Colorado’s official State Pets are the dogs and cats adopted from Colorado animal shelters and rescues. Aside from that, Duane ‘Dog the Bounty Hunter’ Chapman hails from Denver, but I don’t think he counts as a famous animal.

Rocky Mountain High

Invention: The first Teddy Bear was said to have been constructed by maids at the Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs. They put scraps of material together and presented the bear to President Teddy Roosevelt, while he stayed there on a hunting trip. The Teddy Bear became a worldwide sensation and its popularity has never waned.

Crime: There are some doozy crimes in the history of Colorado. The Columbine High mass shooting, murder of JonBenét Ramsey, and Aurora Theater mass shooting all took place within the state. Other notable crimes have been featured on the TV show Homicide Hunter, which looks at the cases of Lt. Joe Kenda, a former detective with the Colorado Springs Police Department.

Law: It is illegal to mutilate a rock in a Colorado state park. I’ve always had it out for those geological formations, but I guess I’ll have to bottle up my hatred when travelling through the state.

Sports Team: Another state that has one team in each of the Big 4 sports leagues: Denver Broncos (NFL), Colorado Avalanche (NHL), Colorado Rockies (MLB), Denver Nuggets (NBA). Colorado is also known for its many world-class ski resorts, bringing many travellers to locations such as Aspen and Vail for some fresh powder.

Joe Kenda

Athlete: An inaugural inductee into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame in 1965, boxer Jack Dempsey was born in Manassa. Nicknamed the ‘Manassa Mauler’, Dempsey was World Heavyweight Champion from 1919-1926, becoming a cultural icon of the time. He passed away in 1983, aged 87.

Famous Home: Sculptured House is an elliptical-curved home, located in Golden. The place was designed by architect Charles Deaton and built on Genesee Mountain. Sculptured House was featured in Woody Allen’s 1973 film Sleeper, giving it the nickname, Sleeper House. It has also appeared on MTV’s Extreme Cribs.

Urban Legend: Famous outlaw Butch Cassidy is believed to have buried treasures at some locations around Colorado, with thousands of dollars up for grabs for those willing to search the hordes out. The Wild Bunch gang leader was killed in Bolivia, on the run from the law, before he could retrieve these deposits.

Museum: If you can’t get to the fields of MLB’s 30 teams, perhaps you’ll want to visit the National Ballpark Museum, in Denver. The gallery’s collection includes seats from some of the most storied stadiums in the sport’s history, as well as other memorabilia and exhibits.

Jack Dempsey

Firsts: Colorado was among the first states (along with Washington) to legalize marijuana in 2012. Cannabis sales in the state passed $1 billion in 2016 and the industry continues to grow (literally!).

Company: What would become the Coors Brewing Company was first established in Golden in 1873. The brewery was run by a Coors family member from then until 2002. Sadly, the Coors legacy is mixed with some tragedy, including the suicide of Adolph Coors I and the murder of Adolph Coors III, during a botched kidnapping for ransom plot.

Events: In 1858, gold was discovered in Colorado, leading to an influx of people to the region and popularizing the phrase “Pikes Peak or Bust”. Central City, founded in 1859, is known as “The Richest Square Mile on Earth”, with a total gold output between 1859-1918 of over $83 million.

Miscellaneous: You always have to be careful when mentioning “highest” in reference to Colorado, but the state contains the highest paved road, bridge, railway and sand dune in the U.S. It was on one of those high points (Pikes Peak), where America the Beautiful was written by Katherine Lee Bates, becoming a national anthem alternative to some.

Colorado Bulldog

Colorado Bulldog

  • 1 oz Vodka
  • 1 oz Coffee Liqueur
  • Top with Cola
  • Splash of Light Cream/Milk
  • Garnish with a Maraschino Cherry

The Colorado Bulldog is basically a White Russian, enhanced (or not, depending on your view) with some cola. I turned my serving into more of a dessert cocktail, using Smores Vodka and Chili Chocolate Kahlua in the beverage. It turned out fairly well, but I don’t think this drink will feature regularly in my libation rotation.

California – Cable Car

Each week, the Sip Advisor will alphabetically travel the United States, discovering the best each state has to offer in a variety of subjects. The Golden State is going to be a tough stop, as there’s so much to choose from for each category. California is home to film, TV and music production, as well as a hub for technological developments. Its population rivals the entire country of Canada, so suffice to say, there’s a lot going on:

Motto: “Eureka” (“I have found it”) – Are you sure you don’t want to hide it again!?

Food: You could have an entire buffet – or at least a multi-course meal – stocked only with food items invented in California. For an appetizer, there’s the California Roll or a Cobb Salad, followed by a main course of either a Cheeseburger, French Dip Sandwich, or California-Style Pizza. For dessert, you could enjoy a Popsicle, Hot Fudge Sundae or Rocky Road Ice Cream. And why not finish the meal with a Fortune Cookie.

Drink: California is known for inventing its fair share of popular cocktails, including the Martini. Both San Francisco and nearby Martinez claim to be the birthplace of the drink, which has been called “the only American invention as perfect as the sonnet” and “the elixir of quietude”.

Martini

Site to See: As someone who has spent quite a bit of time and money travelling to California for the sole purpose of going to Disneyland, I have to pick the ‘Happiest Place on Earth’ as my choice here. Of course, the state seems to have something to offer for everyone, ranging from wine regions and beaches to tourist landmarks and other theme parks.

Street: San Francisco hasn’t seen much love in this piece yet, so I will choose Lombard Street for this category. The infamous winding route, featuring eight hairpin turns, has been used for car chases in the movies What’s Up, Doc?, Magnum Force and Ant-Man and the Wasp. Apparently, during peak times, driving the road can be preceded by a 20-minute wait and a reservation system may be used in the future.

TV Show: So many TV shows are set in California, with every genre getting some coverage: family sitcoms The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Saved by the Bell and Full House; teen dramas Beverly Hills, 90210 and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (as well as spinoff Angel); mysteries Perry Mason and Columbo; adult sitcoms Arrested Development, The Big Bang Theory, Modern Family and Two and a Half Men; adult dramas Sons of Anarchy, Entourage and Weeds; and even horror shows Fear the Walking Dead and a couple seasons of American Horror Story.

Movie: Same goes for movies, with some of my all-time favourites being California-based. This includes Die Hard, Anchorman and Reservoir Dogs, among too many to name and many more I still need to watch.

Disneyland

Book/Author: John Steinbeck, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Grapes of Wrath, was born in Salinas. Much of the writer’s work was set in California, including popular titles East of Eden and Of Mice and Men.

Fictional Character: I have to go with the eccentric Bluth family from Arrested Development. Teenagers Zack Morris (Saved by the Bell) and Marty McFly (Back to the Future) almost land in the top spot. Mass murderers Chucky (Child’s Play) and Ghostface (Scream) also call California home, so be careful.

Fictional City: Parts of real-life California seem fictional, but if I don’t pick Sunnydale from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer universe, Mrs. Sip may never forgive me. The show’s entire seven season run takes place largely within the community, where Sunnydale High School is located directly above the ‘Hellmouth’. Spoiler alert: to close that dimensional portal, the city of Sunnydale is destroyed and the Sip Advisor doesn’t have to watch the show anymore!

Actor/Actress: Most folks who want to become actors end up in California. Those born in the state comprise a who’s who list of Hollywood royalty. This includes: Clint Eastwood, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Ben Affleck, Dwayne Johnson, Will Ferrell, Nicholas Cage, Jennifer Aniston, Angelina Jolie, Drew Barrymore, Jodie Foster, and Marilyn Monroe, among many others.

Sunnydale

Song: With apologies to runners up Hotel California (The Eagles) and California Dreamin’ (The Mamas and the Papas), every time I’m about to land at LAX, I have to play California Love by 2Pac and Dr. Dre. It just gets me in the right spirit and ready for all the fun at my fingertips.

Band/Musician: Another tough choice, but given this band’s history – and playlist – I have to go with the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. The group was formed in Los Angeles and so many of their songs are California-based or inspired. Honourable mentions go to NWA, 2Pac, Snoop Dogg, Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, The Beach Boys, and The Doors.

People: Between Apple and Pixar, Steve Jobs brought a lot to the world around him. From personal computers to the iPod, iPad and iPhone, many people use the devices Jobs helped to create on a daily basis. Sadly, Jobs died in October 2011, aged 56. What he would have developed in the later years of his life, we’ll never know, but most wish he had the chance.

Animal: California is an animal actor’s haven. Many furry stars were trained in the state, including Mr. Ed, Lassie, Old Yeller, Buck from Married with Children and even the Taco Bell Chihuahua. SeaWorld San Diego was also home to infamous orca Shamu.

Chilli Peppers

Invention: Barbie dolls were invented by Ruth Handler in Los Angeles, and named after her daughter, Barbara. Ken dolls came later, named after her son. Debuting at the American International Toy Fair in 1959 (used as Barbie’s birthday), the dolls have been a hit since, launching the Mattel toy company, and becoming a global phenomenon and feminist icon.

Crime: While there are many crimes California is known for, I have to go with one that captured the attention of the entire nation and much of the world. In 1994, former NFL star O.J. Simpson was accused of murdering his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman. O.J.’s surrender to police turned into a two-hour low-speed chase across Southern California, with 95 million people watching on TV. The trial that followed was a media sensation, dubbed the Trial of the Century, resulting in O.J.’s acquittal.

Law: In California, “sunshine is guaranteed to the masses”. So, when that rare day of inclement weather comes, who pays the price for such a disturbance!?

Sports Team: California has five baseball teams, three football teams (with the Raiders leaving to play in Las Vegas for 2020), four basketball teams, and three hockey teams. Most popular among those squads is likely the Los Angeles Lakers, one of the NBA’s most important franchises. The Lakers have won 16 NBA championships in 31 finals appearances.

Barbie Real

Athlete: Amongst some all-time greats, I have to go with athletes who changed their sports. There, you have Billie Jean King, who brought women’s tennis to the forefront with her Battle of the Sexes matches. There’s also skateboarder Tony Hawk and snowboarder Shaun White, who made their extreme sports mainstream viewing. Finally, we have Tiger Woods, who despite his personal problems, made golf more popular than it’s even been.

Famous Home: There are so many notable abodes in California, there’s even tours of these manors and other dwellings. The Playboy Mansion, though, may take the cake for world recognition, as a place of lavish parties and debauchery. Hugh Hefner’s pad is located in Los Angeles, where the 29-room estate has been “permanently protected” by the city, basically deeming it a historical landmark.

Urban Legend: Used as inspiration for American Horror Story: Hotel, the Hotel Cecil in Los Angeles has had a long history of violent incidents and guest suicides. Rumoured guests have included Elizabeth Short (aka the Black Dahlia), shortly before her murder; serial killer Richard Ramirez (aka the Night Stalker), perhaps during his spree of terror; and fellow serial killer Jack Unterweger, said to possibly be copying Ramirez while visiting L.A. from Australia.

Museum: Winchester Mystery House, in San Jose, was the former home of Sarah Winchester, widow of gun maker William Winchester. Following the death of her young daughter and William’s passing, Sarah was advised by a psychic to move west and never stop building her home there, or she would be haunted by the spirits of those who died at the hands of the guns her husband had made his wealth from. Until Sarah’s death in 1922, construction continued, resulting in staircases that lead to dead ends, as well as trap doors and secret passages.

Mansion

Firsts: Given my affinity for McDonald’s, I have to salute the fact the first ever restaurant for what would become the chain, was opened in San Bernardino, in 1940. Decades later, McDonald’s became the world’s largest restaurant chain and today serves millions of customer each day, across the globe.

Company: I think here, you have to go with film and broadcasting companies, which provide us all with so much entertainment. The Walt Disney Company, Universal Pictures, MGM, Netflix and Warner Bros., among them. There are also tech companies, such as Facebook, Twitter, Apple, and Google, who do the same.

Events: California has endured gold rushes, earthquakes and much more. What truly gave the state its identity, though, was the film industry coming to settle in Hollywood. With Thomas Edison owning a number of patents regarding movie development, many filmmakers came to California to dodge the fees that came with that. Studios sprouted up soon after and the rest is movie history.

Miscellaneous: Video games haven’t received much coverage in these posts yet, but it should be noted, California has one of the largest industries for gaming. Activision Blizzard, Atari and Electronic Arts have all set up shop in the state where arcade games were invented. Heck, one of my favourite childhood cartridges, California Games for the NES, was basically an electronic ad for west coast life.

Cable Car

Cable Car

  • Rim glass with Cinnamon and Sugar
  • 1.5 oz Spiced Rum
  • 0.75 oz Triple Sec
  • Splash of Lemon Juice
  • Dash of Simple Syrup
  • Garnish with an Orange Twist

This drink was created in 1996 by Tony Abou-Ganim to celebrate the Starlight Room in San Francisco’s Drake Hotel. The Sidecar variation intrigued me because of the use of Spiced Rum. My cocktail was a little too heavy on the lemon juice, but I enjoyed the Cinnamon/Sugar rim and would try the concoction again.

Arkansas – Arkansas Razorback

Each week, the Sip Advisor will alphabetically travel the United States, discovering the best each state has to offer in a variety of subjects. Calling yourself the Natural State gives you a lot to live up to… at least they’re not known as the Au Naturel State. Let’s find out exactly what Arkansas has to offer:

Motto: “The people rule” – Who are these people?

Food: The concept of melted cheese has been around forever, but Cheese Dip was invented in 1935 in North Little Rock by Blackie Donnely, owner of the Mexico Chiquito restaurant. Arkansas is so proud of the creation, they host the annual World Cheese Dip Championship and there’s also a Cheese Dip Trail folks can travel to try the best available in the state.

Drink: Grapette is a grape-flavoured (shocking!) soda, which was developed in Camden, by Benjamin Fooks, in 1939. Today, the product can be found in Walmart stores. Walmart founder Sam Walton (also from Arkansas) reportedly said, upon meeting the drink’s owner in 1986: “I want Grapette in my stores.” This was said during a time where the drink was “retired” in the U.S. Clearly, Walton had fond memories of the beverage.

Cheese Dip

Site to See: Hot Springs National Park has been called “The American Spa”. It is the oldest park managed by the U.S. National Park System and features 43 thermal springs flowing throughout the grounds. There are also two bathhouses, where visitors can enjoy a soak in the waters said to have healing powers.

Street: Dickson Street in Fayetteville, is located near the University of Arkansas campus. The entertainment district hosts the Bikes, Blues, and BBQ festival annually, one of the biggest motorcycle rallies – celebrating it’s 20th anniversary this year – across the United States.

TV Show: Evening Shade, starred Burt Reynolds as a former NFL player, who returns home to the city of Evening Shade to coach the high school football team. It ran for four season and 98 episodes, with before-they-were-famous roles for actresses Hilary Swank, Leah Remini and Lisa Kudrow. If low-brow entertainment (aka reality TV) is more your thing, 19 Kids and Counting was set in Tontitown, lasting 10 seasons and 229 episodes, plus specials.

Movie: True Grit, originally released in 1969 and remade in 2010, tells the story of a young girl who hires an aged, alcoholic marshal to help track down her father’s killer. A Texas Ranger is also in pursuit of the wanted man, with each character being tested along the way and having to prove their mettle. The tale begins in Fort Smith, before moving to what is now Oklahoma.

TLC

Book/Author: John Grisham, author of such legal thrillers as A Time to Kill, The Firm and The Runaway Jury, was born in Jonesboro. 10 of Grisham’s novels have been turned into feature films, with the former lawyer releasing his 40th book in October 2019.

Fictional Character: Unlikely outlaws Thelma and Louise are women from Arkansas, who were looking to have a weekend getaway from their monotonous lives, only to end up fugitives. The pair have become feminist figures, while Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon were each nominated for Oscars, for their portrayal of the characters.

Fictional City: Millsburg, the setting for the movie Sling Blade, is thought to be based on Benton, or at least that’s where the flick was filmed. It’s here that the character of Karl Childers (played by Billy Bob Thornton) must deal with his past and try to redeem himself.

Actor/Actress: Speaking of Billy Bob Thornton, the former Mr. Angelina Jolie was born in Hot Springs. It should be noted, not only did Thornton star in Sling Blade, he also wrote the film, which earned him an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Thelma and Louise

Song: Arkansas Lovin’ Man by Johnny Cash (more on him below), is a great little tune that’s all about home state pride. Viewer comments on the YouTube video for this track all express similar sentiments.

Band/Musician: The Man in Black, Johnny Cash, was born in Kingsland before growing up in Dyess. Cash reinvented country music and through live performances at prisons, became a man of the people with unmeasurable popularity. Cash also crossed over into other forms of entertainment, hosting his own variety show, along with roles in films and TV series. The 2005 biographical movie Walk the Line, starring Joaquin Phoenix, covers Cash’s life and long career.

People: Former U.S. President, Bill Clinton, was born in Hope, returning to the state after his schooling to become a law professor at the University of Arkansas. Clinton would become Attorney General and later Governor of the state. Of course, Clinton is infamously known for his affair with Monica Lewinsky, which nearly resulted in his impeachment from office.

Animal: Tusk, the University of Arkansas mascot for all Razorbacks teams, is not just one famous animal, but five famous wild boars, creating a monarchy of sorts. Tusk I fathered Tusk II and Tusk III, while Tusk II fathered Tusk IV, who in turn, fathered Tusk V. Each pig weighs approximately 475-500 pounds and has been trained to give spectators kisses.

Johnny Cash

Invention: As much as I want to put delicious Fried Pickles here, the nod has to go to inventor Freeman Owens, who greatly enhanced the filming of movies, with sound-to-film, slow motion and other camera advancements. From Pine Bluff, Owens also created plastics lenses that are still used for cameras and glasses (both eye and sun), as well as developed the Nielsen Rating System, which is used to calculate how many people are watching a TV show.

Crime: In 1998, the Westside Middle School Massacre shocked the world. The perpetrators, Mitchell Johnson and Andrew Golden, were two of the youngest murderers in U.S. history, being ages 13 and 11, respectively. Four students and a teacher were killed, while 10 others were injured. Johnson and Golden were released on their respective 21st birthdays, with Johnson having further trouble with the law since and Golden being killed in a car accident in July 2019.

Law: It is illegal to mispronounce “Arkansas” while in Arkansas. I assume the punishment would involve some sort of pronunciation training, but that seems a little harsh.

Sports Team: With no professional sports teams in the state, the University of Arkansas Razorbacks of the NCAA is the only game in town. With the nickname covering a number of programs at the school, though, there’s plenty of action to choose from, notably football and basketball.

Razorbacks

Athlete: Scottie Pippen, member of all the great Chicago Bulls teams of the 1990’s, was born in Hamburg. The NBA Hall of Fame member is considered one of the greatest small forwards (ironic, given the man is 6-feet, 8-inches tall) to ever play the game, winning six NBA championships and two Olympic gold medals, as a member of the 1992 and 1996 Dream Team squads.

Famous Home: King Mansion, in Fort Smith, is the most expensive home in Arkansas. It also provides quite the sight during the Christmas holidays, as owner Kenny King puts up between 100,000 to 150,000 lights. The Mediterranean-style estate boasts the world’s greatest indoor treehouse, using an imported California redwood, which King had installed for his grandchildren’s enjoyment.

Urban Legend: The Fouke Monster (aka Boggy Creek Monster/Beast of the Boggy Creek/Southern Sasquatch), is a big foot/sasquatch-type creature, which is said to have attacked homes and livestock, smelling like a combo of skunk spray and wet dog. While some believe the monster to be a hoax, that hasn’t stopped five low-budget horror films being made on the subject.

Museum: I am quite fond of Walmart, doing much of my shopping at the chain, so I’m actually intrigued by the idea of a Walmart Museum. Dedicated to the history of Walmart, as well as its founder, the museum in Bentonville is located on the site of Sam Walton’s first ever store. Best of all, the place is free to visitors.

walmart

Firsts: In 1932, Hattie Caraway became first woman elected to the U.S. Senate. She had taken over her husband’s seat the previous year, following his death. While many expected her to vacate the position, she surprised everyone by choosing to run for re-election, saying: “The time has passed when a woman should be placed in a position and kept there only while someone else is being groomed for the job.”

Company: Walmart was founded in 1962 in Rogers, and remains headquartered in the state to this day. That first Walmart store grew to 24 across Arkansas within five years and the business continued to expand, now being the largest retail giant (based on annual revenue) in the world. Today, there are more than 11,000 Walmart stores, across 27 countries.

Events: On September 23, 1957, the Little Rock Nine (a group of nine black students) attempted to attend Little Rock Central High School, years after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education legal decision moved to desegregate schools. On presidential order, the Arkansas National Guard was tasked with protecting the students, as they entered the school. Sadly, the abuse continued inside, but it was the start of a long battle for educational equality.

Miscellaneous: Arkansas is home to America’s only diamond mine, located in the aptly named Crater of Diamonds State Park. Here, the country’s only perfect diamond (colourless, internally flawless) was found here in 1990. Also found at the state park was the largest ever U.S. diamond, named the Uncle Sam.

Arkansas Razorback

Arkansas Razorback

  • 0.5 oz Rum
  • 0.5 oz Vodka
  • 0.5 oz Amaretto
  • 0.5 oz Kahlua

Given this beverage includes Amaretto and Kahlua, I went full dessert with it, using Salted Caramel Kahlua, Spiced Rum and Marshmallow Vodka to complete the recipe. The result was a very tasty nightcap beverage. The drink is named for the wild hog that has become the University of Arkansas nickname and mascot.

Arizona – Original Tequila Sunrise

Each week, the Sip Advisor will alphabetically travel the United States, discovering the best each state has to offer in a variety of subjects. Arizona is called the ‘Nation’s Valentine’ after joining the union on February 14, 1912. So, let’s give the Grand Canyon State (bet they had to think long and hard before picking that nickname) a little love:

Motto: “God enriches” – I’ll take me some of those enriches over here!

Food: The Chimichanga is an enhanced Burrito, taking an already great food item and deep frying it. As with most invented dishes, there is a dispute over which restaurant served a Chimichanga first, but regardless, it happened in Arizona.

Drink: AriZona Beverages is not from Arizona and is actually based in New York. That said, Eegee’s Frozen Fruit Drinks can actually call Arizona home, growing from a two-man vending truck operation in 1971 to having 24 locations serving up their Slurpee-like concoctions in a variety of different flavours.

Chimichangas

Site to See: Arizona has more national monuments (18) than any other state, so there are plenty of places to visit. Of course, the top attraction of the state is the Grand Canyon National Park, with over six million people making the trip to the UNESCO World Heritage Site each year, in recent times.

Street: Had the Sip Advisor existed during Arizona’s pre-statehood days, I would have certainly ended up in Bisbee, where the street known as Brewery Gulch once hosted close to 50 saloons. Today, a half-dozen breweries now reside on Brewery Avenue, which Brewery Gulch turns into.

TV Show: Medium, starring Patricia Arquette, ran for seven seasons and 130 episodes. The series was about a medium (imagine that) who works with the Phoenix district attorney’s office, assisting them with solving crimes. The series is based on real-life medium, Allison DuBois (also the name of the show’s main character), earning Arquette an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.

Movie: While providing the backdrop for many western movies, my favourite Arizona-set film has to be Bad Santa, starring Billy Bob Thornton. Sure, the sequel didn’t hold up at all, but the original is a holiday classic. Also, it was John Ritter’s last live-action movie, prior to his premature death, so there’s that.

Grand Canyon

Book/Author: Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight series of books, was raised in Phoenix/Scottsdale. Meyer even gave her main heroine, Bella Swan, the hometown of Phoenix, so you’d have to imagine the entire plot of Twilight, involving vampires and werewolves and the like, is completely autobiographical.

Fictional Character: After finally watching the first two movies from the franchise a couple years back, my vote goes to Bowie’s own John Rambo. Rambo is a former Army Special Forces fighter, who has shot-up his fair share of baddies, over five films. The iconic character has since also appeared in comic books, video games and an animated TV series.

Fictional City: While Radiator Springs, from the movie Cars, is an amalgamation of places and attractions from America’s famous Route 66, a map seen in a flashback in the film pinpoints the town in Arizona. Radiator Springs has even been recreated within Disneyland’s California Adventure park, allowing visitors to experience the place first hand, from Flo’s V8 Café (home to the Sip Advisor’s favourite beer in the park) to Mater’s Junkyard.

Actor/Actress: Oscar-winner Emma Stone was born in Scottsdale. Stone’s film debut came in the 2007 hit Superbad, leading eventually to starring roles in Easy A, The Help and La La Land. I also have to give a shout out to Danielle Fishel, from Mesa, who was a teenage crush of the Sip Advisor, for her role of Topanga on Boy Meets World.

Rambo

Song: Arizona by Rex Allen Jr. was adopted as the Alternate State Anthem of the Grand Canyon State in 1981. More interestingly, Allen narrated the movie Me, Myself, and Irene, starring Jim Carrey, Jim Carrey and Renee Zellweger.

Band/Musician: Alice Cooper moved to Phoenix in his younger years and lives there to this day. The ‘Godfather of Shock Rock’ owned a popular restaurant in Phoenix called Alice Cooper’stown, which closed after 18 years in operation. Cooper even ran for Governor of Arizona in 1988, using the tagline: “Alice Cooper: A Troubled Man for Troubled Times”.

People: Joan Ganz Cooney, one of the founders of Sesame Workshop and co-creator of Sesame Street, was born in Phoenix and educated at the University of Arizona. Without her efforts, my brother from another mother, Cookie Monster, may have never existed.

Animal: From Morristown, Grumpy Cat – real name Tardar Sauce – became a viral sensation after a picture of the kitty was posted to Reddit. Always appearing cranky, due to a form of dwarfism, Grumpy Cat’s likeness was plastered on everything from toys to calendars. The popularity of the feline even allowed her owner to quit her job. Sadly, Tardar Sauce died in May 2019, due to complications from a urinary tract infection.

grumpy-cat

Invention: Given Arizona’s hot temperatures, being able to cool off by having fun in the water is a big priority or Arizonans. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Jet Skis and Keystone Kool Deck (for swimming pools) were invented in the state. Tasers were also invented there, but that gets folks a different kind of hot and bothered.

Crime: On January 8, 2011, U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was the victim of an attempted assassination, as Jared Lee Loughner shot her in the head outside a Safeway grocery store, as she hosted a “Congress on Your Corner” public meeting. Giffords survived the attack, but six others were not so lucky. Loughner pled guilty to 19 charges, avoiding the death penalty with his plea bargain.

Law: As a man who loves his water, the Sip Advisor is happy to learn that in Arizona, it is illegal to refuse to give a person a glass of the good stuff. I wonder if an argument could be made that beer and other alcoholic beverages should also fall under this umbrella, given they are all water-based!?

Sports Team: Arizona has one team in each of the Big 4 sports leagues, with the Diamondbacks (MLB), Cardinals (NFL), Coyotes (NHL), and Phoenix Suns (NBA). The state is also host to MLB’s annual Cactus League Spring Training, with games occurring at multiple locations. Lastly, golf course are in abundance in Arizona and PGA events, such as the Waste Management Phoenix Open, is played there yearly.

jet-skis

Athlete: Gymnast Kerri Strug, from Tucson, helped her American team win gold at the 1996 Olympics, memorably landing a vault attempt, despite a severely injured ankle. Becoming a hero for her bravery, Strug appeared on boxes of Wheaties cereal and even in a segment of Saturday Night Live.

Famous Home: Boyce Luther Gully designed Mystery Castle in Phoenix, with his daughter in mind. As an adult, she inherited the property, constructed from all available materials, including rail tracks, automobile parts and telephone poles. The 18-room dwelling has a chapel, dungeon and cantina and can be toured by the public.

Urban Legend: The Superstition Mountains, near Phoenix, are said to be the location of the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, one of the most infamous lost treasures in the world. Immigrant Jacob Waltz “discovered” the mine in the 1800’s and went to his grave revealing the site to only one person, while on his deathbed. While a number of mines have been claimed to be the Lost Dutchman’s, we’ll likely never know the real story.

Museum: Located in Phoenix, the Musical Instrument Museum features a collection of over 15,000 music makers from close to 200 countries around the world. The MIM, as the cool kids call it, also contains a concert hall for live performances.

saxophone

Firsts: On January 1, 1960, the first retirement community in the world opened, known as Sun City. The destination proved to be so popular that 100,000 visitors came to the development on its opening weekend. Today, the municipality has eight golf courses, seven rec centers and four lawn bowling courts, among other facilities. There’s also a museum on the site, containing artifacts from the project.

Company: Best Western International is headquartered in Phoenix. The corporation oversees the licensing of its brand to 4,500 hotels worldwide, 2,000 of them within North America. Best Western was founded in 1946, gaining its name from the fact most of the business’s locations existed west of the Mississippi River.

Events: Three decades before Arizona was even an American state, its most infamous happening occurred. The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral took place in Tombstone, between the law and outlaws, making legends out of people like Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. The shootout lasted only 30 seconds, but resulted in the death of three outlaws. Today, Tombstone is known as “the town too tough to die”, presenting a recreation of the gunfight three times daily for tourists.

Miscellaneous: Flagstaff could have been movie central, as director Cecil B. DeMille wanted to shoot his movie The Squaw Man there, before settling on Hollywood, California for filming. At least Flagstaff can claim a role in the discovery of the planet (I still think it’s one) Pluto, which was first detected by Clyde Tombaugh at the Lowell Observatory.

Original Tequila Sunrise

Original Tequila Sunrise

  • 1.25 oz Tequila
  • 0.75 oz Crème de Cassis
  • Top with Club Soda
  • Splash of Lime Juice
  • Garnish with a Lime Wedge

This cocktail was invented at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix, by bartender Gene Sulit, when challenged to construct a refreshing beverage that could be enjoyed poolside. While the drink is better known for its Californian variation of tequila, orange juice and grenadine, I much prefer the Arizona original. I did sub in Pomegranate Liqueur, in place of the Crème de Cassis, however.

Alaska – Midnight Sun

Each week, the Sip Advisor will alphabetically travel the United States, discovering the best each state has to offer in a variety of subjects. The Last Frontier… the Land of the Midnight Sun… whatever you want to call it, Alaska is where we venture to today, so let’s enjoy the setting before it gets dark:

Slogan: North to the Future – Is that better or worse than going Back to the Future?

Food: Alaskan King Crab is a delicacy found through fishing in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska. These crabs are the most expensive and highly sought of all crab species, but are also difficult to catch. The industry has been highlighted by hit reality series Deadliest Catch, which has been airing since 2005.

Drink: The Alaskan Brewing Company was founded in 1986, in Juneau. Beers from Alaskan are available across half the country’s states. Visitors can tour the brewery, where 20 beers are on tap each day and a selection of merchandise is also available.

alaska

Site to See: Alaska is all about natural beauty, from its National Parks (Denali, Glacier Bay, Kenai Fjords) to Glaciers (Mendenhall, Matanuska, Portage). You can also view the Northern Lights/Aurora Borealis during most of the year.

Street: Ketchikan’s Creek Street is the former red light district of the city. Built on wooden stilts, a number of brothels set up shop here between 1903 and 1954, when they were forced out of the city center and until they were outlawed for good. The nearby Married Man’s Trail was used by customers escaping the brothels when raids occurred. Apparently, it presents a nice hike these days.

TV Show: Northern Exposure was a comedy-drama series, which sees New Yorker Joel Fleischman sent to the fictional town of Cicely to work as a doctor and pay back the student loan for med school that Alaska funded for him. While in Cicely, Joel interacts with the eclectic townsfolk, while adjusting to his new setting. The show lasted six seasons and 110 episodes, winning the 1992 Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series. A number of reality shows are also filmed in Alaska, including the previously mentioned Deadliest Catch, along with other popular series, such as Gold Rush and Ice Road Truckers.

Movie: While I remember enjoying the 2002 mystery thriller Insomnia (starring Al Pacino, Robin Williams and Hilary Swank), I have to choose Sandra Bullock-Ryan Reynolds led The Proposal for this category, almost entirely based on the scene where Bullock is running around naked, looking for a towel. Cinema at its finest, my little sippers!

Northern Exposure.jpg

Book/Author: Gentle Ben by Walt Morey, tells the tale of a lonely boy who befriends a brown bear. Morey based the story on his own experiences in Alaska and based characters from the book on real-life Alaskans. Gentle Ben has since been featured in movies and TV series.

Fictional Character: Chilly Willy, the cute little penguin from The Woody Woodpecker Show, hails from Fairbanks. Upon debuting, Chilly Willy became the second most popular Lantz/Universal cartoon character after Woody Woodpecker.

Fictional City: Since we’ve already highlighted Cicely from Northern Exposure, we’ll devote some space to the town of Mystery, from the movie Mystery, Alaska, which sees an amateur hockey team battle the NHL’s New York Rangers in an exhibition match. The film has quite the cast, including starring roles for Russell Crowe, Burt Reynolds and Hank Azaria, as well as a cameo by Mike Myers, playing a commentator similar to the controversial Don Cherry of Hockey Night in Canada fame.

Actor/Actress: While not recognizable by name, Irene Bedard has a very familiar look and sound. She voiced Pocahontas for the Disney film of the same name and its sequel and was also used as a model for the character’s design. The actress was born in Anchorage and was named one of People Magazine’s ’50 Most Beautiful People’ in 1995.

Gentle Ben

Song: North to Alaska by Johnny Horton was featured in the opening credits of the 1960 John Wayne film of the same name, setting up the story to the point where the movie takes over. The song topped the Billboard Country Singles chart, but sadly, Horton never got to reap the success of the track, dying in a car accident one week before the film was released.

Band/Musician: Jewel, famous for her songs “Who Will Save Your Soul”, “You Were Meant for Me” and “Foolish Games”, moved to Alaska shortly after her birth, being raised in Homer. The talented singer-songwriter has also dabbled in acting, with cameos as herself in a number of projects.

People: Sarah Palin was the first female governor of Alaska and later became John McCain’s vice-president candidate for the 2008 U.S. election. Palin’s run brought on a Saturday Night Live impersonation, as well as an adult industry doppelganger (or would that be a doppel-banger). The Palins are practically Alaska’s first family, with husband Todd being a champion snow mobile racer and daughter Bristol gaining attention as a reality TV figure.

Animal: Siberian Huskies, Balto and Togo, led a serum run in 1925, to deliver the supplies from Anchorage to Nome, amidst a diphtheria epidemic. Known as the Great Race of Mercy, both dogs have had their stories turned into movies, with Balto getting the honour in 1995 and Togo at the end of 2019.

Balto

Invention: The Sip Advisor is a big-time consumer of ranch dressing, so thanks should be heaped upon Steve Henson, who created the sauce while living in the Alaskan bush as a plumbing contractor. He and wife, Gayle, later moved to California and owned and operated the Hidden Valley Ranch, selling the dressing to customers in products they could take home.

Crime: As the Last Frontier moved from lawlessness to a place of rules and enforcement, a famous shootout occurred on the Juneau Wharf in 1898, between conman and gang leader Jefferson “Soapy” Smith and vigilante Frank Reid. The gunfight resulted from growing tensions between Smith and his associates and the Citizens Committee, a group looking to restore order in Juneau. Both men died in the altercation, with Soapy Smith being the one who is celebrated each year on July 8.

Law: It is legal to shoot a bear, but illegal to shoot them in a way that doesn’t harm them, as waking a sleeping bear to take a photograph of it is against the law.

Sports Team: There are no professional sports teams in Alaska, but the state is famous for the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, known as “the last great race on Earth”. The Iditarod was first run in 1973, with the 938-mile trek typically taking place during blizzards and sub-zero temperatures. The quickest completion of the route was eight days, three hours and 40 minutes (set in 2017), while it took original competitors more than 20 days to finish. One of many reasons why dog mushing is Alaska’s State Sport.

flat tire

Athlete: Major League Baseball pitcher Curt Schilling was born in Anchorage. The four-time World Series champion (with three different teams) is perhaps best remembered for his gutsy performance during the Boston Red Sox run to the title in 2004, where he had to have tendons in his right ankle stabilized for each performance, resulting in a visibly bloody sock. One of those socks now sits in the Baseball Hall of Fame, despite Schilling not being elected into Cooperstown as of yet.

Famous Home: Dolly’s House, located on the infamous Creek Street, allows visitors to see how Alaska’s best known prostitute lived and operated her business. Dolly Arthur came to Ketchikan in 1919 and remained at her home long after the brothels were banned, passing away in 1975, at the age of 87.

Urban Legend: Since 1988, it’s estimated that more than 16,000 people have disappeared in an area known as the Alaska Triangle. The region, which consists of a sizeable chunk of the state, is comprised of mostly unexplored land, from forests to mountain ranges to frozen tundras. Usual suspects, such as Bigfoot and UFOs have received their fair share of blame for the disappearances, along with a creature known as Otterman (half man, half otter, all cute). The Triangle first gained notoriety in 1972, when two politicians (one the House Majority Leader at the time) an aide and their pilot vanished into thin air over the zone.

Museum: The Saloons that dot the Alaskan map, such as the Red Onion in Skagway and Red Dog in Juneau, are home to interactive and educational experiences, while patrons are also able to enjoy a drink and bite to eat. The Red Onion offers brothel and walking city tours, while the Red Dog displays Wyatt Earp’s gun, among other memorabilia.

Dolly's House

Firsts: Completed in 1942, the Alaska-Canada Military Highway was the first stable link between Alaska and the rest of the U.S. The highway stretched all the way to Great Falls, Montana.

Company: Ironically, Alaska Air is not based in the state, but Santa Claus House is. The retail store, located in North Pole, was first a trading post and post office, before becoming a gift shop. The store, whose slogan is “Where it’s Christmas Every Day!”, is also home to the world’s largest Santa statue and receives thousands of letters each year, addressed to the jolly gift giver.

Events: In 1867, the U.S. purchased Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million in gold (approximately two cents per acre). Americans called the deal, negotiated by Secretary of State William Seward, “Seward’s folly”. Five years later, gold was discovered in Sitka, with other locations to follow. In 1959, Alaska became the 49th state of the union and nearly 10 years later, oil was discovered. That’s quite the return on your investment!

Miscellaneous: Alaska’s State Flag was designed by 13-year-old Benny Benson, in 1927. His submission for a contest open to kids in grades seven to 12, featuring the Big Dipper and North Star in gold on a blue background, was selected from 142 contenders.

Midnight Sun

Midnight Sun

  • Muddle Strawberries and Basil
  • 2 oz Vodka
  • Splash of Lemon Juice
  • Dash of Egg Whites
  • Garnish with a Strawberry

There are many variations of the Midnight Sun cocktail. I went with a recipe I found from the Alaskan Spirits distillery in Anchorage, making one change by muddling the basil, rather than making a basil-infused simple syrup. To be honest, I didn’t love this drink, but probably didn’t make it as well as Alaskan Spirits would.

Alabama – Yellowhammer

Each week, the Sip Advisor will alphabetically travel the United States, discovering the best each state has to offer in a variety of subjects. Today, we explore the Heart of Dixie, Alabama, for a dose of southern hospitality:

Motto: “We dare defend our rights” – That’s as intimidating as “Don’t mess with Texas”.

Food: The pecan is the State Nut of Alabama, therefore, pecan pie is a fixture. Other more unique dishes include Chicken with White Barbecue Sauce and Fried Green Tomatoes, although the latter can be found across the southern U.S.

Drink: One of the most famous drinks the world over is the Alabama Slammer, comprised of Amaretto, Southern Comfort, Sloe Gin and Orange Juice. The cocktail is thought to have been invented at the University of Alabama in the late 1960’s/early 1970’s, first as a shooter, before becoming a full-size beverage.

Pecan Pie

Site to See: If you have a need for speed, the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, celebrates America’s space program. There’s also the Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, of course, where many memorable NASCAR moments have occurred.

Street: For a measure of reflection, 16th Street in Birmingham is home to the Civil Rights National Monument and Civil Rights Institute, located across the street from the 16th Street Baptist Church. The area is known as the Civil Rights District, the epicenter of so much history for not only the state, but the country as a whole.

TV Show: The only TV show of note to be set in Alabama is ‘Hart of Dixie’, which I’ve never seen. The series lasted four seasons and 76 episodes and was about a doctor named Zoe Hart, who dreams of being a heart surgeon. When that falls through, she takes her talents to the fictional town of Bluebell to be a general practitioner.

Movie: Numerous movies have been set in Alabama, but my favourite of the bunch is Forrest Gump, which sees the titular character born and raised in Greenbow, as well as become a football star at the University of Alabama, before setting off on his adventures around the world.

Forrest Gump

Book/Author: Few folks leave their education days without reading ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee. The story takes place in the fictional location of Maycomb, which was loosely based on Lee’s hometown of Monroeville. The book tackles Alabama’s race issues of the 1930’s, with the main trial plot said to be inspired by an amalgamation of real-life events.

Fictional Character: While the Sip Advisor loves Forrest Gump, I have to choose folk hero John Henry in this category. Henry, a steel-driver, raced against a steam-powered rock drilling machine to create a tunnel for the railroad, dying as he completed his task and beat out his mechanical opponent. Dwayne Johnson has been tabbed to play Henry in an upcoming Netfilx film.

Fictional City: Since we’ve already highlighted Maycomb from To Kill a Mockingbird, let’s give some attention to Whistle Stop from the novel/movie, Fried Green Tomatoes. Whistle Stop was used by Alabaman Fannie Flagg, who based her setting on Irondale and its Irondale Café.

Actor/Actress: Magic Mike himself, Channing Tatum, hails from Cullman. For the ladies, Oscar winner Octavia Spencer was born in Montgomery and graduated from Auburn University.

Channing Tatum

Song: Hands down, the most iconic song associated with the state is ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ by Lynyrd Skynyrd. The rock anthem was written in counter to Neil Young’s ‘Southern Man’ and ‘Alabama’, which took the state to task for its history of slavery and racism.

Band/Musician: Having seen him in concert, I have to give the nod here to Lionel Richie, from Tuskegee. It should also be noted that FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, is one of the most famous recording studios in the world, used by the likes of Aretha Franklin, The Rolling Stones and others.

People: Rosa Parks, also born in Tuskegee, became one of the key faces of the Civil Rights Movement, when she refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger and was arrested for the act. Parks had sat in a row meant for black passengers, but when the bus filled and some white passengers were forced to stand, the driver moved the sign back and demanded black passengers vacate their spots.

Animal: Miss Baker was a squirrel monkey from Peru, who was one of two animals to be the first sent into space and survive, in 1959. Miss Baker would be moved to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in 1971 and live out the rest of her life there, dying in 1984 at the age of 27. Prior to her death, Miss Baker was recognized as the oldest living squirrel monkey. She was buried on the grounds of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center and inducted into the Alabama Animal Hall of Fame in 2005.

sweet-home-alabama.png

Invention: Despite important inventions such as the hearing aid, windshield wipers and air bags, Alabama’s greatest creation offered to the world has to be the Super Soaker. Invented by Lonnie Johnson, an engineer and former NASA employee from Mobile, the product was originally dubbed the Power Drencher, upon debuting in 1990. The Super Soaker is a member of the National Toy Hall of Fame, inducted in 2015, with lifetime sales nearing $1 billion. Johnson had to sue for underpaid royalties in 2013 and was awarded $73 million.

Crime: In 1963, the 16th Street Baptist Church was the site of a deadly bombing, killing four African-American girls (aged 11-14) and injuring 22 others. It took more than a decade for one of the four bombers to be convicted. Two others were finally tried and sentenced in the early 2000’s, while another died in 1994, never being charged with the hate crime. The bombing actually backfired against the Ku Klux Klan members who committed the attack, as support for the Civil Rights Movement increased afterwards, leading to the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Law: Despite being the first state to celebrate Mardi Gras, it is illegal to use both plastic confetti and silly string. You’d think Alabamans were party people.

Sports Team: In Alabama, it’s all about college football, with the University of Alabama Crimson Tide and Auburn University Tigers competing for the hearts of fans across the state. Their rivalry, existing since 1893, is known as the Iron Bowl, with games traditionally played during Thanksgiving weekend.

Football

Athlete: Alabama’s greatest sporting influence can be seen in baseball, with a host of legends hailing from the state. Among them, are icons such as Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Willie McCovey, and Satchel Paige. Track and field star Jesse Owens, famous for his defiant performance at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin in front of Adolf Hitler and other Nazis, also called Alabama home.

Famous Home: The Helen Keller Home (aka Ivy Green), is where the future activist learned to overcome her disabilities of being both deaf and blind. Located in Tuscumbia, the home now houses a museum and presents performances of The Miracle Worker – the play based on Keller’s autobiography – every summer.

Urban Legend: Dead Children’s Playground, located in Huntsville’s Maple Hill Cemetery, is said to be haunted by the spirits of children. In 2007, the original playground was demolished to make room for more graves. Due to public protest, another playground was built on the site. Swings are reported to rock on their own and the voices of children can be heard playing.

Museum: The Drive-Thru Museum in Seale, allows visitors to view works of art, set up in shipping containers with one wall removed, without ever having to leave the comfort of their vehicle. I have to ask: is there a speed limit folks must abide by, or can they peruse the works at their own pace, potentially causing traffic jams?

Helen-Keller

Firsts: On February 16, 1968, small town Haleyville received the very first 911 call made in the U.S. They’re so proud of the accomplishment, they’ve encased the rotary phone that took the call and have it on display at city hall.

Company: While no notable companies (for the Sip Advisor, at least) have their headquarters in Alabama, it should be noted the Unclaimed Baggage Center can be found in the state. On a daily basis, thousands of items are added to the store’s inventory, coming from deserted airline luggage. Each year, one million customers visit Scottsboro to search for deals, with items sold at a discount between 20-80 per cent.

Events: The American Civil War and Civil Rights Movement have largely defined Alabama over its existence. Montgomery was the capital of the Confederate States of America and also the site of Rosa Parks arrest in 1955, as well as being the terminus for civil rights marches originating from Selma.

Miscellaneous: The infamous Confederate Flag was designed and first flown in Alabama.

Yellowhammer

Yellowhammer

  • 1 oz Vodka
  • 1 oz Light Rum
  • 1 oz Amaretto
  • Top with Pineapple Juice
  • Splash of Orange Juice
  • Garnish with a Cherry

The Yellowhammer is the State Bird of Alabama (also giving Alabama the nickname Yellowhammer State). The drink is a favourite among Crimson Tide fans, who are known to buy the secret recipe cocktail in droves at Gallettes bar, located near the University of Alabama stadium and where the drink was invented. I enjoyed the beverage, despite generally steering away from concoctions using fruit juices.