Russia – Red October

From Russia with Love

The KGB (Komitet Gosudarstvennoi Bezopasnosti… or Committee for State Security) is one of the most recognizable secret service and intelligence agencies to ever exist. It served throughout the Cold War, from 1954 to 1991, specializing in espionage, surveillance, border patrol, and political control. Here are some of the most infamous spies to work for the organization:

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg

This American couple were executed for relaying information regarding atomic bombs to the U.S.S.R. Ethel’s brother David Greenglass was also part of the conspiracy, but only served 10 years of a 15 year prison sentence. There is some doubt as to the extent of Ethel’s involvement in the treason, but that didn’t stop the electric chair switch from being flipped on June 19, 1953.

soviet propaganda kgb

Aldrich Ames

Due to an expensive divorce and living a lifestyle beyond his means, Ames, a CIA counterintelligence officer, began selling secrets to the KGB and by the time he was arrested in 1993, had compromised the second most CIA assets ever. For his crimes, which resulted in the deaths of at least 10 operatives and ruined at least 100 operations, Ames received a term of life imprisonment.

Richard Sorge

Working undercover as a journalist in both Germany and Japan, Sorge played a critical role in the outcome of World War II. After informing Russia that Japan did not have plans to attack the country in 1941, Russia was able to reposition their troops to better battle the Germans on the western front, as they tried to take Moscow. Sorge was arrested in Japan shortly after these messages and hung in 1944.

Alexander Litvinenko

Litvinenko is perhaps most remembered for how he died, poisoned by polonium-210, and succumbing to the deadly toxin in November 2006. An investigation in the United Kingdom – where Litvinenko had been living after fleeing Russia and being granted asylum – produced a suspect in Andrei Lugovoy, a member of Russia’s Federal Protective Service, although others have been alleged to have played a part in Litvinenko’s death.

in_soviet_russia

Oleg Lyalin

After being arrested in the United Kingdom for drunk driving, Lyalin decided that he’d had enough of the spy life and defected from the KGB, outing 105 U.S.S.R. spies in the process, the largest action taken against the Soviet Union by a western government. Lyalin was rewarded with a new identity and life (with his secretary mistress!) and remained in hiding for more than 20 years, until his death in February 1995.

Vasily Mitrokhin

Mitrokhin was a former First Chief Directorate of the KGB. When the Soviet Union came to an end in 1991, Mitrokhin defected to Latvia, bringing with him detailed information on operations carried out by the KGB, dating as far back as the 1930’s… he was the senior archivist for the intelligence service, after all. He released a series of works, dubbed the Mitrokhin Archives, which discuss much of what the KGB did during its existence.

Russia: Red October

Red October Cocktail

  • 1.5 oz Beluga Vodka
  • 0.75 oz Port
  • Splash of Lemon Juice
  • Dash of Simple Syrup
  • Garnish with Orange Slice

Hell, even current Russian president Vladimir Putin served with the KGB during the 1980’s, holding low-level positions in what was East Germany. Now he runs a country and has amassed a massive fortune in the process. Looks like things worked out pretty well for him.

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
The Port was supposed to float on top of the rest of the cocktail, but it didn’t really behave as it was meant to. That could have been due to the way I poured it, the ice in the drink or even the type of glassware I used. That said, the drink was quite delicious, with notes of sweet and sour mixing in harmony.

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India – Pitch Dark

Father of a Nation

I could never go on a hunger strike. I love food and enjoy eating way too much to ever stop. Plus, I really don’t care about anything passionately enough to drop my utensils and lose inches from my waistline. In this way (and many others), Mahatma Gandhi and I differ. Gandhi, striving for the independence of India and looking to achieve it through non-violent means, advocated for social disobedience, as opposed to baring arms. Let’s learn a little more about the Father of India:

Mahatma isn’t actually Gandhi’s first name, as that is an honour that was bestowed upon him as early as 1914. It means “High-Souled” or “Venerable” in Sanskrit. He has also received the title Bapu, which translates to “Father” or “Papa” in Gujurati. Ghandi’s actual given name is Mohandas.

Hunger Games

At the young age of 13, Ghandi was married to Kasturba Makanji. Of course, the nuptials were of the arranged variety, as the two had been engaged to one another from the age of seven. The two stayed together through four children and even Gandhi’s vow of celibacy, until Makanji died in 1944 at the age of 74.

Ghandi was hardly on the path to lead an entire nation as a youngster. He was so shy that he would run home from school every day, just to avoid speaking to anyone. Gandhi actually spoke English with a slight Irish accent, as one of his first teachers was from Ireland.

It was in South Africa, not India, that Ghandi first gained a reputation as a fighter for social justice. A lawyer by trade, Ghandi found work in the British- and Dutch-controlled country, where discrimination against Indians was rampant. Ghandi joined the cause for improved civil rights for Indians in South Africa, also developing his theory of “Satyagraha” (“Firmness in Truth”) and nonviolent protest. Ghandi was arrested multiple times before leaving the state in 1914 and returning to India to fight for India’s independence.

Ghandi loved to walk, which served him well for the Salt March of 1930, a 241 mile trek to the sea at Dandi. This was one of Gandhi’s most important actions on his rise to power and was triggered by the British levying a tax on salt. More than 60,000 Indians were arrested for their involvement with the protest.

Gandhi - Yoda

On January 30, 1948, Gandhi was shot three times in the chest by a fellow Hindu, Nathuram Godse. Godse was upset by Gandhi’s acceptance of a plan to split India into two separate countries: India and Pakistan, feeling the leader catered to Pakistan too much. Godse was hung for his crime on November 15, 1949, along with co-conspirator Narayan Apte. Ironically, on the day of his death, the extremely punctual Ghandi was 10 minutes late for a prayer meeting. Following his death, Gandhi’s ashes were spread throughout the India, with one urn now residing at the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine in Los Angeles (this would mark Gandhi’s only trip to North America).

Nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize five times, Gandhi never received the award. He was being considered again in 1948, the year he was assassinated. That year, no Peace Prize was handed out, with the Nobel committee announcing that there was “no suitable living candidate.” Later winners of the Peace Prize, Martin Luther King Jr., Aung San SuuKyi, Nelson Mandela, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, and the 14th Dalai Lama all credited Gandhi as an inspiration. The Gandhi Peace Prize has been given out by the Indian government a total of 13 times since 1995, with Mandela being a former recipient.

Gandhi was named Time Magazine’s ‘Man of the Year’ in 1930 and was runner-up to Albert Einstein for ‘Person of the Century.’ Gandhi’s birthday of October 2nd has been granted the distinction of being ‘International Day of Nonviolence,’ while his death date of January 30th has become ‘School Day of Nonviolence and Peace.’

A movie based on Gandhi’s life was released in 1982. The film starred Ben Kingsley (aka The Sexy Beast) as the activist and politician. Gandhi won eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor in a Leading Role for Kingsley. An interesting upcoming work called Welcome Back Gandhi will look at how Gandhi might approach modern day India and its issues.

Ghandi Super

Gandhi is a character in the cartoon Clone High, which takes numerous historical figures and puts them back in a high school being run as a secret U.S. government operation. He is joined by the likes of Abraham Lincoln, Joan of Arc, John F. Kennedy, Cleopatra, Genghis Khan, Julius Caesar, and others. This version of Gandhi, however, is a party animal, as opposed to the real Gandhi, a fact which upset Indians when they learned of the short-lived series.

After being influenced by Leo Tolstoy’s book, ‘The Kingdom of God is Within You,’ Ghandi became pen pals of sorts with the Russian author. Similarly, Henry Ford was an admirer of Gandhi and Gandhi even took the time to send Ford an autographed charkha. One other interesting note: the same carriage that held Gandhi’s body for his funeral was used again nearly 50 years later, in 1997, for Mother Teresa’s memorial.

India: Pitch Dark

Pitch Dark Cocktail

I was going to discuss India’s reputation as a call center hub, but I got put on hold and went in the Gandhi direction, instead. In his honour, I will have a massive feast tonight and pour one out for my homies!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
It was quite difficult finding recipes specifically for Royal Challenge Whiskey. This is a pretty plain and simple cocktail, but it was one of the better drinks I could find that utilizes this specific whiskey. It was a good cocktail and exactly what you’d expect from the classic combination of ingredients. I only wish that more options for Royal Challenge existed.

Austria – Green Tear

Not Just a Band

When Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated on June 28, 1914, he had absolutely no clue what his murder would instigate. Despite being the major catalyst for the first World War, this Austrian ruler is a largely forgotten footnote in history. Thankfully, the Sip Advisor is here to teach and while sipping a glass of the country’s fine schnaps, here is a little information on ol’ ‘Double F’ and the tragedy that would change the world!

First World War Problems

Growing Up

Ferdinand and his family lived by the motto: “Good Habsburgs (his family lineage), Good Catholics, and Good Austrians”… that just doesn’t have the same ring to it as “A Lannister always pays their debts.”

At the age of 11, Ferdinand found himself one of the wealthiest men in Austria, after his cousin Duke Francis V died and named Franz his heir on the condition that he add the name Este to his own. Hell, to become one of the wealthiest men in Austria, I’d tattoo the name Este on my member! Rumour has it Ferdinand also had to spend one night in a haunted house, but many are skeptical of this account.

Ferdinand may have never found himself the heir to the Austria-Hungary throne had it not been for his cousin Prince Rudolf (aged 30) committing suicide with his 17-year-old mistress in 1889. Karl Ludwig, Ferdinand’s father, became second in line behind Franz Josef, but quickly renounced the position and passed the rights down to his son.

Throne of Games

As a youngster, Ferdinand spent very little time in Austria, often travelling the world searching for cures to his never-ending stream of illnesses.

Ferdinand’s relationship with the citizens of Austria was always strained due to his lack of time spent within the country’s borders and the feeling that he was an outsider. And not one of those cool greaser outsiders like Patrick Swayze, Emilio Estevez, or Matt Dillon. He still managed to somehow stay gold, though.

An avid hunter, Ferdinand always made sure to schedule at least one hunting trip as part of any official travel for the Empire. He kept a running tab of his hunting exploits and stories state that he killed 2140 birds in one day. My belief is that he wanted to assemble an army of undead animals to do his bidding.

Ferdinand was passionate about landscaping outdoors and interior design inside and was constantly on the lookout for a property in need of fixing up. He could be considered one of the world’s first home flippers. Ferdinand’s eclectic tastes also helped him build a great antique collection, which included 3750 pieces of St. George and the Dragon. Clearly, he had a thing for slaying mythical beasts.

slain da dragon

Finding Love

Women always have a way of muddling things up and that was no different for Ferdinand. His wife Sophie was from a lower social class and even though Franz Josef stated he would not consent to Franz and Sophie’s marriage, the two wed on June 28, 1900. The catch was that Sophie could never receive an official royal title and their children could not succeed Ferdinand as ruler. As a result, Sophie rarely appeared in public beside her husband.

Franz and Sophie had three children: Sophie (I guess you’d call her junior), Maximilian (a name which I hope to bring back to present day popularity), and Ernst (a name which I have no joke to deploy upon).

Sophie was finally allowed to accompany Franz on official business for the empire for his trip to Bosnia in June 1914. The end of the visit would also mark their 14th wedding anniversary. The couple arrived in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, which is also St. Vitus Day, commemorating the Battle of Kosovo in 1389.

cat-battle

Surprise Attack

The Battle of Kosovo made a martyr out of Milos Obilic, who snuck into the Ottoman Sultan’s tent and killed him before receiving the same fate himself.

Serbians viewed the Austria-Hungary Empire as their new oppressors and there had been other attempted attacks on high-ranking Austria-Hungary members before Ferdinand’s death.

The Black Hand (must have caught a case of gangrene), which carried out the assassination of Franz and Sophie were also responsible for the murders of King Alexander and Queen Draga of Serbia. This act of treachery was committed while the two were together in bed… what a way to go!

Death Sting

First, a grenade was hurled at Ferdinand’s procession by Nedlejko Cabrinovic, but it detonated behind his vehicle and he was not harmed. While any normal person would halt their little parade there, Ferdinand was urged to continue by General Oskar Potiorek who asked, “What, do you think my city is full of assassins?”

Ferdinand insisted that if the trip continued, only major routes should be used and no side streets… unfortunately his own driver was never delivered this message. When the driver took the first schedule turn, there was assassin Gavrilo Princip, waiting for him. Princip had earlier tried to get a shot in at Ferdinand and when he couldn’t retreated to the side street in dejection.

Princip fired only two shots, one into Franz’s neck, the other into Sophie’s stomach. Both proved to be fatal. Ferdinand’s final words to his wife were “’Don’t die! Stay alive for our children!”

Assassination

The Aftermath

Princip and his fellow assassins were rounded up and put on trial. Because he was under the age of 20, Princip did not receive the death penalty and was instead sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. Princip died in his jail cell on April 28, 1918 from tuberculosis. His illness was so bad that his right arm was amputated before his death.

Upon Franz’s assassination, the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, etc.) declared war on Serbia, drawing Serbia’s allies (the UK, Russia, France, etc.) into the fray and creating the first World War.

The 1911 Gräf & Stift Double Phaeton automobile, which carried Franz and Sophie during their fateful procession, is now displayed at the Museum of Military History in Vienna. It’s no Batmobile, but it has its own place in history. The pistol used by Princip, as well as the clothing Ferdinand died in are also displayed at the museum.

Future Museums

The bullet that killed Ferdinand, sometimes referred to as “the bullet that started World War I” is part of an exhibit at Konopiště Castle in the Czech Republic.

Franz and Sophie are buried at Arstetten Castle in Austria. In memoriam, Austria-Hungary released a commemorative stamp featuring the couple. One day there will be a Sip Advisor stamp tribute that will taste like schnaps with each lick!

Austria: Green Tear

Green Tear Cocktail

  • 1 oz Mata Hari Absinthe
  • Top with Cranberry Juice
  • Splash of Tonic Water
  • Garnish with a Lemon Slice

Well, that wraps up our stay here in Austria. It should be noted that the country can also claim to be home to famous world citizens like Sigmund Freud, Adolf Hitler, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. That would be an interesting table to sit at for a dinner party!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3.5 Sips out of 5):
Well, as you can see, the drink is certainly not green. On the plus side, this was a really decent Absinthe cocktail. I think the combo of Cranberry Juice and Tonic Water is perfect to go along with the very bitter Absinthe. If you’re weary of the hallucinogenic spirit, give this recipe a try and your mind may be changed for the long run!

July 18 – Rasputin Cocktail

Idol Worship

Throughout my life, I have found myself fascinated by certain individuals. People whose life stories intrigue me and make me want to actually “learn” more about them and their history. I wouldn’t say that these people are idols of mine, but they are extremely interesting folks, with tales that tend to captivate the masses.

Steve Jobs

While I’m not the biggest fan of Apple and its products (seriously, how annoying is the iTunes interface and non-compatibility?), I find Steve Jobs, the company’s founder and later saviour, to be a captivating case study. He lived a short life, but made the most of his time on earth. We can credit Jobs with so many innovations, from home computers, virtually every device with an ‘i’ in front of it, and even Pixar movies, the company he grew between his Apple stints.

Steve Jobs

Walt Disney

As a massive fan of Disneyland, I pay much homage to the man who first imagined the concept and then put his dream into work, jeopardizing everything he had built to that point, from reputation to life savings to his studio to his physical well-being. Every time I’m privileged to be in one of his parks (and particularly one that serves alcohol), I’m sure to say a little thanks to the legend and have a drink in his honour.

Ric Flair

For those who read my blog regularly, by now you should know that no Sip Adivsor list would be complete without a wrestling reference. This man styled and profiled his way to wrestling greatness and in the process lived the extravagant lifestyle of his on-screen character. Flair has been married (and divorced) four times and suffered great financial losses from bad investments, legal issues, and a lifetime of partying. Still, the ‘Nature Boy’ keeps ticking, making occasional appearances in the ring and still delighting fans with his over-the-top charisma and energy.

ric_flair

Rasputin

The amazing story of the assassination of Grigori Rasputin is one that first caught my attention in my high school history class. Now that I’ve actually visited Russia and been inside the room where his murder took place, I’m even more enthralled with the legend. For those who don’t know the details, Rasputin was poisoned, shot, stabbed and beaten, before being thrown into the frozen Neva River. Evidence later showed that water was in his lungs when his body was discovered, meaning he was still alive when thrown into his watery grave and likely succumbed to drowning.

Jimmy Stewart

Did you know that the It’s a Wonderful Life star was also a highly-decorated United States military pilot (the only actor to receive a higher ranking was Ronald Reagan, when he became president of the United States and commander-in-chief)? So, not only is Stewart one of my favourite actors, but you have to respect a guy that went to war throughout an acclaimed acting career.

Drink #199: Rasputin Cocktail

July 18

  • 2 oz Russian Vodka (I used Beluga)
  • 1 oz Frangelico
  • Garnish with Lemon Twist

One more person who fascinates me, is myself. I often ponder my own existence and I’m blown away with what I’ve accomplished and continue to achieve. I’m a wrecking ball of awesomeness, steamrolling the lame, and making this world a better place, one cocktail at a time!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4.5 Sips out of 5):
I didn’t think I’d like this cocktail as much as I did. The Frangelico was nice and not overwhelming. I split half of the Vodka portion of the recipe between Plain Vodka and Raspberry Vodka and that accentuated the entire cocktail.

March 16 – Dead Man Walking

Last Rites

If you were on your death bed (sweet lady liquor forbid), what would you say? Here are some of the best last words I’ve been able to find, as inspiration for my own prepared statement:

famous-last-words

“One last drink, please?” – Jack Daniel, famous whiskeyteer

The living legend just wanted one last taste of his own whiskey. Unfortunately the wonderful JD Honey Whiskey hadn’t been made yet, as that would certainly have sent him off on the right note. Daniel died from blood poisoning after a toe infection from kicking his safe when he couldn’t remember the combination. Ironically, as told on tours of his distillery, had he dipped his toe in his patented whiskey, he likely would have survived.

“Tomorrow, I shall no longer be here.” – Nostradamus, prediction master

Talk about calling your shot. A pretty ballsy move to say the least. If he had lived even two more days, he would have gone down in history as a sketchy heretic, only correct with a percentage of his forecasts. As it stands, Nostradamus is revered because he was even able to foretell his own demise.

“Hey, fellas! How about this for a headline for tomorrow’s paper? ‘French Fries’!” – James French, insane murderer

Mr. French shouted this to press members and other witnesses to his execution. I gotta admit, it’s a pretty funny line, but it really shows just how psychotic the dude was. I guess you have to give him some style points, but his landing was a little botched.

“Hurry up, you Hoosier bastard, I could kill ten men while you’re fooling around!” – Carl Panzram, serial killer

Death row inmates are lucky in that their final words will always be recorded. Once again, though, this guy proved his head really belonged in the noose. What did he have against Hoosiers anyway… that’s a good movie.

When I die I want my last words to be...

“No, you certainly can’t.” – John F. Kennedy, El Presidente

This was President Kennedy’s reply to Nellie Connally, the wife of Texas Governor John Connally, when she stated, “You certainly can’t say that the people of Dallas haven’t given you a nice welcome, Mr. President.” I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more ironic outcome.

“I should have asked for a stunt double!” – Vic Morrow, unlucky actor

Morrow was killed while filming an elaborate stunt scene for Twilight Zone: The Movie, when a helicopter crashed and tragically decapitated himself and a child actor, while also crushing another child. Sadly, Morrow thought his statement was just a joke, but instead it came true.

“I should never have switched from scotch to martinis.” – Humphey Bogart, actor extraordinaire

It is scientifically proven that scotch keeps you alive longer than martinis… ol’ Bogie here might have been onto something. I think the key is to continue drinking both and then you have all options covered!

Drink #75: Dead Man Walking

Dead Man Walking Absinthe Shooter

I’ve decided that my final words – I’ve always been a planner – will be: “This is the song that never ends, yes it goes on and on, my friends…” and then I’ll just keep singing and living forever, only taking breaks to down another cocktail. Not a bad plan, eh!?

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3.5 Sips out of 5):
The Absinthe Week shot was supposed to be something different, but on the fly I switched to this recipe and it was pretty good. The name is perfect to match the taste and Mrs. Sip caught a perfect photo of the gold flakes within the shooter.