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.

December 3 – Chocolate Peppermintini

Christmas Classics

Especially given it’s the winter months and the weather outside is frightful, it’s nice to snuggle up and watch a bevy of classic Christmas films. What should you include in your movie marathon? Ask and you shall receive. Here are my favourite Christmas flicks!

It’s a Wonderful Life

I absolutely adore this classic. And when you think about it, many of us might have never viewed the tale that has been copied and parodied so many times. It was never intended to be a “Christmas movie”, but that’s what it became. Jimmy Stewart is amazing throughout the movie (no surprise there, as the dude is actually an American hero) and his portrayal of George Bailey, who is too often in the wrong place at the wrong time, is one of the most treasured characters in cinema history.

Elf

The story of Buddy the Elf (Will Ferrell at his usual level of crazy!) searching out his father and integrating into the fast-paced world of New York City is a fun movie to get into the swing of things during the holidays. Buddy has to work hard to get the hardened folks of New York City, as well as the rest of the world to find their Christmas spirit, which powers Santa’s sleigh, of course. The film, which has material both kids and parents alike can enjoy, has even led to a Broadway musical.

Bad Santa

If you’ve been following this site for any period of time, you knew that a raunchier film was going to come up at some point… here it is! Billy Bob Thornton plays Willie T. Stokes, an alcoholic womanizer who roams from town to town as a mall Santa, staking out his place of occupation in order to rob the store before moving on to the next score. Things are different this time when he falls for a woman and a loner kid and decides to eventually change his ways.

A Christmas Carol/Scrooge

It’s hard to pick a version that is best to view, but my favourites include The Muppet version (no surprise there) and probably the edition with Alastair Sim playing the cranky curmudgeon. Like It’s a Wonderful Life, this is another Christmas tale that has been parodied constantly, as Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future, warning him that if he doesn’t change his ways, many will be affected and no one will care when his time on the earth is done.

Scrooge

Home Alone

While I’d caution folks who wish to view any of the movies past Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, the first two entries are cinematic gems. As a kid, you only wanted to see the last segments of the films, where plucky Kevin McCallister sends burglars Harry and Marv (The Wet Bandits) through his nightmarish house of horrors, but with age and wisdom, I’ve come to realize the movies are much more than that. They include a lot of wonderful Christmas imagery and are perfect holiday romps.

A Christmas Story

This movie is a family favourite around the Sip Advisor offices. The story sees young Ralphie embark on a quest to receive a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas. He runs into obstacles at every corner from his teacher giving him a poor grade on his essay on what he wants for Christmas to Santa Claus himself (a mall Santa that is) telling him he’ll shoot his eye out… and he nearly does in the end. TV network TBS has been known to broadcast the movie in a 24-hour cycle on Christmas day, so if you haven’t seen it yet, shame on you!

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

What a treasure this movie is. From Cousin Eddie’s antics to the misadventures of the hapless Clark Griswold, there are so many laughs in this film. Clark is looking to provide his family the perfect Christmas experience, much like the ones he enjoyed as a youngster. That all goes awry as the holiday becomes more of a nightmare with each incident, underscored by Clark’s uncertainty of whether his Christmas bonus will arrive and allow him to build a swimming pool for his clan.

shitter-was-full

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Some people crap on this flick, but I think it’s quite enjoyable. Thanks to the longer running time, not afforded to the cartoon special classic, we get a better understanding of why the Grinch hates Christmas and all the Who’s down in Whoville. Jim Carrey was the perfect choice to play the ‘mean one’ whose heart grew three times that day. This movie ushered in the chain of Dr. Suess stories to be adapted for feature films; some good, some bad… this is one of the good ones.

Die Hard & Die Hard 2: Die Harder

I’m a little disappointed that this series abandoned the Christmas time setting after the first two releases. This is for the action fan out there that wants only a sprinkle of the Christmas spirit in their movies. The first film begins with an office Christmas party that is invaded by terrorists while the sequel is set in an airport, as hero John McClane is waiting for his wife to arrive home for the holidays. Both movies are filled with shootouts, creative kills, and catchphrases galore!

Love, Actually

If you’re looking for a little more romance with your Christmas movie fare, give this film a try. It’s one of those “separate stories that all come together at the end” ensemble cast dealies, but it’s very good… even if Hugh Grant is a featured actor… a Prime Minister, no less. Set in Britain during the lead up to Christmas, the film sets out to prove that “Love, actually is all around us” and they hit the nail on the head through the interweaving narratives.

Drink #337: Chocolate Peppermintini

Chocolate Pepperminti Drink Recipe

  • Rim glass with Christmas Sprinkles
  • 1.5 oz Vodka (I used Smores)
  • 1 oz Peppermint Schnapps
  • 0.5 oz Crème de Cacao
  • 0.5 oz Chocolate Liqueur
  • Top with Milk

What are your favourite Christmas movie viewings? I’m always looking to add to my annual “To Watch” list, so send those ideas in!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3 Sips out of 5):
While not a bad drink, Mrs. Sip didn’t like how sweet it was. I enjoyed its booziness and flavours (I mean, who doesn’t like chocolate and mint together!), although using the Smores Vodka might have altered the taste and a plain Vodka may have been bettered suited for the recipe.