Virginia – Lover’s 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. This week, we enter federal government territory with our exploration of Virginia. The Old Dominion is home to the Pentagon, the CIA and other agencies, so we’ll have to keep things to a dull roar:

Motto: “Thus always to tyrants” – Apparently, this was said by John Wilkes Booth after shooting President Abraham Lincoln. You’d think that would necessitate a change in slogan.

Food: Smithfield Ham (aka Virginia Ham) has protected designation status, meaning only hams that come from Smithfield and are processed, treated, smoked and cured a specific way can be called Smithfield Hams. It was among the first exports of the U.S. There’s also Brunswick Stew and Peanut Soup to round out Virginia-based delicacies.

Drink: The State Spirit of Virginia is George Washington’s Rye Whiskey, which is produced at the first president’s reconstructed distillery at his Mount Vernon home (more on that later). The whiskey’s recipe was previously used by Washington in the late 1700’s and production made the distillery the largest in the country. The whiskey now sells in limited edition batches.

Smithfield Ham

Site to See: A somber, but popular attraction in Virginia is the Arlington National Cemetery, containing the remains of soldiers from wars America has been involved with, beginning with the Civil War. It’s here that visitors can find the graves of President John F. Kennedy, astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Street: Skyline Drive, which runs through the Blue Ridge Mountains for the entire length of Shenandoah National Park, is a 105-mile route offering spectacular views of the Shenandoah Valley and Piedmont. It also allows access to hiking, biking and horseback riding trails. The road is a National Scenic Byway and National Historic Landmark.

TV Show: Two Seth McFarlane shows are set in Virginia, American Dad and The Cleveland Show. Anyone who truly gets the Sip Advisor knows both these series are among my all-time favourites, thanks to characters such as Roger Smith, Klaus Heisler, Cleveland Brown and his drinking buddies, Rallo Tubbs, and many others. Sadly, The Cleveland Show only lasted four seasons, but American Dad is still going strong with over 300 episodes.

Movie: So many movies have scenes that take place in Virginia, thanks to the federal government agencies located there. Two Disney movies completely set in the state are the animated Pocahontas, led by the voice work of Irene Bedard, Mel Gibson and David Ogden Stiers, and live action Remember the Titans, starring Denzel Washington.

Pocahontas

Book/Author: Ellen Glasgow was born in Richmond. She published 20 books over her lifetime, five of which ranked on best-seller lists. Her most notable work was In This Our Life, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1942. The same year, the book was adapted into a film, starring Hollywood leads Bette Davis and Olivia de Havilland as the story’s sisters.

Fictional Character: I’ve always enjoyed Cleveland Brown, dating back to his early days on Family Guy. With his own show, Cleveland was expanded even further and came into his own, with his own zany adventures. Not even the cancellation of The Cleveland Show and a voice actor change can keep the man down, as he and the rest of the Brown-Tubbs family have relocated back to Family Guy.

Fictional City: For this category, we go back to American Dad and The Cleveland Show, which are set in Langley Falls and Stoolbend, respectively. Both places have their pros and cons, making it a tough choice if I had to pick one to live in. Langley Falls combines the communities of Langley and Great Falls, while Stoolbend was inspired by Richmond, where co-creator Mike Henry was raised.

Actor/Actress: ‘America’s Sweetheart’ Sandra Bullock was born in Arlington. She won a Best Actress Oscar for The Blind Side and has also starred in movies such as Speed, Gravity and Ocean’s 8. Bullock is one of the most bankable stars in the industry, with films grossing over $5.3 billion worldwide. As a result, she is also one of the most powerful women in entertainment.

Cleveland Brown

Song: Virginia Moon by the Foo Fighters is an ode to the state where frontman Dave Grohl was raised and still lives, his basement converted to a recording studio. Singer and pianist Norah Jones joined the band for the track, thanks to her background in jazz and ability to mesh with Grohl. The song was nominated for a Grammy for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals.

Band/Musician: A tough category to narrow down, with options such as Ella Fitzgerald, Missy Elliott, Pharrell Williams, June Carter Cash, the Dave Matthews Band, Jason Mraz, and Wayne Newton. Fitzgerald gets the edge as a result of the walls she had to breakdown during her career, earning her nicknames such as the First Lady of Song and Queen of Jazz.

People: Political allies and friends George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were born in Popes Creek and Shadwell, respectively. Both were instrumental in separating from the British, with Washington would become the first President of the United States and Jefferson not far behind as the third President. Both men are carved into the Mount Rushmore National Monument.

Animal: Secretariat, one of the most popular and successful thoroughbred racehorses of all-time, was born in Virginia in 1970. Secretariat would go on to win the 1973 Triple Crown, setting speed records in each of the three races. Secretariat’s days as a stud produced daughters who would sire many notable champions. A 2010 Disney live action film about the horse was critically and financially successful.

George Washington

Invention: The Foil Electret Microphone, which is used in 90 percent of products, including telephones, video cameras, baby monitors, hearing aids and other devices, was invented by James Edward Maceo West. West, who was born in Farmville, holds many other patents related to microphones and is still going strong at age 89, developing a gadget to diagnose pneumonia in infants.

Crime: Virginia has been home to a number of mass murders, including the 9/11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon, the Virginia Tech massacre and the Virginia Beach shooting. The Pentagon attack killed 184 people (including 59 aboard the plane), while the shootings at Virginia Tech (the deadliest school shooting in the U.S.) and Virginia Beach resulted in 32 and 12 deaths, respectively.

Law: In Virginia, it is illegal to hunt wild animals on a Sunday, except for raccoons. I have no clue why they are so against the beloved trash panda.

Sports Team: Virginia has no professional teams, but the state has made a number of attempts to gain one, including a failed bid for an NHL expansion team and the unsuccessful relocation of MLB squads. For now, they settle for supporting nearby franchises, such as the Washington Football Team (NFL) and Washington Capitals (NHL), who have headquarters and practice facilities in the state, but play elsewhere.

Microphone

Athlete: Tennis player Arthur Ashe won three of the four Grand Slam tournaments over his career, the only black man to win each. Ashe’s career was marred with medical issues, including a heart attack at age 36 and later contracting HIV through blood transfusions. He died in 1993 and was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, as well as having the US Open stadium named in his honour.

Famous Home: George Washington’s Mount Vernon and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello can be found in Virginia and are among the nation’s most famous homes. Both are National Historic Landmarks, while Monticello is a United Nations World Heritage site. I’ve personally been to Monticello and can understand why the estate appeared on a 1956 postage stamp.

Urban Legend: The Bunny Man legend is about a man wearing a bunny costume and attacking people with an axe in Fairfax County. The tale is based on two reports, occurring 10 days apart, in October 1970, regarding a man threatening people for trespassing. Other sightings have occurred since and as the legend has grown, people now flock to the area, particularly near Halloween.

Museum: Colonial Williamsburg is the world’s largest living history museum, transporting visitors back in time to the period of the American Revolution. Williamsburg was once the capital of Virginia and is where much activity in gaining independence from the British took place, involving patriotic icons such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and others.

Williamsburg

Firsts: Jamestown Settlement was the first permanent English settlement in North America, founded in 1607. 20 miles from Jamestown, the settlement of Berkeley Hundred is where the first Thanksgiving meal occurred in 1619 (two years before the Pilgrims held their own in Plymouth, Massachusetts). The first U.S. whiskey distillery was also established in Berkeley Hundred in 1621.

Company: Virginia is home to many federal government agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Transportation Security Administration (TSA). It is also the headquarters for the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and Five Guys, a favourite restaurant of the Sip Family.

Events: The surrenders ending both the American Revolution and Civil War each took place in Virginia. The Civil War, in particular, was largely fought in the state, with more than 2,000 military events and many major battles, as Richmond was the Confederate capital. A number of those battlefields have been preserved, although there have been efforts to remove Confederate monuments.

Miscellaneous: Another nickname for Virginia is Mother of Presidents. This is because eight U.S. Presidents were born in the state, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor, and Woodrow Wilson. Also, six U.S. First Lady’s hail from Virginia.

Lover’s Cocktail

Lover's Cocktail

  • 0.5 oz Vodka
  • 0.5 oz Limoncello
  • 0.5 oz Triple Sec
  • Top with Bubbly
  • Dash of Grenadine
  • Garnish with a Maraschino Cherry

This drink is a reference to Virginia’s tourism slogan ‘Virginia is for lovers’, which has been in use since 1969. The campaign was inducted into the Madison Avenue Advertising Walk of Fame in 2009 and listed by Forbes as one of the top 10 tourism marketing campaigns of all-time.

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.

Cuba – Frizzante Mojito

Castro Calamity

From the Great White North of Canada, we jet set our way to the Republic of Cuba. We have to leave via Canada because no flights from the U.S. go to the communist country. Speaking of communism, it has been discovered that the government of the United States tried to assassinate Fidel Castro an estimated 638 times, as they opposed the dictator’s rule. Here are some of the craziest plans they drew up!

Cartoon Violence

We’ve all seen the famous exploding cigar cartoon gag and apparently the CIA thought it was a pretty good idea, too. Heck, if Bugs Bunny can make it work, why couldn’t they. Castro was known to have a love of cigars (Cuban, of course), so why not slip an explosive one into his collection and let him light his own ending. The CIA also had a plan for cigars contaminated with botulin to be given to Castro, showing smoking definitely can kill!

Castro Cheating Death

Shaken, Not Stirred

As much as Castro loved his stogies, he also had a penchant for milkshakes, particularly the ones made at the Havana Hilton. Therefore, the CIA tried to poison his frosted treat. Apparently, the plan went awry when the deadly pill froze to the surface of where it was being held and when the would-be assassin tried to pry it loose, the capsule split and the poison was lost. According to longtime Castro bodyguard Fabian Escalante, this was the closest Castro came to meeting his maker.

PADI Certified

The Cuban Prime Minister was also an avid scuba diver and this factored into two attempts on his life. First, plans were hatched to give Castro a scuba suit infected with spores of tubercle bacilli. When that fell through, discussion turned to rigging a conch shell with explosives and placing it in one of the areas Castro frequented and favoured when diving.

Womanizer

In their attempt to oust Castro from power, the CIA even turned to some of his many mistresses, hoping they would be vengeful enough to kill the Latin lover. One, Marita Lorenz, even smuggled poison capsules into Castro’s bedroom, but they dissolved in the jar of cold cream they had been stashed in. According to Lorenz, when Castro learned of the plot, he handed her his gun and challenged her to shoot him… she couldn’t even do that.

cubanmissle

Bond Gadgets

If only things worked as well for the CIA as they always seem to for James Bond, thanks to gadget wizard Q. The CIA brainstormed such spy contraptions as a hypodermic needle inside a pen, with the hopes someone could get close enough to prick Castro and inject him with deadly toxins and get away with it. Speaking of deadly bacteria, there were also plans to give Castro an infected handkerchief, more commonly known as a snot rag.

Discredited

If they couldn’t kill him, the American government figured they could at least take him down a couple pegs and taint his image with Cubans. First, they strategized destroying his trademark beard with thallium salt, hoping this would make him look weak to citizens of the republic. Plans were also concocted to fill a radio station he was appearing on with LSD through an aerosol spray, hoping he would embarrass himself to the audience and lose their trust.

Cuba: Frizzante Mojito

Frizzante Mojito Drink Recipe

  • Muddle Mint Leaves
  • 1.5 oz Havana Club Rum
  • Top with Champagne
  • Splash of Lime Juice
  • Dash of Simple Syrup
  • Dashes of Angostura Bitters
  • Garnish with a Lime Wedge

Castro once joked about the assassination attempts: “If surviving assassination attempts were an Olympic event, I would win the gold medal.” If you have a clever way you would have used to eliminate the former Cuba leader, share it below. It can’t be any worse than some of the stuff the CIA and others actually tried!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
I have written before about my dislike of Champagne, but this recipe may change my wicked heart. I love Mojitos and it was fun to have the bubbles associated with Champagne as part of the traditional cocktail. The sweetness level can be changed with how much Simple Syrup you choose to add. The group I sampled this drink with preferred little to no sweetness and enjoyed the dryness of the cocktail.