Sip Trips #2 – Best of 2014

Well, Mrs. Sip and I didn’t get up to too much this last week in the booze realm, including a rare well-behaved weekend. We did make time to enjoy a couple craft beers, including Unibroue’s La Resolution and Wychwood’s Bah Humbug. This does give me the opportunity to finally publish my Best of 2014 Drinking Nights article. Some of the memories are fuzzy, but they made for an amazing year. Since all drinking days/nights are wonderful, I will not be ranking these… they will merely be listed in order of occurrence!

#1: Dominican Republic

Sadly, I got sick a couple days after arriving in the Dominican, but the first two nights of all-inclusive partying for Mrs. Sip’s 30th birthday were tropical bliss!

#2: New York

Bourbon followed by as true a cab ride as you can have in New York. Our buzz was killed a little by a snafu with picking up our City Pass tickets, but that was merely a bump in the road on an otherwise awesome first visit to the Big Apple.

#3: Portland Beer & Wine Fest

One of the best booze events I’ve ever attended and we were even the happy recipients of a pile of free tokens. When we returned to our hotel, I ended up triple fisting a few drinks to take advantage of the complimentary happy hour and the party just kept going. Late at night, I was the sole survivor, heading out to pick the family up some Voodoo Doughnuts for the morning!

Portland Guide

#4: Edmonton Airport

One would normally think that being stuck in Edmonton for six hours would be tragic. But the city’s airport – or at least their International Terminal – has one of best selection of bars I’ve ever seen. We made a point of turning our layover into a pub crawl, which certainly helped with falling asleep on the plane from Edmonton to Reykjavik, Iceland!

#5: Hamburg Garden Party

While visiting Hamburg, Germany, a garden party provided the setting for a family reunion. The craft beers Mrs. Sip and I brought with us from Vancouver helped loosen everybody up and the well-stocked party (highlighted by a bottle of Jack Daniels that I made sweet love to) kept the festivities rocking through the night. A torrential downpour of rain couldn’t stop our revelry!

#6: Self-Guided Vancouver Brewery Tour Weekend

Ever the adventurers, Mrs. Sip and I decided to take ourselves on a tour of Vancouver’s best bars and breweries, with stops at the Alibi Room, Postmark Brewery/Urban Winery, Brandywine Bartending School, 33 Acres Brewery, and Brassneck Brewery. Our typical good fortune was emphasized when we arrived at 33 Acres Brewery just in time for their first anniversary party!

#7: Made with Love

While I have some reservations about liquor events, I have nothing but love for Made with Love. Mrs. Sip and I bought tickets to this all-inclusive craft cocktail competition, in part because it fell on our 2nd wedding anniversary and seemed like a wonderful way to celebrate the occasion… oh, how right we were!

Bartender Juice

#8: Las Vegas Strip Drinking

Given that entire trips to Las Vegas are booze-fueled, it’s hard to narrow down any one day to highlight, but this one does stick out in my memory. It all started with an innocent game of Battle Shots at the PBR Rock Bar and then featured Hyde Lounge, gambling wins, Cirque du Soleil: Zumanity, dueling pianos at New York, New York, and a host of things I probably can’t remember.

#9: Surprise Birthday

Imagine my surprise when we showed up for what was supposed to be a friend’s birthday brunch and it turned out that the whole thing was meant for little ol’ me! I wish someone had captured the look on my face when the realization set in. Mrs. Sip always seems to find a way to outdo herself!

#10: Birthday Cruise Embarkation

Before the ship even set sail, we were all pretty loose (the bucket of beers, bottle of wine, and cocktails may have helped with that!), which made for a very fun muster drill. I can say with complete conviction that I’ve had worse! 😉

#11: Dave & Busters

I absolutely love this place, having visited three different locations (Honolulu, New York, Anaheim) in the last year and a half. It’s so much fun to play all the games while having a full-service bar at your disposal. Of course, the day started with Disneyland drinking, before we moved on to the fun and games at D&B’s.

GIFSec.com

#12: Bellingham Visit

All I can say is thank god we had a driver (Pa Sip), because I was pretty fuzzy after our tasting at Boundary Bay Brewery and it certainly made for some interesting shopping.

#13: Canucks game in Anaheim

When your day begins with an upscale bar (Disneyland’s Carthay Lounge) and ends with a fun sports bar in JT Schmid’s, everything else in the middle must be pretty good. In between, was a day of drinking at the “Happiest Place on Earth,” including California beers, wine tasting, thrill rides, and even animation tutorials!

#14: Hawaii

To celebrate Ma Sip’s birthday, we began at the Kona Brewery for tour and tasters. Next up, was Huggo’s on the Beach, where happy hour was in full swing and we were only too happy to join!

Some honourable mentions include an earlier trip to Portland for some beer tourism; traversing the Hamburg Reeperbahn; and surviving the wild Marrakesh market square. After all, it’s always fun drinking in a country that discourages alcohol consumption and I make it a point of every voyage to foreign lands!

Dominican Republic – Brash Monk

Amazing Americas

Did you know that breaking out into a round of applause when a plane lands in the Dominican Republic is an enforceable law? If your answer is no, then you’re probably also unaware that Santo Domingo, the capital of the D.R., is the first city of the Americas and where Christopher Columbus landed in 1492 to create the first European settlement and Spain’s first capital across the pond. Here is that story:

Christopher Columbus

As some of us will remember, Columbus left Spain in search of new lands with three ships: the Santa Maria, the Pinta, and the Santa Clara (aka the Niña). After weeks of sailing, Columbus and company finally landed on the island of Hispaniola (what is now split between the Dominican and Haiti) on Dec. 5, 1492.

Things started off friendly between both sides. In classic European style, though, the voyagers first took over using force (once their conquest was resisted by the natives) and later through disease, as smallpox and measles wiped out a great chunk of the Taino population.

As part of the settlement, the Dominican is home to the first cathedral, monastery, castle, and fortress in the Americas. These are all located in Santa Domingo’s Colonial Zone, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Heck, there’s even a Hard Rock Café there!

Once Spain conquered the Aztecs and Incas, they forgot about their holdings in the Caribbean and French pirates (think buccaneers searching for wine and cheese, rather than gold and rum) swooped in to take the neglected land. A series of peace treaties between Spain and France first gave what is now Haiti to the French and later what is now the Dominican Republic.

pirate-cat

As for Columbus, he continued to make voyages between the “New World” and “Old World,” which sounds like some sort of science fiction plot. In 1504, Columbus returned to Spain for good. He died on May 20, 1506, as a result of reactive arthritis, which could have been brought on by anything from food poisoning to sexually transmitted diseases (which one would you rather contract!?). Estimates state he was 54 years old.

And here’s where the explorer’s story takes an interesting twist that has helped his legend endure throughout the Dominican Republic, as well as around the world: both the D.R. and Spain claim to be in possession of Christopher Columbus’ remains. And both have legitimate claims to the relic.

Columbus was first buried in Valladolid, Spain, where he passed away, before being moved to the La Cartuja monastery in Seville, Spain, by request of his son Diego. Columbus had stated that he would like his final resting place to be in the New World, but no monument was grand enough yet for this request. Finally, in 1537, Christopher and Diego’s bones were shipped to Santa Domingo and placed in the cathedral there.

Later, came the aforementioned period of French rule. The Spaniards, fearing what the French would do with Columbus’ remains, moved them to Havana, Cuba. The Spanish-American War of 1898 forced the bones to be moved back to Spain, once again. This time, they were housed at the Cathedral of Seville, amongst an elaborate setting, featuring a tomb and statues.

Celebrating Columbus

In 1877, however, a box inscribed “Don Christopher Columbus” was discovered in the Santa Domingo cathedral, which contained human remains showing signs of advanced arthritis. This led the Dominicans to conclude that either Spain took the wrong remains away all those years ago, or that a bait and switch was pulled and the Spanish were in possession of bones not belonging to Columbus.

For their part, Spain had their Columbus artifacts DNA tested with experts finding that the remains in Seville are likely that of the legendary explorer. The movements of Columbus’ bones are also well-documented through their remarkable journey.

The Dominican Republic has never exhumed their version of Columbus’ remains for DNA testing, perhaps for fear that tourism, which the Caribbean nation heavily relies upon, could take a hit without the Columbus connection.

DNA Test

In the Dominican, Columbus is entombed in the Columbus Lighthouse. While recently visiting the country, Mrs. Sip and I went to this landmark with a tour group, but our guide didn’t allow us enough time to actually go into the site… he was more concerned with yapping on his phone all day and pigging out on the lunch buffet.

The truth on the subject probably lies somewhere in the middle and both countries may be in possession of Columbus remains. I suppose it’s kind of fitting that he may be resting in both worlds.

Dominican Republic: Brash Monk

Brash Monk Cocktail

  • 1 oz Mamajuana
  • 1 oz Frangelico
  • 1 oz Espresso Vodka
  • Top with Milk
  • Garnish with Chocolate Slice

Columbus’ journey to the New World was made into the feature film 1492, which was released 500 years after his voyage across the Atlantic. I’ve never seen the flick and given its 39% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes, I just can’t see it rocketing to the top of my ‘to view’ list!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
Although a strong cocktail, I enjoyed this martini. Frangelico always burns a little harsher than other liquors, but the flavours were all really nice. The drink is supposed to be garnish with a coffee bean, but given I’m anti-coffee, there was none lying around to use. Mrs. Sip didn’t leave me much milk for the recipe, but I made due with what I had… at least she left me any at all!

Dominican Republic – Hot Mama

Batter Up

While baseball may have been invented in the United States and is the country’s national pastime, our next stop, the Dominican Republic, is the reigning World Baseball Classic champions (sweeping the tournament) and home to some of the greatest players to ply their craft in the major leagues. Here are some facts about the baseball greats that come from the D.R.:

Ozzie Virgil, Sr.

Along with being the first Dominican player to ever suit up in Major League Baseball on September 23, 1956, Virgil was also the first non-white man to play for the Detroit Tigers. After a career as a utility player (being able to fill a variety of field positions) spanning 1956-69, Virgil entered the coaching game for 19 seasons. The Osvaldo Virgil National Airport was opened in 2006, serving Virgil’s hometown of Monte Cristi.

1985 Topps Virgil

Anyone else notice that father and son’s first names are spelled differently!?

Juan Marichal

Marichal is currently the only Dominican player to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. He is half of what is known as “The Greatest Game Ever Pitched,” as he compiled a 16-inning complete game shutout. Marichal is also remembered for an incident in which he beat catcher Johnny Roseboro over the head with his bat, causing a bench-clearing brawl. Marichal and Roseboro eventually became good friends, jointly autographing photos of the episode.

Robinson Cano

When the D.R. won the 2013 World Baseball Classic, Cano was named MVP of the tournament. His father also had a brief MLB career and he was named after Jackie Robinson, who broke the colour barrier in baseball in 1947. Known for his charity work, Cano has a pediatric rehabilitation ward named after him at the Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. Cano is one of the athletes to enlist rapper Jay-Z as his agent and it paid off with a 10-year, $240 million contract with Seattle.

Pedro Martinez

Martinez was twice denied perfect games (no hits or walks allowed) because of unusual circumstances. In 1995, he was 7⅓ innings deep when he threw a pitch that hit batter Reggie Sanders. The next season, Martinez took a perfect game into extra innings and was hit off in the bottom of the 10th, nullifying his perfect effort. All this, despite being undersized compared to his power pitcher contemporaries. At one time, Martinez signed the richest contract ever given to a pitcher at $75 million over six years.

Pedro Martinez

Can’t forget the time Martinez threw 72-year-old Yankee base coach Don Zimmer to the ground… ah, he had it coming!

Julian Javier

Javier earned the nickname ‘The Phantom’ for his ability to evade runners trying to steal second base. I once tried to steal second base on Mrs. Sip and the results were similar. Showing a hot temper that seems to run through a number of Dominican stars, Javier was once suspended indefinitely for striking an umpire. The penalty was later cut to three days and a fine of $50 (justice served). Given his suspension occurred while playing in the Dominican League and not MLB, this is not entirely surprising.

Francisco Liriano

Liriano is credited with one of baseball’s rarest feats: striking out four batters in one inning… a marvelous feat given a team need only record three outs to end their defensive half of the inning. How it happens, is that when a batter reaches his third strike, if the ball is not caught by the catcher, the batter can then become a runner and reach base, so long as there is no runner already at first and he is not tagged or forced out. Only 67 pitchers have managed the feat over the long history of MLB.

David Ortiz

Big Papi, as he’s affectionately known, is keen on looking after young kids in need. In 2008, he released a charity wine dubbed Vintage Papi, which raised $150,000 for his David Ortiz Children’s Fund. Playing a majority of his career as a designated hitter (ie. not being relied upon to do any fielding) Ortiz holds the all-time record for homers by a DH. His popularity in Boston is off the charts and in 2013, Ortiz finished third in Boston’s mayoral race with 560 write-in votes.

Big Papi - Esther Rolle

For the Good Times fans out there!

Manny Ramírez

Manny Being Manny” was a term used to describe the power hitter’s erratic behavior, including: missing games while suffering from pharyngitis (which just sounds phony), but being spotted in a bar; getting into altercations with his own teammates; disappearing from the field in the middle of a game for a bathroom break; and pushing a 64-year-old traveling secretary when he was unable to fulfill Ramirez’s request for tickets. On the flip side, Ramirez was a clutch slugger and holds the record for most home runs in the playoffs with 29.

Albert Pujols

Try saying his last name without laughing… go ahead, I dare you! Anyway, Pujols (pronounced Poo-Holes… I know, too easy) became an American citizen in 2007, following a perfect score on his citizenship test. Despite this, he has repeatedly tried to aid the people of the D.R. by bringing medical supplies, as well as doctors and dentists to the country to help its poor. His foundation’s annual golf tournament is played to raise money to send dentists to the Dominican.

Albert-Pujols

In case y’all needed proof!

Jose Bautista

The two-time home run champion holds the dubious distinction of being on five different MLB rosters in one season. In 2004, Bautista made his MLB debut with the Baltimore Orioles after being selected in the Rule 5 Draft from the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was then claimed off waivers by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and later purchased by the Kansas City Royals. The Royals traded Bautista to the New York Mets, who sent him back to Pittsburgh in another trade. I hope he never got too cozy.

Sammy Sosa

Sosa is best remembered for his 1998 duel with Mark McGwire, as both men attempted to break the home run record of 61 in a season. Sadly, both Sosa and McGwire have since been tainted by baseball’s steroid era and their achievements that memorable season have been tarnished. Coincidentally, Sosa hit his 600th homerun (one of only five players to do so) off Jason Marquis, who was wearing Sosa’s #21 jersey with the team he had the most success with, the Chicago Cubs.

Dominican Republic: Hot Mama

Hot Mama Drink Recipe

  • Muddle Lemon and Orange Wedges
  • 2 oz Mamajuana
  • Top with Orange Juice
  • Splash of Chili Chocolate Syrup
  • Pinch of Brown Sugar
  • Garnish with an Orange Wedge

The Dominican Republic is second behind only the U.S. for having the most number of players in Major League Baseball. Perhaps one day, they’ll surpass the States in this regard and the Baseball Hall of Fame will have to be more to Santo Domingo or Punta Cana for easier tourist access.

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3.5 Sips out of 5):
While this drink was good, the Orange Juice hid most of the ingredients. After the first taste, Mrs. Sip and I agreed to douse the cocktail with some more Mamajuana, as well as Chili Chocolate Syrup. The drink probably gets some bonus points thanks to how beautiful it looks with the orange-red blend of colouring.

Cuba – Seven Sinful Years

Smoke Shop

As we wrap up our all-too-brief stay at one of Cuba’s all-inclusive resorts, it’s time to pick up some souvenirs for the folks back at home. A must-have, providing you’re not returning to the United States, is Cuban cigars. Mrs. Sip picked up one for me when she visited the Communist country a few years ago and it was one fine stogie. Here are some interesting facts on Cuba’s trademark treat:

cigar

Torcedores are recognized worldwide as being the best cigar rollers and are greatly respected in their homeland of Cuba. In the Seinfeld episode ‘The English Patient’, Kramer brings his own Cuban cigar rollers to New York City, but they are merely Dominicans posing as Cubans. This causes Kramer’s financial backing to fall through and his latest entrepreneurial enterprise to fail. The Dominican’s go on to roll crepes in a restaurant, but roll them too tightly, causing filling to burst out of the pastry and burn customers.

President John F. Kennedy signed the United States trade embargo against Cuba (which is still in effect today) in 1962… but the wily politician waited until he received 1,200 H. Upmann brand petit corona Cuban cigars before putting his pen to paper! It was also revealed later that the trade embargo originally sought to have cigars be exempt. The whole ordeal has branded Cuban cigars as “forbidden fruit” within the U.S. Some Cuban cigar manufacturers moved their operations to the Dominican Republic so they could maintain a profitable partnership with America.

It has been estimated that 95% of the cigars advertised as being “Cuban” and sold in the U.S. are counterfeit. Buyers beware when grabbing smokes across the States.

One Sigmund Freud (the famous and groundbreaking psychoanalyst) was a Cuban cigar aficionado. When asked about the phallic shape of cigars, of which Freud smoked about 20 per day, he replied, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” Freud’s smoking habit led to him suffering cancer of the jaw and eventually led to his death, which was done in an assisted suicide manner.

Freud Cigar

The Cohiba cigar company was established to honour Cuban leader Fidel Castro, with products manufactured only for “friends of the Revolution”. The company finally launched commercial sales in 1982. Interestingly, Cohiba only employs female cigar rollers.

Cuban cigars have gained their reputation and popularity as the world’s top choice in smoking thanks in large part to the country’s environment and temperatures. The island’s humidity makes growing and drying the tobacco leaves easy, especially the leaves used to wrap the cigar, said to be the most important part of the production. The U.S. trade embargo has also caused the cigars to gain a mystique about them, adding a quality of danger to the stogie, as well as driving prices up.

Revolutionist, Che Guevara, once said, “A smoke in times of rest is a great companion to the solitary soldier.” That about sums up the item used to celebrate weddings, births, and other landmark events in one’s life.

Cuba: Seven Sinful Years

Seven Sinful Years Drink Recipe

  • Muddle Slices of Ginger
  • 2 oz Havana Club Rum
  • 0.5 oz Triple Sec
  • Splash of Lime Juice
  • Dash of Angostura Bitters
  • Garnish with a Lime Wheel

I don’t smoke very often at all, but every once in a while, it’s fun to light a cigar up and relax with a drink in the other hand. This is all preferably done in the comfort of a hot tub, so if anyone is offering, I’ll be over as soon as possible!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3.5 Sips out of 5):
I don’t know what it is about Ginger, but it seems to work in cocktails, given your libation that extra little bite of flavour. I was worried that this drink would be quite strong with the high Rum quotient, but it wasn’t. It even passed the Mrs. Sip test!

January 4 – Lemon Drop

Around the Bend

Today marks a new beginning for the Super Saturday Shot Day page. After much pestering, I promised Mrs. Sip that each Shot Day post would include rankings rather than just lists. She thinks this will engage the reader more and we have a little bet running on that. Let’s see if I’ll end up owing her a Coke (her least favourite beverage!). Anyway, here are the top five things to look forward to in 2014, according to the Sip Advisor!

#5: Box Office Smash

2014 will see the release of a myriad of highly-anticipated films. Among the ones I’m looking forward to seeing are: X-Men: Days of Future Past; Dumb and Dumber To; How to Train Your Dragon 2; and The LEGO Movie. Sure, there are others that may eventually catch my attention, but there are also others I have no intention of checking out, such as Robo Cop (I was never a fan of the franchise) and Godzilla (I never got the appeal of all these monsters).

dumb-and-dumber

#4: Small Screen Gems

The TV schedule gets a boost of rejuvenation with the return of some great series early in the New Year. Archer, Community (premiered two days ago), and Sherlock all return within the first couple weeks of 2014, proving that shows with a one-word title are most appreciated. Add in all the other programming coming off their Christmas hiatus and your DVR player better have a ton of free space available.

#3: Blog-O-Sphere

I’m really looking forward to the new Sip Advisor project I’m starting on Jan. 6, as we traverse the globe and learn about a different nation’s top imports and celebrated alcohol each week. It will give me a great opportunity to delve into the collection of spirits I’ve built from around the world and share with all you little sippers a more international flavour than ever before.

Drinking Around the World

#2: Travel Tips

It looks like Mrs. Sip and I already have some crazy travel plans on the horizon, including tentative vacations to New York, the Dominican Republic, Iceland, Germany, and the U.K. already in the pipeline. On top of that, we’re sure to end up in Disneyland and Las Vegas at some point, as we do every year. With each journey, I’ll be checking out unique libations and visiting fine establishments all in the name a liquor education… can I claim a tax refund on that!?

#1: Milestones

Speaking of Mrs. Sip, the gorgeous goddess will celebrate her 30th birthday this year and you better believe we’ll be partying in style. 2014 will also see us enjoy our 12th dating anniversary and 2nd wedding anniversary. As for this natural wonder of a website, we’re rapidly approaching our 50,000th view. Sadly, I won’t be able to know exactly who that person is and award them a lifetime supply of free blog articles!

Super Saturday Shot Day: Lemon Drop

Lemon Drop Shooter

  • 0.75 oz Vodka (I used Smirnoff Blueberry)
  • Splash of Lemon Juice
  • 1 Sugar Cube
  • Garnish with a Lemon Wedge

What are you looking forward to in 2014? Perhaps you’ll give me other ideas of what I should be keeping an eye on in the next calendar year!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
I can’t believe it took so long to get around to doing this shot, but it’s a great way to ring in 2014. The shooter is simple and delicious. You could probably achieve different tastes depending on which Vodka you choose to use. I thought the Smirnoff Blueberry and Lemon Juice blended together quite well. I left the Sugar Cube to dissolve on it’s own, rather than stir it into the recipe.