Italy – Sunday Confession

Goodfellas

The term “mafia” comes from Sicily, Italy, and let’s be honest, the most famous of mobsters all hail from the Italian line of organized crime, also known as Cosa Nostra, which translated means “Our Thing.” And, it certainly is THEIR thing. While the term ‘Omertà’ governs the mafia with a code of silence, the Sip Advisor is breaking all the rules with our own ‘Most Wanted’ list of infamous Italian gangsters:

Vito Cascioferro

Thought of as the ‘Boss of Bosses’ during his reign at the top, Cascioferro was arrested approximately 69 times during his career, but always acquitted. His luck ran out in June 1930, when Cascioferro was tried for numerous offences, including murder, attempted murder, robbery, extortion, and other offences. He was convicted and given a life sentence. He died in prison somewhere between 1943-45, with many inmates considering it an honour to now fill the same jail cell.

Mafia Cats

Calogero Vizzini

Dubbed the ‘King of the Black Market,’ Vizzini was even made mayor of Villalba, Italy (where his crime family was based), following World War II. Vizzini’s death was big news, even reported by the New York Times. Thousands turned out for the leader’s funeral, including other bosses, politicians, and priests. Vizzini predicted that the mafia would die with him and the old-school version did slowly dissolve, but was replaced by a more modern mob that we recognize today.

Michele Navarra

The boss of the famed Corleone family (also used for the Godfather movies) from 1944-58, Navarra was also a trained physician and perhaps this is why he was more likely to delegate murders than commit them himself. Navarra was killed on August 2, 1958 after feuding with former associate Luciano Leggio, whom Navarra tried to have ambushed by 15 gunmen, yet somehow Leggio survived with only minor injuries. I’d question his leadership, too!

Luciano Leggio

Speaking of Leggio, he became the Corleone boss following Navarra’s death and is credited with starting the Second Mafia War. After a string of acquittals on various charges, Leggio finally found himself sentenced to life imprisonment for Navarra’s slaying, but disappeared, running a successful kidnapping ring while on the run. He was finally caught in 1974, but continued to have influence over the syndicate from behind bars. He died in prison, of a heart attack in 1993.

Mafia Comic

Salvatore Riina

After Leggio was arrested in the 1970’s, Riina eventually took over control of the Corleone family, which was ironic because he was one of the suspects in the assassination of Navarra. Riina was considered the ‘Boss of Bosses’ following the Second Mafia War. Nicknamed ‘The Beast,’ by fellow mobsters, this 5’2” leader used a campaign of violence to achieve power, killing rivals, as well as prosecutors and other government officials. Riina was arrested in 1993, after 23 years as a fugitive.

Bernardo Provenzano

One of the most powerful Sicilian bosses of all-time, Provenzano followed Riina as leader of the Corleone family. Once at the helm, Provenzano worked to change the perception of the mafia to being less violent, more diplomatic and willing to work with established institutions. Under the new guidelines, violence was only to be used if absolutely necessary. Despite all that, Provenzano spent more than 40 years evading police capture, before authorities finally arrested him in April 2006.

Italy: Sunday Confession

Sunday Confession Cocktail

  • 1 oz Limoncello
  • 1 oz Tequila
  • Splash of Lemon Juice
  • Top with Ginger Ale
  • Garnish with a Cherry

This all has me wanting to go back and watch some of the best mafia media. Take your pick, but my favourites include The Godfather franchise, Goodfellas, The Sopranos, and Donnie Brasco. Perhaps I’ll have to do a future article on fictional mobsters… so long as they make me an offer I can’t refuse!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
This cocktail has a perfect name for a mafia-related article, although confession would certainly go against the Omertà code of silence. I used Cranberry Ginger Ale instead of the recommended Ginger Beer because it seemed like a good idea and it worked out really well. Limoncello and Tequila was a decent mix, too.

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Jamaica – Au Pair

Dread Heads

Reggae music was born in Jamaica in the 1960’s and has since traversed the globe thanks to acts like Bob Marley and The Wailers. Let’s take a look at some of Jamaica’s greatest musicians from the genre:

Bob Marley

Marley’s influence spread well beyond his music, as he became a figure of the Rastafarian movement and even helped warring political parties come to agreements. “I Shot the Sheriff,” “No Woman, No Cry,” “Could You Be Loved,” and “Buffalo Soldier,” highlight the long list of hits Marley is credited with. Prior to the 1976 Smile Jamaica concert, an attempt on Marley’s life was made, but he only suffered minor injuries. Marley died of cancer on May 11, 1981, He was only 36 years old. There is a statue of Marley in Kingston, Jamaica and many of Marley’s children have entered the entertainment business, carrying on dear ol’ dad’s legacy.

Bit Da Sheriff

Jimmy Cliff

Born James Chambers, Jimmy Cliff acquired his recording name from the cliffs that surrounded his childhood village of Adelphi Land in St. James, Jamaica. Cliff’s first hit, “Hurricane Hattie” came at the age of only 14. Working with producer Leslie Kong, Cliff released one successful track after another until Kong passed away. Cliff also appeared in the movie The Harder They Come, which brought reggae to new audiences. He was the face of the genre until usurped by Bob Marley. Cliff was enshrined into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2010.

Toots Hibbert

Dubbed ‘The Skafather,’ Hibbert is the leader of the band Toots & The Maytals and he might as well be, given he can play every instrument that makes up the ensemble. In 1966, Hibbert found himself in prison thanks to a possession of marijuana conviction, but his experience inspired one of his best known songs “54-46 That’s My Number.” With The Maytals, Hibbert wrote the first song to actually use the word reggae with 1968’s “Do the Reggay.” Hibbert received the Order of Jamaica in 2012 and still performs to this day, at the age of 71.

Peter Tosh

Amazingly, Tosh was self-taught on the guitar and he even helped Bob Marley learn to play the instrument. Joined by Bunny Wailer, the three formed the Wailing Wailers. After Tosh split from The Wailers and began a solo career, he released “Legalize It,” his pro-marijuana anthem. This, and Tosh’s defiant personality, led to beatings from Jamaican police. Tosh was even signed to the Rolling Stones record label before returning to his own. On September 11, 1987, Tosh was shot and killed by a man who he had given money to, when that man and three accomplices went back to try and get more cash from the artist.

We Be Jammin

Bunny Wailer

The Wailer in The Wailers, Bunny Wailer has been described as the best singer among the band and equally talented with writing songs, yet failed to achieve the same level of international fame as his bandmates. This could be the result of Wailer disappearing from the world’s eye for approximately three years after the Wailers disbanded. When he reemerged, Wailer didn’t miss a beat, going on to win the Grammy for Best Reggae Album in 1991, 1995, and 1997. Newsweek named Wailer one of the three most important figures in world music, along with King Sunny Ade of Nigeria and Brazil’s Milton Nascimento.

Gregory Isaacs

Known as ‘The Cool Ruler’ (which the Sip Advisor has to admit is a pretty wicked nickname), Isaacs is credited with over 500 albums, including many compilation releases. In the 80’s, Isaacs fell into drug troubles (who didn’t during that decade!) and served a six-month sentence for possession of unlicensed firearms. The drugs took a toll on his smooth voice, but Isaacs kicked the habit and worked in the industry up to his death in 2010, at the age of 59, following a lengthy battle with lung cancer. Today, the Gregory Isaacs Foundation carries on the artist’s charitable work and legacy.

Jamaica: Au Pair

Au Pair Cocktail

  • Muddle Apple Slices
  • 1.5 oz Appleton Rum
  • 0.75 oz Zubrowka Bison Grass Vodka
  • Top with Ginger Ale
  • Splash of Lime Juice
  • Dash of Orgeat Syrup
  • Garnish with a Lime Wheel

Reggae music has shared a long association with marijuana, so if drinking isn’t your cup of tea, you can celebrate the songs in your own way!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (5 Sips out of 5):
This cocktail was a knockout spectacular. The Appleton Rum is so nice, as you get a hint of it at the end of each sip. Despite more than two ounces of booze, you can barely taste any liquor, thus making for the perfect recipe. This was my first opportunity to use the Orgeat Syrup Mrs. Sip and I picked up recently and it was a very welcome touch to the drink. I can’t advocate for this cocktail enough!

Mexico – El Diablo

Ancient Civilizations

While this may take on the look of a history class, we’ll try to liven things up with human sacrifices, monuments to the gods, the seven wonders of the world, and mystical mythology. All in a day’s work around the Sip Advisor offices! At recess we can even enjoy some tacos, burritos and enchiladas. So, take your Pepto or Tums, it’s time to get a little freaky with the various cultures that make up Mexico’s history:

Olmecs

These fine people worshipped a god that was half human and half jaguar. It had no name, so I’ve supplied my own: the humuar! You laugh now, but just wait and I bet those thieves writing modern Scooby Doo episodes will eventually steal this title. The Olmecs (now best known for the Olmeca Tequila brand… although I have no verification of this!) developed large parts of the eastern coast of Mexico and can be credited with sculpting the famed Colossal Heads.

The Olmecs have more origin stories than some comic book characters, including tales told in popular culture that they originated from Africa. Most researchers don’t find these accounts to be very credible, but the same could be said for many super heroes. The concept of zero is said to have been developed by the Olmecs, meaning we have them to blame every time we run out of money, food, lives, etc. Before this civilization came along, everything was infinite and unlimited and they went ahead and ruined all our fun in the name of mathematical accuracy.

90's Game Shows

Most importantly, Olmec culture was used for the 90’s Nickelodeon game show Legends of the Hidden Temple!

Aztecs

Usually nomadic, the Aztecs settled in Mexico after spotting an eagle standing on a cactus, clutching a snake in its talons. The image represents the sun, the heart, and the earth, respectively and is now depicted on the country’s flag. Like the Olmecs before them, the Aztecs were big into human sacrifices, believing that without blood, the sun would stop moving and the world would come to an end. During a sacrifice ceremony, the heart of the victim (although they’d have you believe there were volunteers) would be cut out and burned in the temple. The heart was known as “precious eagle cactus fruit,” which should be released as a liquor flavour.

The Aztecs were a bloodthirsty civilization, sacrificing anywhere from 10,000 to 50,000 people per year. Ruler Montezuma II even killed 12,000 of his own people in one day. Not content to just enjoy sacrifices as entertainment, the Aztecs played a ball game called tlachtli… although the losers were often killed off to appease the gods. Thankfully, this isn’t the same result after the Sip Advisor’s soccer matches (winless in 2014).

Mayans

The Mayans also played a ball game known as pitz, which is speculated to have featured decapitations, with those separated heads possibly used as balls in the sport. When in battle, the Mayans were known to throw hornet bombs at their enemies, which was an actual hornet’s nest. This is how Macaulay Culkin’s character in My Girl actually died, but the movie covers the fact the Mayans were responsible. Hey, if they used decapitated heads for sport, is a hornet bomb really unimaginable!? The Mayans can be credited with building the Chichen Itza city, now considered one of the seven wonders of the world.

Mayans were perhaps one of the first image-conscious civilizations, but they went about it in all the wrong ways. They would press boards against babies’ foreheads to given them a desired flat surface and cross a young child’s eyes by dangling an object on the bridge of their nose until the desired effect was achieved. Children were named according to the day they were born with a set list for boys and girls that was expected to be followed. Lastly, although they’re always credited with predicting the end of the world in 2012, this is complete hokum (to borrow a line from Sheldon Cooper). The Mayan’s calendar system merely meant that a new cycle would begin on Dec. 20, 2012 and mention of other occurrences past that date do exist in Mayan accounts.

Incans

The Incas recorded their history using a string and knot system, known as Quipu. The Sip Advisor does the same when tying his shoelaces every morning, although those entries are lost every afternoon when the laces are untied and I’ve forgotten to once again jot down the activities of my day. The Incas were prominent users of the coca plant for everything from pain relief to surgeries, energy boosts to appetite suppression. Modern day pop drinkers and cokeheads can thank them for their discovery.

ancient-Incas-2012

The Incan flag depicts two snakes eating opposite ends of a rainbow with a tassel in the middle. I’d give my best interpretation of what this could mean, but I would surely offend a number of groups and therefore, I’ll leave it be. European diseases such as smallpox greatly destroyed the Incan civilization. The disease was able to spread so quickly because of the empire’s own triumphs, such as their highly-developed road system.

Zapotec

This civilization built cities in the south of Mexico and believed that they came into existence after emerging from caves or transforming into human form from being trees and jaguars. Were the tree people more likely to be vegetarians, while the former jaguars were meat eaters? Ah, the experiments one would conduct if they had a time machine!

The Zapotec also developed the first writing system in the Americas, so we have them to thank for this wonderfully-crafted site, but also them to blame for tripe like the Twilight series. While at war (is that all people ever did back in the day!?) the Zapotecs used a cotton form of armour. I have continued on this tradition, as when I enter battle with Mrs. Sip, I adorn myself with Q-tips, cotton balls, and surgical wrappings. It doesn’t help much, but it has provided many amazing selfie photos!

Toltec

The time of the Toltecs was looked at as a “golden era” thanks to developments in writing and medicine, among other advancements. Both the Mayans and Aztecs highly respected the Toltecs and fashioned themselves after the civilization in many regards. To have a ‘Toltec heart’ was a compliment of the highest respect as it carried the weight of being worthy and excellent at all things. This is a commendation that I have received throughout my life, but only now realize that folks weren’t hurling insults in my direction.

Mexico: El Diablo

El Diablo Cocktail

  • 1.5 oz Tequila
  • 0.5 oz Blackberry Liqueur
  • Top with Ginger Ale
  • Splash of Lime Juice
  • Garnish with Lime Wedge

So much blood has been spilt in Mexico and we haven’t even got to the drug cartels that run the country today. Oh well, some stories need to be saved for another time!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4.5 Sips out of 5):
I was really looking forward to trying out this recipe and it did not disappoint. I did sub Blueberry Liqueur for Blackberry Liqueur because I was curious about how that would work and it came together very well. The best part of the drink was the smoky tequila aftertaste that can only be enjoyed with an anejo version of the spirit. Given this cocktail and Monday’s 5 out of 5  Sea of Cortez drink, Mexico has the best numbers so far for the Around the World tour!

Ireland – Blarney Stone

Luck of the Irish

Bouncing around Europe to make sure the Sip Advisor ended up in Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day was a must. Of course, the day celebrates the death of and feast for Saint Patrick. But what do we really know about this patron saint of boozing and his namesake holiday? Luckily for you, my little sippers, I’m here to educate!:

Don't Have to be Irish

Saint Patrick has become a symbol of national identity for the Irish, despite being born in England. He is credited with using the shamrock as a teaching tool and figure for the holy trinity (the father, the son, and the holy spirit… had he plucked a four-leaf varietal, would he have had to make up a fourth element for the concept?). Despite common belief, Ireland’s national symbol is actually the harp, not the shamrock. Mmmm, it gets me thinking of Harp Lager, which is my favourite Irish brewing import.

Patrick worked his way across Ireland setting up monasteries, churches, and schools to help with his converting and was arrested many times by the Celtic Druids (a wicked name for a rock band), managing to escape their capture every time. His inclusion of native Irish rituals helped in bringing people over to Christianity. Patrick is credited with creating the Celtic Cross, by adding an image of the sun (an important Irish symbol) to the Christian cross.

As with most saints, Patrick has been recognized for performing a number of miracles during his life. Those phenomenal feats include driving snakes out of the country, although most scientists believe there were never any serpents in Ireland to begin with. The term serpents could have had more to do with converting paganism followers to Christianity and exiling those who did not wish to jump ship. Legends also state that Patrick was able to raise the dead.

Ireland Snakes

While wearing green is a St. Patrick’s Day tradition, Saint Patrick’s garments were actually blue. I have so much more blue in my wardrobe (it accentuates my eyes!), so I kind of wish we would celebrate March 17 with some historical accuracy. Other traditions for the day include kissing the blarney stone, which for Mrs. Sip and I means going to the local pub of that name and getting drunk enough that your face meets the floor.

The leap year tradition of women proposing to men has also been attributed to Patrick. The account states that when Saint Bridget complained of women waiting too long for men to propose (hey, we’re just enjoying what’s left of our freedom!) Patrick made this little alteration to courtship guidelines. Bridget tried to propose to Patrick, but the wise missionary turned her down.

St. Patrick’s Day is known as one of the booziest days of the year and it was no different in Patrick’s time. He is said to have endorsed drinking on his feast day, stating that everyone should have “a drop of the hard stuff.” Along these lines, it is customary to drop the shamrock you’ve worn on St. Patrick’s Day in your last drink of the evening, thereby ‘drowning the shamrock’.

st-patricks-day-dd

Everyone seems to get in on the St. Patrick’s Day act from the Chicago River in the United States being died green (although that might just be all the people expelling their green beverages) to the Canadian province of Newfoundland celebrating a provincial holiday… I really wish that this would spread across the entire country, rather than the French language. The day is also celebrated in Argentina, Japan, Russia, South Korea, Switzerland, and other locales around the globe.

And earth’s atmosphere apparently can’t contain the festiveness. Astronauts aboard the International Space Station have been known to commemorate St. Patrick’s Day, including American Catherine Coleman playing instruments belonging to Irish musicians The Chieftains and Canadian Chris Hadfield taking photos of Ireland while in orbit and donning green for a rendition of Danny Boy.

File this under the ‘say it ain’t so’ category: From 1903 to 1970, St. Patrick’s Day was a religious observation, which equated to all pubs being shut down each year on March 17. When that law was overturned and the day was recognized as a national holiday, the booze was back. Thank god (or Saint Patrick) we remedied that!

Ireland: Blarney Stone

Blarney Stone Drink Recipe

  • 2 oz Irish Whiskey
  • Top with Ginger Ale
  • Splash of Lime Juice
  • Garnish with a Lime Wedge

So, raise your glass (whatever it is, it better be green) and join me in reciting this great toast: “May your glass be ever full. May the roof over your head be always strong. And may you be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you’re dead!”

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4.5 Sips out of 5):
This drink is great. It combines three of my favourite ingredients: Whiskey, Ginger Ale, and Lime Juice. The taste is light and refreshing and thanks to the two ounces of booze, you can get pretty trashed just like Saint Patrick would have wanted!

United States – Suffering Bastard

Sports Supporters

See what I did there… I made a jock joke! Anyhoo, there is some debate over which sport is the most popular in the United States. Is it their national pastime baseball or has it been surpassed by the football juggernaut? Also fighting for market share and expendable income is a host of other competitions. One thing is for certain, the US, compared with other countries, has a greater variety of sports options for its citizens. Why else do you think the country needs all those ESPN channels!? With all that athletic competition, there is sure to be some big time events. Here are some interesting facts on each of the country’s championship crowning spectacles:

Super Bowl – NFL

What can you say about the Super Bowl that hasn’t already been said. The event is so mammoth that it is second only to soccer’s Champions League final as the most viewed annual sporting event. We’ve all heard the astronomical amounts companies pay for commercial time during the Super Bowl, but did you know that non-sponsor advertisers can’t use the word Super Bowl in their spots? Instead, they’re forced to use more generic terms like “the big game”. In 2007, NFL commissioner Roger Goddell suggested a Super Bowl could be played at Wembley Stadium in London. This would mark the big game’s (I want to stay clear of trouble with the NFL… they could send a 400-pound lineman after me) first foray outside the United States, if it were to ever occur. College football also has a strong fan following and Bowl Games, such as the Rose Bowl are hugely successful events. The Army vs. Navy annual meeting is also a display of extreme fanaticism and patriotism.

Super Bowl

World Series – MLB

It’s kind of ironic that the World Series is contested by a league that contains one Canadian team among 29 American squads. Even the Little League World Series (hosted every year in Williamsport, Pennsylvania) is more world-inclusive than the big leagues. The Fall Classic has inspired a fair share of American history, from the fixed championship series of 1919 to the earthquake-interrupted contest in 1989. And then, there’s 1994. Despite playing close to a full regular season, the World Series wasn’t contested in 1994 due to the player’s strike. The Montreal Expos were the top team at the time of the labour dispute and could have continued Canada’s string of World Series wins (the Toronto Blue Jays having won in 1992 and 1993). After the 2004 season, the Expos were relocated to Washington, D.C. to become the Nationals. Coincidence or anti-Canadian conspiracy? Let the theories begin…

March Madness – NCAA

I don’t think any other country gets as pumped for collegiate sports than the US. This tournament makes stars out of teenagers and for some, is the only reason they still support their alma mater. The NCAA’s annual event to crown a national basketball champion is bigger than the professional level NBA Championship Finals. Fans pick their brackets and battle for bragging rights (and cash money, yo) as they watch their choices run through the gauntlet. Upsets are perhaps the most interesting aspect of the tournament. In 1985, Villanova went from #8 seed to National Champion, while Florida Gulf Coast was the lowest ranked team ever (#15) to advance to the Sweet 16. In fact, all four #1 seeds making the Final Four has only happened once, in 2008. Since 1947, the winning team has cut down and claimed the court nets as a trophy for their triumphant victory, with the head coach cutting the final strand.

The Masters/US Open/PGA Championship – PGA

Thanks in large part to Tiger Woods, golf has grown in popularity the last couple decades. Three of the four events that make up golf’s Grand Slam are contested in the United States (the other being the British Open, usually played in Scotland). Of them, The Masters is the most prolific of the bunch, played each season at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia. Winners, along with receiving oodles of prize money, get the privilege of wearing the infamous green jacket that club members wear when on the course, as their win makes them an honourary member. The jacket is meant to remain at Augusta National, but when Gary Player won in 1961, amid all the celebrating, he took it home with him to South Africa. Masters winners earn a lifetime invitation to play in the tournament and an automatic inclusion into the three other majors, Players Championship, and PGA Tour for the next five years.

Point of Golf

US Open – PTA

I bet some reader’s don’t recognize the PTA other than standing for the Parent-Teacher Advisory. Well, in this case, we’re talking about the Professional Tennis Association. Played out of New York’s USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center (good lord that’s a mouthful) each summer since 1881, the US Open is one of four grand slams for the PTA (the others including the Australian Open, the French Open, and Wimbledon in London). In 1973, the US Open became the first of tennis’s grand slam events to award equal prize money to both the male and female champion. Keeping with the trend of innovation, the US Open was the first to host play at night with the use of floodlights in 1975. While the Serena Williams has enjoyed recent success at the tournament, winning each of the last two years, the last American to win on the men’s side was Andy Roddick in 2003.

Triple Crown – Horse Racing

A common trend that makes these events so epically huge is their gambling potential and that is perhaps most prevalent with the Triple Crown of horse racing. The Kentucky Derby (described as the most exciting two minutes in sports), the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes, make up this trio of popular sprints. Coming live from Louisville, Kentucky; Baltimore, Maryland, and Elmont, New York; respectively, the Triple Crown has existed since 1875, but there hasn’t been a Triple Crown winner since 1978, when Affirmed took the photo finish at each historic track. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas is the only person to win the Triple Crown with different horses, as Thunder Gulch won the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes, but in between, Timber Country won the Preakness Stakes. Many other countries also have their own version of the Triple Crown.

Sprint Cup Series – NASCAR

Racing around an oval for hundreds of laps is so huge in the US right now that some could argue it’s the most popular sport in the country. While some believe fans are simply waiting for a wreck to happen, true pundits point out that there is a beauty in the strategy of auto racing. Either way, this series of races comes with a strong viewing audience, as well as sold out attendance at the tracks. The pinnacle of the NASCAR season is the Daytona 500, which was first run in 1959 and has opened the Cup Series since 1982. Named because of its 500-mile length. The 2.5 mile track needs to be rounded 200 times to complete the race. Sadly, racing legend Dale Earnhardt died at the track on the final lap of the 2001 race. Only three years earlier, Earnhardt finally won the famous competition, after years of mechanical issues, crashes, and being passed for the lead late in races.

United States: Suffering Bastard

Suffering Bastard Drink Recipe

  • 1 oz Jim Beam Bourbon
  • 1 oz Gin
  • Top with Ginger Ale
  • Splash of Lime Juice
  • Dash of Angostura Bitters
  • Garnish with Lime Wedges

I can’t help but notice the US has a bit of an obsessions with balls (base, foot, basket, etc.). Not to tease, but at least us Canadians are only preoccupied by pucks! A number of other events could have made this list, including the X-Games, WrestleMania, the Indianapolis 500, and even the All-American Soap Box Derby.

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
I enjoyed every element of this drink, even the Angostura Bitters, which I find often don’t factor in enough to register any opinion of them. I have to ask: Is there anything Ginger Ale can’t do? The answer is a simple no. I was really looking forward to pairing Bourbon with Gin and am ecstatic that it all worked out so well!

Australia – Stormy Weather

Criminal Crunch

Not many countries start off as another nation’s penal colony. Australia is by far the most recognized of these lands and somehow, the British castoffs sent there turned Australia into one of the most wonderful places in the world to visit, live, and love. Let’s take a look at some of the more notable convicts to be shipped down under and how they helped build the great nation of Australia:

Australia Cell Blocks

William Bland

While I believe government to be largely useless, it is a necessary evil when building a new society. Bland was a former naval surgeon who found himself in Australia because he killed a man in a duel… seems like a fair and completely reasonable way to settle an argument. Bland eventually held a seat in Australia’s legislative assembly, an early example of government criminality.

William Henry Groom

Groom followed a path similar to Bland, going from prisoner to member of the inaugural Australian Parliament. I guess you can’t fault a penal colony for having members of its government being former convicts. Sadly, Groom died shortly after his appointment and never got to fully enjoy the perks of being an elected official (money, power, drugs… the Rob Ford special!).

James Squire

Now, here’s a guy who deserves massive recognition for his contributions to early Australia society. Squire was one of the original convicts to come over to Australia and being first was a recurrent theme for him. He later became the country’s first brewer and brands like Tooheys and Victoria Bitter have him to thank their legacy. Showing the importance of alcohol in any society, Squire’s death in 1822 spawned the biggest funeral held in the colony days.

VB Kangaroo

Jørgen Jørgensen

Not many folks can claim to be the ruler of Iceland, but Jørgensen was one of those peeps. He arrested the Danish Governor (almost as bad as The Walking Dead’s Governor), with intentions of giving Iceland their freedom, but that was squashed by Denmark. The eccentric adventurer, as Jørgensen’s been described, was a spy for a spell for the UK, translating documents and working throughout France and Germany. He wound up a convict in Australia and upon his release explored Tasmania.

William Chopin

This fella kind of went full circle, as he flourished working in a prison hospital and went into chemistry after receiving his ticket of leave. Unfotunately, his skills as a chemist landed him back in jail later, as he went into the illegal abortion business. He was the ‘chemist gone bad’ centuries before Breaking Bad ever aired.

John Kelly

Sometimes it takes a generation to make your mark on society, as is the case for John Kelly, whose son Ned gained notoriety as a Robin Hood-type folk hero, battling the establishment with his band of not-so-merry men (colloquially referred to as Kelly’s gang, but that’s such a harsh term) and becoming an outlaw in the process. Ned Kelly was later executed for his crimes, but his legend has grown thanks to movies starring Mick Jagger and Heath Ledger. He’s even featured on an Irish stamp.

Ned Kelly

John Davies

As a writer, I believe information (as well as entertainment) is essential in getting a nation rolling. After his release from prison, Davies co-founded The Mercury newspaper in 1854. The daily publication, servicing Hobart, Tasmania, still exists to this day. The company remained in the Davies family until 1988 when it was taken over by what is now News Corp Australia.

James Ruse

Without food, we’re all screwed… well, except perhaps Ghandi. Anyway, Ruse was responsible for the first successful wheat harvest in New South Wales (where the first convict ships landed to settle). Today, an Agricultural High School (the Aussies really push you to choose your career path early) is named after him and students spend their days riding tractors and shucking corn.

Henry Kable

While the world is always becoming more litigious, to have dropped the first lawsuit on a nation is quite the feat. Kable’s civil suit was over a parcel of goods to be given to he and his wife upon arrival at the Australian penal colony, but it was stolen en route. Kable successfully sued the ship’s captain for £15, even more impressive given prisoners were considered dead by law at the time and had no rights. It’s no surprise then, that Kable later became a wealthy businessman, probably turning his legal windfall into a fortune.

Lawsuit

Robert Sidaway

What is a society without entertainment? Sidaway opened Australia’s first theatre (and we’re not talking about one of those talking pictures types), in Sydney, in 1796. Back then, you could pay for seats using money, flour, meat, or alcohol. If alcohol was a currency nowadays, I’d be filthy rich (instead of just filthy!). The theatre featured performances of Shakespearean and other English works, but was shut down by authorities in 1800, as it was deemed a corrupting influence.

Mary Wade

Wade was the youngest female convict shipped away, leaving the UK for Australia at only 11 years old. By the time she passed away at age 82, she had 21 children and more than 300 descendants, leaving a family tree that now adds up to tens of thousands and includes former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Now that, my little sippers, is a legacy.

Australia: Stormy Weather

Stormy Weather Drink Recipe

  • 1.5 oz Shiraz/Syrah Wine
  • 1.5 oz Dark Rum
  • Splash of Lime Juice
  • Dash of Simple Syrup
  • Float Ginger Ale
  • Garnish with a Strawberry Slice and Raspberry

Coming from a lineage of scoundrels and miscreants, that explains the likes of Mel Gibson and Russell Crowe, but not Steve Irwin, Crocodile Dundee, and others of that ilk. Australia, forever mystifying outside observers with their citizen’s contrasting personality traits… I think I just came up with a new tagline for the country!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
Another good Shiraz/Syrah cocktail has me really enjoying the Little Penguin Wine. The Ginger Ale was solid, as usual, and of particular pleasure was the Appleton Rum I used. You could get a hint of it with each sip and it was an absolutely delicious touch to the rest of the recipe.

Estonia – Venus

Nice to Skype You

Mrs. Sip and I spent a fair portion of our dating years in a long distance relationship. Just through various schooling, I estimate we spent nearly two and a half years physically apart. So, when Skype came along and allowed us to not only chat on a daily basis, but also see each other – and all for no cost – we considered it a godsend. I bet you didn’t know this miracle was created and operated in Estonia by Estonian programmers. Let’s take a look at the great invention:

While Mrs. Sip and I didn’t learn about Skype until around the time I was heading over to the UK for six months in 2007, the program was actually launched in August 2003, building on previous peer-to-peer technology.

grandparent-cats

As of its 10th birthday in 2013, Skype has approximately 300 million users who make more than 2 billion minutes worth of online calls each day. It goes without saying that Skype holds a large share of the long distance calling market. That’s about equal to the time it takes Mrs. Sip to get ready in the morning… especially when we’re in a rush!

The program is no longer confined to only computers. With the advancement of cell phone technology, Skype can be downloaded to most smart phones and used while people are commuting and out and about. The app has been downloaded onto over 100 million Android phones worldwide. So, when you’re getting annoyed by that dork on the bus who’s shouting into his phone and making funny faces, you have the fine folks of Estonia to blame for your misery.

If you want proof of Skype’s use as a wonderful long distance relationship tool (as well as its proficiency as a live sex show instrument), look no further than its demographic split of 52% male users and 48% female operators.

Somewhat surprisingly, only 42% of Skype calls use the video function. I guess old fashioned phone sex and using your imagination still has a place in today’s more visual society.

naked skype

Much like Google (“to Google”) has found its way into the popular lexicon, so too has the verb “to Skype”. Sadly, this amazing website will never experience that joy as “to Sip” is kind of already an established act.

The program is available in countless dialects, thanks to Skype allowing users to create new language files. You know some uber geek out there is working on a Klingon version of the chatting software.

Skype can hold up to 25 people in a conference call, making it entirely possible to tell off every single one of your co-workers in one place, should the need for an epic meltdown ever come up.

In September 2007, eBay bought Skype Technologies for $2.5 million (U.S.) and stock in eBay. In October 2011, Microsoft purchased Skype Communications for $8.5 million (U.S.), replacing their Messenger services in favour of Skype. The going rate for The Sip Advisor and all its subsidiaries is a box of pizza and three cans of pop… not too shabby!

microsoft-bought-skype

Skype in the Classroom’ is a free tool the company has set up on its website for the program to be used for educational purposes by teachers and students… I could joke about teacher-student sexual relationships, but we all know this is a high-brow publication, read by industry moguls and the world’s wealthiest.

Similarly, orangutans Mei and Mukah at the Cameron Park Zoo in Waco, Texas have been known to get their Skype on with primates at other zoos, a reward for good behaviour. Yes, I did just compare students and teachers using the program to chimps, thank you very much.

Now let’s load up our webcams and microphone headsets for the world’s largest toast in honour of Skype and its ability to let complete strangers see each other’s naughty bits!

Estonia: Venus

Venus Drink Recipe

  • 1.5 oz Vana Tallinn
  • Top with Ginger Ale
  • Splash of Lime Juice
  • Dash of Angostura Bitters
  • Garnish with Orange Twist

This wraps up our brief stay in Estonia, which I found to be a totally underrated stop on our Baltic cruise last year. Going in, I thought it was a mere add-on amongst the big name countries like Russia, Sweden, and Finland, but was pleasantly surprised by the charm and beauty of the port of call!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (5 Sips out of 5):
It might not be the most elaborate cocktail, but it sure is delicious. The vanilla-flavoured Vana Tallinn is a very nice spirit and I’m sad I only brought a small bottle home with me from Estonia. Put it together with the uber-reliable mixer that is Ginger Ale and you have a winning combo. It might also be my favourite recipe yet to use Angostura Bitters!