Denmark – Viking Blood

Something Rotten

Despite William Shakespeare being English, his tragic character Prince Hamlet (or Hammy, as I like to call him) is from Denmark, the setting for what is perhaps Shakespeare’s greatest work. Let’s take an in-depth look at the masterpiece, before poisoning ourselves with booze!:

Hamlet-shirt

The full title of the play is The Tragedy of Hamlet… they sure didn’t leave things to surprise the audience back then. It would be like me calling this site: The Tragedy of the Sip Advisor… I mean, Reading Useless Information and Getting Drunk.

Hamlet is Shakespeare’s longest play, consisting of 4,042 lines, 1,530 of them belonging to Hammy. Uncut, the play takes between four and five hours to perform and it’s estimated that at every moment of every day, Hamlet is being performed somewhere around the world.

The Disney animated film The Lion King is based off of the plot of Hamlet, complete with Scar (Claudius) causing the death of his brother Mufasa (King Hamlet) and stealing rule of the Pride Lands (Denmark) from its natural leader Simba (Prince Hamlet). The differences being that Simba’s lady friend Nala (Ophelia) doesn’t go crazy and off herself; Timon and Pumbaa (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern) don’t betray Simba and go off into the sunset singing Hakuna Matata instead of being killed; and Simba lives through the whole ordeal to claim his birthright.

Hamlet-Lion King

Similarly, the movie Strange Brew, borrows elements from Hamlet, particularly subbing the battle for the Danish throne with the Elsinore Brewery. There are also a number of similarities between Hamlet and Batman, particularly in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. As for TV, the biker gang drama Sons of Anarchy features many plot and character points found in Hamlet.

The Simpsons parodied Hamlet in their short story episode Tales from the Public Domain, with Bart playing Prince Hamlet. The segment features what has to be the first death by high-five, as everyone perishes. Homer then states that the Hamlet story was adapted to become the Ghostbusters script and the family dances to the greatest theme song in movie history!

Speaking of Ghostbusters, speculation exists that Shakespeare himself played the role of The Ghost, when Hamlet was being performed at The Globe in London. It’s too bad Slimer never got the chance to take on the character.

Hamlet Everyone Dies

When the Royal Shakespeare Company performed Hamlet in 2009, actor David Tennant used the very real skull of composer André Tchaikowsky during the infamous gravedigger scene. Don’t worry folks, this wasn’t the result of murder most foul. Tchaikowsky donated his skull to the theatre upon his death in 1982, for theatrical use. Almost 30 years later, Tennant was the first actor to make use of Tchaikowsky’s cranium.

Prince Hamlet has been portrayed by everyone from Laurence Olivier to Mel Gibson (does he hate Claudius as much as Jews!?). Other actors to tackle to starring role include: Kenneth Branagh, Richard Burton, Christopher Walken (did cowbells exist during Hamlet’s time!?), Jude Law, and Kevin Kline.

Hamlet Skulls

Prince Hamlet’s “To be, or not to be” soliloquy is one of the most famous passages in all of the performing arts. It has been interpreted many different ways, with scholars debating its meaning to no end. Sounds like a riveting profession, said no one ever.

Tying everything back to Denmark, the castle that plays the setting of Hamlet actually exists. It is Kronborg Castle in the Danish port of Helsingør. Built in the 1420’s by Eric of Pomerania (the Danish King), this World Heritage Site actually houses the occasional performance of Hamlet, usually in the courtyard. Also, a statue of ol’ Hammy was erected in Elsinore to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the play being published. Hopefully the Sip Advisor doesn’t have to wait three centuries to get his due!

Denmark: Viking Blood

Viking Blood Drink Recipe

  • Rim glass with Strawberry Syrup
  • 1 oz Akvavit
  • 1 oz Kahlua
  • Top with Lemon-Lime Soda
  • Garnish with a Maraschino Cherry

I was once given the nickname Billy Shakes (a reference to one William Shakespeare), but I have to say that my writing is better… I don’t use silly words like hath and doth!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
So, this is what Viking Blood tastes like… and apparently it’s black. Well, the cocktail itself was decent. I was curious about mixing Kahlua with Lemon-Lime Soda and it worked. I tried to theme the drink with the Strawberry Syrup rim acting as blood and garnishing the cocktail with a Maraschino Cherry to act as a heart. I think it looked alright. Not great, but who said I was ever performing to epic heights!

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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.

September 29 – Negroni

Bittersweet

There are some legendary roles that have been passed up by actors and actresses for various reasons. That probably made some of these folks pretty bitter… let’s take a look!:

Tom Selleck – Indiana Jones (Raiders of the Lost Ark)

The Magnum P.I. star and his moustache were slated to play the role of archeologist Indiana Jones, but Selleck wasn’t allowed to vacate his TV role long enough to film the movie. The role went to Harrison Ford instead and three sequels followed. Selleck has done okay since, but lost out on playing such a treasured character. At least Selleck didn’t have to suffer through the backlash The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull received.

tom-selleck-indiana-jones

Molly Ringwald – Vivian (Pretty Woman) / Molly (Ghost)

The 1980’s icon missed the boat on a couple big roles in 1990 including Vivian in Pretty Woman and Molly in Ghost, played by Julia Roberts and Demi Moore respectively. Instead, Ringwald was living and acting in France. When she returned stateside, she had parts in TV movies and series but hasn’t done anything of note since her heyday decades ago. Roberts and Moore on the other hand enjoyed strong careers after these movies.

Will Smith – Neo (The Matrix)

I am certainly not a fan of The Matrix trilogy of movies and apparently, neither was Smith. The Fresh Prince turned down the character of Neo, saying he found the script too hard to follow. Instead, Smith would go on to make Wild Wild West, a universally panned film, around the same time. Smith has also admitted that Keanu Reeves was perfect for the role, which I take to mean the character was always intended to be one-dimensional, monotone, and boring.

will smith as neo

Mel Gibson – Bruce Wayne/Batman (Batman)

With all the uproar over the selection of Ben Affleck to play Batman, it’s interesting to note actors who previously passed on the iconic role. Gibson turned down the offer for Tim Burton’s 1989 film, believing the movie would be a flop… and this is all before his high-profile meltdown. Michael Keaton, of course, stepped up to the plate and knocked it out of the park before the franchise took a downswing with Val Kilmer and George Clooney behind the mask.

Sean Connery – Gandalf (Lord of the Rings)

The former James Bond legend passed on the role of Gandalf, reasoning that he didn’t “get” fantasy (because, you know, the James Bond plots are super realistic) and instead went on to make The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a movie that involves superheroes and is based on comics. Yup, that seems much more grounded in reality. Connery was paid $17 million for his part in the League, but it also pushed him to retire from acting. Had he accepted the Gandalf role and the offered 15% of the box office, he could have made $400 million through the trilogy!

sean-connery-gandalf

Denzel Washington – Det. David Mills (Se7en)

Denzel reportedly turned down the role later played by Brad Pitt, saying the movie was too dark. Apparently, he later regretted passing on the part, but he did alright for himself eventually, with an Oscar win for Training Day. Se7en launched Pitt into superstardom and also paired him with director David Fincher. Over the years, the two would also combine their efforts for Fight Club and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Kevin Costner – Andy Dufresne (The Shawshank Redemption)

Costner was huge in the early 90’s and his acceptance of the Andy Dufresne role would have helped him avoid the total bomb that became his Waterworld passion project. After Waterworld, it took quite some time for Costner to rid himself of the stench of failure (must have been some stinky water on that set) and some could argue he’s never fully recovered. Tim Robbins took the Andy Dufresne part and went on to enjoy a renaissance of sorts.

Drink #272: Negroni

Negroni Drink Recipe

  • 1 oz Campari
  • 1 oz Gin (I used Bombay Sapphire East)
  • 1 oz Sweet Vermouth
  • Garnish with an Orange Twist

I sincerely hope that every actor and actress whose career was launched by one of these roles originally turned down sends that person some kind of gift basket each year, thanking them for their poor judgment and decision making. Join us tomorrow for part two of this franchise!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (1.5 Sips out of 5):
I knew going into this cocktail that I wasn’t going to like it very much. I find Campari’s bitterness to be too harsh and the Sweet Vermouth wasn’t able to bring it back to a tolerable level. I’m unclear as to why this has become such a classic cocktail. I guess there are enough people out there that prefer bitter drinks.