Slovakia – Royal Tatrateani

Roll Call

Admittedly, I don’t know much about our next stop, Slovakia. I know a few hockey players from the European country: Marian Hossa, Zdeno Chara, and the late Pavol Demitra, among others. Aside from that, there’s not much space in me ol’ noggin’ dedicated to Slovakian culture. That said, there are a number of Slovaks who are known the world over for varying achievements. Here is a small sample of those fine folks:

The Stastny Brothers

When Peter Stastny defected from Slovakia to Canada in 1980, he became the first red curtain star player to do so and ushered in an exodus of players leaving Soviet Europe for a better life in North America. Peter and his brother Anton joined the Quebec Nordiques and were later united with eldest brother Marian, becoming only the third trio of brothers to play for the same squad. All three enjoyed successful career, particularly Peter who was a scoring phenom, notching 1239 points in 977 games. He retired in 1995 and was selected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1998. The brother’s legacy continues with Peter’s sons Yan and Paul suiting up for the Edmonton Oilers and Colorado Avalanche (ironically, the relocated Quebec franchise his father starred for), respectively. The Stastny’s are the first hockey family to represent four different countries – Czechoslovakia, Canada, Slovakia, USA – in international play.

Stastny Brothers

Juraj Jánošík

Slovakia has its own version of the legendary Robin Hood and that is this man. Jánošík is said to have stolen from the rich to give to the poor… sound familiar? Jánošík even had his own collection of “Merry Men,” although I’m sure they were called something more badass than that. The vigilante met his end after being sentenced to death. Scholars have debated how he was executed with most believing he was impaled on a hook and left to die, while others theorize he could have been hanged. As it often is with legends, stories persist that he went out in grand style, ever thumbing his nose at the authorities, by jumping onto the hook, rather than accept the grace offered to him in exchange for enlisting soldiers from his able ranks. Jánošík’s fable can be found in numerous films, books and even the odd song or two.

Adriana Karembeu (nee Sklenaríková)

This one is for all my little sippers out there who love gorgeous women! “Miss Wonderbra” as the beautiful and busty blonde has been dubbed has also appeared for brands like Victoria’s Secret and Peroni Beer. The gal is smart, too. Karembeu won her first modelling contest while she was studying medicine in Prague. If the “Miss Wonderbra” moniker isn’t enough to sway you or you’re more of a legs man, it should be noted that Karembeu once held the Guinness world record for longest legs among female models at close to 50 inches. I made sure to arrange my article so that squeezing in a picture of Karembeu didn’t seem out of place!

Adriana-Karembeu

I’m not sure which structure is more impressive!

Martina Hingis

The former world top-ranked women’s tennis player entered her first tournament at the age of four. Along with her mother, the two defected to Switzerland when she was just six years old and a decade later, Hingis became the youngest Grand Slam champion of all-time, winning the 1996 Wimbledon women’s doubles tournament with Helena Sukova. Following that victory, Hingis won Grand Slam singles titles at Wimbledon and the Australian and U.S. Opens. The only major championship missing from her resume is the French Open, although she did win in doubles at the tournament in 1998 and 2000. Hingis retired from tennis in 2003, at the young age of 22. She returned to the sport in 2005 and left in 2007, being handed a two-year ban after testing positive for a minimal amount of an element in cocaine. She returned again in 2010 and still plays in the occasional doubles tournament to this day.

Štefan Banič

After immigrating to the United States and witnessing a plane crash, Banič invented the first military parachute every deployed in action. The man had so much faith in his product (an umbrella like device attached to the jumpers body) that he tested it himself, first from the top of a 15-storey building and later from an actual airplane. Once successful (you know, meaning he didn’t plummet to the earth and burst into a million pieces), Banič then did something extraordinary… he donated his patent to the United States military. His invention saved the lives of countless soldiers during World War I, but the coal miner never received much money or fame for his creation.

Slovakia: Royal Tatrateani

Royal Tatrateani Cocktail

  • 1.5 oz Gin
  • 0.5 oz Tatratea Citrus
  • Splash of Lemon Juice
  • Dash of Agave Nectar
  • Garnish with a Lemon Slice

So, now you know a heck of a lot more about Slovakia than you did before… and really, that’s my only mission in life: to educate while getting people so blitzed they forget half the shit they knew. Full circle, my little sippers, full circle!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3 Sips out of 5):
Mrs. Sip was kind enough to pick these liqueurs up for me for Christmas, adding a country to my 52-week tour that I did not have on my radar. We have the Forest Fruit, Citrus, and Coconut flavours, but the company also sells Peach & White Tea, Original, Bohemian, and Outlaw varieties. This martini was really strong, but grew on me with each sip. To enhance the use of the Tatratea Citrus, I selected Tanqueray Rangpur as my Gin of choice.

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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.

Estonia – Hammer & Sickle

Free as a Bird

Freedom… it’s something most of us take for granted. We wouldn’t do that, however, if we had been occupied by one empire after another for hundreds of years. Estonia (our next stop as we tour the liquor universe) has been listed as one of the freest countries in the world, following centuries of control by other countries. It’s a long and winding road, so buckle up and enjoy the ride to liberty.

meanwhile-in-estonia

If this doesn’t say freedom, I don’t know what does!

While Estonia was a long holdout in converting to Christianity during the Middle Ages, Pope Celestine III made sure that came to an end, calling for a crusade against the pagans of Northern Europe. In 1208, present-day Estonia was raided and despite resistance and fighting for many years, the country was finally conquered by Denmark in the north and Germany in the south. Around the same time, some Swedish people – including descendants of the legendary Swedish Chef – also settled into Estonian coastal land. The Germans became the ruling elite of Estonia by the end of the Middle Ages.

Fighting over Estonian land persisted for hundreds of years with Northern Estonia falling under Swedish control, while Southern Estonia briefly found itself under rule by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (ah, the PLC… not a group to meddle with). In 1625 the Swedes captured much of mainland Estonia and absorbed it into their growing empire. Estonia accepted this occupation, in exchange for protection against Russia and Poland. Kind of like a smart, but small kid recruiting a tougher, cool kid (although Sweden’s cool factor can be debated for hours on end) for protection against bullies.

When Russia defeated Sweden in the Great Northern War of the early 1700’s, they gained control of Estonia, although the legal system, governments, and education was mostly German up until the late 1800’s and in some cases, the first World War. The Russian Revolution of 1905 changed the landscape of Estonian life, but also opened the door for the country to gain autonomy.

Bread Freedom

Following World War I and the fall of the Russian Empire, Estonia declared its independence on February 23, 1918. It wasn’t long before they were back fighting, however, as the Red Army invaded just days after a provisional Estonian government was in place and the Estonian War of Independence lasted the next couple years. On June 15, 1920, Estonia adopted their first constitution and even joined the League of Nations in 1921, but we all know how that ended!

There was more trouble brewing for Estonia, however, as en route to a presidential election in 1934, Konstantin Päts, the head of state, became the country’s authoritarian ruler. The next period of life in Estonia was known as the Era of Silence. I’m praying this term also one day describes the death of reality TV. Political parties were banned and the parliament did not hold session from 1934 to 1938. Instead, Päts ruled by decree, much like the Sip Advisor does around the company headquarters!

As if things couldn’t get any worse, the Soviet Union and Germany signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact on August 23, 1939. The deal saw the two countries split up the nations the lay between them (Estonia, Finland, Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia). Estonia went to the Soviet Union in the fantasy draft and it wasn’t long before the regime moved into its new territory.

Estonia Girls

The USSR occupied Estonia from 1940 to 1941 and during that time arrested over 8,000 citizens, executing more than a quarter of them. Next up, the German Nazi regime invaded. While originally welcomed, with hopes that Estonia could return to being an independent state, those wishes were quickly dashed by goose-stepping and swastikas.

World War II was not kind to Estonia and its people. The population decreased by about 200,000 people, with 80,000 fleeing West and 30,000 soldiers killed in action. Much of the land was destroyed, including ports, railways, and industrial and residential areas. As the Germans withdrew from the country, the USSR swooped in and put Soviet rule in place, arresting and executing those who opposed the takeover. Poor Estonia couldn’t buy a break.

Hidden behind the ‘red curtain,’ a movement known as the ‘Forest Brothers’ grew – similar to Robin Hood and his Merry Men, but minus the awesome songs of the Disney and Men in Tights offerings. They opposed the Soviet occupation and grew to approximately 30,000 members. Their resistance was ultimately unsuccessful and it wasn’t until the late 1980’s that the tide began to change and Estonia reached for sovereignty again. The 1990’s brought free elections, a new congress, and a referendum on independence.

Free Turtle

Estonia’s confirmation of independence occurred on August 20, 1991. The day has become a national holiday as a result and features Will Smith battling aliens to save the world. On June 28, 1992, Estonians approved a draft constitution and on September 20, 1992, Lennart Meri was elected president, choosing Mart Laar as prime minister.

Things continued to roll along for Estonia as the new millennium approached. The country joined the European Union in 2004 and adopted the Euro currency in 2011. In recent years, Estonia has found itself ranked first in Internet Freedom (so much porn!) and World Liberty. Congrats to everyone who made it all happen!

Estonia: Hammer & Sickle

Hammer & Sickle Drink Recipe

  • Muddle Mint and Lime Wedges
  • 1.5 oz Vana Tallinn
  • Dash of Brown Sugar
  • Top with Club Soda
  • Garnish with Mint Sprig

What’s next for the Baltic nation is unknown, but I sincerely hope things continue on an upswing. It’s a beautiful country and one I consider to be a hidden gem when touring Northern Europe.

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4.5 Sips out of 5):
Being the King of Mojitos comes with great responsibility… it means that you always have to be on the lookout for new variations to master. I wanted to try this recipe because the Vana Tallinn and Brown Sugar change things up from your usual Mojito Recipe and this cocktail is a keeper. The Vana Tallinn, which carries a vanilla flavour, makes for a delicious Mojito ingredient, getting along very well with the Brown Sugar and even the Mint and Lime Wedges. I took the drink name from Vana Tallinn’s Wikipedia page and although it was meant for another concoction, because citation was needed, I decided to steal the moniker for myself!

England – Reichenbach Fall

Cultured Characters

England is a land of professed culture, what with all its museums, historical figures, and landmarks. Perhaps it can be noticed most in the country’s long history of fine literature. They call it English Lit for a reason! Always one for a good read (kidding, I’m the world’s most prolific non-reading writer), here are the greatest literary characters who call England home:

Sherlock Holmes

Along with his faithful sidekick Dr. Watson, this formidable duo have solved some of greatest mysteries to occur in and around London. Add in arch nemesis Dr. Moriarty, as well as other secondary characters like Mycroft Holmes, Irene Adler, and Inspector Lestrade and you have the makings of some great fiction. It was suggested that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle didn’t like the character he is most famous for, as evidenced by Holmes being killed off so the author could pursue other projects. Public outrage brought Holmes back to life years later and the character has enjoyed a long history of different treatments.

sherlock-early-years

James Bond

Agent 007 is the quintessential secret service member. Created by writer Ian Fleming, Bond is just as popular for his prowess in the field as he is for his conquests beneath the sheets. While Bond has been played by Irish and Scottish actors on the big screen (and that is probably where he’s most famous and recognized), his origins are purely English. There is virtually no way to put down the famous MI6 operative, so he’ll probably be around for a very long time.

Harry Potter

For inspiring an entire generation of kids to pick up a book and read (or go to the theatre and watch!), Harry Potter and his pals are a must for this list. So famous is the franchise, that theme parks have set up lands to include Hogwarts Castle and the village of Hogsmeade. Quidich has also become a playable game, although it looks more ridiculous than polo and cricket combined. Wee little sippers want to grow up to become wizards and parents have J.K. Rowling to thank for the next wave of geeks!

Mr. Toad

Written by Scottish author Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows features the friendly and jovial, but selfish and reckless Mr. Toad, as well as his pals Mole, Ratty, and Badger. The stories were based on Grahame’s love of river life along the Thames. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride was my favourite Disneyland attraction as a wee little sipper and I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Mr. Toad and careless ways.

Mr. Toad's Ride

Paddington Bear

From “Darkest Peru” (whatever that means… my theory is Paddington was sent to London by his Peruvian owner, who had awoken from a pisco haze and mistakenly shipped the bear away), Paddington Bear arrives in England and is promptly taken in by the Brown family. A Paddington film will be released in 2014, mixing live action and CGI animation. The bear will be voiced by Colin Firth, who ate endless marmalade sandwiches, while donning a duffle coat to get into character.

Robin Hood

Stealing from the rich, to give to the poor, Robin Hood may not have begun life as a literary figure and was more of a folk hero told about in ballads (aren’t those as good or even better than books?), but his legend has inspired countless appearances in media, especially the written word. My favourite adaptation of the vigilante is the 1973 Disney film with Robin Hood portrayed as a fox and opposing a cowardly lion in Prince John.

linkedin-robin-hood

Ebenezer Scrooge

Teaching civilization a lesson about how it behaves while using Christmas as a backdrop, Charles Dickens character Ebenezer Scrooge is one of the finest examples of turnaround redemption. He goes from a literal scrooge to becoming a man of love, friendship, heart, and caring. One of the greatest scenes ever is ol’ Ebenezer racing through the streets of London like a raving madman after discovering he still has time to change his ways.

Willy Wonka

Roald Dahl’s famous chocolatier and candy producer is about as eccentric as a person can possibly come. That aids him in all the wacky creations he’s able to dream up and put into research and development, but at the same time, makes him guarded and suspicious, staying reclusive in his precious factory. We still don’t know where the hell Oompa Loompas come from, but they aren’t among the world’s greatest literary characters, so it doesn’t really matter.

England: Reichenbach Fall

Reichenbach Fall Drink Recipe

  • 1 oz Tanqueray Rangpur Gin
  • 2 oz Sherry
  • Dash of Orange Bitters
  • Top with Lemonade
  • Garnish with a Lemon Wedge

An honourable mention should go to English authors like William Shakespeare, Jane Austen (although I hate her so very much), J.R.R. Tolkien, and the many others that I just didn’t feel like shoehorning into this list. Their contributions to the literary world, although I’ve only heard of such through movies, TV, and other more visual media, should not go unnoticed!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4.5 Sips out of 5):
This recipe comes from my old friends at The Drunken Moogle, who nailed this cocktail inspired by the current Sherlock BBC Series, which is of course inspired by the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories about the sleuth. I used regular Orange Bitters, rather than the Blood Orange variety the drink calls for because I had it on hand. I really enjoyed the flavours and blend provided by this cocktail and was pleasantly surprised by the use of Sherry.