Latvia – Siberian Sunset

Did You Know?

For a country of under two million people, Latvia has still managed to make some significant contributions to the world. Here is a collection of lesser known facts for the nation that has also gone by the names Livonia, Courland, and Lettland:

Birth of a Nation

A Latvian myth states that their national flag was created when a 13th century chief was wounded in battle and wrapped in a white sheet. Blood from his injuries made the two dark red stripes on either side of the sheet, while the middle remained clean. Another interpretation states that the flag depicts Latvians willingness to fight and lose blood for freedom and liberty. The Latvian flag is sometimes mistaken for Austria’s pennant, despite the difference in red hues.

Latvia Location

Freedom Fighters

In its entire history, Latvia has only enjoyed independence for a total of 44 years, over two stints (1920-40 and 1990-present). The country has been ruled and occupied by the Germans, Swedes, Russians, Nazis, and Soviets, to name a few. Their most recent run of autonomy began with the fall of communism. In 2004, Latvia achieved two of its greatest accomplishments as a sovereign nation, being accepted into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU).

Party Time

Latvians technically celebrate two independence days. The first, Proclamation of the Republic of Latvia, occurs every November 18th, while the second, on May 4th, is known as Restoration of Independence Day. That means double holidays! I’d be all for the Canadian government letting other nations take over for the day, if it meant a few extra days off each year!

Forever in Blue Jeans

One of Latvia’s greatest contributions to the world is something most of you might be wearing as you read this article: jeans. Latvian immigrant Jacob Youphes (known as Jacob Davis after moving to North America) created the first pair of denim workpants with his soon-t-be patented rivet, holding together Levi Strauss’ denim. The two went into business together and revolutionized the fashion industry. The orange stitching that appears on jeans is also the work of Davis.

Jeans Washed

Ice Capades

Hockey is the most popular sport in Latvia. Helmuts Balderis was the first Latvian to play in the NHL, when he was drafted by the Minnesota North Stars in 1989. Because this was the first year Soviet players were allowed to be drafted, Balderis earned the distinction of being the oldest player to ever be selected at age 36 and when he scored his first NHL goal, became the oldest player to score his first goal, at the age of 37.

Crocodile Hunter

It blew the Sip Advisor’s mind to learn that the character of Crocodile Dundee was actually inspired by a Latvian. Arvīds Blūmentāls made his way from Latvia to Australia in 1945. Once there, he hunted reptiles, studied Aboriginals and mined opals. Crocodile Dundee went on to become a smash hit film in 1986 and Blūmentāls’ home in Coober Perdy is a tourist attraction. Back in Latvia, a crocodile monument was constructed in Blūmentāls’ hometown of Dundaga.

Crocodile Dundee

Ring Bearer

Many Latvian men wear a Namejs Ring, which helps them identify each other around the world. The four braids of the ring’s design signifies the solidarity of Latvia and its citizens. The legend behind the ring is that it was worn by Namejs, leader of the Semigallian tribe, which was fighting off the German crusaders invasion of Latvia in the 13th century. He gave this ring to his son, hoping he would be recognized upon his return from battle. It is also a sign of friendship and trust.

Strapped In

Another popular piece of Latvian attire is the Lielvārdes Josta, a red and white woven belt, featuring 22 ancient symbols. The belt serves many purposes throughout the wearer’s life, including being used to hang a baby’s cradle, all the way to eventually carrying and lowering a casket at the end of life. The belt is said to have special protection powers and is worn during special festivities and family events. It can also be used to identify which region of Latvia a person may hail from.

Latvia: Siberian Sunset

Dec 25

  • 1.5 oz Stoli Vodka
  • 0.5 oz Triple Sec
  • Top with Grapefruit Soda
  • Garnish with a Maraschino Cherry

Supervillain Dr. Doom is the ruler of the fictional country, Latveria, which one would have to assume is partly based on Latvia, at least by name. Thankfully, the real Latvians don’t have to deal with an evil dictator like Dr. Doom anymore and can thrive in their freedom.

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3.5 Sips out of 5):
The Stoli Vodka drinks go two-for-two with this nice entry. I used Grapefruit Soda instead of juice, as I`m prone to do. The Maraschino Cherry serves as the sun streaking across the sky and makes for a nice little bonus at the end of the cocktail!

Latvia – Kretchma

Triple Threat

Mikhail Baryshnikov is perhaps the most famous person to call Latvia home. The dancer-turned-choreographer, considered to be one of the greatest performers of his generation, if not all-time, was born in Latvia’s capital city of Riga in 1948. Let’s take a look at the man who has transcended his art and entered other realms of entertainment!

The son of an engineer and a dressmaker, Baryshnikov began his ballet studies at the age of 12. His talent was quickly recognized and in 1964, he was moved to the Vaganova School in what is now St. Petersburg. Early in his career, Baryshnikov was partnered with top Russian ballerina Irina Kolpakova, while they were members of the Kirov Ballet in the former Leningrad.

dance class plie

Baryshnikov defected to Canada in 1974, searching for artistic freedom, instead of being pigeon-holed as a ballet dancer. He quickly joined the American Ballet Theatre and later New York City Ballet, where he also took over the artistic direction of the troupe. Some of Baryshnikov’s best work came while partnered with Twyla Tharp. The two completed projects that include Push Comes to Shove, The Little Ballet, and Sinatra Suite.

The 1977 movie The Turning Point brought Baryshnikov’s talent to the mainstream and introduced a decade-long ballet craze to the United States. Playing Yuri Kopeikine, a Russian dancer and playboy, Baryshnikov was nominated for an Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor. The film starred Anne Bancroft and Shirley MacLaine and is about the drama of the dance world… a precursor to the Step Up series, perhaps!?

Baryshnikov’s other film credits include Giselle (also the work in which he made his stage debut in 1967) and White Nights, which is not about cocaine-fuelled parties. White Nights actually teamed Baryshnikov with legendary tap dancer Gregory Hines. The movie featured a number of memorable dance scenes, including one where Baryshnikov pirouettes 14 times while in cowboy boots.

perfect pirouette

On the smaller screen, Baryshnikov appeared in the final season of Sex and the City, as Aleksandr Petrovsky, a successful Russian artist. The character pursues main character Carrie Bradshaw, despite being much older and already having a grown child. Although he convinces Carrie to move to Paris with him, the relationship doesn’t work out and the series ends with Carrie and Mr. Big back together. I never thought I’d write an entire paragraph on a Sex and the City plot.

Baryshnikov’s nickname is Misha, a term which normally might only be used by the man’s close friends and family. After so many people struggled to pronounce his name correctly, he encouraged the use of Misha by friends, family, and fans alike. Baryshnikov used his nickname as the moniker for the perfume he released in 1989. I’ll still never really get why men are able to put out fragrances for women and vice versa, but who am I to question the way the world works.

baryshnikov-quote

Current American Horror Story star, Jessica Lange and Baryshnikov were in a relationship from 1976 to 1982 and have a child, Aleksandra (born 1981) together. The two apparently spoke French when they first met, as Baryshnikov had yet to learn English. A rare heterosexual in the dance world, he also had relationships with ballerinas Gelsey Kirkland and Lisa Rinehart, the latter of which, he has three kids (Peter, Anna, and Sofia) with.

With fellow choreographer Mark Morris, Baryshnikov operated his own modern dance company, The White Oak Dance Project, from 1990-2002. In 2005, he opened the Baryshnikov Arts Centre in New York. He was recently seen in an uncredited role, as Interior Minister Sorokin, in 2014’s Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. Baryshnikov has even been honoured with cocktails based on his life and career. The drinks include Dancer, Actor, and World Citizen… now that’s a triple threat!

Latvia: Kretchma

Kretchma Martini

  • 1 oz Stoli Vodka
  • 1 oz Creme de Cacao
  • Splash of Lemon Juice
  • Dash of Grenadine
  • Garnish with a Lemon Slice

The only real knock I have against Baryshnikov is that he asked for asylum in the city I hate the most in this beautiful country of Canada. That would be Toronto, the center of the universe according to anyone who lives there. Other than that, the guy’s okay in my books!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4.5 Sips out of 5):
This is a very good cocktail, especially when you use Stoli’s Salted Karamel Vodka. The Grenadine gives it a terrific colour and I’m always surprised at how well Lemon Juice and Creme de Cacao work together.

May 21 – Prickly Pear

Vodkommercialization

There are some great vodka ads out there. Whether in print, video, or hell, even the dead art of radio, the liquor is well represented and here are some of the best examples I was able to find (in photos only):

VanGoghVodka

Mrs. Sip and I both really enjoy this Van Gogh Vodka ad campaign. My particular favourite is the one about women not getting their panties in a bunch because they’re rocking it commando style! The company makes a very valid point with this ad and I believe that all us gentlemen should support such a cause. Perhaps we should even host charity functions to get the message out.

vice vodka

And some of us have too many vices to list! One of them is in the above ad… good lord I love typography! While I haven’t heard of this vodka brand before, this message will remain with me until it’s pushed out of my mind by other useless junk and I will keep my eyes open for it until then. If it comes with one of those blindfold thingies, it may make the perfect night out combo!

vodka with you

Yeah, I would definitely have a drink with me. I would also certainly have a drink with Hugh Hefner. You could ask him to divulge the secret of how he’s been so awesome for so long. I mean, the guy was dating three young, hot women at the same time. I can barely handle one lady and this octogenarian was keeping up with three girls that could have been his great granddaughters.

effen-vodka

It’s a little hard to read, but the text next to the woman says “Nothing warms me up like Effen by the fire.” I’ve seen some losers post complaints about the name of this vodka. I personally think it’s clever. It will definitely stick with you as you try to choose one brand from the many that are available. Plus it provides an almost unending number of advertising possibilities, like the ones seen above.

Three Olives

These ladies and I practiced ‘O’ faces all night long until we finally had it right. Three Olives has so many crazy flavours and they have ads similar to the ones above for each concoction. There’s even one that features a dude… hey, I’m all for equal opportunity. But who really wants to see a guy’s ‘O’ face? Let’s face it, we don’t pull it off as well as the ladies. Why do you think we’re usually the ones behind the camera!

Drink #141: Prickly Pear

May 21

  • 1.5 oz Pear Vodka (I used Absolut)
  • 0.5 oz Triple Sec
  • 0.5 oz Blue Curacao
  • Top with Pineapple Juice
  • Splash of Sweet & Sour Mix
  • Garnish with Pear Slice

I really enjoyed this look at vodka advertisements and I hope all you little sippers did, too. In the future, I hope to design my own vodka and with it, a series of commercials that feature inanimate objects being attracted to the libation. Just wait until I release the storyboards… it’s going to be a doozy!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3 Sips out of 5):
The pear is certainly not near the top of my favourite fruit list, but I was intrigued by Pear Vodka and this drink was decent. However, there are a lot of different flavours competing for your attention, drowning each other out, which isn’t how I like my drinks.

March 8 – Pepper Delicious

A Decent Proposal

Today, we play with fire, aka red pepper. “Red pepper? In a drink?” you say… you question whether the ol’ Sip Advisor has finally lost all his mental faculties. Have the weeks of drinking and running this blog already taken a toll on this brainially fragile person? Eff that, I’m more awesome than ever! This blog is about pushing the boundaries of drinkdom and so I must share with you the joys of cocktails made with ingredients you normally wouldn’t see in a shaker. Plus, I’ll throw in a little tale about how the red pepper recipe first entered my consciousness:

Mrs. Sip and I were in Las Vegas to celebrate our 10-year dating anniversary – a decade of destruction, if you will. My liver sure thinks so. It was an amazing trip, where everything just seemed to go right for us. Most of our vacations work out this way, so we weren’t really surprised.

Vacation Fun

We were sitting at the gorgeous Hyde Lounge inside the Bellagio Hotel. Unfortunately, it was a violently windy day and the fountains were shut off, depriving visitor’s to the city of its dancing water splendor. Well, when life gives you lemonade, you push it aside and ask for a martini.

So, there we sat, at the bar with cocktails in hand, reminiscing about another amazing weekend together. The place was pretty empty, so we had a good chance to talk to the bartenders and a nice couple beside us. When they had to run off to a show, they left us with the platter they ordered which included caviar, smoked salmon, and pate. It was one of those trips where everything was clicking!

We paid our tab and were finishing the final sips of our beverages, when we were interrupted by the booming voice of a man behind us.

“Can I get you guys some drinks?” the large African-American stranger asked.

I panicked a little, foreseeing this turning into one of those ‘Indecent Proposal’ type things. He liquors us up then offers me a substantial amount of money for one night with my fiancée. And I could really use that money!

Sure ya did, honey...

Sure ya did, honey…

Let’s make one thing clear: Mrs. Sip is hot. She’s what the Spanish would call muy caliente! I’m just lucky we met at the age of 18 and I locked that sweet honeybutt down pronto (well, eight years later, but who’s counting).

So back to our drink offer. We were hesitant. After all, we had only come for one last drink before we were to head to the airport. We told our new “friend” that and he argued that we weren’t “driving” the plane (sound logic), so we could stay for one more round.

Then it popped into my head that maybe this guy would want to take ME off Mrs. Sip’s hands. I’m sure she wouldn’t hesitate to take the deal, and get a few hours off to read her books in quiet serenity without this Sip Advisor constantly prodding her to edit his blog or get naked. I wonder what rate I would go for? A bag of jellybeans and a sticker book… she’d probably still sign off on the agreement.

Still mulling over the drink offer, the stranger made our decision for us, walking over to the bartenders and talking to them. He turned to us and bluntly asked, “Do you like sweet or savoury?” Before I could answer, Mrs. Sip piped in “savoury”, and he put in an order. We didn’t know what would come next… roofie-coladas?

Roofie

When the bartender was done, I was served what seemed to be a simple vodka soda, while Mrs. Sip was given a drink garnished with a red pepper ring, that we had watched be double-strained and all that jazz. Okay, so clearly this man wasn’t after my heart. We took our first sip, thanked the stranger and told him we liked the cocktails. He paid the bar and left without saying another word. I personally felt stood up!

When he left, we asked the bartender if she knew who he was. Her reply: “He’s the Stoli Vodka rep… he does this all the time.”

Well, cross another item off the bucket list… a complete stranger bought me a drink. I don’t need to say that he was just advertising for his brand… no, he just wanted to get on board with the awesomeness. And after finding out he was a vodka rep, I would have certainly gone anywhere with him!

Drink #67: Pepper Delicious

Pepper Delicious Martini

  • 2 oz Gin (I used Bombay Sapphire)
  • 1 oz Lime Juice
  • Dash of Simple Syrup
  • 8 Mint Leaves
  • ½ Sliced Red Pepper
  • Garnish with red pepper ring and mint leaf

Muddle the lime juice, simple syrup, mint leaves and red pepper all together, then add ice and the gin to your mixer. Shake vigorously (as if there was any other setting to be at) and strain into a martini glass. Thanks to the muddled red pepper, this drink has a sweet and subtle, but enjoyable bite to it, which the mint cools down. All in all, a pretty awesome cocktail!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3.5 Sips out of 5):
Our attempt to recreate the drink we were served in Las Vegas may not have been a complete match, but I think it was a good effort and tasted very unique. I’d like to find more recipes that feature Red Pepper.