Ukraine – Fireball Martini

Brotherly Brawlers

It’s not often that a country can lay claim to one heavyweight title fighter, but a pair of brothers that are equally adept in the ring is a truly rare feat. Ukraine’s Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko are both champions and give the Ukraine an image to be feared. Let’s take a look at the brothers and their rise to international stardom:

Vitali (born July 19, 1971) is nearly five years older than his brother Wladimir (born March 25, 1976). Both men made their debut on the same night (November, 6, 1996) in Hamburg, Germany. Not surprisingly, each brother was victorious, with Vitali KO’ing Tony Bradham at 1:14 of the second round. He was bested by Wladimir, who beat Fabian Meza by knockout at 1:35 of the first round.

Klitschko Jab

Prior to entering the professional ranks, Wladimir competed at the 1996 Olympics, winning gold in the Super Heavyweight division. Vitali was a member of the same team, but was booted off for testing positive for a banned substance. This opened the door for Wladimir, who was intended to compete in the Heavyweight Division and was struggling to make the weight limit, thus bumping up to Super Heavyweight, taking Vitali’s spot.

Vitali was also quite successful before his pro boxing career began, but in the discipline of kickboxing, where he was a six-time World Champion (twice as an amateur and four times professionally) with a record of 34-1, including 22 knockouts.

Vitali took four years off from the sport from 2004 to 2008. When he returned, he defeated Samuel Peter to win back the WBC World Heavyweight Championship. At the same time, Wladimir was in possession of the WBO, IBF, and IBO heavyweight titles (the longest reigning champion for each of those belts), marking the first time two brothers held world championships at the same time.

Klitschko Belts

When Wladimir added the WBA World Heavyweight Championship to his collection in 2011, the broskis held every world title (and continued to do so for the next 2 years, 5 months, and 13 days). Vitali forfeited his title in 2013, in order to enter the political realm in the Ukraine.

Vitali is extremely well-educated, having earned a master’s degree in social development and a doctorate in sport science, which netted him the nickname Dr. Ironfist. He was chosen as the leader of the Ukrainian Democratic Allice for Reform Party and has twice sought to be elected as the mayor of Kiev. Vitali has been awarded Germany’s highest civilian honour, the Federal Cross of Merit for his achievements. Not to be unmatched, Wladimir also garnered a doctorate in sport science, changing his nickname from The Steel Hammer to Dr. Steel Hammer.

Outside of the ring, the Klitschko’s operate K2 Promotions and K2 East Promotions. They are also active in the philanthropy world with their Klitschko Brothers Fund, which works to help children around the world. The brothers have agreed to work with UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), as of 2002.

Klitschko Fight Mode

Wladimir auctioned off his 1996 gold medal at an event in 2012, hoping to raise money to help Ukrainian children. The winning bid came in at $1 million, with the buyer immediately returning the medal to the boxer, not out of fear, but because he believed the treasure should remain with Wladimir and his family. Really gives you the warm fuzzies!

Wladimir appeared in the movie Ocean’s 11, fighting Lennox Lewis during the great heist and starred in the music video for ‘Part of Me,’ by Chris Cornell of Soundgarden and Audioslave fame. Regardless of all the bragging rights that come with being a boxing champion, Wladimir can also claim to be engaged to actress Hayden Penettiere from the TV shows Heroes and Nashville. The couple announced in 2014 that they are expecting their first child.

Combined, the sibling’s all-time record is 107 wins and 5 losses, with 93 knockouts. Vitali is 45-2-0 with 41 KOs, while Wladimir is 62-3-0 with 52 KOs. Vitali may not have as many knockouts as his little brother, but his KO percentage of 87% is the highest ever in the history of heavyweight champions. Despite his two losses, Vitali rarely lost a round and was never knocked down or out in competition. When he hasn’t come out as the winner, it’s because injuries suffered during a bout have caused him to concede defeat.

Ukraine: Fireball Martini

Fireball Martini

Although an encounter between the two siblings would be highly marketable, Vitali and Wladimir have both insisted that they would never fight each other. The Sip Advisor and his broski didn’t follow this mantra and faced off on pay-per-view in what has been viewed as the least watched sporting exhibition in history!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3 Sips out of 5):
When I first heard of this Vodka, I knew it would be a perfect addition to the Sip Advisor collection. I’m a fan of drinks that offer a little burn and this was no different. I could have used a little more heat, but that’s just me. I dared Mrs. Sip to take a bite of the Hot Pepper garnish and when she turned it back on me, I was game… I took my bite and let the flames fly for the next few minutes!

Ukraine – Black Sea Blackout

Hearty Homage

While I’m not of Ukrainian descent in any way, Ma Sip always made a point of celebrating Ukrainian Christmas in late January. With that, came a healthy dose of perogies and cabbage rolls. Borsht is also an originally Ukrainian dish, which has been adapted around the world. You might not want to read this article on an empty stomach, because we’re delving into the best of Ukrainian cuisine!

Borscht

This soup, made from beets, cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, onions, and spices is a Ukraine original. There is said to be about 30 different varieties of borscht, depending on ingredients used. Borscht can be served either hot or cold, just like pizza, although I don’t think the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will be going out of their way for soup. The country is also known for a number of other brothy offerings, none of which seem overly appetizing, in the Sip Advisor’s opinion.

Borscht Dog

Similar to the fabled Bible Belt in the United States, there is a Borscht Belt, referring to parts of Upstate New York, where many Jewish immigrants vacationed between the 1920s and 1970s, bringing the Ukrainian dish with them over to America. Also dubbed the Jewish Alps, the area consists of many out of business summer resorts, although many stars got their start performing there, including comedians, singers, dancers, musicians, and variety acts. The area even inspired Fozzie Bear!

Pierogies

Although the pierogy was invented in Poland, it is a staple of Ukrainian meals. The people of Ukraine call these dumplings varenyky and they can be found stuffed with potato and cheese, meat, cabbage, mushrooms, or anything else that meets your fancy. Pierogies can be either savory or sweet and while some choose to boil their dumplings, the Sip Advisor is an advocate for the fried variety, especially if topped with crisp bacon, sautéed onions, and drizzled with ketchup and ranch dressing (freaky deaky!).

Pierogi Eater

The dessert pierogy options are typically stuffed with various berries or even cheese. They are topped with anything from butter to jam to honey. There is even a type of pierogy called Lazy Varenyky and we all know how fond of laziness the Sip Advisor can be. Varenyky monuments can be found in a couple Ukrainian towns and have even popped in in Glendon, Alberta, Canada, and Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States.

Cabbage Rolls

While never likely to make the Sip Advisor’s list of favourite foods, cabbage rolls have a devoted following around the world. In the Ukraine, cabbage leaves are either pickled or parboiled and then usually stuffed with only rice. This was because cabbage rolls were a meal of the peasants and meat was too expensive. Of course, the recipe has evolved in recent times to include meats, vegetables, and even tofu.

Cabbage Rolls Food

Cabbage rolls are typically cooked in or topped with sauces such as tomato juice, beef or vegetable stock, or different soup broths. Variations of this Eastern European classic have travelled the globe, to places including China (bai cai juan); Japan (rōru kyabetsu); Brazil (charuto de repolho); Iran (dolmeye kalam); Quebec, Canada (cigares au chou); and numerous other locales.

Babka

Famously known for its inclusion in an episode of Seinfeld, where Jerry and the gang are picking up a cake for a party they’ve all been invited to and in typical fashion, things go quite differently than intended. The Babka is a sweet bread, often baked with raisins and other dried fruit. It is mostly only produced at Easter to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ – as the dough rises, so shall the lord… or something to that effect!

Babka Barker

Unlike most cakes, which are long/round, the Babka is tall and cylindrical. The Babka dates back thousands of years, with evidence that ancient Greeks and Romans dined of the delicacy. Some versions of the dessert, typically from Sardinia, Italy, are decorated intricately with flowers and become more of an art form than a holiday food item. You’d feel horrible scarfing down something that looked so festive. Now that we have an appetizer, main, side, and dessert, I think it’s time for a drink!

Ukraine: Black Sea Blackout

Black Sea Blackout Cocktail

As I mentioned in one of my 25 Days of Christmas articles, Ukrainians (as well as other Eastern Europeans) also have a 12-course Christmas Eve feast, consisting of 12 meatless dishes, meant to symbolize the 12 Apostles. This year, I will do my own 12-course meal consisting of 12 different flavours of potato chips!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
This cocktail is supposed to use the regular Khortytsa Vodka and more Blue Curacao than I was willing to let into a drink, so I adapted the recipe a smidge. The results were quite nice, especially when paired with my Cran-Lemonade mixer, which is a wonderful addition to any bar. The Honey Hot Pepper Vodka also lends a nice little burn at the end of each sip.

December 20 – Kiss Me Santa

Customary Christmas

There are some very interesting Christmas rituals performed around the world. Some are truly baffling to me, but if I lived in the part of the planet where they occur, they might seem completely normal. I’m not here to judge… but I will anyway! Here are some of the most unique holidays customs:

Pickled Tree – North America

This is a tradition that Ma Sip picked up from when we were on holiday years ago in Leavenworth, Washington. How it works is that you bury a pickle ornament somewhere in your tree and the person who first finds it Christmas morning is rewarded with good luck (and sometimes gets to crack open the first present of the day!) for the following year. The custom has been attributed to Germany, but is actually unheard of to many Germans. In actuality, it’s said to have developed in the United States.

christmas pickle

Roller Derby – Caracas, Venzuela

I love skating and it doesn’t matter if it’s on ice or pavement, so this tradition is right up my alley. On the morning of Christmas Eve, the streets on Venezuela’s capital city are closed off, allowing citizens to skate to morning mass. There is, however, one snag in this ritual… you have to go to church, which I view as one of the most uncomfortable settings in the entire world. I suppose I could just join the mob for a little skate and then ditch them when it’s religion time!

Burning Goat – Gavle, Sweden

It’s tradition in this Swedish town to construct a massive straw goat at the start of the Christmas season… but it’s even more of a tradition for the townspeople to do everything they can to destroy the goat before Christmas Day. Since 1966, the goat hasn’t survived many times, despite it being protected by fences and guarded by security and even military. The goat has been destroyed through various acts (fire, sabotage, hit by car) and once only lasted six hours before two drunk teenagers torched it.

Spider Chronicles – Ukraine

So, apparently the Ukraine got Christmas and Halloween mixed up, because it is tradition for them to include a fake spider and webbing in their Christmas trees. Spiders are good luck, you see… shame on all of you out there that didn’t already know that. Think of all the arachnids you’ve killed over your lifetime. That’s like smashing a mirror to a Ukrainian folk. Mrs. Sip has some Ukrainian in her, but given her fear of spiders – even itty, bitty ones – I don’t think she’s going to adopt this custom.

Spiderman Ornament

Not that Spider…

Night of the Living Radishes – Oaxaca, Mexico

Well, this certainly wouldn’t qualify as organic. In Oaxaca, residents grow massive radishes by any means necessary, for the purpose of carving them up into sculptures depicting the nativity scene, parties, famous figures, building models, and saints. Not being a fan of radishes, I’m all for an event that doesn’t require their consumption. The Dec. 23 ‘Night of the Radishes‘ is attended by thousands of people. The winner of the competition gets their photo in the newspaper and a lifetime supply of radishes (okay, only the newspaper photo is true!).

Love, Japanese Style – Japan (obviously!)

While us westerners are opening presents and spending quality time with family, in Japan, the holiday is treated similar to our Valentine’s Day. A Christmas dessert of strawberry sponge cake is quite popular, except single women of 25 years or older are referred to as “unsold Christmas cake”. It should also be noted that red Christmas cards are a definite no-no in the Land of the Rising Sun, as funeral notices are printed in that hue and can be cause for bad luck and shows poor etiquette.

Letters to Santa – Worldwide

I’ve already touched on Santa’s Canadian address (postal code H0 H0 H0) in my look at Christmas urban legends, and apparently we’re not alone with giving St. Nick free housing. In New Zealand he can be found at ‘Santa’s Workshop, The North Pole 0001’, while Australian children can reach him at ‘North Pole 9999’. Lastly, the United kingdom has provided the jolly fat man with the post code ‘SAN TA1’. This brings much awesomeness to the commonwealth!

Drink #254: Kiss Me Santa

Kiss Me Santa Drink Recipe

  • 1 oz Raspberry Liqueur
  • 0.5 oz Vodka
  • Top with Rose Champagne
  • Garnish with a Candy Cane

In closing, here’s one last interest custom that varies throughout the world and that involves Santa’s mode of transportation. Us normal folk claim that he rides a sleigh from house to house on Christmas Eve, but that story is quite different in other locales, where he is believe to travel via kangaroo (Australia), canoe (Hawaii), horse (Netherlands), and finally and most awesomely, by zipline from heaven (Czech Republic)!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3 Sips out of 5):
For this recipe, you have your choice of using Strawberry or Raspberry Liqueur. The champagne cocktail came across much stronger than I expected. The flavour was decent, but I’m still not a huge bubbly fan and as a result, there just wasn’t enough to bump this drink’s score up higher.