Snack Time #35 – Kalev Vana Tallinn Cream Chocolates

What do you get when you combine one of the Sip Advisor’s favourite liqueurs with chocolate? A Sip Syndicate member, recently on vacation in Europe, has provided empirical evidence for us to consider from Kalev Chocolate Candies.

The Vana Tallinn Cream Chocolates come from Estonia, using the country’s famous liqueur. What I like best about them is that they’re not simply dark chocolate and liqueur, but because they are creamy, they aren’t as sharp in taste as other boozy chocolate.

Kalev Vana Tallinn Cream Chocolates

Kalev Chocolate Candies, also an Estonian institution, was first established back in 1806. For those unfamiliar with the liqueur used in these chocolates, it is so very good. Vana Tallinn is rum-based with flavours of cinnamon, vanilla and citrus.

Mrs. Sip and I visited Tallinn, Estonia in 2013 and it was a highlight of our Baltic cruise. Perhaps the relaxing day, sipping beer from the city’s medieval wall and buying neat alcohols played a role in my affection for the port stop.

For more Snack Time articles, please visit our main page…

Advertisements

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!

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!

June 24 – Cold Lips

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

We continue our vacation exploits with stops in Estonia, Russia, Finland, and Sweden, along with more hijinks aboard the Emerald Princess!

Drinking on the Ship

One of my favoruite parts of a cruise vacation is, of course, the drinking. There are a number of bars around the ship and it’s fun to hit each one for at least one bevvy. Highlights of this voyage included cheaper cocktails in the Skywalker Lounge (with it’s beautiful views out the back of the ship), thanks to our new platinum status as cruise members and a visit to Vines Wine Bar, where tapas and sashimi sushi accompanied glasses of rose and pinot grigio wines.

cruise ship

I was drinking, but I wasn’t driving… I swear!

Liquor Finds & Dannebrog Café

Tallinn, Estonia was an amazing little stop that I hadn’t anticipated enjoying so much. And it came with a number of liquor moments. After touring the old, historic city, we popped into a souvenir store and found the aforementioned Cloudberry Liqueur. Imagine my surprise and excitement when Mrs. Sip pointed it out behind one of the cashiers. We also discovered the town’s most popular spirit Vana Tallinn and later found bottles of liqueur that included sugar crystals at the bottom to keep the libations sweet and delicious. Mrs. Sip selected a peach variety of this technique to bring home.

Our last stop of the port visit was to a little bar situated into the old town wall of the medieval city, called Dannebrog Café. You have to climb up narrow and steep stone stairs to enjoy your food and drink high up on a little wooden platform built from the wall (I think Mrs. Sip needed a drink or two just to get the courage to make the climb back down!). From our high perch, we were offered and amazing view of the city, while enjoying some local beers and wines, before making our way back to the ship and onward.

Vodka Tasting

On our honeymoon cruise, Mrs. Sip and I took part in a rum tasting aboard our ship, as we went through the Panama Canal route. This time, traversing through Northern Europe’s Vodka Belt, we of course had to sample some of the spirit and we were happily provided with a sampling of vodkas. We tried Russian Standard, Absolut and Matrioshka Lux, as we geared up for our two days in Russia. In Russia, we were advised by our guide to pick up a bottle of Beluga Vodka, said to be one of the finest sold in the country. That is precisely what we did and hopefully the old adage is true: Russians really know their vodka!

russian vodka

Beers in Finland

With only a short time in Finland, we had to rush around to get our sightseeing done, including taking a boat out to the famous world heritage site, the Suomenlinna sea fortress. When that was complete, it was time for a little rest and relaxation in a Helsinki pub, trying a couple local beers. Before we returned to the ship, we hit a convenience store and bought seven tall boys, each a different brand, to later have our own beer tasting to experience a greater selection of what the country had to offer on the brew front. My personal favourite was the Karhu selections.

Captain’s Circle

A highlight of our last two extended cruises has been invites to the Captain’s Circle celebration (for returning cruisers only). These are mini drinkfests, where servers bring you one cocktail after another for about half an hour, even if you’re already working on three drinks at once at your table. On our Panama honeymoon cruise, it’s where I discovered an appreciation for Cosmos and this time, I was able to enjoy a couple Gimlets, among other treats.

Finishing Cruise Alcohol

At the end of every cruise comes a brief moment of panic when you realize that you still have a fair bit of alcohol left to consume and so few hours to accomplish the feat. Never fear, however, as our troupe went through a quarter bottle of vodka, a dozen beers, some champagne and even hit a couple of the bars around the ship for afternoon cocktails! Damn, I love days at sea!!!

Drink #175: Cold Lips

Cold Lips Cocktail

  • Rim glass with Powder Candy
  • 1 oz Vana Tallinn
  • 1 oz White Rum
  • Top with Cranberry Juice
  • Garnish with Strawberry

So, as you can see, our little vacation was anything but, what with all the port stops and other activities. Still, any time away from work is good time!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
Like yesterday’s inaugural experiment with Crowberry Frost Liqueur, today’s drink provided us with our first opportunity to make a cocktail with Vana Tallinn, which tastes very nice in this mix. I used a Powder Candy Rim to visually show the ‘cold lips’ effect. The Cranberry Juice actually works well with the liquors and all ingredients come together nicely.