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!

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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.

March 3 – Goldfinger

Trivia Time

This cocktail could be honouring anything from the legendary King Midas, a sexual euphemism or anything in between. I’m going to assume (making an ass out of you and me… it’s what I do best) it’s a tribute to the James Bond book and film of the same name. So, let’s look at some trivia on the subject.

In nearly every scene that he appears in, villain Auric Goldfinger wears yellow or gold items of clothing. In one scene he is seen donning a US Army uniform, but is carrying the famous golden gun.

Advisor’s Take: So, Goldfinger basically dresses like a Richard Simmons/Rod Roddy cross… oh man, that’s a scary sight… but scary as in one of those car wreck type deals, where you can’t look away and want to see the carnage. Although that golden gun in the video games kills with only one bullet. No need for headshots here, just shoot them in the foot and the game gives the victim instant gangrene, which results in a quick death.

Richard Simmons ROD RODDY

The Goldfinger movie marked the first time an Aston Martin vehicle was used by James Bond. The car and character are now synonymous with one another. The company was originally reluctant to provide the production with two of their vehicles, but after the success of the movie, which translated into great business for the vehicle manufacturer, the company was more than willing for future sequels to provide anything the producers were looking for.

Advisor’s Take: I’ve never really been a car guy, so I don’t bust a nut over the vehicles in this movie or any other film. The only driving experience I’d like to enjoy in my life is being in a convertible, while driving along a winding beach, with dark shades on and feeling the wind run through my hair… that or rocking a monster truck through the streets of a bustling downtown core, running over everything from smart cars, to people who walk while texting, to the little designer dogs that cover the streets with poop.

The name Pussy Galore was almost changed to Kitty Galore, in order to appease censors, but producers were allowed to continue with the original name, as long as it did not appear on promotional material for the film. Actress Honor Blackman, who played the titular (literally) character enjoyed embarrassing her interviewers during press junkets by repeatedly saying the name.

Advisor’s Take: Sounds like my kind of girl, talking all dirty. Such outlandish names like Pussy Galore in the Bond franchise has led to some great monikers in spy spoofs. Of course, there was the Austin Powers trilogy, which featured names like Alotta Fagina, Ivana Humpalot, Fook Mi and Fook Yu, and Dixie Normous. My favourite occurred in an American Dad episode lampooning the spy genre, as Francine became Sexpun Tocome. I kind of wish Pussy Galore had remained Kitty Galore, and instead of her team of Flying Circus pilots she had a menagerie of cats whose offensive array included napping on people to subdue them and killing birds and mice that could later be used as projectiles.

Pussy Galore

This was the first movie appearance for a laser beam, as seen when Goldfinger has Bond strapped to a table, on the verge of being snuffed out. In the book, a spinning buzzsaw is inching closer to Bond, rather than a laser beam, but producers felt this gag was no longer original.

Adviser’s Take: If a buzzsaw worked for Dudley Do-Right cartoons and 1960’s live action Batman episodes, it could have also worked here. Funnily enough, now the whole laser beam thing seems unoriginal. The times they are a changing. If I ever have a hero at my mercy, I would finish them off with the dreaded purple nurple. If left untreated, the purple nurple can turn into a deadly blood clot, causing nausea, seizures, and eventual organ failure. I’m not a doctor, but I play one on the internet.

The role of Goldfinger’s minion, Odd Job was given to former Olympic medalist and professional wrestler Toshiyuki “Harold” Sakata. Another wrestler, Milton Reid, who had played a henchman in Dr. No, wanted the Odd Job role and challenged Sakata to a match with the winner getting the part. Producers decided that wasn’t necessary, since Reid’s character had been killed off in Dr. No and the match never took place. Reid later appeared as baddie Sandor in The Spy Who Loved Me over a decade later.

Advisor’s Take: I think all movie roles should be decided in the wrestling ring. Can you imagine Keanu Reeves battling Will Smith (turned the part down) for the role of Neo in The Matrix series? Or the catfights that would occur when any of Hollywood’s leading ladies battled over a character? The Oscars could become Tinsletown’s version of WrestleMania, complete with a stacked card of bouts. Put it on pay-per-view and I bet the viewers would tune in. If you build it, they will come.

Okay, that’s enough trivia for today. Alex Trebek I am not. Unless he’s a boozehound too!

Drink #62: Goldfinger

Goldfinger Martini

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3 Sips out of 5):
Sadly, this drink disappointed in presentation, as it was hard to see any of the Goldschlager in the martini. The cocktail tasted great and even looked awesome, but the gold flakes disappeared and that was sad.