Russia – Red October

From Russia with Love

The KGB (Komitet Gosudarstvennoi Bezopasnosti… or Committee for State Security) is one of the most recognizable secret service and intelligence agencies to ever exist. It served throughout the Cold War, from 1954 to 1991, specializing in espionage, surveillance, border patrol, and political control. Here are some of the most infamous spies to work for the organization:

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg

This American couple were executed for relaying information regarding atomic bombs to the U.S.S.R. Ethel’s brother David Greenglass was also part of the conspiracy, but only served 10 years of a 15 year prison sentence. There is some doubt as to the extent of Ethel’s involvement in the treason, but that didn’t stop the electric chair switch from being flipped on June 19, 1953.

soviet propaganda kgb

Aldrich Ames

Due to an expensive divorce and living a lifestyle beyond his means, Ames, a CIA counterintelligence officer, began selling secrets to the KGB and by the time he was arrested in 1993, had compromised the second most CIA assets ever. For his crimes, which resulted in the deaths of at least 10 operatives and ruined at least 100 operations, Ames received a term of life imprisonment.

Richard Sorge

Working undercover as a journalist in both Germany and Japan, Sorge played a critical role in the outcome of World War II. After informing Russia that Japan did not have plans to attack the country in 1941, Russia was able to reposition their troops to better battle the Germans on the western front, as they tried to take Moscow. Sorge was arrested in Japan shortly after these messages and hung in 1944.

Alexander Litvinenko

Litvinenko is perhaps most remembered for how he died, poisoned by polonium-210, and succumbing to the deadly toxin in November 2006. An investigation in the United Kingdom – where Litvinenko had been living after fleeing Russia and being granted asylum – produced a suspect in Andrei Lugovoy, a member of Russia’s Federal Protective Service, although others have been alleged to have played a part in Litvinenko’s death.

in_soviet_russia

Oleg Lyalin

After being arrested in the United Kingdom for drunk driving, Lyalin decided that he’d had enough of the spy life and defected from the KGB, outing 105 U.S.S.R. spies in the process, the largest action taken against the Soviet Union by a western government. Lyalin was rewarded with a new identity and life (with his secretary mistress!) and remained in hiding for more than 20 years, until his death in February 1995.

Vasily Mitrokhin

Mitrokhin was a former First Chief Directorate of the KGB. When the Soviet Union came to an end in 1991, Mitrokhin defected to Latvia, bringing with him detailed information on operations carried out by the KGB, dating as far back as the 1930’s… he was the senior archivist for the intelligence service, after all. He released a series of works, dubbed the Mitrokhin Archives, which discuss much of what the KGB did during its existence.

Russia: Red October

Red October Cocktail

  • 1.5 oz Beluga Vodka
  • 0.75 oz Port
  • Splash of Lemon Juice
  • Dash of Simple Syrup
  • Garnish with Orange Slice

Hell, even current Russian president Vladimir Putin served with the KGB during the 1980’s, holding low-level positions in what was East Germany. Now he runs a country and has amassed a massive fortune in the process. Looks like things worked out pretty well for him.

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
The Port was supposed to float on top of the rest of the cocktail, but it didn’t really behave as it was meant to. That could have been due to the way I poured it, the ice in the drink or even the type of glassware I used. That said, the drink was quite delicious, with notes of sweet and sour mixing in harmony.

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July 12 – Three Strikes

Anything Can Happen

Oddly enough, summer is the time when I like to get into sports movies. Perhaps that makes sense, given it’s the off-season for most of the leagues out there. There were so many films I wanted to include on this list, that I’ve decided to split them over two articles, with one being family-friendly movies and the other to do with adult-themed releases. This week, we’ll check out the family options, while next week we’ll get a little raunchier and surpass the PG rating:

#5: Cool Runnings

How could you not get behind this ragtag group of Jamaicans as they try to compete in a sport they really have no business participating in and go on to earn the respect and admiration of their fellow athletes. While the film depicts the team being scoffed at in the beginning, in actuality, they were welcomed by their adversaries and were even lent a sled that helped them qualify. Creative liberties are okay, though. The casting of Doug E. Doug was a particularly brilliant choice, as the comedian-actor was popular at the time and broke up all the sports seriousness. Anything with John Candy is also worth a view.

Watched Cool Runnings

#4: Bad News Bears

This was your prototypical group of misfits coming together in the name of sports premise, before the genre ever existed. Some of the kids that make up the Bad News Bears are reason enough to never have children and the film should be used as a planned parenting advert. Walter Matthau as Morris Buttermaker was a great casting choice. He’s perfect for roles as a grouchy slob, who would rather drink a beer and catch a nap in a comfy recliner than do anything else in the world. That’s probably why he’s one of my favourite actors of all-time! Surprisingly, I’ve never seen either of the sequels to this classic and not the remake either.

#3: A League of Their Own

The story of women’s baseball and how it helped fill the sporting void left by men being shipped off to battle during World War II is so much better than it sounds on paper. Just kidding all you feminist sippers out there. Seriously, this is a fantastic movie, following a pair of sisters as the league tries to gain credibility during one of the roughest times in human history. With Tom Hanks playing the team’s oft-drunk manager and having to handle the issues of a girls’ team for the first time in his coaching career (there’s no crying in baseball… unless a modern male pitcher has a hangnail!), I can even forgive the casting of Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell.

league of their own

#2: The Sandlot

This is such a great movie, pushing folks to look back fondly on their days of neighbourhood sports. Every kid who ever played street hockey, or met at the nearest baseball diamond for a game of ball can relate to this film, which goes back in time to follow the adventures of the new kid in town as he gains friends and experiences the joys of childhood freedom. Roger Ebert compared the movie to a summertime version of A Christmas Story, which is high praise, as far as the Sip Advisor is concerned. The film has become a cult favourite and that’s exactly what it should be.

#1: Mighty Ducks

While the third installment might as well have been direct-to-video, the first two movies are childhood classics. As a young hockey player, it was inspiring to see a group of bad players be transformed into a skilled team… the downside was the mounting number of times we tried to execute the Flying-V play to little success. As if Emilio Estevez wasn’t a legend already, this series made his aura grow exponentially and no player out there didn’t want to have Gordon Bombay behind their bench. Disney even turned the success of the movie into its own NHL franchise, the Anaheim Mighty Ducks (now just the Ducks), although they sold the team in 2005.

Super Saturday Shot Day: Three Strikes

Three Strikes Shot

  • 0.5 oz Cinnamon Schnapps
  • 0.5 oz Jagermeister
  • 0.5 oz Yukon Jack Perma Frost
  • Garnish with Big League Chew

I have to say that for some reason, I love baseball movies. I’m a steadfast non-supporter of the actual sport, but I love me a good baseball flick. Stay tuned next week for our look at the best adult sports movies and even more ball and bat goodness!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3 Sips out of 5):
I’ve wanted to garnish a drink with Big League Chew for some time now and this was the perfect opportunity to finally do so, melding baseball and childhood all in one. Did I mention that the Big League Chew flavour was Ground Ball Grape! The actual name for this recipe is “Three Strikes, You’re Out,” but I chose to cut the title in half. The shot is quite strong with competing flavours of cinnamon, peppermint and other spices. It’s not bad, but it’s one that will sit in your gut for some time.

Sweden – Unforgettable Night

Prize Fights

Nobel Prizes are awarded in six fields: Peace, Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature, Economic Sciences, none of which the Sip Advisor excels in, but I’ve made peace with my shortcomings, even if all you little sippers have not. The host country for the ceremony is Sweden (home to prize creator Alfred Nobel), except for the Peace Prize which is presented in Norway. Nobel, also the inventor of dynamite, is said to have created the awards to leave a better legacy after his condemnable obituary was accidentally printed in France (nothing good ever comes out of there!) following the death of his brother. Let’s take a look at the awards and see if Nobel’s image has indeed been altered:

Alfred Nobel

The first awards ceremony took place in 1901, five years after Nobel passed away… for reals this time. Since then, the event is held annually on Dec. 10, the anniversary of Nobel’s death. Prizes don’t have to be handed out each year for every category, but each award must be tendered at a minimum of every five years. Throughout World War II (1939-43), no Nobel Prize events were held.

Nobel wrote the final draft of his will, including the Nobel Prize request on a torn piece of paper. The process was witnessed by four associates, as Nobel didn’t trust lawyers… I can’t really blame him given Mrs. Sip is one and I sleep with one eye open every night! Also, Nobel never bothered to ask any of the bodies he expected to govern the awards, whether this was something they were cool with. Nobel’s family contested the will after finding out they were shit out of luck and the cash would go towards awards for strangers. Clearly, the appeals did not work out.

There are anywhere between 100-250 nominees for each category. A person who has died can’t be nominated and will also be removed from contention if they pass away during the consideration process. If a person was selected as a winner before expiring, they are still eligible to win posthumously that year. A maximum of three people can win any one award.

Scarecrow Nobel Prize

The Nobel Prize consists of a medal, a personal diploma and money. The financial award comes from interest from Nobel’s estate (and varies each year), which is looked after by the Nobel Foundation. Prize winners are called laureates… another title you will never see beside the Sip Advisor’s name… although I’m still working on that Chemistry award with Mrs. Sip! Apparently, the cash awarded in 2013 was $1.2 million US per prize. Damn, Mrs. Sip and I really need to get that chemistry diorama finished!

While most of the prizes are well-deserved, some have been followed by protest, particularly over the Peace Prize. Some of the most controversial prize recipients include Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho, who were awarded the Peace Prize in 1973 for negotiating a ceasefire between North Vietnam and the U.S., although both nations were still hostile towards one another. Similarly, Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres, and Yitzhak Rabin were handed the 1994 Peace Prize following their efforts towards harmony between Israel and Palestine, but many issues remained unsettled between the two nations. Lastly, Barack Obama’s 2009 Peace Price was controversial in that he had only been in office for 11 days when nominations closed. Obama went on to say that he was undeserving of the award.

Not every Nobel Prize winner has accepted the honour. Jean-Paul Sartre refused the Literature Award in 1964, sticking with his credo to not accept any official honours (but unofficial ones were okay) and the previously mentioned Le Duc Tho declined that controversial 1973 Peace Prize, given the ongoing strife in Vietnam.

Nobel Peace Prize

As of the 2013 ceremonies, there have been 561 Nobel Prizes awarded to 876 recipients. Only 45 of those winners have been women. The youngest recipient ever was Lawrence Bragg (1915) for physics, at the age of 25, although he did win with his father (there’s nothing like riding someone else’s coattails). The oldest was Leonid Hurwicz (2007) for economic sciences, at the ripe age of 90. The Red Cross has won three separate times (1917, 1944 and 1963). Linus Pauling and Marie Curie each won two Nobel Prizes in different categories, while John Bardeen and Frederick Sanger received two prizes in the same discipline.

Inventors Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla never won Nobel Prizes. They were offered a joint prize, but the committee quickly rescinded the offer upon realizing that the two competitors despised one another and refused to be anywhere near each other. The same goes for Mrs. Sip and I, but I’m pretty sure the prize money would be enough of a draw for us to put aside our differences for one night.

Antonio Moniz was awarded the Medicine Prize in 1949 for his work involving prefrontal lobotomies as a treatment for schizophrenia. The practice was abolished in the 1960’s and is now looked upon with much criticism. A similar Medicine Prize debacle (retrospectively) occurred in 1926 when Johannes Fibiger received the award for “finding a cure for cancer.” It’s truly too bad that didn’t work out as well as hoped or expected.

Women Nobel Prize

When Robert E. Lucas won the Economics Prize in 1997 for his theory of rational expectations, his ex-wife was perhaps happier than he was. Her lawyer had actually written a clause into their divorce settlement for such an occasion and Lucas was forced to share his $1 million award with her. He may have been a prize-winning economist, but he clearly wasn’t good with contracts.

We’ll end things off with this little factoid, before retiring to the post-awards gala for nibbles and drinks: Oddly enough, eight different Nobel Prize recipients were born on February 28th. I think the fix is in!

Sweden: Unforgettable Night

Unforgettable Night Martini

  • 2 oz Absolut Vodka
  • 0.5 oz Chocolate Liqueur
  • Top with Coconut Milk
  • Splash of Lime Juice
  • Dash of Hot Sauce
  • Garnish with a Lime Wedge and Coconut

Mrs. Sip and I, along with members of the Sip Syndicate visited the Nobel Museum in Stockholm, Sweden and had a great time learning about the history of the awards and many of the recipients. I’ll be back one day to accept my long-awaited prize… or, at the very least, to steal one!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3.5 Sips out of 5):
When searching for a drink to combine with this post, I stumbled upon this incredibly interesting recipe (Coconut Milk, Lime Juice and Hot Sauce!) that had the perfect name to suit the article. I was very curious going in about how this would taste and it was pretty decent with a bit of flame at the end. The Lime Juice caused some slight curdling, but not enough to disgust the drinker.

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!

January 11 – The Joker

Bad to the Bone

I’ve always had a fascination with villains and what drives them to become evil? Generally, they’re just so much more interesting than heroes. It’s hard to narrow a list down of the greatest super villains, but I’m the man drunk enough to try. Just a heads up before we start the list, that I’m not a comic book guy by any means, so a character’s villainy will be judged by their more mainstream examples of mischief!

#5: Shredder

Just think of the things the Shredder could have accomplished if he wasn’t so preoccupied by those meddling Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The Turtles were like the mutant version of the Scooby Doo Gang, constantly interfering with Shredder’s scheming. While the Turtles may battle other foes, the Shredder (aka Oroku Saki) was a constant presence on their mind, frequently causing havoc across New York City. Shredder was bad enough… do we even need to bring up the actions of the Super Shredder!?

Shredder

#4: Two-Face

You have to be pretty deranged to base all of your decisions on the flip of a coin. This is why NFL referees are so reviled! Two-Face (aka Harvey Dent) went from young, handsome, successful, and respected to a beast of a creature that is deformed and feared. He now hates the civil order he once enforced and is hell bent on destroying the Gotham City he previously protected. Harvey Dent still resides somewhere in Two-Face’s psyche, making for an interesting duality between good and evil, all fought within one man.

#3: Kingpin

It seemed like the Kingpin was always front and center, stirring the pot, when trouble was brewing. One of the best things about the crime boss is that he very rarely got his own hands dirty. Kingpin preferred to employ a series of henchman to do his bidding, while maintaining the public image of a successful businessman. That’s not to say that Wilson Fisk, as he’s known to most of the world, can’t handle his own wars. He’s portrayed as being incredibly strong, while battling the likes of Spider-Man, Daredevil, and the Punisher.

Kingpin

#2: Magneto

While he has sometimes crossed the line into good guy territory, Magneto’s end goal of a brotherhood of mutants that is no longer held back by humans (humans which Magneto would rather see eradicated from the world) drives him to perform all his misdeeds. His on-again, off-again friendship with Professor Charles Xavier is perhaps the only thing that keeps humanity alive within Magneto’s soul. It’s not surprising the mutant has suffered some psychological damage after surviving the Holocaust during World War II.

#1: Joker

Given Batman’s rogue gallery, it takes a pretty disturbed individual to take the mantle of the caped crusader’s arch nemesis. Pair him with the equally insane Harley Quinn and you have quite the deranged tandem. The Joker’s troubling reign of terror has spanned over 70 years. Whether portrayed by Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, or even Mark Hamill (that’s right, Luke Skywalker voiced the evil jester in the Animated Series), the Joker is equal parts fascinating and haunting… just the way we like him.

Super Saturday Shot Day: The Joker

The Joker Shooter

  • Rim glass with Sprinkles
  • 0.75 oz Gin (I used Bombay Sapphire)
  • 0.75 oz Whiskey
  • Garnish with a Maraschino Cherry

Do you agree with the list? Clearly, my selections will ruffle the feathers of some super geek out there. I welcome the chirps. Bring it on! And by the way, the results of my ‘Which Super Villain Are You?’ (which I’ve linked at the top of this post) say that I’m Venom because strength, disguise and adrenaline are my greatest weapons!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3 Sips out of 5):
While I’m not sure if this recipe is actually meant to salute the infamous Joker, I’ve designed elements of it to better represent the Clown Prince of Crime. The Sprinkles, of course, represent all the wild colours he dons, as well as give a sense of the festive nature he would provide if he was a normal entertainer and not a psychotic villain. The Maraschino Cherry is the plush clown nose most entertainers adorn themselves with. As for the shooter, it wasn’t bad. I blended Jack Daniel’s Honey Whiskey with Bombay Sapphire East Gin. The Gin came in with its juniper taste at the end of the shot and while strong, was kind of tasty.