Taking on the world one Cocktail at a time
What is it about travel that brings out the lush in us all? I love it when I board a luxury airline and they offer you champagne, you look at each other, look at your watch, noting its 9am in the morning, shrug your shoulders and say, “Hey, somewhere in the world it’s time for a drink!”
We were at plush resort in Bali; it was late afternoon, a gentle breeze swayed in the palms, the guests, who looked like they’d been hand-picked from central casting, made their way to the bar. Like some prehistoric raft washed up by the ocean, the bar clung to the rock like an oyster. Time for a Martini on the rocks, its Happy Hour… another round, yes please! Gin and Vermouth, or Vodka and Gin, shaken not stirred, dirty or dry, the Martini hits you like a velvet sledgehammer!
While sipping my drink I pondered the origin. Drinks, like food, are often part of a country’s culture, Beer, in Germany and Belgium, with more varieties than Heinz, Wine in France, Sake in Japan, Whisky in Scotland, Vodka in Poland and Russia, but what about all those iconic cocktails that fuelled some of the most influential and controversial tipplers in history, rousing the passion of poets, artists, writers and critics.
Let’s take a quick virtual trip around the world, one cocktail at a time…
On a trip to Venice, we made our way to the iconic Harry’s Bar for cocktail hour. In its heyday Harry’s Bar entertained the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Humphrey Bogart, and that well known lush, Ernest Hemingway. Giuseppe Cipriani introduced a romantic little number called the Bellini…white peach puree and Prosecco.
I was keen to tick off my must try box, but never got further than the door, we were turfed out onto the street because my partner was inappropriately attired…he was wearing shorts, it was after all tourist season and high summer! I did however, have better luck at Harry’s Bar in Paris, another favorite watering hole of Hemingway.
This is where the Sidecar was invented; I wasn’t sure if it was named after the preferred mode of transport of the day or because it gave you the ride of your life, but it was good! While I contemplated the subtleties of the Sidecar, Johnny Depp walked into the bar, looking très shabby chic, and pulled up a bar stool...strangely enough he was not asked to leave for inappropriate attire!
When in New York you must try a Manhattan, a whimsical mix of whisky and vermouth only as eccentric as the bartender who is mixing it! My all-time favorite New York bar and cocktail, is the Red Snapper at the King Cole Bar in the St Regis Hotel. The entire wall of the bar is covered in a mural of Old King Cole and his courtiers. The king has a mischievous smirk on his face…the reason being … he just farted!
The Red Snapper was originally invented in the 1920’s at Harry’s Bar in Paris by Fernand Petiot, who then went to work at the St Regis in New York. The invention of this cocktail is controversial.
Songwriter, George Jessel maintained to have invented the Bloody Mary as a hangover cure, but it was Petiot who added to the mix to make a perfect Red Snapper! While in London, enjoying brunch at Browns Hotel, we ordered a Pimm's
Cup, invented by shellfish monger James Pimm as a tonic to eat with oysters. I noticed a disturbance in the bar, “There’s a drunk at the door, looks like they’re trying to throw him out!”
My partner looked up, “That’s not a drunk, that’s Ronnie Wood, from the Rolling Stones!” Ronnie sauntered over to our table, and with a big grin cracking his face into an Everest of lines, took the strawberry garnish from my Pimm's, sucked it and placed it back in my drink!
If you’re travelling in Mexico you’ll be downing Margaritas, a standard in every beach resort, where did you have your best Margarita? In Brazil sip on a Caipirinha…cachaca, sugar and lime or, how about a Daiquiri or Mojito in Cuba. One of the most expensive and adulterated cocktails is the Mai Tai, a fave in Hawaii, but the true origin of the drink was Trader Vic’s in San Francisco.
In Chile and Peru, Pisco Sours rule. First mixed at Morris’ Bar in Lima, the cocktail has its very own National day in February…Pisco Sour Day. I’ve never been to Peru, but when a country has a public holiday devoted to a cocktail you really must go!
Back home in Singapore, we have our very own Singapore Sling. Invented by a canny little barman named Ngiam Tong Boon way back in the 1900’s when tigers still roamed the streets of Singapore. It was the fave bevvy of Rudyard Kipling amongst others.
Frankly, the mix of Cherry Brandy, Gin and Benedictine is rather like a moreish and very expensive cough medicine. On the final night at the Long Bar, before the old girl Raffles closed for her facelift, a group of friends and I turned up to say goodbye. We managed, through true grit and being complete nuisances, to obtain the last mixed bottle of Singapore Sling. The barman certified it was the last authentic mix, by signing a cocktail napkin…we were so chuffed we had the glasses engraved with the day and date, before the hotel closed for next three years for renovation….true story!
Joy Greedy – Travel Writer and Published Fiction Novelist “In the Shade of the Tembusu Tree”. See Amazon