Monthly Archives: January, 2014

January 30: The Green Hornet

Green HornetOn this day in 1936, radio audiences were treated to the first adventure from a pair of a famed masked vigilante. This was the story of a wealthy billionaire playboy who fought crime under an animal themed alias. A man accompanied by a trusted martial arts practicing sidekick. Oh, and did I mention that this man had an awesome car? Ladies and gentlemen, there’s only one man who I could be talking about: Yes, the Green Hornet!

What, were you thinking of somebody else? Yes, the Green Hornet, created by George W. Trendle and Fran Striker, made his debut 78 years ago today, three years before our Fledermaus themed friend. The Hornet was actually created as a modern twist on The Lone Ranger. While the Ranger traveled with Native American sidekick Tonto, the Hornet was assisted by his Asian valet Kato (Kato’s nationality changed depending on international politics and the actor playing him.). In fact, some Green Hornet stories would hint that the Hornet’s alter ego (millionaire newspaper publisher Britt Reid) was a descendent of the Lone Ranger.

Although Kato served as Reid’s valet, he was more of an equal partner than a sidekick. Kato was just as smart as Reid and they were both martial arts experts. What made this dynamic duo different from other costumed heroes was that they actually pretended to be criminals. This way, they could better infiltrate criminal organizations and bring them down from the inside. Honestly, I’m disappointed that more would be screenwriters haven’t exploited this premise for their own uses.

The Green Hornet radio series was a massive hit, and in fact ran for 16 years. Later, in the 1960s the ABC tv network was inspired by the success of the Batman series and revived the Green Hornet and Kato for television. In this series, the role of Kato was played by a young Hong Kong action movie star named Bruce Lee; perhaps the first Asian actor to star in an American television series. Lee and Kato became so popular that comic books and other media were released that only featured Kato. In fact, in Hong Kong the tv series was actually called The Kato Show. Amusingly, the Green Hornet and Kato would guest star on an episode of Batman in which they fought Gotham’s dynamic duo to a stand still before teaming up to fight the real bad guys.

Of course my real reason for writing about the Green Hornet was to draw attention to a fun pair of cocktails. The Stinger is a simple mix of brandy and white crème de menthe that dates back to the 1940s New York. In New York, the Stinger was viewed as a perfect nightcap. But what happens if you make a Stinger with green crème de menthe? Why it becomes a Green Hornet, naturally.

Stinger/Green Hornet

  • 1 1/2 ounces Brandy
  • 1/2 ounce  Crème de Menthe (White for a Stinger, Green for a Green Hornet)

Pour both ingredients into an Old Fashioned glass with crushed ice and stir well.

Tomorrow: We get bohemian.


January 30: City Lights

City LightsIt’s worth noting that 2014 marks the hundredth anniversary of the first appearance of Charlie Chaplin’s iconic character, the Little Tramp. The Tramp first appeared in a short film called Kid Auto Races at Venice which was released on February 7 of 1914 and then another short released on February 9 called Mabel’s Strange Predicament. However, today we’re going to celebrate the Tramp’s centennial a little early by marking the anniversary of the release of the movie that I believe is Chaplin’s greatest film.

I speak of course of Chaplin’s masterpiece City Lights, which was released on this day in 1931. City Lights is a simple silent, but it’s both deeply beautiful and hilarious. In it, the Tramp falls in love with a beautiful flower girl and befriends a drunken millionaire. Complications follow when the Tramp discovers that not only ins the flower girl blind, but she has mistaken him for a rich man. Soon, the Tramp learns of a Viennese doctor who can perform an operation that could cure the flower girl’s blindness. The Tramp decides that since he loves the flower girl, and she has begun to fall in love with him, he will try to find a way to raise the money needed to pay for the operation. However, he fears that the flower girl would reject a tramp like himself if she saw his actual appearance.

It’s not just the romance that makes City Lights work, it’s also the fantastic gags that Chaplin devises. When we first see the Tramp in this film, he’s sleeping in the lap of a statue that is just being unveiled to the public. The Tramp’s misadventures with the alcoholic millionaire are all uproariously funny, featuring setpieces like the millionaire’s unsuccessful suicide attempt (which ends with the Tramp getting thrown into the water) and a madcap police chase. Of course, the fact that the millionaire only remembers the Tramp when he’s drunk leads to further comic complications. The film’s greatest comic sequence comes in the form of a boxing match that the Tramp enters in an attempt to win money for the flower girl. It’s a hilarious comic ballet sequence between the Tramp, his opponent and the match’s referee.

The secret to City Lights‘ success is how it’s able to balance the film’s romantic and comedic elements. At no point is the shift from the wacky to the sentimental jarring; Chaplin is able to seamlessly blend these two elements to create a timeless film that climaxes in what many film historians consider to be one of the most touching final scenes in cinema. But don’t take my word for it, why not ask the experts? In 1963, Stanley Kubrick named it the fifth greatest film of all time, and Andrei Tarkovsky placed it in the same position in his 1972 ranking of the best films of all time. Woody Allen has named City Lights Chaplin’s greatest film, Frederico Fellini said it was one of his favorite movies and Orson Welles simply called it his all time favorite film.

What do we drink to celebrate City Lights? Why, a Charlie Chaplin of course. This cocktail comes to us from Albert Stevens Crockett’s 1931 book, Old Waldorf Bar Days. According to Crockett, this sweet cocktail was invented at the Waldorf Hotel and “named in [Chaplin’s] honor when he began to make the screen public laugh.”

Charlie Chaplin

  • 1 ounce Sloe Gin
  • 1 ounce lime juice
  • 1 ounce Apricot Brandy

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Tomorrow: A man dressed in green and his Black Beauty.

January 29: Nevermore

RavenOn this day in 1845, the New York Evening Mirror published a gothic poem by Edgar Allen Poe called “The Raven.” The poem would bring Poe great fame and although it made him popular in his time, this popularity did not carry with it any financial success.

The poem is a creepy tale of a man spending a dreary December’s eve thinking of his lost love, Lenore. He hears a gentle rapping upon his chamber door, and finds a raven standing there. The raven walks into his chamber and begins to haunt the man with his eerie caw of the word “Nevermore.” It’s a fantastic, dark piece of poetry, but it’s not what I’d like to talk to you about today. You see, ten days ago was Poe’s birthday and I neglected to celebrate it. So, allow me to make it up to you with a tale about Poe from long after Poe’s death. A tale of a cemetery, a mysterious figure in black and a bottle of cognac.

Sometime in the 1930s, a man in a long black coat and hat began making an annual visit to Poe’s grave in Baltimore, Maryland in the early hours of Poe’s birthday. He would stop at the grave and leave three red roses and an unfinished bottle of Martell cognac. Over the ensuing decades, this mysterious ritual became better known, and Poe fans came to Baltimore from around the world in the hopes of seeing the man who became known as the “Poe Toaster.” In 1990, Life Magazine actually snapped a photo of the Toaster. This inspired a few imitators. However, Jeff Jerome, the curator of the Poe House and Museum who’d watch the Toaster from the Westminster Church, was able to tell the real Toaster from a secret signal that the Toaster would perform at the gravesite.

The Poe Toaster would often leave notes for Poe. Typically, these were simple messages like “Edgar, I haven’t forgotten you.” However, in 1993, a note reading “The torch will be passed.” was left by the Toaster, leading some to suspect that the Toaster was going to retire. In 1999, witnesses noticed that the Toaster looked younger, and when Jerome went to the grave he found a note explaining that the original Toaster had died in 1998 and the tradition had been passed on to “a son.”

However, the son (or possibly sons) did not treat the tradition with the same reverence. In 2001, the Toaster left a note that referenced the upcoming Super Bowl: “The New York Giants. Darkness and decay and the big blue hold dominion over all. The Baltimore Ravens. A thousand injuries they will suffer. Edgar Allan Poe evermore.” This note, which riffed on the closing lines of Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death,” was odd for many reasons. For one, the Toaster had never before commented on current events and secondly, it was strange that the Toaster was rooting against a team that was named after Poe’s “The Raven.” For the record, the Ravens would win the game by 27 points.

In 2004, the new Toaster would leave another odd note, this one possibly referencing France’s opposition to the looming Iraq War. “The sacred memory of Poe and his final resting place is no place for French cognac. With great reluctance but for respect for [sic] family tradition the cognac is placed. The memory of Poe shall live evermore!” The Toaster would continue to leave the roses and cognac behind, but according to Jerome, the new Toaster (or Toasters) didn’t put the same effort into it. According to an interview Jerome did in 2013 with Baltimore’s WBAL, the new Toasters “started getting lazy with the way they dressed’ and blended into the crowd by wearing winter jackets and caps instead of the traditional outfit.”

Sometime between 2005 and 2008, the Toaster left another note, which according to WBAL “Jerome said he was chagrined at the contents, as were his fellow witnesses inside the Hall. He decided to fib and say that no note was left. He declines to reveal its contents, other than to say that, in hindsight, it was a hint that the vigil was about to be nevermore.” 2009 marked Poe’s bicentennial, and the Toaster appeared again to perform the ritual. Then, in 2010…nothing, and again in 2011…nothing, and it was the same in every year since. In 2012, Jerome declared that the ritual was dead, telling WBAL a year later, “My personal feeling is the novelty wore off and they didn’t like fighting the crowds and trying to find ways to get in here,…And being afraid someone would try to tackle them with a camera right in their faces.”

Whoever the Poe Toaster may be, let’s raise a glass to him and Poe on the anniversary of the publication of “The Raven.” Unfortunately, The Raven isn’t a cognac based cocktail, it’s a darker and fruitier twist on the Mojito made with blackberries and cranberry juice.

The Raven

  • fresh mint leaves
  • 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar
  • 6 blackberries
  • 1 1/2 ounces White Rum
  • sparkling cranberry juice

Muddle the mint and sugar in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Add blackberries and muddle just enough to get the juice out, but not so hard that the berries get mushed. Add ice and rum and shake. Strain the drink into an ice filled highball glass and fill to the top with sparkling cranberry juice. Garnish with a sprig of mint.

Tomorrow: Chaplin’s masterpiece

January 28: The Death Of Henry VIII

henry8Henry VIII, one of England’s most famous kings, died on this day in 1547. Interestingly, that was 90 years to the day that his father, Henry VII, was born. Henry VIII was an important figure in the Protestant movement, as he split the Church of England from the Catholic Church and formed an English alliance with the Holy Roman Empire to take on their common enemy, France. However, there’s one thing that Henry VIII is most famous for. Well, more like six things: his wives.

Now the common mnemonic for remembering the fates of Henry VIII’s six wives is as follows: Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived. Amusingly, this is a tiny bit inaccurate as the Church of English under Henry VIII didn’t permit divorce. However, annulments were permitted and as Henry VIII was the head of the Church, he was free to annul any marriage; especially his own, but we’ll get to that in a moment. Anyway, let’s meet the wives!

Catalina de Aragón (Anglicized as Catherine of Aragon) was the first, and in fact the cause of the Church of England/Roman Catholic split. Catalina was originally married to Henry’s brother Arthur. After Arthur died, Henry asked the Pope for a papal dispensation to marry his late brother’s wife (an act that could be viewed by some in the church as incest). During their 23 years of marriage, Catherine became pregnant six times, giving birth to four stillborn children, a boy who died two months after his birth and one girl who would grow up to become Queen Mary I.

Although it is said that Henry really did love Catherine, he loved the idea of a male heir more. So, he threw himself at the Pope saying that the multiple stillbirths were a sign that God did not approve of this union, so the marriage must be annulled. Oh, also, by this point Henry had already began an affair with a lady of the court named Anne Boleyn, who might have already been pregnant at the time. The Pope wasn’t buying it at all, and said that he wouldn’t grant Henry an annulment after granting a special dispensation for the marriage. However, Henry was going to get his way no matter what the Pope said, at which point he said something along the lines of “Well, I’m going to go form my own church and have all the annulments I want.”

Henry’s second wife was the previously mentioned Anne Boleyn. Interestingly, she initially rejected Henry’s advances, as her sister Mary had once been Henry’s mistress. In the end though, she married the corpulent king, but this marriage was short lived. The union produced a daughter, the future Queen Elizabeth I, and a stillborn son. As she was not able to produce a male heir, Henry’s advisers hatched a scheme to get rid of Boleyn. A hasty trial, based on weak evidence, quickly found Boleyn guilty of adultery, incest, and high treason and she was swiftly beheaded.

The third wife was Jane Seymour, who tragically died due to post-natal complications from the birth of the future King Edward VI. Henry was deeply affected by Seymour’s death. He made sure that Seymour got a proper Queen’s burial, and upon his death he was buried next to Seymour. Henry’s fourth wife was Anne of Cleves who Henry reached a peaceful annulment from after six months of marriage. Henry and Cleves remained friends for the rest of their days, with Henry giving her a castle as part of the annulment deal and the unofficial title of “The King’s Sister.”

Henry’s penultimate wife was Catherine Howard. This marriage lasted a short 15 months and was marred by rumors that Howard was engaged in affairs with most of the English court. Unsurprisingly, she was soon beheaded for treason. Finally, that brings us to Catherine Parr, Henry’s sixth wife. For most of the three year marriage, Parr served as Henry’s nurse. However, she was instrumental in making sure that Mary and Elizabeth would be included in the line of succession. Interestingly, just as Henry was the most married English king, Howard was the most married English queen. She had had two husbands before Henry (both of whom had died) and after Henry’s death, she married Thomas Seymour, Jane Seymour’s brother.

So, on the anniversary of Henry VIII’s death, let’s raise a glass (or six) in his honor with an eponymous cocktail. Henry VIII is a slightly spicy champagne cocktail that was created by English bartender Henry Besant.

Henry VIII

  • 1 sugar cube
  • 1/2 ounce Absinthe
  • 1/2 ounce Lemon Vodka
  • 1/2 ounce Pepper Infused Vodka
  • Champagne

Soak the sugar cube in the absinthe and place it at the bottom of a chilled champagne glass. Then add the other ingredients and top with champagne. Garnish with an orange twist.

Tomorrow: Nevermore

January 27: Lewis Carroll

LewisCarrollEnglish writer, mathematician and reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was born on this day in 1832. Of course, Dodgson is best known for his novel Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, written under his pen name Lewis Carroll.

Published in 1865, Alice is perhaps the first true surrealist work. The story was inspired by a boating trip on a Summer’s day that Dodgson took with the Reverend Robinson Duckwork and the three daughters of Henry Liddell, Lorina, Alice and Edith. During the boating trip, Dodgson began telling the girls a silly tale of a bored little girl named Alice who went searching for adventures. The three sisters loved it, and the next day, Dodgson got to work on creating a book length version of the story.

After completing the first draft of the book, Dodgson essentially focus grouped the manuscript, then titled Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, by asking Alice Liddell and other children to read it and tell him what they thought of it. Unsurprisingly, the children loved the manuscript, but Dodgson kept adding more short chapters to the book. Interestingly, two of Alice‘s most iconic elements, the Cheshire Cat and the Mad Tea Party, were not included in the book’s original draft.

For a children’s novel, Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland is surprisingly dense. In addition to its surreal touches, the novel is full of allusions, parodies and references. Many of the characters are based on people from Dodgson’s time; the author himself appears as the Dodo, as he had a stutter that made him pronounce his name Dodo-dodgson. The many songs and poems often parody works that were famous at the time, the most notable of these being the Mad Hatter’s recitation of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bat.” Also, as Dodgson was a mathematician, he included several obscure mathematical references, including a scene in which Alice tries to perform multiplication and keeps getting weird results: “Let me see: four times five is twelve, and four times six is thirteen, and four times seven is—oh dear! I shall never get to twenty at that rate!” This is in fact a reference to different base number systems. Simply put, in base 18 notation, 4 × 5 = 12, in base 21 notation 4 × 6 = 13, and in base 24 notation 4 × 7 = 14. Obviously, it would take Alice a bit of time to reach 20 at that rate.

Now, what better way to celebrate Dodgson than with a cocktail named after the animal that led to Alice’s visit to Wonderland? The White Rabbit is a fairly straightforward vanilla flavored cocktail with just a touch of milky smoothness.

White Rabbit

  • 3 ounces Vanilla Vodka
  • 3 ounces Vanilla Liqueur
  • 1 ounce milk

Shake with ice and pour into a chilled highball glass.

Tomorrow: The many wives of Henry VIII.

January 26: Showtime At The Apollo

Apollo TheaterFor twenty years, Hurtig and Seamon’s New (Burlesque) Theater in Harlem was one of New York’s venues. However, its “whites only” policy soon proved to be its undoing in the largely black neighborhood. The theater fell into disrepair in the early 1930s, but soon a new owner came in and refurbished the venue and when the newly christened Apollo Theater was opened on January 26, 1934 the black community was welcomed with open arms.

The first performance at the Apollo was a show called “Jazz a la Carte,” a review headlined by Benny Carter and his Orchestra. The theater would initially largely host these Vaudeville style reviews, but would soon move towards showcasing jazz and swing acts. Over time, the Apollo would also embrace gospel and soul acts.

Of course, the Apollo’s most famous events are its famed Amateur Nights, where unknown performers take the Apollo stage in the hopes of becoming famous. However, if the Apollo audience begins to demand that an act be removed from the stage, the dreaded “executioner” would arrive on stage and use a broom to literally sweep the performer(s) off the stage. One early winner of an Apollo Amateur Night was a 17-year old singer named Ella Fitzgerald. When Fitzgerald first performed at the Apollo in November of 1934 as part of an Amateur Night, she intended to dance. However, the act right before her was a hot stepping dance duo, so she quickly changed her mind and opted to sing a pair of Hoagey Carmichael songs, “Judy” and “The Object of My Affection.” The crowd loved her and she was awarded the $25 grand prize. Fitzgerald soon became a regular performer at the Apollo and would go on to become a jazz superstar.

Let’s raise a glass to the Apollo with a cocktail named after the neighborhood it’s located in. Harlem is a pineapple based cocktail that can be found at Schiller’s Liquor Bar in New York. I’ve seen a few mentions online that the Harlem was created at the Cotton Club, but those are at best unconfirmed reports.


  • 3 small pineapple chunks
  • 1/4 ounce Maraschino Liquor
  • 1 and 1/2 ounces Gin
  • 1 ounce pineapple juice

Muddle the pineapple chunks with the maraschino liquor in a mixing glass and then ice, the gin and juice. Shake the mixture and pour it, unstrained, into a rocks glass. Serve with a small stirring rod.

Tomorrow: We go down the rabbit hole.

January 25: Nellie Bly’s World Tour

Nellie BlyNellie Bly (real name: Elizabeth Jane Cochrane) was a pioneering journalist, one of the first true investigative journalist and also a total badass. Famously, she went undercover at a mental institution as a patient and exposed the facility’s deplorable conditions.

However, we’re not here to talk about that. Today we’re celebrating another one of her legendary feats, for it was on this day in 1890 that Nellie Bly arrived in Hoboken, New Jersey after a 72 day journey around the world. As you might have guessed, this was an attempt to beat the then theoretical trip proposed in Jules Verne’s Around The World in Eighty Days.

Bly first proposed the idea to her editor at the New York World in 1888 and a year later at 9:40 a.m. on November 14, 1889 she boarded a steam ship from Hoboken and began her journey around the globe. Bly would send updates to the Globe detailing her adventures, including meeting Jules Verne in Amiens, France and visiting a leper colony in China. On day 68, Bly arrived in San Francisco on the White Star liner Oceanic and then took a private train chartered by Globe owner Joseph Pulitzer back to New York. She returned to Hoboken on January 25, 1890, at 3:51 p.m.; 72 days, six hours, 11 minutes and 14 seconds after her departure.

Since Bly had cut eight days off of the fictional record set by Verne’s Phileas Fogg, it’s only appropriate that we drink a Fog Cutter. Created by none other than Trader Vic, the Fog Cutter is a delicious mix of spirits and citrus juice.

Fog Cutter

  • 1 1/2 ounces Light Rum
  • 1/2 ounce Gin
  • 1/2 ounce Brandy
  • 1 ounce orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons orgeat syrup
  • 1 teaspoon Sherry

Shake all ingredients except the sherry with ice in a cocktail shaker and strain into an ice filled Tom Collins glass. Top off with the teaspoon of sherry.

Tomorrow: We rub the stump.

January 24: GOLD!

marshall-monumentPoor James Marshall. There he was on the morning of January 24, 1848 checking in on the construction of a sawmill he co-operated with Johann Sutter on the banks of the American River in Coloma, California. It was just supposed to be a nice normal day at the office…and then his whole world changed.

That morning, Marshall was checking the creek outside of Sutter’s Mill to make sure everything was going well. He soon noticed that there was something shimmering in the water. He bent down and picked up the shining  object and said “I have found it.” It was gold. Now, there had been rumors of the discovery of gold in California prior to this, so tests were run. Meanwhile, Marshall continued focusing on the construction of the mill, allowing his employees to keep looking for gold in their spare time.

Eventually, it was determined that not only had Marshall found gold, but it was 23 karat gold! The news of the discovery spread around the world and soon the world came to California to strike it rich. Of course, for Marshall and Sutter, the gold rush ruined them: The mill was never completed because all of California’s able bodied men were focused on finding gold. Marshall would later try his hand at starting a vineyard and co-ownership of a vineyard. Both business ventures were failures and eventually left him bankrupt.

In 1872, the California State Legislature would award Mashall a two year pension for his involvement in such a major moment in California history. That pension would be renewed in 1874 and then again in 1876, only for it to lapse in 1878. Marshall would eventually die penniless in 1885. However, the next year, the Native Sons of the Golden West decided that the “Discoverer of Gold” deserved a monumental final resting place. So, with the approval of the State Legislature, a monument and tomb was constructed near the site of Sutter’s Mill. On top of the monument stands a statue of Marshall, pointing to the spot where he found gold.

Of course, to commemorate Marshall’s discover, we should drink a Gold Rush. It’s a fairly basic cocktail with a nice golden hue.

Gold Rush

  • 2 ounces Bourbon
  • 1 ounce lemon juice
  • 3/4 ounce honey syrup

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into an ice filled rocks glass.

Tomorrow: Around the world in 72 days.

January 23: National Pie Day

American-Pie-Council-logo-Alright, so there I was looking for some historic event that occured on January 23. So, I’m looking, and I see that January 23 is something called “National Pie Day.” At first I think “That’s fun, but maybe I could find something a tad more interesting.” However, I then did a little investigating about National Pie Day, and that’s when things got weird.

Listen readers, did you know there’s an American Pie Council? Yes, yes there is! There’s no American Cake Council, but there’s an American Pie Council. Yes, folks there is a pie lobby! According to the APC’s very own website, they are “the only organization committed to preserving America’s pie heritage and promoting American’s love affair with pies.” I don’t know why, but this makes me stupidly happy. Seriously, the phrase “America’s pie heritage” is putting a big dumb grin on my face.

They even have a newsletter called Pie Times!

So, this National Pie Day (not to be confused with the much more famous Pi Day held on March 13) sign up for membership in the American Pie Council so you can receive “members-only pie industry information like tips, tricks and recipes.” After you’ve done that, how about celebrating your new membership with an Apple Pie Martini? This delightful cocktail tastes just like grandma’s ol’ fashioned apple pie…except with more booze.

  • 1 1/2 ounces Vanilla Liqueur
  • 1 ounce Vodka
  • 2 ounces non-alcoholic apple cider
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 splashes lime juice

Rim a chilled martini glass with crushed graham crackers by dipping it in lime juice and then dunking in the graham cracker crumbs. Then shake all ingredients with ice and strain into the graham cracker rimmed cocktail glass.

Tomorrow: Gold!

January 22: Rasputin

Rasputin“There lived a certain man in Russia long ago/He was big and strong, in his eyes a flaming glow” -Boney M, “Rasputin

Russian history is littered with infamous and controversial figures, but perhaps no individual is more infamous than Grigori Rasputin, who was born on this day in 1869. The self-proclaimed mystic served as a close adviser to Tsar Nicholas and his wife Alexandra in the last years of the Russian Empire; so close in fact that some historians have suggested that his influence over the Tsar and Tsarina was so strong that he was all but running the Empire.

So, how did Rasputin reach such a position of power? Well, the Tsar and Tsarina’s son Alexei suffered from hemophilia and Rasputin had a reputation for being able to “mystically heal” bodily ailments. Thus the imperial family summoned him to court to work his wonders on the young Tsarevich. In addition to his “medical” work, Rasputin took on an advisory position to the Tsar, a position which allowed him to indulge in his main extracurricular interests: women and wine.

By 1916, Rasputin had an extremely strong influence over the Tsarina, and many in the Russian court were of the opinion that something must be done about the mad mystic. Thus, a plot was raised to get rid of Rasputin. On the evening of December 30, 1916 Prince Felix Yusupov invited Rasputin to his home. Before Rasputin arrived at the house, a team of conspirators prepared the building’s cellar for murder. The plan was quite simple, a doctor in the group grounded cyanide into a powder and lightly dusted some tea cakes and wine glasses with the poison. Upon Rasputin’s arrival, the conspirators hid upstairs and waited.

Yusupov escorted Rasputin down to the cellar and offered him some wine, which he declined. Next, Yusupov offered him a cake, and Rasputin gladly took one…and then another. Then, Rasputin decided that he would have some wine. After one cyanide laced glass of wine, it was apparent that the poison wasn’t affecting Rasputin. He then asked Yusupov for some Madeira wine. Before pouring, Yusupov “accidentally” dropped the glass and poured the Madeira into another poison covered glass. After that glass Rasputin finally began to complain of a tickle in his throat, but proceeded to have another two glasses!

Yusupov couldn’t believe that Rasputin still wasn’t dead, so he excused himself for a moment and went upstairs to consult his cohorts. After informing them that despite their best efforts, Rasputin still lived, he returned downstairs with a gun. Upon his host’s return, Rasputin said he was starting to feel a headache, but perhaps some wine could help. He drank the entire glass in one gulp, at which point Yusupov essential said “To hell with it.” and told Rasputin to say his prayers just before shooting him. Rasputin let out a ghastly scream before collapsing to the floor just as the conspirators came running downstairs. The body had no pulse, and Rasputin was dead.

The victorious assassins went up stairs to celebrate. For some reason, Yusupov decided to return downstairs and saw that Rasputin’s corpse was just where he left it. He was then overwhelmed with a desire to shake the corpse. He violently shook the body, at which point Rasputin suddenly came howling back to life. Yusupov ran up the stairs, with Rasputin chasing after him. Another conspirator fired four shots into the body until Rasputin was well and truly dead. At Rasputin’s funeral, the Tsarina would slip a note into Rasputin’s coffin asking “my dear martyr” to “remember us from on high in your holy prayers.” As for Yusupov, when he was asked in later years if he had any regrets about killing Rasputin, he’d reply “No, I shot a dog.”

Naturally, there’s a cocktail named after Rasputin and it’s actually quite clever. As Rasputin was a Russian and was often mistaken for a monk, the Rasputin cocktail is a combination of vodka and the hazelnut liqueur Frangelico (which comes in a bottle meant to resemble a monk).


  • 2 ounces Vodka
  • 1 ounce Frangelico

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Tomorrow: Pie. That’s all, just “pie.”