Today is the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos), celebrated in Mexico during the first two days of November, an occasion which (almost) seamlessly blends Christian beliefs with activities so firmly pre-Christian the Aztecs would probably recognize them.
In Catholicism, it's All Saints Day, or All Hallows, or Hallowmas - Hallowe'en is, of course, the evening before Hallowmas -- a day to commemorate everyone who has died and gone to heaven. In Mexico, families tend the graves of their ancestors and honour them with offerings. Little sugar skulls replace the real heads the Aztecs might have offered, while flowers, food and drink are also popular.
We are marking today with a Oaxaca Old-Fashioned, named for the Mexican city where the Day of the Dead is most celebrated, and based on that much-maligned spirit, mezcal. It may not raise the dead. But it will certainly lift your spirits.
It's International Xinomavro Day
The dominant red wine grape variety from the north of Greece steps into the global wine map with its very own Xinomavro Day. Xinomavro as a multi-dynamic variety can be found in different types and styles of wines, sometimes classic-rustic and sometimes modern-innovative.
In recent years, the Greek wine industry has made significant efforts and great leaps on the production of quality wines, improving the image of the Greek vineyard both in Greece and abroad. As a result, indigenous varieties can be adopted by conscious consumers and true wine connoisseurs worldwide.
Sadly, we don't yet have a delicious cocktail cleverly incorporating Xinomavro into its name so we suggest you fix yourself a Greek Martini to sip on while you read more about the xinomavro grape variety.
The day women joined the Royal Navy
With Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US now allowing women in the army into combat roles, it's odd to think that it was as recently as this day in 1993 that women were allowed into the Royal Navy.
Before then, women had been a part of a separate service, the Women's Royal Naval Service (or "Wrens"), created during the First World War to free up men for combat by having women do... well, cooking, cleaning, telephony and intelligence. During World War II, under the snigger-worthy headline "Free Men for the Fleet", as many as 74,000 women served as Wrens. But it wasn't until 1 November 1993 that the Navy accepted women could do the same jobs and undergo the same training as men, closed the WRNS and integrated women sailors into the Navy.
We're toasting the anniversary of this small blow for women's rights with an Army & Navy cocktail, a classic courtesy of our beloved David Embury.
Sistine Chapel Unveiled
On this day, the Feast of All Saints, in 1512, Pope Julius II inaugurated the Vatican's Sistine Chapel with a solemn Mass and revealed Michelangelo's magnificent artwork.
Michelangelo found the four years of work so hard that he wrote a poem complaining about the "torture" involved. He must therefore have been a glutton for punishment, as he returned over 20 years later to create his iconic Last Judgement. Today, more than five million visitors a year visit the chapel to admire Michelangelo's art, and cardinals still gather there to elect a new pope.
The Angel's Share cocktail that we are drinking tonight in honour of Michelangelo is based on cognac, a spirit from which the angels are said to take their share (through evaporation) as it ages.