Are you ready for this one?
I recently discovered that without The Golden Girls there would be no Spice Girls.
That’s right, go ahead, read that sentence again- I had to.
Not everyone is familiar with the phenomenal sitcom known as The Golden Girls. It ran on NBC from 1985 to 1992. The show focused on the lives of four snappy old ladies living in a house together in Miami, Florida. Characters included Blanche Devereaux (the sexpot), Rose Nylund (the dimwit), Dorothy Zbornak (boring Dorothy), and the little sharp zinger of an old lady Sophia Petrillo.
For all of you younger readers, I know this sounds boring. Who wants to watch a few old ladies just hanging out in their kitchen and living room doing nothing. Guess what, that’s already your generation’s favorite show minus the old ladies- It’s Friends. Imagine it like this- age all the characters in Friends until they are all white haired and fragile. Now kill off all the men in the show except for Chandler Bing. Put him in a dress and give him an old lady hairdo- You’ve got yourself The Golden Girls.
*FUN FACT* Did you know that The Golden Girls was created based on a parody of Miami Vice? It’s true- to promote Miami Vice, two NBC actresses performed a skit called Miami Nice that focused on the nice side of Miami. An NBC vice president was so amused he followed up on the concept of Miami Nice which eventually evolved into The Golden Girls. Thanks Sonny and Tubbs!
Okay, so how do The Spice Girls fit in?
I’m so glad you asked. The Spice Girls are The Golden Girls’ grandbabies! That’s right! Grandbabies! Metaphorically speaking of course. So you know how when we were kids we used to imagine ourselves as adults and play those fantasies out- you know, like play House, or Cops and Robbers, or Cowboys and Native Americans? Well, when The Spice Girls were growing up- before they were The Spice Girls– they used to play Golden Girls. Apparently this was their favorite game to play. Punkin Spice said it this way…
I don’t know what it was- maybe it was the American accents we liked imitating- you know you Americans have such funny accents. But yes, we would all divvy up roles- different every time. We fought over who would play Blanche Devereaux- we just all wanted to be the sexy one. Nobody wanted to play Dorothy- she was just piss boring. And since there were five of us and only four of them, one of us would play the gay manservant, Coco. I bet you didn’t know about Coco. He was in the pilot episode but didn’t quite make it to the rest of the show. Not many people know about him- that’s how dedicated we were.
Even tight lipped Va-Jay Spice had something to add…
You know, we girls couldn’t be together all summer, we had our family holidays and such. One time when I was stuck at home with my brother, I dressed him up as Sofia Petrillo. Mum was so angry when she found out I glued all of our cottonballs to his head!
This infatuation the girls had with The Golden Girls led them to put on a skit at their school’s annual talent show. They opened with The Golden Girls theme song, Thank you for Being a Friend. All of the girls’ parents were in attendence, but Nutmeg Spice’s father is credited with changing their lives that night.
Yeah! We didn’t know it but Nutmeg’s Pa had his VHS camcorder. I’m glad we didn’t know cause we would have been bat shit nervous. But he did it. And then he edited the thing to make it look real professional and all- hand spliced that tape you know! And then he sent it off to record companies. The right people at Virgin Records saw it and loved it! Who knew those four old bags would change our lives!
And the rest is history…
Fortunately for The Spice Girls, quite unfortunately, however, for three of The Golden Girls.
Three terrible deaths, in the span of three years.
In 2008, Estelle Getty (Sofia) succumbed to Lewy Body Dementia. It had been affecting her since she was a Golden Girl but it was not correctly diagnosed until the early 2000s. Co-stars claimed she alway had trouble remembering lines and that they should have taken that as a sign.
In 2009, we lost Beatrice Arthur (Dorothy) to Cancer.
And in 2010, Rue McClanahan (Blanche) left the world after suffering a brain hemorrhage. It seemed she had a series of health problems since The Golden Girls: Breast cancer in 1997, triple bypass surgery in 2009 followed by a stroke while in recovery.
It’s a shame to learn that these Girls died such insufferable deaths after giving the world so many laughs.
Let’s move on, shall we?
The name Hot Grandma’s Bitters was originally coined with Blanche Devereaux in mind. I’ve always thought that she was a scrumptious sex kitten- but let’s keep in mind that I was a horny little pimply teen when they were on screen- what a fucked up little turd I was during my age of adolescence. Anyway, after learning of their deaths, I decided to dedicate these bitters to all four of them- hence, the term, Hot Grandmas’ Bitters. (I just moved the apostrophe)
Why even use the word Grandma in the name you ask? Because Hot Grandmas’ Bitters are habañero and lavender flavored. A quick whiff of them smacks you in the face with lavender petals. I have this belief that older ladies often smell of lavender and other strong flowers (probably another fetish stemming from my adolescence). Perhaps this is just a misguided stereotype I hold, but for the purpose of this post, and for namesake, let’s just agree that ALL old ladies smell like lavender.
Hot Grandmas’ Bitters– it’s got Plymouth Navy Strength Gin, habañeros, lavender petals, and Peychaud’s Bitters (I know that’s cheating, but whatever, there are no rules and it works).
Wait, what are bitters anyway?
Cocktail bitters, most simply, are a blend of three components: high proof alcohol + bittering agents + flavors
High proof alcohols can include Everclear, Lemonhart 151, Rittenhouse Rye, etc.etc… The alcohol extracts the flavors from the other ingredients, and then preserves them.
Bittering agents usually include some combination of barks, roots, and peels: Barberry root, Burdock root bark, Black walnut leaf, Dandelion root, Gentian root, Quassia bark, Wormwood, Lemon peel, Orange peel.
Flavors are what the overall bitters will smell and taste like and impart on the cocktail. Some popular flavors are orange, grapefruit, cardamom, coffee, celery, apple… I mean there’s a real shit ton of flavors- in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if that is a flavor some hipster’s been working on in Brooklyn- Shit Ton Bitters.
Bitters have been around since the Egyptians. Originally they were used as medicines to cure all sorts of ailments and ease symptoms. In fact, they still are used in similar ways today, but they’ve also found their way behind the bar. The most popular bottle of bitters that you may be familiar with with a yellow cap and an ill fitting label is called Angostura Bitters. Both Angostura and Peychaud’s Bitters survived the great American social experiment and still live strong today.
There is also another type of bitters called potable bitters. These are lower alcohol content bitters meant to be drank as is, or added to cocktails in measures of ounces, not drops and dashes. Usually they are digestifs that help settle the stomach after a meal. Most likely you are already familiar with them with names such as Fernet Branca, Averna, Montenegro Amaro, Campari, Cynar, Aperol, Jågermeister, and the list goes on.
Back to Hot Grandmas’ Bitters…
Hot Grandmas’ Bitters is made with Navy Strength Plymouth Gin. Plymouth Gin has been around since 1793. It is a simple clean gin that uses only seven botanicals for flavoring. It is my personal favorite gin to use in a Negroni. I decided to use this particular gin for these bitters because it has a lovely floral note that carries through and supports the lavender.
Navy strength is just a higher proof. This gin clocks in at 114 proof, or 57% alcohol. It’s quite the banger in the mouth. It was made to this strength because the Royal Navy carried barrels and barrels of this stuff in its ships, often times right next to the gunpowder. If the gunpowder got wet with anything with a lower alcohol content, it would not light- which could be detrimental when trying to kill a bunch of islanders protecting their land. So, when barrels of gin where being loaded on deck, there was a test- they would soak some gunpowder with it and make sure it would light, to see if it was in fact “gunpowder proof.”
*FUN FACT* There is a cute little friar in each bottle of Plymouth. When his glass is empty it’s time for a new bottle of Plymouth!
So, I didn’t farm or macerate the bittering agents in Hot Grandmas’ Bitters- I just let a popular bitters to do it for me. It was already exactly what I was looking for- and easy. Peychaud’s Bitters might be hands down my favorite aromatic bitters. It’s soft, sweet, and floral, but still punches through a cocktail and makes it stand up.
Antoine Peychaud was a pharmacist in New Orleans who immigrated from San Domingo, now known as Haiti. He perfected this family recipe and began selling it mixed with cognac at his apothecary in the late 1830s.
Soon it was being used all over the city, most famously at the Sazarac House. In 1873, they bought the rights to Peychaud’s Bitters and have held on to them ever since.
Who knew a freshly planted immigrant from south of the border would leave such a great impression on american cocktail culture. Take that Donald Trump!
Finally, the recipe…
In a large glass container combine…
17 thinly sliced habañeros (seeds and all)
1 cup dried whole lavender flowers (organic)
4 ounces Peychaud’s Bitters
32 ounces Navy Strength Plymouth Gin
Cover it up and let it sit for four days. Strain it and it’s ready to go. Careful, it’s HOT!
I must be honest and let you know- I took some liberties in writing this- a whole lot of liberties. Up to this point, this blog has been 99% non-fiction. Today’s, however, is 99% bullshit. Okay, maybe not 99%, but I did make some stuff up. There is absolutely no relationship between The Golden Girls and The Spice Girls. I’m sure most of you noticed I made up The Spice Girl’s names, and they never sat around playing Golden Girls. I got so caught up in wanting there to be some sort of relationship between all The Girls that I was knee deep in my own muck and unable to pull myself out so I drug you in with me. Everything else is true though- the Miami Vice thing, the terribly sad deaths, the recipe.
So, as I extend my heartfelt apologies to you, I would also like to say Thank You for Being a Friend!