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Romeo and Juliet

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Image credit: Romeo and Juliet, 1968

Picture the scene: it’s the mid-90s, you’re in middle school English class, and the teacher has just wheeled in the bulky cart with the huge TV and VCR. She fiddles with the input, frantically pressing buttons, until finally, miraculously, that swooping Nino Rota score fills the air. Lord, was there anything better than a movie day in school?? Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet (Disc/Download) will always be a fond English class memory for me, even though I happened to watch it the same year Baz Luhrmann’s fantastic fever dream came out. I love both versions, but if you’re looking for true authenticity of time period and setting, you can’t beat this 1960s classic.

Starring Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey as our titular star-cross’d lovers, this adaptation is like a sumptuous trip to Renaissance Italy. Shot on location in Tuscan villages, watching it makes you feel like you just stepped into a Botticelli painting. The costumes are incredible, with expertly tailored velvets, brocades, and silks, in addition to sculptural headpieces and masks at the Capulet ball. I also love the “cat-like” hat Michael York wears as Tybalt “Prince of Cats”, in addition to the mere casting of York, who’s always struck me as having a particularly feline face. It’s the visual details that make this movie special, in addition to the theme popularized by Mancini. When that tenor comes out to sing “A Time for Us”, I still get goosebumps. Sure, Luhrmann’s version made the text more accessible to modern audiences, but there’s something to be said for watching this production of Shakespeare’s play the way he probably envisioned it while writing. In fair Verona, where he laid his scene.

Speaking of Verona, I decided to make a cocktail of the same name because it fits quite well with the tone of this movie. Strong, a little sweet, and perfect for sipping slowly. While watching Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet, I recommend drinking a Verona cocktail.


2 oz Gin

1 oz Amaretto

1/2 oz Sweet Vermouth

1/4 tsp Lemon Juice

Orange slice for garnish

Combine gin, amaretto, sweet vermouth, and lemon juice in a mixing tin with ice. Stir until chilled, then strain into an old-fashioned glass filled with one large ice cube. Garnish with an orange slice.

I love that Zeffirelli cast relatively unknown actors for these roles, and I’m not going to lie- my Jordan Catalano-loving heart definitely swooned over Leonard Whiting the first time I saw him, with his tights and eyelashes-for-days. This movie has a timeless quality to it because these actors will always be impossibly gorgeous, the sets and costumes will always look authentic, and the words of Shakespeare will always be immortal. I’m forever grateful for those English class “movie days”, and only hope that future generations get to experience the thrill of a good adaptation like I did. Cheers!

A New Kind of Love

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Image credit: A New Kind of Love, 1963

It’s such a delight when, after nearly forty years on this planet, and thousands of movies watched, you find a new-to-you classic that features everything you happen to adore. A New Kind of Love (Disc/Download) was a delightful discovery for me this week, for it contains literally all my favorites: 1960s fashion, gorgeous people jetting off to Europe, copious amounts of alcohol, witty dialogue, and Thelma Ritter.

Starring Paul Newman as a womanizing reporter and Joanne Woodward as a “tomboy” department store buyer who makes her living knocking off the top couturiers, this delightful comedy skewers the business of high fashion while still celebrating its glamour. This movie must have been an absolute ball for costume designer Edith Head, particularly in the scene where designer looks are translated into burlesque costumes. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen Paul Newman slowly unraveling a pearl onesie off a stripper. The plot is a little less progressive than I’d like (Woodward feels she has to doll herself up at the Elizabeth Arden salon in order to attract a man, Paul Newman mistakes the “new-and-improved” version for a high-class prostitute, chaos ensues…), but it’s still fun to watch this madly-in-love couple pretend that they’re not madly-in-love for a couple of hours. We know what’s behind all those winks and smirks.

As part of Woodward’s glow-up, she takes part in the St. Catherine’s Day celebration where unwed maidens parade through the streets of Paris. Let’s join in this party (it actually looks like a lot of fun!) with my sparkling version of the classic Maiden’s Prayer cocktail, featuring a splash of pink champagne. Zsa Zsa would approve!

Maiden’s Prayer

1 oz Gin

½ oz Cointreau

½ oz Orange Juice

¼ oz Lemon Juice

2 oz Pink Champagne

Orange Twist

Combine gin, Cointreau, orange, and lemon juices in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Top with pink champagne, and a twist of orange.

The true MVP of this movie (and pretty much every movie on her resume) is Thelma Ritter. All this woman wants is to eat some onion soup with the boss she’s had a crush on for years, in a dress that doesn’t cut off her oxygen supply. She shouldn’t have to rely on sponge rubber to get the job done—Thelma is fabulous in any city, in any decade, in any outfit. Cheers! 

Come September

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Image credit: Come September, 1961

If you’re looking for a 1960s romp through Italy, look no further than the Rock Hudson/Gina Lollobrigida classic Come September (Disc/Download). It may be about thirty minutes too long, it may operate on a premise that makes no sense, but in terms of adorable dresses, catchy songs, and Rock looking quite dashing on a Vespa, this is a fun cinema vacation.

In Come September, Rock plays a wealthy businessman who decides to visit his Ligurian coast mansion in September. However, he soon discovers that his butler (Walter Slezak) has secretly turned his house into a hotel during the off-season. Rock arrives to find it full of teenage girls, including the always-delightful Sandra Dee. Rather than kick them out, he… lets them stay? I’m still not sure why, other than to give us lots of “grumpy Rock” scenes, followed by “stern father-figure Rock” scenes, but nevertheless, it’s Rock with a house full of ladies. Then his Italian lover (Gina Lollobrigida) shows up for a roll in the hay, but somehow, she’s stuck rooming with Sandra Dee and subject to bed checks by the girls’ chaperone. Again, no idea why. Bobby Darin then arrives with a car full of guys (including a very young Joel Gray), but Rock makes them sleep on the front lawn in a tent. If you haven’t figured it out yet, this movie is bonkers, but somehow, it works.

There’s one memorable scene where Rock drinks Bobby Darin’s crew under the table, and brandy is the weapon of choice. Let’s pretend we’re sipping a cocktail on the veranda of his mansion, watching the chaos unfold. While viewing Come September, I recommend drinking an Italian Stinger.

Italian Stinger

1 ½ oz Brandy

1 ½ oz Galliano

Orange Twist

Combine brandy and Galliano in a glass filled with ice, stirring gently to combine. Top with a twist of orange.

This would be the movie that introduced Bobby Darin to Sandra Dee, and after marrying in real life, they would go on to make two more equally delightful sixties rom-coms together. Now that’s the kind of “Multiplication” I can get behind. Cheers!


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Image credit: Blow-up, 1966

In my 1960s-set novel Follow the Sun, there’s one movie that gets mentioned more than any other: Antonioni’s Blow-up (Disc/Download). This is no accident. For a book that celebrates the style, fashion, photography, and sexual freedoms of the era, this film captures those themes better than any other. It’s a movie about looking without seeing, and one that feels as revelatory now as it probably did then. Movies, and audiences, would never be the same again.

Like an art-house Hitchcock film, Blow-up follows a successful London photographer who inadvertently witnesses a murder in the park, capturing the minutes just before and after the crime with his camera lens. Thomas (David Hemmings) thinks he’s photographing two people in the midst of an afternoon tryst, but after the woman (Vanessa Redgrave) harasses him and then tries to seduce him to get the film back, and a strange man is seen walking around his car, he gets suspicious. Blowing up the negatives, he begins to see what his eyes failed to register in the moment: there was another person there; a person with a gun. After that, Thomas starts to unravel. He doesn’t know what to do with this information, or if it’s even real. He may be witness to a potential murder, but London is still swingin’ all around him. Pencil-thin models are parading around in their colorful, sculptural clothes, Jeff Beck is smashing his guitar, and Jane Birkin shows up for an audition and a three-way tryst amid his purple seamless backdrop. The scenes of Thomas examining his photos are such a contrast to the debauchery of the rest of the film that it creates an incredible tension. Only by standing still can he (and we) start to see what was right in front of him.

Purple is such a prominent color in this movie that I naturally had to make a purple cocktail. This drink is made with one of my favorite British botanical gins (Plymouth), along with violet liqueur to give it a nice coloring. You could also use Empress 1908 Gin if you want to go full purple. While watching Blow-up, I recommend drinking an Aperture cocktail.


2 oz Plymouth Gin

1/2 oz Velvet Falernum

1/2 oz Creme de Violette

3/4 oz Pink Lemon Juice

Lemon Twist (for garnish)

Mint (for garnish)

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a lemon twist and mint.

If you appreciate sixties fashion, then you’ll love this film as much as I do. Watching Verushka slide across the screen in her slinky sequined black dress that leaves almost nothing to the imagination captures the sexual freedom of the era every bit as much as later scenes that were much more explicit in nature. When I decided to make one of my Follow the Sun characters a minor player in this cinematic masterpiece, it was done with reverence for both the film and the beautiful women populating it. Part of the fun of writing a book set in another time period is imagining what it was like to exist in that era. Blow-up, with its mod clothes, strange, dreamlike plot, and haunting jazz score by Herbie Hancock, is a movie that lets the imagination run wild. Cheers!


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Image credit: Hairspray, 1988

There have been several iterations of John Waters’ tale of racial integration in 1960s Baltimore, but this week I feel like watching the most “Divine” one of them all. That’s right, we’re going back to the original (Disc/Download) in order to learn how to tease our hair, do The Bird, and tell our racist elders to take a hike.

Starring Ricki Lake as iconic plus-sized heroine Tracy Turnblad, Hairspray is one of the many movies of my childhood that got me interested in the sixties. The dresses, the bouffants, the music—I loved it all. As a kid, I was intrigued by the concept of ironing one’s hair (like literally ironing it on a board!), and the confusing ritual of teenagers watching other teenagers dance live on TV. I suppose the concept mostly died out with MTV’s The Grind, but maybe it continues on YouTube? Someone under the age of 35 will have to investigate. For now, I enjoy the retro charm of Tracy and Link on the Corny Collins show, her fashion makeover at the Hefty Hideaway, and the greatest stage mom of them all, Edna Turnblad.

If there’s one thing Mr. Pinky knows how to do, it’s create a haven for full-figured gals. I wish this shop existed in real life- with the same dresses!! Let’s celebrate this dream retail destination with a pastel Pinky’s Margarita.

Pinky’s Margarita

2 oz Silver Tequila

1 oz Cointreau

3/4 oz Lime Juice

3/4 oz Cranberry Juice

Lime Wedge for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with a lime wedge. (Optional: Salt Rim)

This movie makes me nostalgic for one of my all-time favorite shows, American Dreams. It was cancelled too early, but the memories of this gloriously soapy, fictionalized version of Dick Clark’s American Bandstand remain. As we’re celebrating all things 1960s this summer with the release of my upcoming novel Follow the Sun, make a little space for Tracy and her gravity-defying hair. Cheers!

A Room With a View

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Image credit: A Room With a View, 1985

Spring has sprung, my orchid is blooming, and you know what that means—it’s time to watch a gorgeous movie about travel. I get the itch to watch beautiful people gallivant through Europe around the same time every year, and while this normally takes the form of yet another Talented Mr. Ripley viewing, this week I decided to abandon Mongibello to venture up the coast and inland to Firenze. A Room With a View (Disc/Download) is a Merchant Ivory masterpiece that will have you longing for sun-soaked days staring at the Duomo and passionate kisses among the flowers.

Like Helena Bonham Carter as Lucy Honeychurch, I was nineteen the summer I lived in Florence, Italy. I still remember laying on my lumpy twin bed in a tiny, rented flat, reading E.M. Forster’s classic novel, swatting mosquitos and waiting for my George to appear. My view was not of the Arno, but of terracotta rooftops and other peoples’ laundry. Still, at the time it felt romantic.  The thing I loved about the book then, and still love about the movie now, is how it portrays the emotions of frustration, desire, and indecision. Lucy wants to rebel against the life prescribed for her, but she doesn’t have the faintest idea how to do that, or what she wants as an alternative. Then somebody comes along to shake things up, providing the catalyst for the fire inside her. I love angsty stories about women in their late-teens/early-twenties because it’s such a fraught but important time. This is when the big decisions get made, when the forks in the road appear. I love the direction this story eventually takes because although Lucy does choose one of her suitors, she chooses herself first. Isn’t that how every great love story should begin?

If you’re looking for a cinema vacation, this film provides a perfect one. From crowded Florentine squares, to the rolling hills of Fiesole, to the bucolic villages of England, this whole movie is a sun-dappled work of art. However, my favorite scenes are the ones set in Florence, which is why I’m pouring a refreshing spritz cocktail, perfect for sipping on a balcony of the Pensione Bertolini. While watching A Room With a View, I recommend drinking this Elderflower Spritz.

Elderflower Spritz

½ oz St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur

Fresh Mint

4 oz Prosecco

2 oz Club Soda

Muddle mint with St. Germain in the bottom of a glass. Let it sit for a few minutes, then add ice. Top with Prosecco and club soda, stirring gently to combine.

Speaking of elder, Maggie Smith does a terrific job in this as Lucy’s spinster-cousin and chaperone Charlotte, and I adore Judi Dench as the saucy romance novelist they meet in Italy. A Room With a View is a movie world to get lost in, and that feels pretty good right now. Summer, and all its adventures, will be here before we know it. Cheers!

The Nice Guys

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Image credit: The Nice Guys, 2016

If you like the comedy of The Big Lebowski, the 1970s So-Cal production design of Inherent Vice, and the heat between Russell Crowe and Kim Basinger in L.A. Confidential, then you’ll adore The Nice Guys (Disc/Download) as much as I do. A movie that made it onto my Top 5 List several years ago, it’s only gotten funnier and better with age.

Starring Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe as private investigators in Los Angeles circa 1977, this Shane Black film is the neo-noir buddy cop movie I never knew I needed. Gosling and Crowe are hilarious together, and though the plot meanders (as it does in most noirs), the chemistry between these two makes you want to keep watching. March and Healy are on a quest to investigate the death of porn star activist Misty Mountains, which takes them from rollicking sex-fueled parties in the Hollywood Hills, to a fabulous airport hotel bar (sign me up for a drink at the Flight Deck!), to an auto show full of Detroit’s finest land sharks. The period details in this film are fantastic, and you can almost taste the smog and polyester through the screen. This isn’t Bogey’s LA, or even The Dude’s—this city belongs to a couple of guys just trying to do right by the little old ladies and teen girls who need their help.

There’s nothing like a car crash in the first five minutes to pull me into a story, and this one has a doozy. As Misty lays sprawled over the crash site, boobs akimbo, gasping, “How do you like my car, big boy?” the tone is officially set. Let’s celebrate this stellar opening with a Scotch Mist cocktail.

Scotch Mist

½ cup Crushed Ice

2 oz Scotch

Lemon twist

Pack the ice into a glass, and pour the scotch over the ice. Twist a lemon peel across the top, then drop in.

Classic film fans will probably recognize this as Lauren Bacall’s drink of choice in 1946’s The Big Sleep, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyed in the 1970s. After all, strong cocktails and private dicks are two things that’ll never go out of style on the big screen. Cheers!

P.S.- if you’re looking for more Film Noir cocktail pairings, be sure to order a copy of Eddie Muller’s fantastic book, Noir Bar!

Calamity Jane

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Image credit: Calamity Jane, 1953

Historians may want to take a pass this week as we watch the rollicking Technicolor musical Calamity Jane (Disc/Download), which bears little resemblance to the actual life of Wild West legend Martha Jane Cannary. Nevertheless, what the movie lacks in accuracy, it makes up for in pure Doris Day charm. I don’t usually love Westerns, but when it’s Doris in a fringed suede jacket and a cute ponytail, how can I resist?

Starring Doris as Calamity Jane and baritone-voiced dreamboat Howard Keel as her friend-to-lover Wild Bill Hickok, this movie is one of the more unusual musicals I’ve seen. Somehow, it manages to be progressive and offensive at the same time, and I don’t know whether to sigh over the tired Native American stereotypes, or cheer over the delightful scene where Calamity moves in with her gal pal Katie and they fix up a cottage together. Then there’s the unexpectedly brilliant drag performance by Dick Wesson (the rural booking agent thought Francis Fryer was a woman’s name, and well, the show must go on…), plus Doris in pants, and damned if this movie doesn’t flip those gender stereotypes in the best way. As with most Doris Day movies, the thing I love is that she plays a confident, capable woman who doesn’t need a man to complete her life. She’d be fine without one, but it sure is nice when Wild Bill realizes what’s been right in front of him the whole time.

In crafting a cocktail for this film, I took inspiration from both the movie, and my local liquor store. Calamity Gin is a Texas spirit just begging to be sipped during this film, but one can’t discount the way Calamity rolls up to the bar to order a “Sarsaparill-ie”. It’s adorable. Let’s combine the two with this Calamity Collins.

Calamity Collins

1 ½ oz Calamity Gin

¾ oz Lemon Juice

¾ oz Sarsaparilla Syrup (simmer Sarsaparilla soda over heat until reduced by half)

6 oz Indian Tonic Water

Combine gin, lemon juice, and sarsaparilla syrup in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a Collins glass filled with ice. Top with tonic water, and stir gently to combine.

One Life to Live fans will probably scream, as I did, over the appearance of a young Phil Carey (Asa Buchanan) as the Army lieutenant Calamity is crushing on at the start of the movie. He’s great, but he can’t hold a candle to Wild Bill. Eventually, Calamity realizes this, and the two trigger-happy legends ride off into the sunset together. Still, I can’t help but wish her “secret love” had been… someone else. Calam and Katie shacked up in their cute little cottage with their plaid shirts and wood pile? Now that’s the happy ending I want to see. Cheers!

Apollo 13

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Image credit: Apollo 13, 1995

If you’ve been looking for an excuse to use up that jar of Tang you’ve had sitting in the back of your pantry, then today’s your lucky day because Cinema Sips is headed to the moon with Apollo 13 (Disc/Download)!  Part disaster flick, part character drama, part ode to late 1960s patterned wallpaper, this movie is about working the problem, one roll of duct tape at a time.

I remember watching this as a tween, right around the time that our school took a field trip to the National Air and Space Museum. Very quickly, I became obsessed with all things astronaut. The freeze-dried ice cream! The Corvette Stingrays! The crew cuts! The tape decks populated by Norman Greenbaum and Jefferson Airplane! What a time to be alive. Modern spaceflight feels almost dull; a status symbol for aging bald men and their billions of dollars. But back in the sixties, it was brave test pilots up above the atmosphere, trying to stay alive in broken down hunks of metal with heat shields held on by an old belt. The Apollo 13 disaster will always be a riveting story because it’s about humans trying to stay alive under impossible conditions. Everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong, but somehow, this ship made it home. We didn’t have the internet, we didn’t have fancy gadgets, and back then, computers took up an entire room. But we didn’t need any of that- all it took was good old engineering and a whole lot of courage.

Although it existed before the Gemini missions, Tang became popular after it was marketed as the astronaut’s drink-of-choice. A powdered mix, it gave a semblance of orange juice up in space where supplies (and fresh produce stands) were limited. I think it works quite well in a margarita, so while you’re watching Apollo 13, I recommend drinking a Moonshot Margarita.

Moonshot Margarita

2 oz Reposado Tequila

1 oz Cointreau

1 oz Lime Juice

1 Tsp Tang

Orange garnish

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake to chill, then strain into a glass filled with ice. Garnish with a dehydrated orange.

The cast of this movie is great, and it certainly cemented Tom Hanks as the actor you’d most like to have with you in a crisis. But for me, the unsung hero of Apollo 13 is Bill Paxton as Fred Haise. Suffering from a UTI, eating frozen hot dogs, listening to his Hank Williams tape slowly die—you really feel the misery of space travel through his performance. I shall think of him every time I gaze upon the constellation Urinus. Cheers!

Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar

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Image credit: Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar, 2021

I’ve spent the month talking about cruise movies, but now I’d like to switch gears and feature a variation on this theme- the land cruise. Inspired by a recent stopover at the Atlantis Bahamas resort, I couldn’t help but think about these giant hotels where everything is at your fingertips, and your only decisions for the day are: which pool, which cocktail, and which pair of culottes. If you want a taste of the luxury resort life, then check out this week’s film, Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar (Disc/Download).

A movie I found funny on first viewing, and absolutely hilarious on subsequent watches, Barb and Star will charm you with their Midwestern accents, their seashell bracelets, and their Talbots resort-casual wardrobes. I like to think of this one as Romy & Michelle for the Golden Girls crowd- not that there’s anything wrong with that! You see, I’ve long believed that if you ever want to put a little sparkle back in your life, a good place to start is a Florida vacation. The fictional Palm Vista Hotel featured in the movie is a magical pastel-hued Barbie Dream House full of seashell beds, ocean views, and friendly bartenders, and just watching BFFs Barb and Star (Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig) step into that lobby feels transporting. It also doesn’t hurt that there’s a lively Busby Berkeley-inspired musical number to welcome them, or that Jamie Dornan is there to add a funny romantic twist (along with a strange subplot involving killer mosquitos, but this post isn’t going to be long enough to go into all that). Ultimately, if you learn anything from Barb and Star it should be this: the best ships are friendships. And if Tommy Bahama should one day wander out of the swamp and offer you his calloused hand, take it.

One of my favorite parts of this movie is when Barb and Star drink a giant blue cocktail with their new pal Edgar (Dornan), and proceed to have a wild night of debauchery. I’m not sure exactly what goes into a “Buried Treasure” cocktail, but the Atlantis has a similar-hued drink that’ll give you those Palm Vista vibes. While watching Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar, I recommend drinking a Blue Marlin.

Blue Marlin

1.5 oz Vodka

1 oz Blue Curaçao

1 oz Triple Sec

2 oz Pineapple Juice

1 oz Lemon Juice

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake to chill, then pour into a glass over fresh ice. Or- serve it in a seashell cup!

Seashell cup from

The thing about land cruises is that you’re able to exist in a tiny self-contained world of pleasure, minus the possibility of sea sickness. You can enjoy the buffet without wondering if you’ll see it again later, and a walk on the beach can be a great way to cap off a perfect day of turtle stalking, shell shopping, and Banana Boat flapping. And if you’re lucky, you’ll even get to meet Trish! Now there’s a woman you can count on. Cheers!