As we all know, last week the world lost one of the great comedic icons of cinema, Robin Williams. Some took the loss harder than others, but personally I was saddened to think that I wouldn’t get a chance to see what sort of role he would take on next. As an actor, he always had a way of surprising me. Just when I thought he was the zany, manic comedian whose brain worked just a bit faster than anyone else’s, he would throw a curveball in the form of a great drama like Insomnia and completely change the way I viewed him. When I heard the news last Monday, my neighbor mentioned having just watched him in The Birdcage (DVD/Download). Hearing that, a lightbulb went on over my head. YES! This was the way I would celebrate him, by watching Robin Williams in one of his greatest roles, yucking it up with Nathan Lane, while being equally heartbreaking as a man trying to defend his sexuality. Plus, with the buzzy Miami setting, this movie just screams for a cocktail pairing.
The Birdcage stars Robin Williams and Nathan Lane as two lovers who run a Miami drag nightclub. Nathan Lane is the star of their revue, and Robin Williams is the director. They have also raised Robin William’s son together, and now said son is coming home as an adult with the announcement that he’s engaged. Unfortunately the girl he’s engaged to is the daughter of a staunch republican senator. Soon, the conservative family comes down to Miami to meet the future in-laws, and Williams and Lane have to pretend to be a married couple, with Nathan Lane in drag. The cast in this film is stellar, with Gene Hackman and Dianne Wiest playing the senator and his wife, respectively, and Hank Azaria steals just about every scene he’s in as the flamboyant houseboy “Agador Spartacus”. Williams and Lane are so brilliant together that I find myself wanting them to actually be a married couple in real life. They spar, they bicker, but they love each other deeply. Anybody questioning marriage equality need look no further than these two characters to see why it’s worth the fight.
Fans of the Cinema Sips Facebook page already know what my cocktail pairing is, but I am now sharing the actual recipe. For The Birdcage, I wanted to find a drink that was appropriate for the tropical Miami climate, but also sweet and strong like Robin Williams’ character. Immediately, I thought of the Hemingway Daiquiri I recently enjoyed at a local bar. It was cool and refreshing on a hot day, and not sticky like many bastardized versions of the daiquiri often are. I inwardly cringe when I see a frozen daiquiri on a menu (mainly because I know in that instance I’m probably sitting at a TGI Friday’s, and how on earth did that happen?!). So please, do me a favor, and serve your daiquiri’s shaken, not blended or frozen, the way God and drunk writers intended.
2 oz white rum
¾ oz fresh key lime juice
½ oz fresh grapefruit juice
½ oz maraschino liqueur
Add all liquid ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously, and strain into a chilled coupe glass.
This is called the Hemingway Daiquiri because Ernest Hemingway is rumored to have drunk quite a lot of these in his day, starting at the El Floridita bar in Havana. I think it’s fitting for The Birdcage because I can almost picture Robin Williams mixing one of these up for his enchanting Starina, which she will drink pinky-up of course. I urge you to watch this movie, and try not to be sad that Robin Williams is no longer with us. Instead, think about how lucky we are that great films like this one will live on forever. He will always be funny, he will always be a bit heartbreaking, and he will always make me smile. Cheers!