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Desk Set

Image credit: Desk Set, 1957

I’ve got a question for EMERAC—which 1950s film starring Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy will put me in a retro holiday mood? The answer, of course, is Desk Set (Disc/Download), the delightful romantic comedy written by Nora Ephron’s parents Phoebe and Henry. If it’s one thing the Ephron family understands, it’s how to make smart people fall in love.

If you’ve never seen this movie before, you might be shocked to learn that in the days before Google, actual humans were employed to answer mundane trivia questions from the general population. As reference librarian Bunny Watson, Hepburn looks perfectly at home surrounded by books, speaking authoritatively into a telephone. However, her peaceful workplace is soon disrupted by the arrival of Spencer Tracy and his living room-sized computer. EMERAC threatens both Bunny’s job and her pride when, due to a severe lack of communication, she and her co-workers start to worry the men upstairs will replace them all with a machine. Can Bunny save her status as the leading human computer? Will she ever get a chance to wear that gorgeous green dress from Bonwit Teller’s? WILL SHE MAKE IT TO THE OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY?? Watch and learn the answers to these burning questions.

Speaking of questions, one in particular came up while I was watching this film. Spencer Tracy’s character Richard seems awfully excited to be served something called “Floating Island”. Not having a reference librarian of my own to call up, I turned to Google to find out what this dish is. Turns out, it’s straight out of a Julia Child cookbook, and can be easily modified into a cocktail. While watching Desk Set, I recommend drinking an Eggnog Floating Island.

Eggnog Floating Island

3 oz store-bought Eggnog (I used Trader Joe’s oat milk version)

¾ oz Dark spiced rum

¾ oz Brandy

2 cups milk

For Meringue:

3 large egg whites

¼ tsp cream of tartar

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

Ground Nutmeg (for garnish)

Edible Glitter (for garnish)

  • Combine eggnog with dark rum and brandy, pour into martini glass, and place in the fridge to chill.
  • Pour milk into a skillet, and turn on the heat to simmer.
  • Next, make the meringues. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar, and beat until they hold stiff peaks. Add sugar slowly, beating until the whites are stiff and glossy.
  • Scoop some (about the size of an egg) onto a spoon. Drop into the simmering milk on the stovetop, and cook for 2 minutes, turning meringue over halfway through. Repeat with as many other meringue scoops as you want.
  • Using a slotted spoon, transfer poached meringue to a clean towel, then onto a wax-lined sheet. Refrigerate for 1-3 hours.
  • Once the meringues have cooled and set, place one poached meringue on top of the eggnog in your martini glass. Dust with ground nutmeg and edible glitter. Serve with a small spoon.

I admit, this cocktail is a little more involved than I normally care to get. However, the holidays are always a good time to try out new recipes you don’t have time for the other eleven months of the year. And if you’re not up for anything complicated, you can always just pass a bottle of bubbly around like these boozy librarians—I’ll never tell. Cheers, and happy holidays from Cinema Sips!

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