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Category Archives: Holiday Films

The Ref

Image credit: The Ref, 1994

Never has there been a more requested holiday film in the history of Cinema Sips than this week’s pick, The Ref (Disc/Download). After finally watching it, I understand why. In a year when we’ve all essentially been held hostage inside our homes, it makes sense that people would want to watch a Christmas film about a couple held hostage inside their home. This is exactly the type of dark yuletide comedy we need right now.

In a lot of ways, The Ref reminds me of a stage play. Most of the action takes place in one setting, the dialogue is quick and clever, and the choreography within the larger group scenes is perfectly executed. Denis Leary plays a cat burglar on the run after a botched jewelry heist (for those of you who’ve seen To Catch a Thief, picture the complete opposite of Cary Grant), but before he can set sail for the Caribbean, he’s got to hide out in the home of a bickering Connecticut couple on the brink of divorce. It was a little jarring to see Kevin Spacey in…well…anything, but as Lloyd, the eye-rolling, sarcastic husband of Judy Davis’s snobby, perpetually unhappy Caroline, he really pulls me into this scene of marital discord. There are a lot of side plots that seemingly go nowhere, but overall I appreciate the way this film uses Christmas to highlight the absurdity of wealthy suburban America. These people are heinous on a normal day, but throw Christmas into the mix and you’re one ugly pair of L.L. Bean slippers away from total meltdown.

Something I can personally relate to in The Ref is the bourgeois tendency to “try something new” for your holiday meal. I’m thinking in particular of the time I thought it would be fun to make Spanish Tapas for Easter. In The Ref, Caroline’s absurd theme is Scandinavian Christmas, resulting in a smorgasbord of unpronounceable dishes. Let’s celebrate her good intentions with this traditional Swedish Glögg. If you want to get very authentic, you can throw in some Aquavit. But if you’re like me and don’t want to be stuck with a bottle of Aquavit for the next twelve months, bourbon will do just fine.*

Swedish Glögg

1 bottle Red Wine

1 ½ cups Bourbon

½ cup brown sugar

Zest of 1 orange

2 tablespoons raisins

1 tablespoon cardamom pods

2 tablespoons fresh ginger, sliced

1 Cinnamon stock

8 Cloves

Garnish: Blanched, slivered almonds, raisins, or dried cranberries

Combine all ingredients except the garnish in a pot on the stove. Heat, and let simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, and let it steep for an hour. Finely strain to remove the spices, and reheat to warm. Put a few almonds and raisins in the bottom of each serving glass, and pour in glögg.*

This might seem like a lot of prep for a drink, but really, what else are you doing this year? And if you’re trapped at home with a spouse you’ve come to detest, maybe you need a whole pot of this stuff to get through the holiday. So Merry Christmas, and let’s hope that by next year we’ll all be on a boat to Jamaica. Cheers!

*Note: If you’re pressed for time, and/or incredibly lazy about making things on the stove, you can always warm up some Trader Joe’s Winter Wassail Punch and throw in some red wine and bourbon. Still festive, still delicious, and extremely easy.

Top Five Holiday Heroines

This holiday season, I’d like to draw your attention to some truly fabulous on-screen heroines. These are women who eschew an apron and gingerbread house in favor of a glamorous party dress and strong cocktail.  If I could, I would toast them all with this festive drink I whipped up with my favorite spirit Goodnight Loving Vodka (because every great heroine should have a favorite vodka), and I would tell them, “Thank You.” Thank you for being an inspiration to me and all the other women who view the holidays as a time to look fabulous, to have that second or third cocktail, and to never apologize for one’s domestic shortcomings. This year, even if you’re staying home, I encourage you to put on a nice outfit, mix the following drink, and watch one of the five films listed below. Leave the baking to somebody else. Cheers!

Hollywood Holiday Martini

2 oz Goodnight Loving Vodka

¾ oz Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur

1 oz Pomegranate Juice

½ oz Cranberry Juice

½ oz Lime Juice

Dried pomegranate or lime for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a dried pomegranate or lime.

1) Carol Aird, Carol

Image credit: Carol, 2015

I’ve often said that nobody drinks a martini like Cate Blanchett, and this film is no exception. With Carol’s effortless style and seductive gaze, that cute shopgirl never stood a chance.

2) Gillian Holroyd, Bell, Book and Candle

Image credit: Bell, Book and Candle, 1958

Is she a witch? Or just a cat-loving Greenwich Village gallery owner with a penchant for spells and backless cocktail dresses? Come for the dark/quirky love story, stay for Gillian’s mid-century modern apartment. THAT COUCH.

3) Elizabeth Lane, Christmas in Connecticut

Image credit: Christmas in Connecticut, 1945

Throw a city-dwelling, child-free writer into a country home with rotating babies, a dreamy war hero, a clueless “fiancé”, and a meddling Hungarian chef, and see if she can learn to make pancakes. From one Liz to another, “Pass the vodka, please.”

4) Fran Kubelik, The Apartment

Image Credit: The Apartment, 1960

The epitome of Complicated Female, Miss Kubelik hides her inner demons behind a smile and crisp white gloves. But when confronted with a charming Jack Lemmon at the office Christmas party, she must decide who she wants in her life come New Year’s Eve—the womanizer at the downtown tiki bar, or the sweet man and his tennis racket full of spaghetti.

5) Mame Dennis, Auntie Mame

Image credit: Auntie Mame, 1958

The only thing that changes more frequently than the décor of Mame’s apartment is the liquor in her glass. Even during the Great Depression, Mame never sacrifices when it comes to her personal style. No money for a fancy hat? Grab some Christmas decorations, put ‘em on your head, and walk with confidence!

All That Heaven Allows

Image Credit: All That Heaven Allows, 1955

Although not typically thought of as a Christmas flick, the second I watched All That Heaven Allows (Disc) during a Douglas Sirk Deep Dive last summer, I knew I had to cover it in December. If you’re ever paranoid you’ve chosen a terrible Christmas present for your mom, reassure yourself with this movie. I promise, whatever it is, it’s nowhere near as bad as what Cary Scott’s adult children send to her doorstep.

To be fair, a television is not a terrible gift on its own. But when you’re A) refusing to spend Christmas with your sad, widowed mother, and B) have driven off the only hope of happiness this woman has for your own puritanical, selfish reasons, this television is the insult to end all insults. It says to her, “We know that you live alone. Here’s something to distract you until you eventually die alone.”  I’ve previously lamented the terrible children in classic Christmas movies (see Holiday Affair); however, the college-aged offspring in this one are actually The Worst. All Cary (Jane Wyman) wants to do is find a little joy after losing her husband. She happens to find it with a man nine years her junior (a flannel-loving Rock Hudson), but before she even has a chance to finish one martini, her friends and family lose their collective sh*t. Cary yearns for the freedom to love who she wants, and it takes the mother of all insulting Christmas gifts for her to realize she’s strong enough to tell ‘em all to go to hell. She wants Rock, she wants that flannel, and she does not want a television.

This is definitely a martini-heavy flick (it was the ‘50s after all…), so I’m thrilled to highlight a favorite holiday cocktail of mine. It’s strong, it’s flavorful, and best of all, it’s easy. While watching All That Heaven Allows, I recommend this Cozy Cabin Martini.

Cozy Cabin Martini

2 oz Gin

¾ oz Ginger Liqueur

½ oz Lime Juice

2 sprigs Rosemary

Muddle a sprig of Rosemary in the bottom of a shaker with lime juice. Add Ginger Liqueur, Gin, and ice. Shake well, and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a sprig of Rosemary.

All That Heaven Allows inspired another movie I recently enjoyed (Far From Heaven), and both are fantastic picks if you want to get swept up in a domestic drama featuring cocktails and gorgeous ‘50s dresses. But if I have to pick a favorite, it would be this Douglas Sirk masterpiece. It may not be overtly “Christmas-y”, but it reminds me of what I’m most thankful for every time this holiday rolls around- love, and a child-free life. Cheers!

It Happened on 5th Avenue

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Image credit: It Happened on 5th Avenue, 1947

It’s funny how some movies find you at exactly the moment you need them most. As I drive around my city in this cursed year of 2020, looking at all the boarded up businesses and tent colonies that have sprung up under bridges and highways, it feels almost wrong to participate in a month-long holiday of cookie and cocktail excess when so many have so little. At times, the helplessness I feel about income inequality and the slow death of the small business becomes a consuming buzz of anxiety, getting louder and louder with each sad announcement of another shop closing, another person leaving. I didn’t expect to find solace in an obscure 1947 Christmas movie, but that’s just what happened when I watched It Happened on 5th Avenue (Disc/Download).

Set in post-WWII New York City, this holiday romp about a group of homeless people who set up camp in a deserted mansion is the perfect mix of funny and poignant. The film opens with hobo Aloysius McKeever and his dog strolling down 5th Avenue. They’re about to sneak into the storm drains to gain access to mogul Michael O’Connor’s property, who has left New York to winter at his Virginia estate. After making himself at home in O’Connor’s tuxedoes and bathrobes, Aloysius eventually stumbles on a homeless G.I. (Jim) in the park and extends an invitation to spend Christmas in the mansion. Soon after, Jim fills those empty bedrooms with more homeless veterans and their families, and the cold house is quickly transformed into a shelter full of life and laughter. When O’Connor’s daughter discovers the squatters, she ends up playing along with their ruse while falling for Jim, and then the elusive millionaire O’Connor himself pretends to be a hobo so he can see what kind of people his daughter has gotten mixed up with. The movie is a delightful game of mistaken identities and witty dialogue, but it’s also a heartwarming tale of friendship and compassion. Sometimes, the only thing that separates the wealthy from the rest of us is one lucky or unlucky break—we’d do well to remember that.

Because these squatters have limited food supplies, I think a simple cocktail with a few easy ingredients works best for this movie. My favorite part of the holidays is the canned jellied cranberry sauce I pack my cupboards with, so why not try it in a cocktail? While watching It Happened on 5th Avenue, I recommend drinking this Community Cup cocktail.

Community Cup

2 oz Bourbon

1 Tbsp canned jellied cranberry sauce

.5 oz Lime Juice

Ginger Beer

Fresh cranberries or lime wheel for garnish

Combine bourbon, cranberry sauce, and lime juice in a shaker, and muddle cranberry sauce to break up and dissolve. Add ice.  Shake vigorously until chilled. Strain into a glass filled with fresh ice, and top with ginger beer. Garnish with cranberries or lime wheel.

If you enjoy movies like It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street, I think you’ll really love It Happened on 5th Avenue as much as I do. Although watching it didn’t cure my anxiety about the financial crisis ravaging this country, it gave me hope that if we could get through it in 1947, we can get through it again. The key, as with most things, is community. Cheers!

The Christmas Contract

Image credit: The Christmas Contract, 2018

Sometimes, I get a little tired of all the fake snow and knitwear in my television Christmas movies. The truth of the matter is, a great number of people do not live in a cold climate (myself included). Christmas in my adopted city of Austin, Texas means tamales, holiday markets, and maybe a light jacket. It does not mean sleigh rides and puffer coats. This year, like a lot of us, I’m staying home and not traveling to a beach or snowy winter wonderland. To get myself ready for a down-home, Southern Christmas, I decided to watch The Christmas Contract (Disc/Download).

Set in Lafayette, Louisiana, this charming flick centers around web developer Jolie (Hilarie Burton), a recent dumpee who finds herself on the precipice of seeing her old flame at the annual hometown holiday celebration. In order to make everyone think she’s not sitting home alone crying every night, she ropes her best friend’s brother (Robert Buckley) into accompanying her on the trip. Jack agrees to the holiday relationship scam because he’s seeking inspiration for a romance novel he’s been hired to ghostwrite. Of course they hate each other, and of course they grow to not hate each other by the end of the movie. Initially, I worried I would be annoyed by a man trying to explain how horrible romance novels are for ninety minutes, but to my relief, Jack quickly grows to understand what makes the genre so appealing. It makes people happy, and what’s so bad about that?

As Jack and Jolie dance under twinkle lights, attend campfire sing-a-longs, and go for romantic strolls along the bayou, the scenes reinforce what I love about Christmas in the South. It’s full of good, spicy food, lots of alcohol, and you don’t have to wear a ton of layers. One of my favorite holiday memories is the year my family all decided to meet in New Orleans. On the way there, I stopped in Lafayette for that great Louisiana beverage, the frozen daiquiri. Let’s give it a holiday spin with this Gingerbread Daiquiri.

Gingerbread Daiquiri

1 ½ oz Bailey’s Irish Cream Liqueur

1 ½ oz Dark Rum

1 ½ oz Gingerbread Liqueur

½ cup Vanilla Ice Cream

1 cup Ice

Whipped Cream and Grated Allspice (for garnish)

Combine all ingredients in a blender with ice. Blend until smooth, then pour into a glass. Garnish with whipped cream and a pinch of Allspice.

There are some fun supporting players in this, including Cheryl Ladd and Jason London (aka Randall “Pink” Floyd, for all you Dazed and Confused fans), and even some stellar live music that belongs on the set of TV’s Nashville (RIP). If you’ve always wanted to see what a Southern Christmas is all about, from the gumbo to the frozen drinks, give The Christmas Contract a watch. Cheers!

Christmas Perfection

Christmas Perfection

Image credit: Christmas Perfection, 2018.

“Okay campers, rise and shine, and don’t forget your booties ’cause it’s COOOOLD out there today…” Wait, wrong movie. I got confused because Christmas Perfection (Download) is basically a Christmas-themed version of Groundhog Day. If it weren’t for all the charming accents, I’d start to wonder if this actually takes place in Punxsutawney instead of Ireland.

Christmas Perfection is a delightful surprise within a crowded holiday landscape of milquetoast heroes and low-stakes plots. Our hero Brandon has a scrawny, Ben Whishaw appeal, and it’s easy to picture him standing beside you in a real-life grocery store, looking for the herb goat cheese. Our heroine Darcy is the classic STRESSED AT THE HOLIDAYS-type; a perfectionist who can’t handle it when her holiday doesn’t align with the picture she had in her head. Through the powers of a magical miniature holiday village, she’s transported to a small town in Ireland, where every day is Christmas, and it’s the perfect Christmas she always dreamed of. Except, even perfection gets old after a while. A girl can only take so many gingerbread cookies, cute red-headed children, and Lego-haired Stepford boyfriends; eventually she needs something different. Enter Brandon, her lifelong friend who also transports to the Irish village and helps her see that perfection isn’t everything. I was skeptical about this hero at first, but the actors’ chemistry is off the charts, particularly in one steamy foot-rub/yule log scene. Things get worse before they get better, and there’s even a Groundhog Day-esque moment with the smashed alarm clock (alas, no Sonny & Cher), but eventually Darcy realizes the most perfect Christmas is an imperfect one.

If you’ve got a bottle of Bailey’s sitting around, here is your chance to use it. The thing I’ve noticed with these TV Christmas movies is that there’s usually romance, but never any sex. If you want an Orgasm, you’ll have to make it happen yourself with this cocktail.

Orgasm

1 ½ oz Bailey’s Irish Cream liqueur

1 ½ oz Amaretto

1 ½ oz Coffee Liqueur

Aztec Chocolate bitters

Combine Bailey’s, Amaretto, and Coffee Liqueur in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a glass with ice. Top with Aztec bitters.

Orgasm

I’ll admit, I saw a lot of myself in this heroine. I too like to play with miniatures, and go to painstaking efforts to decorate my dollhouse exactly the same way every year. I enjoy creating a world where everything is perfect, where not even a tiny Christmas card is out of place. Meanwhile, my real house is full of chaos and warmth; of memories and mistakes. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Cheers!

Love at the Christmas Table

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Love at the Christmas Table

Image credit: Love at the Christmas Table, 2012.

This week’s Cinema Sips selection was prompted by my love for Schitt’s Creek actor Dustin Milligan, who once sported a particularly festive Christmas sweater and apron in an episode. I thought to myself, this guy needs his own holiday movie. After a deep dive through IMDB, I was delighted to discover that he already has one, Love at the Christmas Table (Disc/Download).

Before you go thinking that Dustin is the only big name in this, I’ll have you know that it also stars Danica McKellar from The Wonder Years, Scott Patterson from Gilmore Girls, and Back to the Future’s Lea Thompson as a boozy Miss Havisham character! I think we’re supposed to see a Great Expectations plot in this, where lovers meet as children then gradually discover they’re meant for each other, but it’s hard to grasp under all the mistletoe, twinkle lights, and paper-thin career ambitions (you’re a furniture designer all of a sudden Danica? Oh reaaaally?). I’m mainly here for the impromptu ballroom dancing, Lea Thompson’s fab office featuring a mini-bar and fake book wallpaper, and a creepy/cute cardboard house that looks like something a serial killer would have made. Danica, you might need to run.

Something that stays constant as these kids grow up is the annual rum cake at their holiday gathering. It gets boozier as they get older, which I am all for. Here’s a recipe for a fun Rum Cake Martini that’ll put you in the holiday spirit.

Rum Cake Martini

1.5 oz Kraken Black Spiced Rum

1 oz Godiva Dark Chocolate Liqueur

.5 oz Butterscotch Schnapps

2 oz Half-and-Half

Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice, and shake well until chilled. Strain into a chilled martini glass.

Rum Cake Martini

While the plot of this movie certainly has some issues, I’m willing to forgive a lot for charming actors, which Love at the Christmas Table has in spades. If you want to see what some of your favorite TV stars are up to, give this a watch. And don’t forget the rum. Cheers!

The Spirit of Christmas

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The Spirit of Christmas

Image credit: The Spirit of Christmas, 2015.

Sing it with me: It’s the most…Wonderful time…Of the year. That’s right, I’m talking about CHRISTMAS MOVIE SEASON!!!!  I’ve featured a lot of great holiday classics over the years, but now it’s time to move to the small screen.  We are living in the age of the made-for-TV Christmas Movie, and Hollywood just can’t compete anymore (see: Last Christmas).  Thanks to Hallmark, Lifetime, and Netflix, we’ll never have to experience this holiday without bland men in chunky sweaters, klutzy heroines, and cookie baking contests ever again.  There’s literally a movie for every day of December.  It was tough going, picking out just 4 or 5 for Cinema Sips, but I suffered through a lot of research to bring you the best of the best (really, it was my husband who suffered.  I loved it). Kicking things off is my personal favorite, The Spirit of Christmas (Disc/Download).

Remember what I said about bland men in chunky sweaters?  Yeah, not this movie.  The Spirit of Christmas features a sexxxxxxxxy bootlegger ghost haunting an inn for twelve days every December, mixing up cocktails, trimming his beard, and trying to figure out who killed him nearly a hundred years ago.  Enter Kate, the big city estate attorney tasked with getting the inn appraised for sale, who comes face-to-ghost-face with hot bearded Daniel, forcing him to open both his heart and his liquor cabinet for her.   This movie truly has it all:  romance, cocktails, actual snow, a little murder mystery, and cheesy supernatural effects.  It’s like they decided to throw all the genres together and see what happens.  The plot is ludicrous, but I’ll have you know that Daniel wears GLASSES, a vest, suspenders, a shawl cardigan, and in one glorious scene, an unbuttoned shirt.  And did I mention the beard?

Before his fatal death blow, Daniel made a living as a talented rum-runner in the days of Prohibition.  So let’s celebrate The Spirit of Christmas with this Rum Runner cocktail!

Rum Runner

1 oz Light Rum

1 oz Dark Spiced Rum

1 oz Banana Liqueur

1 oz Chambord

1 oz Orange Juice

1 oz Pineapple Juice

Splash of Grenadine

Fresh fruit for garnish

Combine all liquid ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a hurricane glass filled with crushed ice.  Garnish with fruit and drink umbrella.

It may seem a little strange to be drinking a tropical tiki drink while watching a Christmas movie, but honestly, it’s not as strange as the movie itself.  Case in point, Kate’s “gift” to Daniel is an old birth certificate proving that it was his baby who died shortly after birth, and not his girlfriend’s supposed lover’s. In other words, “Merry Christmas, it was YOUR dead baby.”  All I can say is strap in—it’s gonna be one wild December on Cinema Sips.  Cheers!

Meet Me in St. Louis

Meet Me In St. Louis

Image credit: Meet Me in St. Louis, 1944.

After three weeks of black-and-white Christmas films, the technicolor explosion of Meet Me in St. Louis (Disc/Download) is quite a shock for the eyes. Visually stunning, this Judy Garland classic screams Hollywood Studio System, while signaling a modern auteur-driven type of storytelling still to come. With a creepy Victorian snow family, a night of trick-or-treating straight out of Stranger Things, and a horrifying platter of corned beef and cabbage, this movie is one crazy trolley ride.

Set in St. Louis at the turn of the century, the film is about the mundane lives of a large middle-class family, the Smiths (lord, even their name is boring).  The daughters are chasing after boys, the dad is rolling his eyes, and everyone’s all atwitter about the upcoming World’s Fair. Though the plot of Meet Me in St. Louis holds little interest for me,  the visual pop of Vincente Minnelli’s directorial style is what truly makes this film a classic. The vibrant costumes, unusual lighting, and ahead-of-its-time Halloween horror sequence—these are the elements I keep coming back to.

This film tends to get lumped into holiday movies due to Judy Garland’s heartbreakingly lovely rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, and the red velvet dress she wears. This was the moment the world sat up and took note of Garland, child actress no more. She’s beautiful and sexy, like something out of a John Singer Sargent painting. While watching Meet Me in St. Louis, celebrate Judy with this Red Velvet Martini.

Red Velvet Martini

2 oz Cake vodka

1 oz White Crème de Cacao

3/4 oz Grenadine

1/4 oz Simple syrup

2-3 dashes Aztec bitters

Chocolate drop for garnish

Mix liquid ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Shake vigoriously, then strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a chocolate drop.

Red Velvet Martini

Because this film is full of iconic costumes, it makes me eager to learn more about the stories behind them. Until the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures opens in Los Angeles, whet your appetite with the book Hollywood Costume. And for anyone interested in the scary underbelly of a World’s Fair, I highly recommend Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City. Chronicling the true story of a serial killer targeting visitors to the Chicago World’s Fair, this book will have you wondering if the Smith family home is really as boring as it seems. Cheers, and happy reading!

Holiday Affair

Holiday Affair

Image credit: Holiday Affair, 1949.

Poor Carl. All he wants for Christmas is for Janet Leigh to accept his proposal of marriage. He’s been waiting TWO YEARS, for god sakes. Two years of putting up with her bratty kid, watching her walk around in pointy brassieres, and being treated like the family Labrador. And now, at Christmas, he’s forced to watch his lady fall for the bedroom eyes of Robert Mitchum, an unemployed bum who hangs out in the park and gets arrested for stealing salt and pepper shakers. Holiday Affair (Disc/Download) may be billed as a charming holiday romance, but make no mistake- this film is a sad reminder that nice guys finish last.

I thought I’d seen the pinnacle of annoying child actors in the 1953 western Shane. But then came Timmy. Timmy is the kind of kid who badgers his broke single mom for the most expensive Christmas present on the market, thus making her feel guilty for all of her life choices. Timmy also turns the “poor me” face on Robert Mitchum’s character Steve, convincing this guy who just lost his job to spend a bunch of money on a kid he barely knows. Meanwhile, Carl the Earnest Lawyer wants to give Timmy and his mom a stable home and a hefty joint bank account. Does Timmy want that? No, of course not. He kicks Carl in the leg, screams his head off, and tries his damnest to fix his mom up with the hot bum. I have two words for Timmy’s Mom: Birth. Control.

I’m of the opinion that pretty much every Robert Mitchum film should be watched with Bourbon. This is a man’s man if there ever was one. Because I spent this movie mostly wanting to smash Timmy’s face in, while watching Holiday Affair I recommend drinking a Holiday Bourbon Smash.

Holiday Bourbon Smash

2 oz Bourbon

1 oz Pear Liqueur

2 oz Apple Cider

1 oz Lemon Juice

2 tbsp Cinnamon Pear jam

Club Soda

Cinnamon Stick Garnish

Combine the bourbon, pear liqueur, apple cider, lemon juice, and jam in a shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously until well mixed, then strain into a glass filled with ice. Top with club soda, and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Holiday Bourbon Smash.jpeg

The thing about this film is, I should love it. A single-mom-finding-romance-again is one of my favorite tropes! That Holiday Affair fails to light my yule log might be because I’ve read so many wonderful novels that do a much better job with this story. An old favorite of mine is Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Dream a Little Dream, which features an adorably sweet kid, the feisty widow of a televangelist, and her romance with a hunky drive-in movie theater owner. There isn’t a Christmas tree, but did I mention he owns a movie theater??  Cheers!