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The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

benjamin-button

Image credit: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, 2008

Greetings from New Orleans! I’m off on a little sojourn in the Big Easy, taking in the sights and doing some much-needed cocktail research (very important business). To prepare for my trip I’ve been watching some New Orleans-set films, including this week’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (DVD/Download). Some star-crossed romance and beautiful Garden District scenes are just what I need to kick off this week of bon temps.

Based on the story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button stars Brad Pitt as a man who ages in reverse. Fate intervenes and brings him together periodically with his true love Daisy, played by Cate Blanchett. We know going in that this can’t be a story with a happy ending, though there are some beautiful scenes of the two lovers “meeting in the middle” of their lives. What Benjamin’s tale teaches us is that backwards or forwards, life is a long journey that we’ve just got to make the best of. Also, we learn that Brad Pitt will one day be a very adorable old man.

Part of my excitement over a trip to New Orleans is that this was the city that launched SO MANY cocktails. The Hurricane, the Ramos Gin Fizz, the Vieux Carré- I could go on and on. But for this film, I’ll be drinking perhaps the most iconic NOLA cocktail- the Sazerac.

Sazerac

Absinthe

1 sugar cube

2 ½ oz Cognac or rye whiskey

3 dashes of Peychaud’s bitters

Lemon twist

Rinse an old-fashioned glass with absinthe, discard, then fill the glass with crushed ice. Muddle the sugar cube with a few drops of water in another old-fashioned glass, and add a few large ice cubes.  Add in the cognac or rye, and bitters, and stir gently to combine.  Discard the ice in the first glass, then strain the cocktail into this prepared glass. Add a twist of lemon.

sazerac

Although the concept of reverse aging is something the beauty industry has been chasing for decades, Benjamin Button shows us how futile it all is. Eventually we all end up in diapers. Until then, I plan on making the most of every day that I find myself in the middle, and appreciating this random collision course that we call life. Cheers!

Julie & Julia

julie-and-julia

Image credit: Julie & Julia, 2009

This month marks a milestone for Cinema Sips. It has officially been 3 years since I started this blog on cocktail and movie pairings, really as a bit of a lark, but with a small shred of hope that people would actually enjoy reading it. After 180 posts, I am proud to say that I have never missed a week, I have not yet had to check into the Betty Ford clinic, and I’ve made a grand total of $5.05 through affiliate links (I’ll take it!). In truth, there might not be a Cinema Sips without this week’s film Julia & Julia (DVD/Download). The story of a lost New York writer who blogs about her attempts at Julia Child’s recipes definitely got me thinking about blogging, and what in my life I could write about that other people might find interesting. My collection of vintage postcards? Eh, not so much. Cocktails and movies? Heck yes!

Directed by the late, great Nora Ephron, Julie & Julia is actually two movies in one. In one half we see blogger Julie Powell trying to find her path in life, using Julia Child’s recipes as a compass. In the other half we see Julia Child herself, learning the art of French cooking in 1950’s Paris, writing her masterpiece, and being generally adorable with her husband. Amy Adams plays Julie Powell and Meryl Streep steals the show as Julia Child. As with all of her roles, Streep is utter perfection, and Child’s zest for life becomes infectious through this performance. I have to admit, if I weren’t in a similar life situation to Powell, I might not have liked the modern-day half of the movie. Not anyone’s fault- it’s just hard to compete against Julia Child and Paris in the 50’s. But because I am a blogger, and because I also get terrified that the only person who reads this blog is my mother, I find comfort in watching her story unfold.

In thinking about my cocktail pairing this week, I asked myself what would Julia Child drink? The answer- whatever the hell she wanted! She might even get a little tipsy while cooking. After all, if no one’s in the kitchen, who’s to see? While watching Julie & Julia, I recommend drinking a French Martini.

French Martini

2 oz Vodka

1/2 oz Chambord raspberry liqueur

2 oz pineapple juice

Fresh raspberry for garnish

Shake all ingredients over ice until chilled, then strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a raspberry.

french-martini

Admittedly, when I started this blog I didn’t have much faith in my ability to follow through and keep up the weekly posts. But it’s the awesome feedback I’ve received over the years that has really motivated me. Cinema Sips has made me a better writer and photographer, and it’s made me more adventurous in trying new cocktails. For all the readers who have followed this blog, and all the readers still to come, you are the butter to my bread, and the breath to my life. Cheers!

Center Stage

Center Stage

Image credit: Center Stage, 2000

Ballet is having a moment. With recent books like Girl Through Glass and Astonish Me, as well as last year’s fabulous mini-series Flesh and Bone, this gorgeous art form is back in our consciousness. Sure, I could watch Black Swan and ooh and ah over the drama, the otherworldly bodies, and the sheer intensity of ballet. But what’s the fun in that? I’d rather watch Center Stage (DVD/Download), a campy teen-romance that doesn’t skimp on the shirtless guys in tights, or the so-bad-it’s-good acting. Ballet for the people, indeed.

Sure, there are some “serious issues” in Center Stage, such as eating disorders, body shaming, and disgusting feet. But all of this is balanced out by fabulously gay Erik O. Jones (O after Oprah), feisty, gum-chewing ballerina with attitude Eva Rodriguez (played by Zoe Saldana), and ballet badboy Cooper Nielson, who rides a motorcycle and dances with (gasp!) Broadway-types. And let’s not forget Maureen’s mom, part of that most frantic breed of stage moms, who utters the phrase “Why, why, WHY in God’s name WHY??!” with all the passion of a Douglas Sirk heroine. The dancing in this movie is actually quite good, as is the choreography. But what makes this a guilty pleasure for me is watching actual ballet dancers attempt serious acting. Oh, bless their hearts.

What do ballet dancers do when they want to cut loose? Head downtown for some margaritas and salsa dancing apparently. You would think since ballerinas are all of 90 pounds they would have some common sense when it comes to alcohol tolerance, but you would be wrong. Luckily, I personally don’t have this problem (something to be said for eating a cheeseburger once in awhile). While watching Center Stage, I recommend drinking a Skinny Margarita.

Skinny Margarita

1.5 oz Gold Tequila

2 oz fresh squeezed lime juice

1.5 oz lite orange juice (I used Trop 50)

1/2 tablespoon agave nectar

Coarse sea salt

First, rim a glass with sea salt and fill with ice. Then add all liquid ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into prepared glass.

Skinny Margarita

Like Jodi Sawyer, this drink is sweet and salty, and will help you maintain a ballerina’s physique. Okay, maybe that last part isn’t exactly true, but it’s not too bad on the calorie count. I will never actually be as skinny as a ballerina, but that’s okay. I prefer cocktails to turnouts. Cheers!

Moulin Rouge!

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moulin rouge

Image credit: Moulin Rouge!, 2001

 

Truth, Beauty, Freedom, Love. Such are the tenants of the Parisian bohemian crowd in this week’s film Moulin Rouge! (DVD/Download). Since we’re celebrating great love stories on Cinema Sips this month, I had to include it. Power ballads and absinthe- now that’s a fantastic combination.

Moulin Rouge! was directed by splashy-extravaganza master Baz Luhrmann, who always manages to put layer upon layer of pop references and glitter into his films. This musical is no exception, drawing on modern and classic pop tunes for the songs, all collaged together to tell the story of Satine the showgirl and her penniless writer-love Christian. I never thought I’d see “Smells Like Teen Spirit” used in a frenetic musical can-can number, but there we are. Ewan McGregor is utterly charming as Christian, but where the movie falls flat to me is with Nicole Kidman’s performance as Satine. It may not be politically correct to say this, but to me, she just seemed too old for the part. And, not a terribly strong singer. Luckily the movie is rescued by the always-entertaining John Leguizamo as Toulouse-Lautrec. Is there anything this man can’t do?

As is so weirdly highlighted in the film by the appearance of Kylie Minogue as the Green Fairy, absinthe was the beverage du jour among the Parisian bohemian crowd.  I’m definitely a fan, and honestly a little wormwood goes a long way toward improving my opinion of Nicole Kidman. While watching Moulin Rouge!, I recommend drinking a Spectacular!Spectacular!

Spectacular!Spectacular!

1 ½ oz gin

½ oz absinthe

¾ oz lemon juice

¾ oz simple syrup

1 ½ oz champagne

Mix all ingredients except champagne in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a flute or coupe glass. Top with champagne.

Spectacular

Despite my opinion that Kidman comes off as an over-the-hill courtesan instead of the tragically young ingénue, I still root for Satine and Christian. I want love to lift them up where they belong! For one brief moment it does, and then… she coughs. Party over. This week, raise a glass to truth, beauty, freedom, and above all things- love. Cheers!

Valley of the Dolls

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Patty Duke in Valley of the Dolls, 1967.

Image credit: Valley of the Dolls, 1967.

It was only a matter of time before I got around to this booze and pill-laden masterpiece of 1960’s camp. Valley of the Dolls (DVD/Download) is that special film that becomes even more enjoyable the more you drink. The crappy dialogue just SPARKLES, I tell you. But beyond the pills and swimming pools and teased hair, there are simply three gorgeous ladies trying to make it in the cutthroat business of Hollywood.

Valley of the Dolls stars Barbara Parkins, Patty Duke, and Sharon Tate as three friends looking for love and fame. Based (perhaps a little too loosely) on the fantastically trashy Jacqueline Susann novel of the same name, the film version is a musical featuring rather forgettable songs by Andre Previn (most of which I find skippable). Give me scenes of Patty Duke in her underwear emptying a bottle of scotch into the deep end of her swimming pool. Sharon Tate looks lovely as always and is relatively believable as Jennifer North, star of nudie French “art films” and Barbara Parkins, well, she knows how to pull off a lot of eyeliner and frosted lipstick. Special congrats to Richard Dreyfuss, who scored his first-ever film role in this. Way to start at the bottom.

As I said, there’s a lot of alcohol and pills in both the book and the movie. “Dolls” is short for dolophine, a popular narcotic at the time. I like to substitute Hot Tamales for the pills, and luckily Fireball Whiskey pairs quite well with this candy. Obviously this drink needs to be strong enough to put you into a stupor, but pretty enough to be held while you sit in your nightgown wearing false eyelashes (don’t mock the way I spend my Saturday nights). While watching Valley of the Dolls, I recommend drinking a Burning Doll.

Burning Doll

1.5 oz Fireball Whiskey

3 oz champagne

Splash of orange juice

Combine chilled ingredients into a coupe glass and enjoy!

burning doll

There’s a lot of sarcasm in this post, and much of that comes from jealousy. I mean, who wouldn’t want to take a fistful of barbiturates and wander around the beach all afternoon? And how about having a husband who’s a fashion designer named Ted Casablanca? Now that sounds genuinely fabulous. This week, come drink with me, and be my love. Cheers!

Happy New Year from Cinema Sips!

From this boozy cinephile to all you Cinema Sips readers, I’d like to wish a wonderful New Year’s Eve and a joyous night celebrating with the people you love. Even if that includes fictional characters onscreen, that’s fine too (I’m celebrating with a Heath Ledger marathon and a bottle of Trader Joe’s champagne, so no judgement here). As a special New Year’s treat, I’m happy to announce that Cinema Sips is now on Twitter!  Tweet @Cinemasips and tell me what movie you’re watching tonight, or what you’re drinking. Because I’ll need a pick-me-up after Brokeback Mountain. Cheers to all!

Farewell to Mad Men (SPECIAL POST)

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Image Credit: AMC, Mad Men - Season 5, Episode 10

Image Credit: AMC, Mad Men – Season 5, Episode 10

I generally make it a rule to not post about television series on Cinema Sips (other than those awesome made-for-tv movies I highlighted in January), but I had to make an exception for the series finale of Mad Men this upcoming Sunday night. I’m actually not sure there would be a Cinema Sips blog without Mad Men. This show was single-handedly responsible for making craft cocktails cool again, and it certainly got me thinking about the role that pop culture plays in our drinking habits. Pre-Mad Men, I was strictly a gin-and-tonic drinker (okay maybe a cosmopolitan if I wanted to get REALLY fancy), but after this show premiered, a new world of drinks was opened up to me. Old Fashioned’s!  Martini’s!  Mountain Dew and Vodka! I began to look forward to preparing cocktails to sip as I watched Don Draper spiral further and further down each week. And all that vintage barware! Thanks to this show, my cupboards are overflowing with retro-inspired glasses and shakers. As if holding a really beautiful glass full of vodka will make me as cool as Roger Sterling. Silly me- no one can be as cool as Roger Sterling.

To give it a proper send-off, I’m preparing an all-day marathon of favorite episodes, foods, and drinks. Here is my menu below. If you think of anything I’m missing, shout it out! Let’s party like it’s 1962.

Mad Men Menu

  • Utz potato chips and dip. (In a chip n’ dip of course!)
  • Cheese fondue with pretzels, bread, and veggies (if you’re lazy like me, you can just buy the pre-made Emmi variety).
  • Hershey’s chocolate fondue (recipe here) with bananas and Sara Lee pound cake (hopefully thawed).
  • Mini burgers with Heinz ketchup
  • Baked beans (it’s difficult to find Heinz in the US, but I may scour some specialty/import stores).
  • Orange sherbet floats (float a scoop of orange sherbet in some Tropicana orange juice with a splash of Sprite, and top with Cool Whip.)
  • Heineken beer

My cocktail selection is one that I’ve featured on Cinema Sips before, and I think it’s a perfect send-off to this fantastic show. A White Negroni is strong, complex, and always classy- just like the characters on Mad Men.

White Negroni

1 oz Tanqueray gin

1 oz Cocchi Americano

½ oz dry vermouth

Lemon Twist

Combine gin, Cocchi Americano, and vermouth in a mixing glass filled with ice. Stir until chilled. Strain into a chilled glass. Add lemon twist and serve.

white-negroni

I’m looking forward to revisiting some of my favorite episodes (“Shut the Door. Have a Seat”, “The Mountain King”, “The Suitcase”, “The Jet Set”, “The Hobo Code”, ANY episode with Miss Blankenship) and I’m really excited to slip on my best Betty Draper dress and relax on my mid-century modern sofa with a chilled cocktail. Is that all there is? Cheers!