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That Thing You Do!

Image Credit: That Thing You Do!, 1996

Anyone who knows me (or really anyone who’s ever read this blog) knows I have a thing for the 1960s. But where did this obsession come from? I blame the following: endless Nick at Night marathons in the ’90s, and this week’s movie, That Thing You Do! (Disc/Download).

Having been raised on the Pittsburgh oldies station in my dad’s car, I knew this era’s music inside and out. So when Tom Hanks “the director” burst onto the scene with his ode to ’60s pop, I was instantly hooked. Add to that Liv Tyler’s cigarette pants and high ponytails, Tom Everett Scott’s electronics shop wonderland (THOSE VINTAGE RADIOS!!!), and all those references to forgotten stars like Gina Lollobrigida and Suzanne Pleshette, and I was officially a goner. I’d found my pop culture home, and the mid-1960s was it. I wanted to live in this world where the One-ders could rise to superstardom on the strength of one hit song, and not flashy boy-band dance moves. This world where rock bands got to pretend-perform in movies as Capt. Geech and the Shrimp Shack Shooters. This world where jazz and rock & roll was still somewhat interconnected, and a talented musician like Guy Patterson could perform in front of screaming teenage girls one minute, and studio icons the next. Maybe, at the end of it all, I just wanted to imagine a world where I could leave Pennsylvania and follow my dreams—wearing those cigarette pants, of course.

It’s still incredibly odd to me that Tom Hanks hasn’t found more projects like this to direct, because clearly the guy’s got skills. He made a perfect gem of a movie that captures a specific moment in time, pulling together exceptionally talented people to realize his vision. Let’s celebrate this maestro of ’60s nostalgia with one of my favorite cocktails, the classic Tom Collins.

Tom Collins

2 oz Gin

1 oz lemon juice

½ oz simple syrup

Club Soda

Lemon garnish

Combine gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a shaker with ice.  Shake until chilled, then strain into a Collins glass with fresh ice. Top with Club Soda, and stir gently to combine. Garnish with lemon.

I did a thing I pretty much never do, which was to watch an unedited version of this movie one lazy Friday night. I know a lot of people enjoy Special Features and Extended Cuts, but to me, theatrical cuts exist for a reason. In most cases, it’s the best version everyone could agree on. But I got curious, wondering what was tossed from my perfect film, and WOW it was a lot. For example, poor Charlize took the biggest hit, and now that strange Spartacus line finally makes more sense. Sort of. Also- Tom Hanks’ manager character was actually gay?? That’s actually something I wish they’d left in. Aside for some great dresses that ended up on the cutting room floor, most of the edits were necessary. Would I watch the extended version again? Probably not—it was extremely long and slow-moving. But as a lesson in how all the parts have to come together in just the right way to tell the best story possible, it was invaluable. Like the difference between the Oneders vs. The Wonders, simple is usually better. Cheers!

To Catch a Thief

To Catch a Thief

Image credit: To Catch a Thief, 1955

I’ve taken a lot of cinema travels this summer, so it’s fitting that I end the season with one last trip to the French Riviera. Alfred Hitchcock’s classic To Catch a Thief (Disc/Download) will make you feel like you’re sipping champagne at the Carlton Hotel in Cannes, before meeting your lover for a sexy rendezvous. This week, say bonjour to style, suspense, and sun-drenched 1950s beaches.

This is one of those movies I could watch with the sound off and still feel like I got my money’s worth. To see Grace Kelly slink across the screen in her gorgeous Edith Head costumes is such a treat, but then Hitch had to go and add the Mediterranean Sea. And champagne. And Cary Grant in a lovely French farmhouse. Is he TRYING to make me swoon? If you like the Ocean’s Eleven trilogy, you’ll really enjoy this plot involving a retired cat burglar trying to clear his name after a string of “copycat” jewel thefts. Cary latches on to Grace Kelly’s jet set heiress, using her to draw the real thief out. But somewhere between sunbathing, picnicking, and enjoying the fireworks from a luxury hotel room, she falls for him. Can Cary catch the thief? Can Grace catch Cary? Can the world stop catching coronavirus so I can go to the French Riviera for real???

As previously mentioned, this is a champagne-heavy movie. For my cocktail pairing this week, I’m adapting the classic French Riviera cocktail into something a little more bubbly, and a little more American, in a nod to Grace Kelly’s roots. While watching To Catch a Thief, I recommend drinking this Copycat cocktail.

Copycat

1 ½ oz Bourbon

½ oz Rum

1 tsp Apricot Jam

½ oz Lemon Juice

1 oz Honey Syrup (2 to 1 ratio, honey to water, boiled then cooled)

3 oz Champagne

Combine Bourbon, rum, apricot jam, lemon juice, and honey syrup in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a glass filled with fresh ice. Top with champagne, and stir gently.

Copycat

This spritz cocktail is perfect for lounging near the beach or pool in your couture, as I know we’re all doing during quarantine. Maybe just me? No matter your plans this Labor Day, I hope you get to take a day off, and I hope that day off involves a fabulous movie or two. Cheers!

The Bad News Bears

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Bad News Bears

Image credit: The Bad News Bears, 1976

I have absolutely no idea what’s happening in the world of professional sports right now, but I’m guessing things are not normal. If you’re missing your peanuts and CrackerJack, and starting to wonder if you’ll ever get back, then allow Cinema Sips to tide you over with a classic baseball flick, The Bad News Bears (Disc/Download). Featuring an alcoholic coach, a feminist pitcher, and a ton of salty language, this 1976 ode to Little League and Southern California will have you experiencing all the flavors of summer.

In this perfect time capsule of a movie, Walter Matthau plays Buttermaker, a retired Minor League pitcher and current pool cleaner of the San Fernando Valley. He accepts a gig coaching a team of all the kids who weren’t good enough to play on the existing Little League teams, thinking it’ll be an easy day in the dugout with a cooler full of beer. As the misfits and all their schoolyard problems start to get under his skin, he realizes he has an opportunity to give these kids a badly needed confidence boost. He recruits the talented Amanda (Tatum O’Neal) for her golden arm, motorcycle-riding delinquent Kelly Leak (Jackie Earle Haley) for his stellar batting average, and brainy Ogilvie (Alfred Lutter) to help him Moneyball the heck out of this league. Buttermaker’s strategy works, and eventually the Bears start winning games. The script is genius, but it’s the realistic performances that make me come back to this film year after year. I feel like I get to journey back to an era where people went inside a Pizza Hut to have dinner without irony, and a towheaded kid named Lupus could mix you the perfect martini.

Speaking of alcohol, it’s kind of amazing that Coach Buttermaker could hand out brewskies to a group of eleven-year-olds after the game and it wasn’t all over social media the next morning. I’m sure he still got to keep his job, and I bet those kids didn’t even care that they lost. While watching The Bad News Bears, join in the fun with this Honey-Bear Shandy.

Honey-Bear Shandy

1 oz Vodka

1 oz Orange Juice

½ oz Lemon Juice

½ oz Honey Syrup (2 parts Honey to 1 part Water, boiled and cooled)

5 oz Hefeweizen Beer

Orange Slice for garnish

Combine vodka, honey syrup, orange juice, and lemon juice in a shaker filled with ice. Shake well until chilled, then strain into a glass filled with crushed ice. Add beer, stirring to combine. Garnish with an orange slice.

Honeybear Shandy

If you’ve ever known what it is to get picked last in gym class, if you’ve ever been underestimated because you’re a girl, or if you’ve ever felt like you’ll never live up to the expectations someone has for you, then you’ll probably relate to this film. I always say, I love baseball movies not because of the sport, but because of the sportsmanship. This year may be full of bad news, but we’ll always have the Bears. Cheers!

Broadcast News

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Broadcast News

Image credit: Broadcast News, 1987.

I just finished the stellar new season of one of my favorite podcasts, You Must Remember This, which takes listeners on a journey through the career of one of the great unsung heroes of Hollywood, Production Designer/Screenwriter/Producer Polly Platt. I knew of Polly before Karina Longworth’s deep dive, having seen her name in the credits of so many of my favorite films, but the show has opened me up to even more great flicks, like this week’s Cinema Sips pick, Broadcast News (Disc/Download).

I’ve seen Broadcast News classified as a rom-com before, but I have to say, I disagree with that label. Yes, there’s a love triangle set within the world of television news, and there’s certainly comedy (thanks in large part to scene stealer Albert Brooks), but I wouldn’t say the film leaves me with a happy, buoyant feeling. Perhaps that’s because so much of the script is a warning of what’s to come in the world of journalism; a doomsday prediction that has actually come true. It warns of a distrust of information, brought about by flashy salesmen instead of real, credible journalists. The news as entertainment instead of vital public service. Albert Brooks’ character Aaron has the smarts and dedication for the job of newscaster, but lacks the right packaging. And then there’s William Hurt’s Tom, who has the looks but not the brains, or any shred of journalistic ethics. Naturally, he’s given prime screen time. Placed in the middle is Holly Hunter’s Jane, a thinly-veiled Polly Platt stand-in, the producer who’s smarter than all the men in her life, but will never get the recognition or personal happiness she deserves. To be a woman in this industry is to make sacrifices, and nobody knew that better than Polly. If you’ve ever allowed yourself the five-minute cry (*raises hand*) you get it. So much of this film is funny and relatable, but sadly it’s all things you wish you didn‘t relate to.

My favorite scene in Broadcast News is one where Albert Brooks is home alone on his day off, drinking and haunting the sofa in a ragged pair of sweats. He’s slightly inebriated, yelling at the news, wondering when the hell everyone got so stupid. Been there, buddy. Let’s join Aaron in his ennui with this Journalist cocktail!

Journalist

2 oz Gin

¼ oz Cointreau

½ oz Dry Vermouth

½ oz Sweet Vermouth

¼ oz Lemon Juice

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Luxardo Cherry and citrus wheel for garnish

Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a chilled coupe glass. Drop in a Luxardo Maraschino cherry and garnish with a dried citrus wheel.

Journalist

If you’re looking for answers as to how we got where we’re at right now in America, look no further than Broadcast News. The question now is, where do we go from here? Can journalism be saved? It’s a question the film fails to answer definitively, and maybe it’s because the answer is up to us. It’s up to all of us to demand that substance win out over style. Cheers!

Jurassic Park

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Jurassic Park

Image Credit: Jurassic Park, 1993

Admit it- the second you saw Jurassic Park (Disc/Download) had hit Netflix this summer, you cheered a little bit inside. I’m typically not one for big blockbusters, but I’ll always have a special place in my heart for that old T-Rex with the tiny hands. I remember seeing this in the theater when it came out in 1993, and during the parts where my eyes were actually open, I knew I was witnessing something incredible. Twenty-seven years later, it still gives me chills.

There have been a lot of sequels, but in my opinion, Steven Spielberg’s original is the undisputed best. Special effects have come a long way since this was made, becoming slicker and smoother as the years passed, but damn if these dinos don’t look insanely real, even by today’s high standards. Watching this as an adult, I can appreciate the true awe these characters must have felt, in a way I couldn’t before. Imagine, you’re an archeologist who’s spent your whole life trying to piece together dinosaur bones, then some crazy nut in a Panama hat tells you he’s extracted dino DNA from fossilized mosquitoes, hatched some new creatures in the lab, and you can actually go see them in a Central American amusement park. This would be like someone telling me there’s a classic Hollywood theme park and for the price of admission I get to ride around in a vintage Corvair and shake hands with the cloned, VERY REAL versions of Doris Day and Cary Grant. What wouldn’t I give for a chance like that? Of course, Doris doesn’t have the claws of a raptor or the natural instinct to tear the flesh from my bones, but nevertheless, we don’t really know what she’s like without her morning coffee. Things could get ugly.

With any jungle-set film, I enjoy a good tiki beverage. Of course I had to incorporate those dino eggs somehow, plus the whole gory death motif. While you take a trip to Isla Nublar, I recommend drinking this Isla de Sangre cocktail!

Isla de Sangre

1 1/2 oz Black Rum

1/2 oz Beet Juice

1/4 oz Angostura Bitters

1/2 oz Lime Juice

1/2 oz Orgeat Syrup

1 Egg White

Dried Blood Orange garnish

Combine rum, beet juice, bitters, lime juice, orgeat syrup, and egg white in a shaker. Shake vigorously for 10-15 seconds, then add ice. Shake again for another 15 seconds, and strain into a glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with a dried blood orange slice.

Isla Sangre

I want to give a special shout-out to sexy mathematician Jeff Goldblum, in his finest performance to date. It takes a special kind of person to show up to the jungle in a black leather jacket, but he’s got the confidence to pull it off. Me? I like the looks of that Panama hat. Cheers!

 

Jeeps

Movie jeeps, spotted in the Bastrop, TX Dinosaur Park

 

TRex

Lucky to be alive.

The Proposal

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The Proposal

Image credit: The Proposal, 2009.

While Texans were sticking to their car seats in rush hour traffic, I was supposed to have been playing with sled dog puppies and cruising open waters. Thanks to COVID, my Alaska vacation is now a distant dream, but in a way, I can still take it through the power of movies and cocktails. This week, go on a fake journey with me to Sitka, Alaska (by way of Massachusetts) as we watch The Proposal (Disc/Download).

This rom-com starring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds has so many of my favorite tropes, I don’t even know where to begin. Enemies-to-Lovers! Workplace romance! Marriage of Convenience! “There’s only one bed”! Add to that a gorgeous house on the water, a humorous (if false) look at the world of book publishing, and a cute dog named Kevin, and I am officially smitten. Directed by Anne Fletcher, The Proposal tells the story of Margaret Tate, a buttoned-up book editor with an immigration problem. She strong-arms her assistant Andrew into agreeing to marry her, but in order to sell the relationship to ICE, they must put on a united front at his Grandma’s 90th birthday in Alaska. Turns out Andrew is secretly the beloved prince of Sitka, and honestly what woman could resist a funny, gorgeous, wealthy scion? Plus, his grandma enjoys strippers and is played by Betty White. If Margaret won’t marry him, can I?

I actually saw this movie in the theater with my grandma, and it would turn out to be our last visit to the multiplex together. We both loved Betty, but agreed her weird Native American dance scene needed to end up on the cutting room floor. I’m thrilled to use one of grandma Jo’s vintage glasses while I drink this week’s classic cocktail, the Alaska.

Alaska

1 1/2 oz Gin (I used Mahon)

1/2 oz Yellow Chartreuse

Dash Orange Bitters

Lemon twist

Combine Gin, Yellow Chartreuse, and Bitters in a shaker with ice. Stir until chilled, then strain into a chilled coupe glass. Release lemon oils over glass, then drop the twist in.

Alaska

I can absolutely picture Margaret sipping one of these while she redlines a manuscript late at night, and the chemistry between the gin and yellow chartreuse is just as electric as the chemistry between Bullock and Reynolds. If I can’t actually go to Alaska, this is the next best thing.  Cheers!

Punch-Drunk Love

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Punch Drunk Love

Image credit: Punch-Drunk Love, 2002

With a title that includes the words “Punch”, “Drunk”, and “Love”, Paul Thomas Anderson’s dark romantic comedy seems like a natural fit for my collection. However, Punch-Drunk Love (Disc/Download) is not a movie I liked on the first watch, or even the second. It’s rare that my opinion shifts so drastically on a film, but that’s exactly what’s happened over the ensuing eighteen years. Now, in our cursed year of 2020, I adore it.

The reason I initially had a hard time connecting with this story was because I just didn’t know what to make of Adam Sandler’s character Barry. Was he being weird for weird’s sake? Was he simply shy with a dangerous undercurrent of anger? No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t figure him out. But since this movie’s release, we have a new language to describe people like Barry. I don’t know that this theory has ever been confirmed by the filmmaker, but to me, this guy is very clearly on the Autism spectrum. And with that realization, I now root even harder for him to find love with fellow lonely-heart Lana. Paul Thomas Anderson did something really incredible in this movie, making us feel through the camerawork and music, what it’s like to be in Barry’s head. Adam Sandler gives an incredible performance (as if there were any doubt- he’s been my uncut gem for YEARS), and I want so badly for this novelty toilet plunger salesman to find the one person in the world who “gets” him. I long for him and Lana to take those pudding cup miles and ride off into the sunset.

Speaking of sunsets, how gorgeous is the scene on Waikiki Beach? I’ve been lucky enough to sit at that beachside bar at the Royal Hawaiian, sipping a Mai Tai, and it’s a memory I cling to during lockdown. Someday, I’ll get back there (in fact, there’s already a room booked for June 2021. Call me an optimist.). But in the meantime, let’s have a drink with Barry and Lana. While watching Punch-Drunk Love, get those Waikiki sunset vibes with this Mai Tai Punch.

Mai Tai Punch

1 cup Light Rum

1 cup Gold Rum

1 cup Cointreau

½ cup Lime Juice

½ cup Orange Juice

½ cup Orgeat Syrup

Dark Rum for topping

In a glass bottle or punch bowl, combine Light Rum, Gold Rum, Cointreau, Lime and Orange juices, and Orgeat. Stir or shake until well combined. Pour into cups filled with crushed ice, and drizzle dark rum on top.*

Mai Tai Punch

There’s a moment in Hawaii when Barry and Lana are in bed, and they start saying violent, mildly shocking things to one another. He looks down at her and says, “This is right. This is good.” Those words perfectly describe what love is—finding that one other person who understands your weirdness and jumps right on into it with you. Barry, I’m sorry it took me so long to get to the diving board. Cheers!

*This gold pineapple glass, while attractive in a photo, is hands down THE WORST container I have ever put a drink in. The top wobbles and falls off, and the bottom gets so cold and slippery that you can’t even hold it. I have a dried puddle of Mai-Tai on the back of my couch cushion to prove it. If you got this from Target on a whim, do yourself a favor and THROW. IT. OUT.

Summertime

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Summertime

Image credit: Summertime, 1955

It’s official- the summer doldrums are here. Every July, I become a thoroughly unpleasant person to be around as I slog through a Groundhog Day existence of air conditioning and double showers. But this year, I made the wise choice to take a short jaunt to Venice with Katharine Hepburn in the lush 1950s drama Summertime (Disc/Download). And cookie, I’m glad I did.

When this film begins, Hepburn’s character Jane is excited about her trip to Venice. She’s saved up for it, made all the arrangements, and idealized the Italian city in her mind. She knows it’s a place for romance, but she doesn’t even dare hope for that. She’s been single a long time, and well…it’s enough just to see the beautiful canals. That’s what she tells herself, anyway. But then she actually arrives and discovers that Venice is THE WORST place to go if you’re single. I should know—I went there alone in 2002 and it was the loneliest trip of my life. Thankfully, she meets a charming antiques dealer, who may or may not be trustworthy, but still manages to pull her out of her shell and turn this trip from depressing to romantic. It’s here that Hepburn makes you feel what it is to fall for someone. To hope, but not let yourself hope too much, then to take that first tentative step before rushing in with open arms and saying “I love you” on the first date. She may get her heart broken, but oh, that first, initial joy is worth it. To truly live, is worth it.

Aside from my admiration for this character’s wardrobe (an enviable mix of shirt dresses and plucky hair bows), I also love that Jane travels with her own bourbon. You just can’t count on a foreign country to have all the comforts of home. Lucky for Jane, her pensione has all the ingredients on hand to turn that bourbon into a classic Boulevardier.

Boulevardier

1.5 oz Bourbon

1 oz Campari

1 oz Cinzano Sweet Red Vermouth

Orange Twist and Cherry garnish

Combine first three ingredients in a shaker with ice. Stir until chilled and combined, then strain into a glass filled with a large ice cube. Garnish with a twist of orange and Luxardo cherry.

Boulevardier

Cousin to the more popular Negroni, I actually prefer a Boulevardier if I’m going to commit to a heavier, alcohol-forward cocktail. And really, that’s what this movie needs. Something a little bitter, a little sweet, and very strong, just like Jane’s heart. Cheers!

Airplane!

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Airplane

Image credit: Airplane!, 1980

Since air travel is a distant memory for most of us these days, there’s no better time to watch a 90-minute joke about flying. Airplane! (Disc/Download), the classic parody film inspired by disaster flicks of the 1970s, makes me nostalgic and nauseated all at once. Two words you never want to hear on an airplane: Stomach. Virus.

To be honest, flying was always my least favorite part about travel. The seats are tiny, the air is either too hot or too cold, I distrust the ice in my cocktail, and I always end up next to a man-spreader. Now add virus anxiety, and you’ve got a situation that’s even more nightmarish. Somehow, the writers of Airplane! managed to turn all our air complaints into comedy gold, delivering a steady stream of one-liners and deadpan jokes—some of which land, and some of which fall pretty flat. Luckily Leslie Nielsen is on board to provide his dry sense of humor, almost single-handedly keeping this movie aloft.

I talk a lot about what I don’t like about air travel, but here’s something I do like: BISCOFF COOKIES. Day or night, I always look forward to my Biscoff and Ginger Ale. It’s the perfect snack, and the only thing that can distract me from the annoying person behind me watching YouTube videos on their ipad, without headphones. Yes, we can ALL hear you. While watching Airplane!, mimic the feeling of being airborne with this Biscoff Highball (recipe adapted from TheKitchn).

Biscoff Highball

1 ½ oz Bourbon

½ oz Biscoff Syrup (recipe below)

8 oz Ginger Ale

Combine Bourbon, Biscoff Syrup, and Ginger Ale in a glass over ice. Stir gently to combine.

Biscoff Highball

Biscoff Syrup

½ cup sugar

½ cup water

2 Biscoff Cookies, loosely crumbled

Boil sugar and water together, until sugar is dissolved. Let cool. Add cookie crumbles to a jar, then pour in the cooled syrup. Let the cookies dissolve and infuse the syrup, 4-6 hours. Strain to remove solid pieces, and keep syrup refrigerated in an air-tight container.

Airplane! is one of those movies where the more you drink, the funnier it gets. If you’re in the mood to watch one million Hare Krishna jokes and a blow-up “Otto” pilot, then by all means, stock up on bourbon. Surely, that’s all of us by now. But don’t worry- I won’t call you Shirley. Cheers!

American Graffiti

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American Graffiti

Image credit: American Graffiti, 1973.

If we’re to see anything positive come out of the Coronavirus pandemic, please let it be the return of attractive automobiles. For someone like me, who spends most of her time watching films of the 1950s and ‘60s, it can be a huge letdown to leave the house and see nothing but ugly, insect-like vehicles on the road. Give me fins, bench seats, and rounded, impractical bodies. Give me the sort of adorable European car Audrey Hepburn would drive. Give me the pastel beasts of this week’s Cinema Sips pick, American Graffiti (Disc/Download).

As I explained in a recent Moviejawn article about drive-ins and dating during the time of COVID-19, our cars will be the solution to loneliness. Truly, with only half the U.S. population wearing a mask (on a good day), the only safe place we have outside the house is inside an automobile. One thing that struck me about American Graffiti, George Lucas’s ode to cruisin’ in the 1960s, was that these teens could flirt and have entire relationships without ever leaving their vehicles. Taking place over the span of one night, four teen boys come-of-age to the sounds of Wolfman Jack and the revving of engines. Relationships are broken and mended, futures are decided, and Harrison Ford finally gets his chance to shine under a cowboy hat and devastating smile. But the thing is, this movie only works with gorgeous classic cars. Copping a feel from the front seat of a Toyota Corolla? Yeah right. Luring a girl into your Mercedes sedan for a night of innocent fun? Heated seats or not, I’m still unimpressed.

Completing the film’s early 1960s tableau is the soda shop as gathering place. There are roller-skating waitresses, doo-wop records on the jukebox, and car-loads of teens ordering fried foods. Let’s get this party rolling with a boozy cocktail that goes down smooth. While watching American Graffiti, I recommend drinking this High-Octane Cherry Coke.

High-Octane Cherry Coke

1 oz Bourbon

½ oz Cherry Heering

¼ oz Amaretto

8 oz Coca-Cola

Luxardo cherry (for garnish)

Build drink over ice, stirring to combine. Garnish with a Luxardo cherry.

High Octane Cherry Coke

It’s heartbreaking to me that George Lucas never made another small film like American Graffiti, preferring instead to devote much of his career to blockbuster special effects extravaganzas. To each their own, but this beautiful work of art is proof that there’s an incredible storyteller under all those light-sabers and Ewok costumes. This movie isn’t just about cars, but about human relationships and the way we can’t help but call out to each other, from behind our moving temples of glass and steel. And if any auto manufacturers happen to stumble across this little blog post, let me take the opportunity to plead my case for a retro-styled hybrid white T-bird. I’m in the market for a new car, and I hear blondes look bitchin’ in them. Cheers!