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Austenland

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Image credit: Austenland, 2013

Due to the publication of Curtis Sittenfeld’s fabulous new novel Eligible (an adaptation of Pride & Prejudice), there has been a lot of recent publicity about the works of Jane Austen. How fortuitous that I’m closing out Cocktails & Corsets month on Cinema Sips, since there happens to be a fantastic movie that celebrates all things Austen, and features Keri Russell in corset-attire. This week’s film Austenland (DVD/Download) is an absolute must for any Austen aficionado.

Based on the novel by Shannon Hale, Austenland is about a Jane Austen superfan who travels to a fantasy resort in England in order to live the Regency-period lifestyle. This means empire waist gowns, croquet, reading in a grassy meadow, and the promise of a romance-filled ball. There are Darcy references galore, a rescue in the rain (on horseback), and catty remarks over high tea. Plus, everybody’s favorite scene stealer, actress Jennifer Coolidge. What time is check-in again?

Although my first instinct for a Jane Austen-inspired cocktail was the Pimm’s Cup, research tells me that this liqueur was not available until decades after the author’s tragically short lifespan. Therefore I’ll be serving a beverage that any Austen fan worth her salt would be drinking during her 5th reading of Sense & Sensibility– tea. While watching Austenland, I recommend drinking an Erstwhile Evening Tea.

Erstwhile Evening Tea

1.5 oz Gin

1.5 oz St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur

1.5 oz English Breakfast Tea, chilled

.75 oz Lemon Juice

3 dashes orange bitters

Combine all ingredients in a shaker filled with ice, and shake until chilled. Strain into a chilled teacup, and garnish with a lemon twist.

erstwhile tea

As Jane, Keri Russell makes an interesting statement about the Regency period. She says it’s a lot like a corset- she likes the way it looks, but it makes it hard to relax. In a world where emotions are kept in check, and image and social standing matter far too much, I could see her point. Austenland might not be the best place to establish a permanent residence, but it sure looks like fun to visit. Cheers!

Sense and Sensibility

Image credit: Sense and Sensibility, 1995

Image credit: Sense and Sensibility, 1995

Before there were films, there were books. And in fact, before there were good films, good books usually proceeded them. Throughout the month of September, I’ll be paying tribute to my favorite literary adaptations in cinema. I know my readers must think I spend most of my time watching movies and drinking cocktails, and while those activities are certainly a part of my weekly routine, most of my spare time is actually spent reading. Because I consider myself first and foremost a lover of books, it pains me to see filmmakers get a literary adaptation wrong (I’m looking at you Simon Birch!). Conversely, when they get it right, it can be pretty magical (hip hip hooray The Door in the Floor!). Although there have been a lot of contemporary adaptations lately, I’m adhering to the classics this month. School just started again, so if you’re stuck explaining Jane Austen or Charles Dickens to your middle or high-school age child, don’t worry- Cinema Sips to the rescue!

This week I’ll be watching my favorite Jane Austen adaptation, Sense and Sensibility (DVD/Download). I am a functioning, breathing female, so yes, I love all things Austen. I even love all things about loving all things Austen (ie. the wonderfully charming film Austenland). By far I think Sense & Sensibility does the best job of depicting a classic Austen tale featuring two unlucky-in-love sisters- one pragmatic, the other a dreamer. Emma Thompson’s screenplay perfectly captures the rich language of Austen’s novel, while making it understandable to modern audiences. The cast is superb, featuring Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman, and Hugh Laurie, along with the usual cavalcade of minor British character actors who seem to be in every film coming out of the UK. It was an unusual choice to hire Ang Lee as the director, but he fills the movie with so many simple, quiet moments and beautiful costumes and scenery that one feels almost transported to Austen’s world.

Because the Dashwood sisters are forced into simple country living upon the death of their father, I decided to choose a British cocktail that evokes summertime country flavors. I can almost picture one of the Dashwood sisters getting her dress caught in a bramble bush, relying on Willoughby or Edward to come rescue her. While watching Sense and Sensibility, I recommend drinking a Gin Bramble.

Gin Bramble

2 oz Gin

1 oz lemon juice

1 oz simple syrup

Drizzle of Blackberry Liqueur (crème de Mure)

Fresh Blackberries

Combine gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a shaker, shake until well mixed, then pour into a tumbler or mason jar filled with crushed ice. Drizzle blackberry liqueur over the top, and garnish with a fresh blackberry.

Gin Bramble

My favorite part in Sense and Sensibility is when Colonel Brandon (Alan Rickman) sees Marianne Dashwood (Kate Winslet) for the first time as she’s singing a song at the piano. He enters the room, and you can just see the waves of attraction and obsession wash over him. It’s moments like this that make the film a wonderful complement to the words on the page, and a rare case of a screen reality being even better than my imagination. Cheers!