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On the Rocks

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Image credit: On the Rocks, 2020

2020 was indescribably hard for everyone, but for those of us who love movies, it was particularly bleak. Instead of frequent trips to the local cinema, we endured a string of forgettable indies on the couch while struggling to focus on literally anything. I know there were probably good films I just couldn’t give my full attention to (lookin’ at you Sylvie’s Love), but for the most part I sat through a lot of 2 ½ hr-long “edgy” movies that made me desperate for a recognizable star, a decent wardrobe/production design budget, and most of all a skilled editor. Eventually, I just gave up, got a Criterion subscription, and said to hell with modern films. It was during this frustrating time that I missed a rare gem in the 2020 wasteland, Sofia Coppola’s On the Rocks. I’m still annoyed it’s only available on Apple TV+, but I’m here to tell you it’s worth signing up for YET ANOTHER streaming platform to see this perfect marriage between Murray and martinis.

Truthfully, I will always give a lot of leeway to any movie that includes a swimming pool, cocktails, a cool classic car, and iconic hotel bars. The thin plot involving a woman trying to discover the truth about her husband’s affairs is almost irrelevant—I just want to watch rich people do their thing. It’s an escape for me; a glimpse into a world I can only visit for brief stretches of time. But oh, what a world. In this rarefied section of New York, Bill Murray plays Felix, a charming art dealer trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter Laura (played by Rashida Jones) through impromptu cocktail parties, drinks at the Carlyle, a late-night stakeout fueled by caviar and champagne, and a spur-of-the-moment trip to Mexico. Is he dad of the year? No. He’s a misogynistic asshole. But he is uniquely himself—unapologetic, wildly entertaining, caring in the only way he knows how.

I know this is not the first movie I’ve paired with a martini on Cinema Sips, but there really is no other option for this one.  You MUST watch it with a Sapphire Martini, and imagine it was brought to you in a chilled carafe on a little silver tray. Picture yourself back out in the world, sitting in an iconic Manhattan bar, where you’re paying more for the real estate and history than the gin. While watching On the Rocks, I recommend drinking a Sapphire Martini.

Sapphire Martini

2 oz Bombay Sapphire® Gin

½ oz Dry Vermouth

2 olives

Combine gin and vermouth in a mixing glass with ice, and stir to chill- about 45 seconds.  Strain into a chilled martini glass, and garnish with olives.

In a year when most new releases made me want to either curl into a ball and cry, or spend two hours restlessly browsing social media on my phone, On the Rocks felt like a fun breath of fresh air. There were no major problems, no big issues to overcome—these people would all be fine whether Laura’s husband is faithful or not. Felix tries to force his daughter to give herself permission to enjoy life again, and that’s what this movie feels like to me. Permission to make a cocktail, watch some pretty people, and have fun for a tight ninety-six minutes.  Cheers!

A Summer Place

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Image Credit Warner Bros, 1959, A Summer Place

Image Credit Warner Bros, 1959, A Summer Place

True confession: I’m a sucker for any movie with Sandra Dee in an A-line dress. I’m also a sucker for melodramatic movies of the 1950’s, the type that would have been playing at a drive-in movie theater. This week’s Cinema Sips pick, A Summer Place (DVD) fulfills both criteria. I must have caught this movie on AMC back in high school (when they actually showed classic films) and from the moment I laid eyes on Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue as two star-crossed teenage lovers, I was hooked. Throw in cardigan sweaters and preppy boat shoes, and well, we may as well just call this a perfect movie.

A Summer Place is about two teens who find themselves together on an exclusive New England resort called Pine Island for the summer. Troy Donahue plays the son of the innkeeper, and Sandra Dee is the daughter of a family that comes to stay. As it turns out, Sandra Dee’s father (played by Richard Egan) used to be involved with Troy Donahue’s mother (played by Dorothy McGuire) when he was the lifeguard there as a teenager, and even though each married other people, they never forgot each other. As you can guess, romance rekindles between the parents as it blossoms among their children. The writers of this film’s script make the ensuing adultery pretty convenient, since she’s married to an alcoholic and he’s married to a racist. OF COURSE they’d have affairs. Admittedly, it’s a soap opera, complete with wonderfully melodramatic music, kooky supporting characters, and hysterical overacting. But the scenes of ocean waves crashing against craggily rocks, afternoon sailing, and a cocktail hour where everyone dresses up make me swoon. It’s what summer should be.

This film was an easy choice for Cinema Sips because it features some great drunk scene-stealing by actor Arthur Kennedy. He tells it like it is, even when “it” happens to be that his wife is sleeping with her former lover again. He’s an alcoholic for sure, but a dignified alcoholic. None of those bar fights or crying meltdowns that movie alcoholics are traditionally known for. So in his honor, I’m mixing up a great standby WASPy summer drink- a Pine Island Gin & Tonic.

Pine Island Gin & Tonic

1.5 oz Bombay Sapphire Gin

3 oz Fever Tree tonic water

Lime wedge

Sprig of Rosemary for garnish

Build ingredients in a tumbler full of ice. Squeeze a bit of the lime juice into the glass, stir, and garnish with rosemary and lime wedge.

Pine-Island-Gin-and-Tonic

I’m adding a sprig of rosemary to this because it mirrors the pine trees surrounding the inn. And it fancies up a drink that, admittedly, is pretty simple. But in summertime, when it’s hot out, this is the drink that I make more often than anything else. It’s easy, delicious, and really hits the spot. Be sure to use the best ingredients though, because when you’ve got a simple drink, it’s abundantly clear when you’ve skimped on quality. I like to fix one of these and imagine I’m sitting at Richard Egan’s Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home bar, as I listen to the ocean waves crashing and watch Troy Donahue stroll down the beach in his short shorts and cardigan sweater.   Très jolie, as the French would say. Très, très jolie. Cheers!