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Christmas in Connecticut

Christmas in Connecticut

Image credit: Christmas in Connecticut, 1945.

Take a saucy career-minded city gal, put her on a farm, hand her a baby and force her to flip flapjacks, and what do you get? This week’s delightful classic rom-com Christmas in Connecticut (Disc/Download). Though it would later be remade by esteemed director Arnold Schwartzenegger (no, I am not joking), the original Barbara Stanwyck version holds up remarkably well. This is Hallmark Christmas with better clothes, better looking men, and better acting. What are you waiting for?!

The parallels between my life and Elizabeth’s are uncanny.  When I started Cinema Sips over five years ago, I’ll be honest- I had no idea what I was doing. I trusted recipe books and expert advice to get me through, kind of like Elizabeth relies on her Hungarian chef uncle to convince readers she knows her way around a kitchen. Also, we both have no clue what to do with a baby. Literally, none. And most importantly, we strive to be the best-dressed person in any room, meager paychecks be-damned. Therefore, I can really empathize when Elizabeth is forced to pretend to be a domestic goddess for one zany weekend at Christmas, all to impress her publisher and a Navy war hero. Sometimes, a lady doesn’t want to flip flapjacks or give a baby a bath, so back the f*ck off, okay???

Another reason I’m convinced we’re sorta the same person is because this columnist loves a good martini.  The holidays are a great time to make festive martinis, so while you’re watching Christmas in Connecticut, I recommend drinking this Sleigh Ride Martini.

Sleigh Ride Martini

2 oz Peppermint Twist vodka

0.5 oz Vanilla vodka

0.5 oz White crème de cacao

Combine ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Shake until very cold, then strain into a chilled glass. 

Sleighride Martini

BTW, the Smirnoff Peppermint Twist bottle is scratch-and-sniff!!!!  What a time to be alive!

If I had to pick a modern Hollywood equivalent of Elizabeth Lane The Domestic Goddess, my mind goes immediately to Reese Witherspoon. From hot rolling your hair to whipping up a batch of fluffy biscuits, her new book Whiskey in a Teacup is Elizabeth Lane’s column for a new audience. It may be more Mint Juleps than Martinis, but hey- I applaud any lady who enjoys a good cocktail and also tells me how to make it. Cheers!

The Bishop’s Wife

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The Bishop's Wife

Image credit: The Bishop’s Wife, 1947.

Who’s ready for an old-fashioned Christmas? This year, Cinema Sips will be highlighting  holiday films of the 1940’s, guaranteed to make you smile and long for the days when women wore hats and men dressed up to have breakfast. Kicking things off is the 1947 charmer, The Bishop’s Wife (Disc/Download).

Although it would later be remade with Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston, the original film stars Cary Grant as the winsome angel Dudley, sent down to Earth to give guidance to a conflicted bishop and his neglected wife (played by David Niven and Loretta Young, respectively). You’d think this would be a sermon-filled snooze-fest, but in reality it’s a delightful Mary Poppins-esque film about tolerance, empathy, and the magic of the holidays. Plus, there’s Cary on Ice, Cary decorating a Christmas Tree, and Cary in a polka dot scarf. This is all the incentive I need to watch.

So apparently, angels have no problem with our holiday indulgences.  When Dudley counsels a failing writer, he also keeps refilling his empty bottle of booze with a sneaky little finger trick. I’m pretty sure I could also use some spiritual guidance like that right about now (*looks skyward*).  While watching The Bishop’s Wife, I recommend drinking a Bishop cocktail.

Bishop

3 oz Rum

1 oz Red wine

1/4 oz Simple syrup

3/4 oz Lime juice

Pour ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a wine glass.

Bishop

As part of my holiday posts this year, I’ll also be recommending some books that would make great gifts for the cinephile in your life. For fans of The Bishop’s Wife, be sure and check out Adriana Trigiani’s All the Stars in the Heavens, an engrossing novel about Loretta Young’s relationships with Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable, her rumored Hollywood scandals, and fun escapades with pal David Niven. You’ll see the bishop and his wife in a WHOOOOOLE new light. Cheers!

Gremlins

gremlins

Image credit: Gremlins, 1984

Full confession: I was a child of the 80’s, there was a stuffed Mogwai in my house, yet I’d never actually seen Gremlins (DVD/Download). Or if I did see it, I kept my eyes closed through the scary parts. I don’t know what I was picturing before my recent viewing, but WOW- this was not it.

I expected goo, claws, teeth, and big ears. What I didn’t anticipate was the sheer level of camp within this bizarre neo-Pleasantville, where Phoebe Cates plays the youngest bank teller in history, and her cute co-worker looks like he should be studying for his SAT’s next year. His worthless but well-meaning dad gives him a Mogwai for Christmas, because that’s what every kid wants- a strange creature picked up in a Chinatown basement. And dang if “Gizmo” isn’t the cutest thing ever. Those big eyes! The weird singing! The fact that he’s smart enough to turn down a snack after midnight! I’m not even smart enough to turn down a snack after midnight. Of course Corey Feldman has to screw it all up and accidentally dump water on him, causing Gizmo to birth a quintet of demon gremlins, who break all the rules and terrorize the town. The film takes a turn into horror-ville after the gremlins start multiplying, but with the terrible special effects, it’s more funny than scary.

Gremlins is so weird that it deserves a cocktail that’s as unexpected as creepy creatures popping out of a douglas fir. Gizmo and I share a fear of illumination (me due to retinal problems, him because he’s got a lot of strange rules), so while watching Gremlins, treat yourself to a shiny Bright Light.

Bright Light

1.5 oz Pear Vodka

.5 oz Lemon Juice

Sparkling wine

Rosemary Sprig

Shake vodka and lemon juice over ice to chill.  Strain into a flute, and top with sparkling wine.  Garnish with a rosemary sprig.

Bright Light.jpeg

This movie spawned countless sequels, and I have to attribute its enduring popularity to the fact that somebody finally made a holiday movie that wasn’t all carol singers and egg nog. It depicts crazy, scary things happening in a small town because yes, even at Christmas, bad things can happen. At least there’s alcohol to get us through. Cheers!

The Shop Around the Corner

shop-around-the-corner

Image credit: The Shop Around the Corner, 1940

(Dear Friend,)

Although I adore a black & white Jimmy Stewart film at Christmas time, I’ve already covered the classic It’s a Wonderful Life on Cinema Sips. So instead this week I’ll be featuring another holiday favorite, The Shop Around the Corner (DVD/Download). While not as overtly sentimental as the Capra film he’d later become known for, it still features a good dose of Stewart charm and some delightful send-ups of the holiday shopping season.

I first came across this wonderful picture after watching the remake, You’ve Got Mail. Nora Ephron did a fabulous job of updating this classic for modern audiences, and it’s truly one of my favorites. But the original is no slouch either. Directed by Ernst Lubitsch, the story of boy-meets-girl anonymously through mail is timeless. Think of it as Catfish pre-sexual predators and con artists. Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan trade barbs as they work side-by-side in a Budapest gift shop, never realizing that they’ve fallen in love with each other through their letters. Special mention goes to scene-stealer Pepi the delivery boy- I’m still trying to figure out how to get him as my outgoing voicemail message.

One of the famous scenes in this film (as well as in You’ve Got Mail) is the disastrous face-to-face meeting of the two lovers at a café. Identifying herself with a red flower in a book, Margaret Sullavan has no idea that her true love is standing across from her in the form of tall, lanky Jimmy Stewart. While watching The Shop Around the Corner, I recommend drinking a Red Carnation.

Red Carnation

1 ½ oz Vodka

2 oz Sparkling pomegranate juice

½ oz lime juice

½ oz Vanilla vodka

Dash of bitters

Topo Chico sparkling water

Sprig of mint for garnish

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice, and stir to combine. Strain into a glass with crushed ice, top with Topo Chico, and garnish with mint.

red-carnation

This is a great movie to watch while you’re wrapping gifts because the dialogue is so darn snappy. And perhaps it will inspire you to go back out to the store for a cigarette case that plays music. Or, maybe you can just send Pepi. Cheers!

White Christmas

White Christmas

Image credit: White Christmas, 1954

In a complete 180 from last week’s Die Hard post, this week I’ll be watching the Bing Crosby holiday classic White Christmas (DVD/Download). If I had to describe this with one word I’d say it’s utterly delightful! In the way that It’s a Wonderful Life has a lot going for it aside from Christmas schmaltz, this classic musical is like On the Town with a big Christmas extravaganza plopped down like a cherry on the sundae.

Starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye as a couple of Broadway producers putting on an impromptu show at a floundering Vermont inn, White Christmas also features lovely performances by Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen as their respective love interests. Obviously everyone knows the title song “White Christmas”, as sung by Bing Crosby. Mellow and yearning, it speaks to recapturing the holidays of our youth. I certainly prefer a sunny and warm Christmas to a White Christmas (it’s a very good year if I never have to see a flake of snow), but I still appreciate the sentiment. Luckily there’s enough humor, slapstick, and eye-popping dance numbers to keep this film from being weighed down with nostalgia, and the Edith Head costumes are definitely swoon-worthy.

My favorite number in this film is “Sisters”, a cheeky song performed first by Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen, then later lip-synched by Crosby and Kaye. The men can barely keep a straight face during their performance, which makes it even funnier. In homage to the bright blue Florida costumes and my own excitement over a non-white Christmas in the Sunshine State, this week I’ll be mixing up a Sister Sipper.

Sister Sipper

2 ½ oz Pisco

¾ oz blue curacao

1 oz lime juice

1/2 oz simple syrup

1 egg white

Combine all ingredients over ice in a chilled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously until thoroughly chilled and frothy. Pour into a coupe glass.

sister sipper

Whether you long for cold snowflakes or warm tropical breezes, White Christmas has you covered. Besides, the holiday season is really about being with the ones you love, whether it snows or not. From Cinema Sips, I’d like to wish my readers happy holidays, safe travels, and of course, Cheers!

Die Hard

die hard

Image credit: Die Hard, 1988

I’m taking a break from classic feel-good holiday movies to watch a classic of a different sort. No warm fuzzy Santa Claus types or winter wonderlands here folks- just sweaty Bruce Willis and a Los Angeles skyscraper. Die Hard (DVD/Download) is the Christmas movie for people who hate Christmas movies. With the backdrop of an office holiday party, it still counts as festive, but the main hostage/terrorist crisis makes it seem like a big summer blockbuster. Perfect for when you just can’t stomach any more Rudolph or mistletoe.

John McClane is the quintessential action hero. Muscled, sharp on his feet, and proficient at delivering one-liners like “yippie-ki-yay, motherf*cker,” this is the role that put Bruce Willis on the map. The poor guy just wants to reconcile with his wife and maybe drink a little eggnog, but the former New York cop gets pulled into battle as German terrorists/robbers overtake the wife’s office building. Alan Rickman is horrifically miscast (though maybe my opinion is skewed by one too many viewings of his Colonel Brandon in Sense & Sensibility), and McClane’s estranged wife is played unremarkably by -fun fact- Macaulay Culkin’s aunt Bonnie Bedelia. There are explosions, shoot-outs, and eastern European accents galore, and just when you thought the movie couldn’t get any cheesier, the dad from Family Matters shows up. Amazing.

Because John McClane has a penchant for westerns, and Roy Rogers specifically, I couldn’t resist that classic kiddie cocktail. But like Bruce Willis, I’ve gotta get pretty “dirty” to really turn this movie into something great. While watching Die Hard, I recommend drinking a Dirty Rogers.

Dirty Rogers

5 oz Cola

1 oz grenadine syrup

2 oz Dark Rum

Maraschino cherry

Build drink over ice in a tumbler or Collins glass, stirring gently to combine. Garnish with a cherry.

dirty rogers

Die Hard definitely isn’t the typical movie I watch around Christmas, however I have to admit that it’s kind of perfect when I just want to throw my hands up, push aside all the wrapping I still need to do, and spend a couple hours laughing hysterically at the bad dialogue and even worse acting. Plus, there’s a limo driver named Argyle. Need I say more? Cheers!

Miracle on 34th Street

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miracle on 34th street

Image credit: Miracle on 34th Street, 1947

If you haven’t begun your holiday shopping yet, what in the world are you waiting for?? Smart folks like me start in November, but if you still need a little incentive, I suggest watching this week’s film Miracle on 34th Street (DVD/Download) to put you in the gifting mood.

Recently deceased acting legend Maureen O’Hara stars in this classic holiday film about a Macy’s department store Santa Claus who just might be the real deal. O’Hara plays an unlucky-in-love divorcee raising her daughter (played by a very young Natalie Wood) to be skeptical of all things intangible- including holiday miracles. Then Kris K. comes along (that’s Kringle, not Kardashian), and he seems like more than just a kind-hearted old man. Claiming to be Santa Claus, he attracts psych evaluators and small children alike. I love that this film from the 1940’s features a strong independent woman like O’Hara, her character an event director at the flagship store. Heck, that’s an impressive job even now. And the sappy message of the movie (Santa is real if you believe!) gets a much needed boost by terrific acting performances and sharp dialogue. At times, I feel like I’m watching a classic Howard Hawkes film, instead of one of the most beloved Christmas movies ever made.

One of my favorite scenes involves Kris Kringle showing off his impressive Santa skills while talking to a Dutch girl. He speaks to her in Dutch because, of course, Santa speaks the language of all children. This inspired my cocktail this week, using the Dutch spirit Genever, a stronger, early version of the typical gin we know today. While watching Miracle on 34th Street, I recommend drinking a Sinterklaas.

Sinterklaas

2 oz Genever

2 oz Apple Cider

½ oz honey syrup (equal parts honey and water)

1 dash Angostura bitters

Cinnamon stick for garnish

Combine ingredients in a small saucepan, and heat on the stove until it just barely simmers. Pour into a heat-safe glass or mug, and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Sinterklaas

Your current thoughts about Santa Claus are probably dependent on your age (and I doubt I have many 6 year old readers of this blog), but this movie is so great that it makes me want to believe in Santa Claus. At the very least, it makes me long for the days when department stores were classy and sophisticated, instead of overrun with cheap merchandise and bad lighting. Best of luck with your holiday shopping, and if you find yourself in a Macy’s this Christmas, plan on having a cocktail afterwards- you’ll need it. Cheers!