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Tag Archives: Cocchi Americano


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Image credit: Avanti!, 1972

I’ve got a bad case of wanderlust, and it’s all Jack Lemmon’s fault. He makes the Italian island of Ischia look purely magical in this week’s film Avanti! (Disc/Download), an underrated Billy Wilder gem from the 1970s. Though Ischia and it’s highly Instagrammable Mezzatorre Hotel have long held a place on my travel bucket list, this film has moved it straight to the top. What I wouldn’t give to have a room with a view of the sea, thick coffee, an attentive concierge, and a waiter who will ply you with pasta until you forget all about your pesky diet back home. When swimming naked in the Mediterranean is an option, who cares how you look in a bathing suit?

Of course, it’s not all skinny dipping and afternoon prosecco. Jack Lemmon’s character Wendell Armbruster arrives on the island to claim the body of his father, who died in a car crash with his mistress in the passenger seat. The daughter of this mistress is played by Juliet Mills (sister of Hayley), and though Wendell and Ms. Piggott start the film as strangers, they eventually pick up where their parents left off. I watched this film at a weird time in my life, having just spent six weeks dealing with my father’s death and all the legal headaches accompanying it. To say that I identify with Wendell’s frustration about how long and complicated the processes of body transport, death certificates, and funeral arrangements are would be an understatement (and similar to Ischia, nobody works weekends in Florida either). But what I loved about this movie is that by the end, Wendell is able to move past the minutia of death to truly celebrate the life his father lived, in the place where he was happiest. That is how we honor the dead, by experiencing the joy they would have wanted for us.

My one quibble with this fabulous movie is the unfortunate body dysmorphia and fat shaming experienced by Ms. Piggott (even the name is like an underhanded dig at the character). I’m not sure why we’re supposed to believe that the gorgeous Juliet Mills is overweight, but let’s just say by 2021 standards she is not. Luckily, after a couple Bacardi cocktails al fresco, she’s able to loosen up and enjoy herself without counting every calorie. Let’s join in the fun with this rum-based cocktail. While watching Avanti!, I recommend drinking a Daffodil.


1 1/2 oz Bacardi White Rum

1 oz Cocchi Americano

1 1/4 oz Orgeat

1 oz Lime Juice

2 dashes Orange Bitters

Dried Orange slice for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice, and shake until chilled. Fill a tumbler with crushed ice, then strain cocktail into prepared glass. Garnish with a dried orange slice (or twist of orange).

There’s a moment in Avanti! where Juliet Mills says, “Italy is not a country- it’s an emotion.” What this film captures so well are the complex emotions of love, loss, humor, frustration, and longing. After living through a year where it seems everything came to a complete stop, what a relief it is to hear the word avanti. In English, it means move forward. Proceed with living. Cheers!

Big Night

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Big Night

Image credit: Big Night, 1996

Word of advice- DO NOT come hungry to this film. You will end up so ravenous that you might pull a Chaplin and eat your own shoe. Forget Stanley Tucci and Tony Shaloub; the real star of Big Night (DVD/Download) is the food. What’s a timpano you ask? An Italian kitchen sink of greatness that I want to swim in. If you eschew carbs, just walk away right now. You have no place in this film universe.

This mid-90’s indie hit about two Italian brothers trying to save their New Jersey restaurant largely passed me by upon its release.  But now, as I begin the long trudge through middle age, I’m in the sweet spot of food appreciation. I’ve had to prepare my own risotto (and yes, it takes a LONG f*cking time- deal with it), I’ve grown sad-looking basil, and I’ve even been to Rome to see what real Italian cuisine is all about. As the movie says, “To eat good food is to be close to God”.  I’d like to say the same about cocktails, but sadly, they don’t nourish me like a great bowl of Spaghetti Carbonara.

If you’re looking for a good party film, you’ve found it. Big Night has copious amounts of booze, ladies in 50’s cocktail dresses, and a top-notch soundtrack. Louis Prima never actually makes it to the dinner, but thankfully, his music does. While watching Big Night, have a Cocchi Americano and Soda, and don’t worry about the time- the best parties go all night.

Cocchi Americano and Soda

¾ oz Cocchi Americano

5 oz Club Soda

6-7 Red Grapes

In the bottom of a glass, crush grapes, then fill with ice. Add Cocchi Americano and Club Soda, then gently pour back and forth into another glass until thoroughly mixed. Garnish with a few more grapes.


When food is truly great, it creates a memory. I can tell you where and when I had the best risotto of my life (Alla Rampa, Rome, April ‘09), a 10-Euro Cuban feast that just kept coming and coming (unnamed hole-in-the-wall restaurant, Valencia, Summer ‘03), and biscuits so flaky and buttery I nearly wept (Willa Jean, New Orleans ‘14). Sadly, many of the memorable restaurants in my life are long gone, but I’ll never forget the food. Those meals stay with me, like wonderful films I’ve seen a thousand times. When it comes to food, cinema, and celebrations, don’t be afraid to indulge. Cheers!

Auntie Mame

auntie mame

Image credit: Auntie Mame, 1958

For those ladies out there lucky enough to be an aunt, have I got a movie for you. In this 1958 Technicolor dream starring Rosalind Russell, Auntie Mame (DVD/Download) is a shining example of how fabulous life can be when you’ve got cocktails, a man servant named Ito, and an impressionable young relative looking to you for example. Do I strive to be the Auntie Mame in my own nieces’ lives? Showing them that “life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death”? You betcha.

I immediately knew I would love this movie as soon as I saw Rosalind Russell float across an art deco set in a sequined pantsuit, cigarette holder in hand. Her apartment is everything I’ve ever wanted in life, and what makes it even better are all the eccentric artists and intellectuals coming over to visit.  When Mame is forced to take in her orphaned nephew Patrick, you’d think that would put the kibosh on her wacky, wonderful lifestyle, but instead she manages to bring him along for the ride. In no time at all, he’s mixing a perfect martini and posits the question only the best bartenders know to ask- dry or extra dry?

When it comes to cocktail pairings, there is literally SO MUCH ALCOHOL in this movie. Faced with the impossible task of picking just one thing to drink, I decided to take a page from Mame’s book and step right up to the banquet. Therefore, if you’re watching Auntie Mame, you could drink Champagne, you could drink Spiced Rum and Dr. Pepper like poor Agnes Gooch, or one of Mame’s Martini‘s (recipe below). But for heavens sake, stay away from the honey-sweetened Upson Downs Daiquiri.

Mame’s Martini

3 oz Gin

1 oz Vodka

Dash Cocchi Americano

Lemon twist

Stir gin, vodka and Cocchi Americano over ice until chilled, then strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist. (note: never use olives- it takes up too much room in the glass!)


As I cruise through the age of “so when are you going to have kids?”, I’m happy to throw up my Aunt status as proof that while I don’t want kids of my own, I don’t hate kids. My nieces are great! They’re fun, they play Barbies, they like purses, and at the end of the night their parents do all the heavy lifting. And when they get a little older, I’ll be waiting right there to show them how to navigate a bar cart and wear costume jewelry with confidence. Cheers!

The Bridges of Madison County

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Image Credit Warner Bros Pictures, 1995, Bridges of Madison County

Image Credit Warner Bros Pictures, 1995, Bridges of Madison County

Sorry to do this again to my readers, but I’ve got another tearjerker for you this week (okay maybe not a tearjerker for everyone, but for me, watching this means I’m sitting there, a blubbering mess on the sofa, while my husband rolls his eyes.) The Bridges of Madison County (DVD/Download) is a film that I consider to be one of the most romantic ever made. I’m definitely a sucker for love stories with unhappy endings, and maybe it’s because I like knowing that I’ve already seen the best of what this couple has to offer. I’m not missing out on anything after the movie ends. The romance in The Bridges of Madison County only exists for the two hours I’m watching this film, and that’s okay. The fact that it’s a slow burn of a romance makes it even better.

The Bridges of Madison County is based on the bestselling novel by Robert James Waller. Adapted by screenwriter Richard LaGravanese and directed by Clint Eastwood, the film also stars Eastwood as wandering National Geographic photographer Robert Kincaid, who meets Meryl Streep’s character Francesca Johnson while on assignment photographing covered bridges in Iowa. Francesca is an Italian war bride who came to America in hopes of grand adventures with her husband, but now finds herself shuffling around a country kitchen in middle-of-nowhere Iowa. Her husband and two children leave town for the weekend to attend a farm show, leaving Francesca alone. Alone, that is, until a rusty pick-up driven by Clint Eastwood pulls into her driveway and her life changes forever. Eastwood is absolutely magnetic in his role, and even though he was in his mid-60’s when he made this film, I dare you to find a sexier romantic lead in recent history (I’m certainly stumped). Something about his lithe frame and piercing blue eyes just gets me every time.

My drink this week pays homage to Francesca’s Italian roots. I was lucky enough to be gifted a bottle of Cocchi Americano by some very lovely and generous friends (one of whom is from Iowa!), along with a recipe for a White Negroni. I’d made the mistake of ordering a classic Negroni while on honeymoon in Italy, and I was definitely not a fan (I still wonder if I was served cough syrup). However, I’m a big fan of this version. Boozy and bright with a twist of lemon, this is a great drink to sip while you’re watching Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood flirt with the idea of running off into the sunset together.  When viewing The Bridges of Madison County, I recommend drinking a White Negroni.

White Negroni

2 parts gin

1 part Cocchi Americano

1 part White Vermouth

Lemon twist

Mix liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a chilled coupe glass, and garnish with a generous twist of lemon.


Of course Meryl Streep does a phenomenal job with the Italian accent in this, and while stocky and average in appearance at the beginning, she seems to transform under the gaze of Clint Eastwood into a beautiful, vibrant woman. As she reminisces later on, “I was acting like another woman, yet I was more myself than ever before.” I love this idea, that finding one’s true soulmate can change you into the person you were meant to be.  Toward the end of this movie, I’m definitely shouting at the TV when Meryl has her hand on that car door handle, and weeping like a baby at that final scene on the bridge.  I would say they don’t make romantic tearjerkers like they used to, but then came The Notebook.  That’ll have to wait though, I’m all cried out. Cheers!