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Emma.

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Image credit: Emma. 2020

As any frequent moviegoer will tell you, 2020 was pretty much our worst nightmare. While theaters began to shut their doors last March, we saw our hopes for carefree, popcorn-scented afternoons dashed as quickly as that animated roller coaster flings itself around a cartoon soda in the opening pre-show. Perhaps you spent some time thinking about the last movie you saw before lockdowns, wondering if you made the right call. In my case, I could rest easy knowing I went out on a high note with Emma. (Disc/Download).

Though any Jane Austen scholar will likely critique this film’s deviation from its source material, to me it captures the spirit, whimsy, and fun of the book. Plus, in contrast to Clueless (my other favorite Emma adaptation), we get to enjoy the sumptuous costumes and polite society of the Regency era. I’ll always have a fondness for “Rollin’ With the Homies,” but there’s something about a choreographed quadrille that just makes me grin from ear-to-ear. Autumn de Wilde’s directorial style shows similarities to that of Wes Anderson or Sofia Coppola- heavy on style and symmetry, light on melodrama and manic performances. Anya Taylor-Joy is perfection as our meddlesome title character, and of course I adore Bill Nighy as her lovable, hypochondriac father whose greatest foe is a chill draft. It’s a pastel world of manners and manipulation, and in a year when literally everything seemed beyond our control, it was comforting to think of another character who had to abandon her controlling ways to find happiness. I was not alone in the struggle.

In the dark days of the pandemic, I often thought about the candy-coated costumes and production design of this film. Even down to the tiniest stitch or ribbon of paint, every element was an important piece of the visual tableau. In my beverage choice, I wanted to celebrate Emma’s love of flowers and bold pastel colors. While watching Emma., I recommend drinking this Night Bloom cocktail.

Night Bloom

1 1/2 oz Gin

1/2 oz Creme de Violette

1 Egg White

1/2 oz Lemon Juice

1/2 oz Simple Syrup

2 dashes Orange Bitters

Flower Garnish

Combine Gin, creme de violette, egg white, lemon juice, bitters, and simple syrup in a shaker. Shake vigorously for ten seconds, then add ice. Continue shaking until chilled and frothy, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a flower.

As I write this, I’m about to head back to the movie theater after sixteen months away. The flick: To Catch a Thief. Hollywood still has a long way to go before it lures me back with new material, so until then I’ll be enjoying some old favorites and savoring the memory of watching Emma Woodhouse dance with Mr. Knightley for the very first time (*sigh*). Cheers!

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

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MrSmithGoestoWashington

Image credit: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, 1939.

This week, I’m celebrating the Fourth of July with one of the most patriotic movies I can think of. A film that’s stood the test of time, through good presidents and bad, noble politicians and corrupt. I’m talking of course about Frank Capra’s classic Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (DVD/Download).

It’s astounding how often I’m reminded of the iconic image of Jimmy Stewart as Senator Jefferson Smith, weary after a lengthy filibuster, sweaty, distraught, his face an open wound, realizing his fight is hopeless. The corrupt politicians of Washington have broken him, as they have broken the rest of us too. Jimmy is America in this film. Whether we’re talking about the 1938 or 2018, it’s all the same. Leaders drunk with power can (and often do) run afoul of the people who voted for them. Mr. Smith goes to Washington with a dream of doing good work for the citizens of his state. Though the film has a satisfying ending, I wouldn’t necessarily call it “happy”. Happiness and politics are parallel paths that rarely intersect.

I love a lot of things about this film- plucky Jean Arthur and her little hats, disgruntled newspaperman Diz and his wry cynicism, even Claude Rains as the most sedate villain of all time. But the scene that gets my heart pounding is of course The Filibuster. For 24 hours Mr. Smith tries to postpone a crooked bill from getting through the Senate, and though he eventually falls, the fight is really something to see. While watching Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, I recommend drinking a Filibuster.

Filibuster

4 oz bourbon

2 oz simple syrup

2 oz lemon juice

2 tbsp fresh orange juice

1 egg white

Angostura bitters

Pour all ingredients except bitters into a cocktail shaker. Shake until combined, then fill with ice. Shake again with all the rage you feel toward our current United States government. Strain into a coupe glass. Top with a few dashes of Angostura bitters.

Filibuster

The thing I find slightly comforting about this film is that it was released in 1939. So, theoretically, Congress has been doing a crappy job for the last 80 years. And we’re still here!!! We still have joys and triumphs, and yes unspeakable rage and indignities. But we’re surviving, day-by-day.   Jefferson Smith didn’t stop fighting for his American ideals, and neither should those of us who believe in honesty, empathy, kindness, and the beauty of our American land.   Cheers!

Teen Witch

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Teen Witch

Image credit: Teen Witch, 1989

I’m not sure whether the How Did This Get Made? podcast is the greatest thing to happen to my Netflix queue, or the worst. It has shined a light on so many terrible (but somehow great?) movies I’d missed over the years, prompting me to turn off my normal taste barometers and see what all the fuss was about. Such was the case with this week’s film Teen Witch (DVD/Download).

Starring Robyn Lively as a teenager who discovers she has magical powers on her 16th birthday (which happens to coincide with Friday the 13th), this movie is half-John Hughes/half-80’s music video. Think sax solos, dry ice, teased hair, etc. I thought the weird musical number would be limited to just the opening credits, but no- it’s the whole damn thing (including one bizarre rap song “Top That” which I don’t totally get, but can’t look away from). Lively’s Louise is the classic smart, social reject yearning to be popular, and she achieves this goal by putting a spell on her high school classmates and wearing tighter clothes. Where Teen Witch really surprises me is with the character of her jock-hero obsession, who turns out to be a surprisingly good guy. Sure, he takes her to a sketchy abandoned house to fool around, but let’s not hold that against him. She seemed into it, rusty floor nails and all. Let’s just hope he came prepared with a CONDOM!

One of my favorite things about this movie is Zelda Rubenstein’s Madame Serena, the fortune teller/witch-guru. Totally adorable, she guides Louise through spells and potions, eventually helping her realize that she doesn’t need powers after all- she’s already pretty great. If I could be anywhere on Friday the 13th, it would be in Madame Serena’s lounge, mixing up something potent. While watching Teen Witch, I recommend drinking a Top That!

Top That!

1 oz Club Soda

2 oz Gin

¾ oz Lemon Juice

¾ oz Simple Syrup

¾ oz Blue Curacao

1 egg white

Fill a Collins glass 1/3 full with crushed ice, top with club soda, and set aside. Pour remaining ingredients into a shaker with no ice and shake vigorously for about 10 seconds. Add ice cubes and shake again until well-chilled and frothy. Strain into the prepared glass.

Top That

I know I shouldn’t like this movie, and yet, I totally do. It’s cheesy and dated and trite, but somehow that just makes it better. There’s enough romance and hormone jokes to appeal to my teen-movie sensibilities, and the out-of-focus, badly choreographed, slow-motion dance sequences are basically what’s been missing from my life. I dare anybody to top that. Cheers!