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Ghost Town

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Image Credit: Ghost Town, 2008

It’s unfortunate, really, that the world has largely ignored a perfectly great autumnal New York rom-com for so many years. Nora Ephron movies usually get all the credit for long walks through a golden-hued Central Park, but I ask you to also consider the Ricky Gervais/Téa Leoni comedy Ghost Town (Disc/Download) when you’re waxing poetic about bouquets of sharpened pencils and leaves gusting across the sidewalk. I may be writing this post in the springtime, but in my opinion, a movie trip to New York in the fall is always a good idea.

It’s surprising to me that Ghost Town is not a remake of a 1930s or ‘40s comedy because it feels like something of that era, evoking films such as Here Comes Mr. Jordan, Heaven Can Wait, or even It’s a Wonderful Life. Death breeds an appreciation for life, forcing an unsympathetic character to change his pessimistic ways and let others in—in this case, surly dentist Bertram Pincus. Ricky Gervais plays Dr. Pincus with quick-witted, deadpan humor, and although not the first actor you would think of as a romantic leading man, he slowly steals a recent widow’s (Téa Leoni) heart, along with mine. After a colonoscopy mishap (kudos to the screenwriter for finding relatable humor in that situation), Bertram awakes with the ability to see dead people. Unfortunately for him, New York City is filled with ghosts trying to get messages to their grieving loved ones. One such ghost is a tuxedo’d Greg Kinnear, who died in the act of leaving one hell of an emotional wound on his wife. Can Dr. Pincus heal the hurt? Can he, as a dentist and a brilliantly funny man, fix her smile? Ahhhhhhhhh this movie is just too cute.

If you’re familiar with New York-set romantic comedies, then you’ll recognize a lot of locations in this. The filmmakers hit all the big ones—Central Park, the Egyptian Wing of the Met, cozy West Village bistro, etc. But it’s at the Carlyle Hotel bar where we learn Dr. Pincus’s favorite drink, a Pimm’s Cup. Classy Greg Kinnear tries to steer him toward a Sapphire Martini, which he grudgingly drinks, but it’s not until Téa Leoni orders her own Pimm’s later on that we know these two lonely hearts are made for each other. Matchmaking through cocktails—I love it! While watching Ghost Town, do yourself a favor and pour yourself a classic Pimm’s Cup.

Pimm’s Cup

1 ½ oz Pimm’s No. 1

2 oz Sparkling Lemonade

2 oz Ginger Beer

Cucumber ribbon

Orange and lemon slices for garnish

Fill a glass with ice and add the Pimm’s. Top with sparkling lemonade and ginger beer, stirring to combine. Garnish with cucumber ribbon and orange/lemon slices.

There are a lot of variations on this recipe, so feel free to experiment with different combinations of lemon and ginger. The main thread through all of them is Pimm’s, fresh fruit, and a sweetly sour sparkling soda. The fact that Bertram Pincus is a Pimm’s lover makes total sense to me; he’s complicated and sweet, just like his favorite cocktail. Cheers!

Ghost

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Image credit: Ghost, 1990

We all know the infamous scene. Patrick Swayze spoons Demi Moore with his body as she’s throwing a pot on the wheel, unapologetically ruining her hard work, but it’s okay because he’s PATRICK-freaking-SWAYZE. “Unchained Melody” plays in the background as their hands get messy with wet clay, and the foreplay quickly heats up. Ghost (Disc/Download) is a romantic, sexy film, but it’s also so much more than that. Paranormal thriller, murder mystery, comedy, heist—this one straddles genres like Demi straddles that wheel, and I dare you to find the person who doesn’t like at least something about this movie.

Meanwhile, there are those (okay, me) who like everything about this movie. The heartfelt romance between Swayze and Moore’s characters, the sweet friendship ghost-Patrick finds in the unlikeliest of places with psychic Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg), the twisty-turny murder plot, and yes, even the special effects. Although nowhere near as polished as what we’d see today, for 1990 they were fairly impressive. And let’s not forget the script, which only hits harder with each passing year. Now that I know what it feels like to lose a loved one, I understand the desperation in these characters in a way I couldn’t have thirty years ago. They’d give anything for one more second, one more touch, one last opportunity to say what they’re feeling. This movie isn’t selling love, or redemption, or revenge, but rather… hope. Hope that “one more second” is possible.

I know a lot of people don’t believe in ghosts, but I am not among them. In fact, I have one that haunts my home bar (no joke). Swizzle sticks have moved on their own, ice tongs have clattered to the ground, and the dog once growled at a bottle of Cointreau like it was a poltergeist. So let’s celebrate my inebriated invisible friend with this silver-toned tiki cocktail, the Ghost Orchid.

Ghost Orchid

2 oz Silver Demerara Rum

¾ oz Lime Juice

¾ oz Pineapple Juice

½ oz Crème de Violette

½ oz Orgeat

Lime wheel and orchid flower for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a hurricane glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a fresh orchid and dried lime wheel.

As someone who is married to a potter, I can tell you the wheel scene is not as sexy as it appears. They don’t show the clay-splattered laundry, the dust tracks all over the floor, or the never-ending piles of cups and saucers littering the kitchen counter. But you know what is sexy? A person who can make something with their hands, who sees what others can’t. Who sees the potential, the hope, even in a wet ball of mud. Because maybe, that person sees the same hope in you too. Cheers!

The Spirit of Christmas

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The Spirit of Christmas

Image credit: The Spirit of Christmas, 2015.

Sing it with me: It’s the most…Wonderful time…Of the year. That’s right, I’m talking about CHRISTMAS MOVIE SEASON!!!!  I’ve featured a lot of great holiday classics over the years, but now it’s time to move to the small screen.  We are living in the age of the made-for-TV Christmas Movie, and Hollywood just can’t compete anymore (see: Last Christmas).  Thanks to Hallmark, Lifetime, and Netflix, we’ll never have to experience this holiday without bland men in chunky sweaters, klutzy heroines, and cookie baking contests ever again.  There’s literally a movie for every day of December.  It was tough going, picking out just 4 or 5 for Cinema Sips, but I suffered through a lot of research to bring you the best of the best (really, it was my husband who suffered.  I loved it). Kicking things off is my personal favorite, The Spirit of Christmas (Disc/Download).

Remember what I said about bland men in chunky sweaters?  Yeah, not this movie.  The Spirit of Christmas features a sexxxxxxxxy bootlegger ghost haunting an inn for twelve days every December, mixing up cocktails, trimming his beard, and trying to figure out who killed him nearly a hundred years ago.  Enter Kate, the big city estate attorney tasked with getting the inn appraised for sale, who comes face-to-ghost-face with hot bearded Daniel, forcing him to open both his heart and his liquor cabinet for her.   This movie truly has it all:  romance, cocktails, actual snow, a little murder mystery, and cheesy supernatural effects.  It’s like they decided to throw all the genres together and see what happens.  The plot is ludicrous, but I’ll have you know that Daniel wears GLASSES, a vest, suspenders, a shawl cardigan, and in one glorious scene, an unbuttoned shirt.  And did I mention the beard?

Before his fatal death blow, Daniel made a living as a talented rum-runner in the days of Prohibition.  So let’s celebrate The Spirit of Christmas with this Rum Runner cocktail!

Rum Runner

1 oz Light Rum

1 oz Dark Spiced Rum

1 oz Banana Liqueur

1 oz Chambord

1 oz Orange Juice

1 oz Pineapple Juice

Splash of Grenadine

Fresh fruit for garnish

Combine all liquid ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a hurricane glass filled with crushed ice.  Garnish with fruit and drink umbrella.

It may seem a little strange to be drinking a tropical tiki drink while watching a Christmas movie, but honestly, it’s not as strange as the movie itself.  Case in point, Kate’s “gift” to Daniel is an old birth certificate proving that it was his baby who died shortly after birth, and not his girlfriend’s supposed lover’s. In other words, “Merry Christmas, it was YOUR dead baby.”  All I can say is strap in—it’s gonna be one wild December on Cinema Sips.  Cheers!