The list of “New Year’s Eve” movies on my radar has always been depressingly short. Often, the holiday is tacked onto a Christmas flick, where the characters in turmoil have to resolve their issues before the ball drops. So imagine my delight to find one where New Year’s Eve stands alone, actually playing a pivotal role in the plot. The original Ocean’s 11 might not be as engrossing as Steven Soderbergh’s remake (truthfully, the first half of this draaaaaags), but it presents our booziest night of the year in an interesting context, as the perfect time to rob a casino in plain sight.
Despite some bad press Frank, Sammy, and Dino have gotten over the years, I still kind of love The Rat Pack. Sure, they were the epitome of toxic masculinity, but their reign over pop culture coincided with a time when style reigned supreme, and people actually got dressed up to go to Las Vegas. Last I checked, sweatpants now count as couture on the casino floor (ugh). These suit-wearing “rats” seem like the natural fit for a movie about an illegal group project, and indeed, they’re best when they’re all in a scene together. It’s only when they break apart into smaller pairs that the film becomes a snooze. But still, if you enjoy watching Sammy Davis Jr. sing and dance as much as I do, and always wondered what the Vegas strip looked like in 1960, this film is definitely worth a watch. Just, maybe feel free to fast forward to the heist. After an hour and a half of strategizing over highballs, I wish I had.
Part of the gang’s plan to disable four casinos on New Year’s Eve is to cause a blackout. Given the heavy holiday crowds, plunging the gambling floors into darkness is guaranteed to create mass hysteria and distraction. While watching Ocean’s Eleven, toast the birth of cool with this Blackout cocktail.
1 ½ oz Gin
¾ oz Blackberry Brandy
½ oz Lime Juice
Combine gin, blackberry brandy, and lime juice in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a martini or coupe glass. Top with champagne.
If you’ve turned to The Apartment as a NYE watch in the past, Ocean’s Eleven might make a good double-feature since Shirley MacLaine has a memorable drunk scene in this with Dean Martin. I won’t spoil the ending, but let’s just say it feels ultra-appropriate for the personal trash fire that was my 2021. It can only get better from here. Cheers!