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Ocean’s 11 (1960)

Image credit: Ocean’s 11, 1960

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.

Blackout

1 ½ oz Gin

¾ oz Blackberry Brandy

½ oz Lime Juice

Champagne

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!

Ocean’s Eleven

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Ocean's Eleven (2001)

Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

Lately, I’ve found myself longing for a fun-filled, ridiculously overpriced trip to Las Vegas. Not having the time or funds to take said trip, I opted for the next best thing- watching 2001’s Ocean’s Eleven. This is one of the few films in existence that my husband and I both equally enjoy, and we never get tired of watching it. I’m hard-pressed to think of another film that combines such a great cast (not a single weak link in the bunch), a hilarious script, beautiful scenery (who doesn’t want to stand and gaze at the Bellagio fountains after seeing this movie?), and masterful editing. This is the heist movie that you want to watch again and again because even though you know how the robbery takes place, you love to see it happening.

Although this film is chock-full of incredible actors, the member of Ocean’s Eleven who stands out the most for me is Brad Pitt’s character Rusty Ryan. I have to admit, I was not a huge fan of Pitt’s before this movie. I didn’t get what all the fuss was about. After seeing him in this, I am converted. Although the title of this film suggests that it’s George Clooney’s Danny Ocean who holds it all together, in fact it’s Rusty Ryan. He is instrumental in finding the right talent to pull off the biggest robbery in the history of Las Vegas, and he keeps the wheels spinning at all times. While Danny is off trying to woo back his ex-wife (played by Julia Roberts), it’s Rusty who keeps the plans churning. And his cameo (if we can call it that) as a badly-toupee’d doctor during the robbery is priceless. He makes the job look fun, which in turn makes the audience have fun.

I knew from seeing the movie previously that this week’s cocktail should be whiskey-based. How fortuitous that one of the great whiskey drinks in cocktail history happens to share the same name as my favorite character in this film. Therefore, this week’s cocktail is The Rusty (Ryan) Nail:

1 ½ oz Scotch whiskey

½ oz Drambuie

1 twist lemon

Combine the scotch and Drambuie in an old-fashioned glass nearly filled with ice cubes. Stir well. Garnish with a lemon twist.

rusty-nail

I like a Rusty Nail with this film because it makes me feel like one of the guys. I don’t know what role I would play in this group (sadly, I fear I’d be hanging out with the Mormon twins) but it’s fun to imagine being a part of this effortlessly cool gang of criminals who look great, are smart enough to pull off a $150 million casino heist, and have a hell of a fun time doing it. Also, I applaud them for their ability to drink whiskey and keep a clear head. I don’t know if it works the same for you or me, but here’s to at least joining the party. Cheers!