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Top Five Movie Bartenders

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Bartenders have always played a crucial role in cinema.  Unsung heroes, they offer liquid comfort and a friendly ear to the distraught and weary.  What would have happened, say, if The Dude didn’t get his bowling alley White Russian in The Big Lebowski?  Or if Nick and Nora Charles were suddenly cut off from martinis in The Thin Man?  (well, they’d probably be less hungover, but dull as hell). This month, I’m highlighting my Top Five Movie Bartenders.

1.  Brian Flanagan, Cocktail

Image credit Touchstone Pictures, 1998, Cocktail

Image credit Touchstone Pictures, 1998, Cocktail

Oh what Tom Cruise can do with a cocktail shaker.  Flair bartending at its finest!


2.  Knobby, Burglar

Image Credit Warner Bros, 1987, Burglar

Image Credit Warner Bros, 1987, Burglar

Any bartender who can actually understand Bobcat Goldthwait is worth his weight in gold.


3.  Lloyd, The Shining

Image credit Warner Bros, 1980, The Shining

Image credit Warner Bros, 1980, The Shining

Always accommodating, whether it’s mixing a cocktail or engaging in idle chit-chat with psychopathic murderers.


4.  Brad, Magnolia

Image credit: New Line Cinema, 1999, Magnolia

Image credit: New Line Cinema, 1999, Magnolia

Braces- HOT.


5.  Lil, Coyote Ugly

Image credit: Touchstone Pictures, 1999, Coyote Ugly

Image credit: Touchstone Pictures, 2000, Coyote Ugly

Like a sexy Mrs. Garrett, Maria Bello dispenses life lessons and cocktail wisdom to the young and unskilled.  If only her bar weren’t SO tacky.


Image Credit New Line Cinema 1999

Image Credit New Line Cinema 1999

I’ll admit it- when I first saw Magnolia, I didn’t get it. Specifically the frogs. However, I think that’s what I really like the most about this film now- it leaves me questioning everything, including my own intelligence. I was tempted to watch this recently after the passing of the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman. Really, no retrospective of his work would be complete without seeing at least one Paul Thomas Anderson film. I am singling out Magnolia because it’s a great film to watch when you’re buried inside on a cold wintry day. Dark and stormy weather mixed with a dark and stormy film makes for a hell of a combination.

Magnolia (DVD/Download) tells the stories of several characters in the San Fernando Valley whose lives intersect over the course of a day. At 3 hours long, you may worry that the film drags by, but let me reassure you that every minute of those 3 hours is entirely necessary in order to give each character their due. The actors are all Paul Thomas Anderson regulars, with the notable exception of Tom Cruise sporting a weird samurai hairdo. This is the rare movie where I actually say afterward, “Wow, Tom Cruise can actually act!” He is surprising and amazing in Magnolia, as is the rest of the large cast. As their stories weave back and forth, you realize how interconnected we all are. The movie is about coincidences and fate, and the connections that we make with other people in our lives. The script is superb, and though I still don’t entirely know what the frog scene is about, it does become a sort of glue that binds the stories together.

My drink pairing for Magnolia is an obvious choice. Given the amount of weather references in the film, I have to pair it with a Dark & Stormy. This is a favorite drink of mine that combines simple ingredients into a refreshing cocktail. I like to imagine that Quiz Kid Donnie Smith finally grows up and goes back to that upholstered bar stool and orders up a tall cocktail like this.

Dark & Stormy

2 oz Dark Rum

3 oz Ginger Beer

Lime Wedge for garnish

Pour Rum and Ginger Beer into a tall Collins glass over ice. Garnish with lime wedge.


Of course, this cocktail is much more innocuous than the cadre of pills in Julianne Moore’s character’s purse, but it won’t leave you passed out in your car later on (hopefully). The big line in this film that gets said over and over again is “The book says we may be through with the past, but the past ain’t through with us.” I think that statement holds true for the simple act of watching this film, for even though I’ve seen it before and think I understand it, watching it now makes me consider it in a new light. So if you continue to be buried under winter weather, give this film a chance (along with a Dark & Stormy) and hunker down for a weird, intense, thought-provoking 3 hours. Cheers!