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The Shawshank Redemption

Image credit: The Shawshank Redemption, 1994

Odds are, if you had the TNT network in the mid-1990s, you watched all or parts of The Shawshank Redemption (Disc/Download) approximately 457 times. Scrolling through the channels, if this movie was on, you stopped what you were doing and picked up the story wherever it happened to be. Maybe you waited for the current screening to end, at which point they’d… run it again. Suffice it to say, we all love Shawshank, we’ve all seen Shawshank, so let’s have a cocktail and toast the ultimate “new classic”.

It’s tough to pinpoint what makes this tale of a falsely convicted murderer serving out a lifetime sentence in a New England Penitentiary so universally appealing, but I’m going to take a stab at it. I think we’re all Andy Dufresne in some ways, fighting and struggling to stay afloat in the face of adversity. Maybe you even have an impossible goal you’ve been working toward for years, carving and chipping away at whatever obstacle stands in front of you. It’s comforting to watch this smart guy play the long game and come out on top because it means all the hope and labor you’ve been pumping into the universe will be rewarded one day. And if you’re really lucky, you’ll make a friend along the way. Maybe a man who knows how to get things.

Based on Stephen King’s short story, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, this film takes place during the 1940s-1960s, during a time when Hollywood starlets reigned supreme. Andy hides his escape tunnel-in-progress behind various pin-up posters, which are somehow sanctioned contraband. Let’s celebrate his first leading lady with a margarita, a cocktail rumored to be invented for the lovely Ms. Hayworth, born Margarita Carmen Cansino. While watching The Shawshank Redemption, I recommend drinking this Marga-Rita Hayworth.

Marga-Rita Hayworth

2 oz Reposado Tequila

1 oz Cointreau

1 oz Pomegranate Juice

1/2 oz Lime Juice

1/2 oz Cranberry Juice

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice, and shake until chilled. Strain into a tumbler filled with crushed ice, and garnish with a citrus wheel and lime twist.

If you’re throwing a Shawshank party (and frankly, this seems like a fantastic idea to me), you could also serve up a bucket of ice cold, Bohemian-style beer for all your friends and colleagues, or even a Jungle Bird in honor of Jake. But I personally like this “slow sipper”, which will carry you through Andy’s decades of setbacks and tiny victories. As Red says, in that pitch-perfect Morgan Freeman voice, “Get busy livin’, or get busy dyin’.” Livin’ sounds more fun to me. Cheers!


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Image copyright Miramax films, 2002, Frida

Image copyright Miramax films, 2002, Frida

In the dog days of summer, the only question I really want to hear is a bartender asking me, “Salt or no salt?”   I admit, this week’s film is mainly just an excuse for me to drink margaritas in pretty Mexican glassware. However, it is still one that I enjoy watching time and again, and not just because I’m married to a charismatic artist whom I might call Panzón when I’ve had too many drinks. Frida (DVD/Download) is genuinely one of my favorite artist bio films, mainly because of the creativity director Julie Taymor brings to the project.

Frida is of course the story of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, who rose to fame in the 1930’s and gained even greater posthumous recognition during the 1980’s and 1990’s. This film tells the story of her debilitating accident that occurred in her young adulthood, her early paintings, her marriage to artist Diego Rivera, and her activism in later years. Frida is played by actress Salma Hayek, who does a phenomenal job of capturing the artist’s passion and intelligence. Diego Rivera is played by wonderful character actor Alfred Molina, and he’s absolutely fantastic as the fiery politico artist who causes so much happiness and pain in Frida’s life. Several actors make cameos as famous figures, such as Geoffrey Rush as Leo Trotsky and Edward Norton as a young Nelson Rockefeller, but it’s really Hayek and Molina who carry the film. I love watching them fall in love, fight, inspire each other, and champion each other’s work. The best of their marriage is what I feel that I have now with my sculptor/illustrator husband. The worst of it- well, we haven’t gotten to the worst of it and I hope we never do. By worst I mean uni-brow.

You’ve heard me wax poetic above about margaritas in summertime, so I won’t bore you with much more, other than to say that if you’re looking for really great margarita recipes, I urge you to check out Viva Tequila by Lucinda Hutson. This is my margarita bible, and I love trying the different variations she lists while reading about the history of the agave plant and Mexican culture. I can almost picture Frida Kahlo holding up a cobalt blue glass filled with ice and lime juice and tequila while she studies her latest canvas. Or perhaps throwing one in Diego’s face in the middle of a fight.  To that end, when watching Frida, I recommend drinking a Caliente Margarita.

Caliente Margarita

2 parts tequila

1 part Cointreau

1 part fresh squeezed key lime juice

Chile salt (here’s a link to a brand I like)

Lime wedge

Combine liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously, allowing the ice to melt and dilute the strength of the alcohol a bit. Rub a wedge of lime around the rim of your glass, then dip it in a saucer-full of chile salt, just so the salt coats the rim of the glass. Pour the contents of the shaker into the glass, and garnish with a lime wedge.


Obviously, the chile salt is what makes this margarita “caliente”, mirroring the fiery passion between Frida and Diego. If you’re not into spicy things, you can use a regular salt rim, or no salt at all, but I’m pretty partial to my chile salt after enjoying it on a few margaritas this summer. This recipe is actually adapted from the one Guero’s Taco Bar uses for their tasty house margarita, my favorite in Austin. The ice is key here because it allows the flavors to mellow out. So be liberal with the cold stuff (it is summer after all) and enjoy your spicy margarita while you watch Frida and Diego make love, make war, and most importantly, make art. Cheers!