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Driving Miss Daisy

Image Credit: Driving Miss Daisy, 1989

The question I’m asked most frequently when I tell people about this blog is, “Do you come up with the movie first, or the drink?” Nine times out of ten, it’s the movie. But in rare cases, such as this week, I stumble upon a cocktail I want to make and find a movie to fit. The cocktail in question is a Whiskey Daisy, and unfortunately, I’ve already covered The Great Gatsby, Harold & Maude, and You’ve Got Mail. That leaves me with either Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, Inside Daisy Clover, or the Jessica Tandy/Morgan Freeman classic Driving Miss Daisy (Disc/Download). As much as I love Doris and Natalie, I decided to go with the pick that gets talked about most frequently, for better or worse.

I’ll be honest, despite dozens of Miss Daisy jokes made while my husband drives me around in the classic car I recently inherited, I’d never actually seen this movie. A heartwarming friendship between a black chauffeur and the surly, clueless white woman he drives around? Pass- I’ve already watched Green Book, and didn’t feel like I needed its role-reversed ancestor. However, despite some problematic content that simply comes with the territory of a story set in a less-enlightened time period, I found myself solidly charmed upon my initial watch. Jessica Tandy is a delight, especially when paired with Morgan Freeman and perennial friend-to-vodka-lovers Dan Aykroyd. What could have been a one note allegory about racism in America actually ended up being a really touching illustration of the aging process and loss of independence. As the wrinkles get more pronounced, the glasses thicker, and the memories more jumbled, all the social constructs seem to strip away, leaving these two people with the realization that they were always more than the labels society thrust upon them. They were friends.

Now, back to that cocktail. I like the sound of this drink because it seems easy to make and uses ingredients I already have. Driving Miss Daisy isn’t really a booze-heavy movie, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it one. Just remember- no drinking and driving!

Whiskey Daisy

2 oz Bourbon Whiskey

1 oz Lemon Juice

¼ oz Simple Syrup

½ oz Cointreau

Club Soda

Add bourbon, lemon juice, simple syrup, and Cointreau to a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Top with a splash of club soda.

I’m not about to dive into the controversy of “did this movie deserve all the Oscars it received” because that’s an argument with no winners. But I will say, this is a film that knows how to take an audience along for the ride, whether or not it was a trip you felt like making. I’m glad I finally watched Driving Miss Daisy, and I’m even more glad to add this cocktail to my repertoire. Cheers!

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!

The Lego Movie

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Image Credit: Warner Bros, 2014, The Lego Movie

Image Credit: Warner Bros, 2014, The Lego Movie

Newsflash: EVERYTHING IS AWESOME!!!!!! That’s right, I’ve finally watched The Lego Movie, after hearing rave reviews from pretty much everyone I know. And for good reason. It’s awesome!!! I’ll admit, when I heard they were making a movie out of the little toy bricks that didn’t hold much interest for me as a kid (I was more of a Barbie girl), I rolled my eyes. THIS is what someone in Hollywood thought was a good idea? A movie about talking Lego men? Even my husband, devoted Lego fan for life, shook his head in annoyance. We ignored the glowing reviews when the film was in theaters, thinking surely it’s a fluke and our friends are more immature than we thought. However, I allowed myself to consider the possibility that maybe it was sorta kinda okay and put it on my Netflix queue anyway. The DVD arrived, we watched it, and let me just say- I was so wrong.

I assumed that The Lego Movie (DVD/Download) would be one long cutesy toy movie, catering to 5-year old boys. Not so. It caters to adults as well, through hilarious cultural commentary (honestly, Where are my Pants? sounds about on par with most of the sitcoms on tv these days), and wonderful references to the Legos that older viewers grew up with. When my husband saw that Benny the Lego Spaceman had a broken strap on his helmet, just like the one he had as a child, his face lit up. The filmmakers get it! That attention to detail is certainly what got me hooked, both in the visual style and with the script. This film doesn’t play down to its audience like so many children’s movies do. Adding in a roster of big movie stars (Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, Will Ferrell, etc.) lends the film some caché, and I admit I certainly had fun trying to match the voice to an actor I was familiar with.

After deciding that I had to write about this movie on Cinema Sips, I knew I needed to think of a great cocktail to accompany it.  Like a Master Builder, I decided to stop looking for instructions and come up with something wildly imaginative. Also, it had to be fun and youthful. A lightbulb went off over my head when I remembered the one Lego item I have actually used in my life- a Lego brick ice cube tray. If you grew up in the 90’s like I did, you may remember the Bill Cosby Jell-O commercials. I loved the Jell-O Jiggler commercials, and as an adult, I’ve combined the fun novelty of a jiggler with the boozy finish of a Jell-O shot. This is a great way to use wacky ice cube trays that have been lingering in your cupboards, and of course Lego makes their own variety, found here. When watching The Lego Movie, I suggest making a tray of Block Shots.

Block Shots

1 packet Jell-O, any flavor

1  cup Vodka

Prepare your molds by spraying non-stick cooking spray in each mold, then wiping off excess with a paper towel.  Heat the vodka in a pan on the stovetop, careful to bring it just to simmering, but not boiling (we don’t want to boil off all the alcohol). Once it’s well-heated, mix in the Jell-O and stir well. Once the Jell-O is dissolved, pour it into the molds. Place your molds on a pan in the refrigerator, and refrigerate until firm (at least 3 hours). To remove the bricks from the molds, dip your (CLEAN!) finger in warm water and pop the shapes out, running your finger along the edges to loosen.

*Note, if you’re watching this movie with kids, totally not a problem. Just make a separate batch with water instead of vodka for them, in a different color so you’ll know the difference.

Lego-Jello

 

Feel free to experiment with different shapes, and if you don’t feel like investing in bricks or Lego-man molds, regular ice cube trays work fine (though, you run the risk of being called a Duplo-lover). Fair warning, these are VERY strong. As you see from the recipe, there’s no water in them, just vodka and Jell-O. Do you need to get hammered to enjoy this movie as much as your kids? No, probably not, but it makes it a whole lot more fun! This movie has made me realize that I’m a lot more like The Man Upstairs than I would care to admit. I don’t crazy-glue my Legos, but I have museum-waxed my dollhouse into an immovable tableau. Perhaps it’s time to let loose a little bit, in several areas of my life- it can be good to not follow the directions all the time. Cheers!