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La Piscine

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Image credit: La Piscine, 1969

There’s a film I’ve wanted to feature on this blog for many years, but resisted because it’s never been widely available. In fact, for a long time La Piscine (Disc) was my white whale, missing from every streaming platform and physical media source out there. Eventually, my dad took pity and purchased an expensive Alain Delon box set for me, and I was finally able to watch and fall in love with this gorgeous film. Several years later, thanks to the fine folks at Criterion, it’s officially coming to a Blu-ray player near you. This calls for a toast!

Although I’ve previously covered Luca Guadagnino’s remake A Bigger Splash on Cinema Sips, La Piscine is the quieter, sexier, deadlier version of this psychological thriller. Impossibly chic, it features Alain Delon and Romy Schneider as wealthy vacationers in the south of France who spend their days lounging by the pool, drinking wine, and making out like teenagers. Talk about a dream summer! Things seem idyllic, until Maurice Ronet and model Jane Birkin arrive to throw chaos into the calm. Although the plot mirrors that of A Bigger Splash quite closely, the difference is in the visuals. The 1969 version is like a step back to a world where style reigned supreme, and tension lived in silences instead of shouts. There was never a world so beautiful, or so anxiety-inducing, as that of La Piscine.

Whether you’re watching this film or relaxing next to your own gorgeous pool (hey, I still think my inflatable version is quite attractive), you’ll want a cool beverage to take the edge off. Easy to make and perfect for the hottest days of summer, I recommend pouring a chilled Lillet Spritz.

Lillet Spritz

2 oz Lillet Blanc

3 oz Prosecco

1 oz Club Soda

Strawberry and mint for garnish

Fill a wine glass with ice, and layer in the Lillet, Prosecco, and Club Soda, stirring gently to combine. Drop in a few strawberry slices and sprig of mint for garnish.

Having seen several stunning screenshots from this film cross my feed over the years, I knew the aesthetic of La Piscine would be one that would appeal to me. However, I didn’t fully realize just how much this movie would be like a Slim Aarons photo come to life. It’s a world I want to dive into (pun intended), and now, we all finally can. Don’t forget your bathing suit*, or the wine. Cheers!

COCOSHIP Retro One-Piece suit, $29.99 on Amazon.com

*If you’re in search of your own sexy suit for pool-time this summer, I highly recommend this one! Unbelievably flattering, you’ll be ready to hit the beaches of the Côte d’Azur (or, more realistically, the backyard).

Steel Magnolias

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Image credit: Steel Magnolias, 1989

This week, I’d like to take the opportunity to pay tribute to one of America’s greatest treasures, Miss Dolly Parton. A ray of sunshine in nearly every movie she’s strutted into, this sassy comedienne even manages to bring humor and wisdom to the tearjerker to end all tearjerkers, Steel Magnolias (Disc/Download).

Despite telling myself I’m not going to cry this time, I inevitably lose that battle and end up reaching for the tissues. But before that switch gets flipped and the onscreen heart monitor flatlines, there’s a lot of laughter. Dolly is the glue holding this small Louisiana town together, and she does it with hairspray, curlers, and a smile that just doesn’t quit. As owner of the local beauty parlor, Truvy knows everybody’s story and is always there to lend a friendly ear along with a hot wax treatment. There are other funny characters in this movie, such as Shirley MacLaine’s “Ouiser” and her mangy St. Bernard, but Dolly just brings so much positivity to the role of Truvy that even when we see her go through marital troubles (helloooooo sexy Sam Shepard) and the death of a close friend, we know she’s going to be okay. Dolly is the true Steel Magnolia of this world.

Although iced tea is considered the “house wine of the South,” these ladies deserve something a little more complex than a cold glass of Lipton. Take some inspiration from Shelby’s wedding colors “blush” and “bashful” while you watch Steel Magnolias, with a Tickled Pink cocktail.

Tickled Pink

1 ½ oz Malfy Rosa Gin

¾ oz Lillet Rosé

¼ oz Aperol

3 oz Prosecco

3 oz Sparkling Water

Grapefruit twist

Build drink in a glass over large ice cubes, stirring gently to combine. Garnish with a twist of grapefruit.

Steel Magnolias is the kind of movie that brings to mind the trite saying, “They just don’t make ‘em like this anymore.” Movies with such rich character development that you feel like you personally know all these women, experiencing their joys and sorrows right along with them. There may not be such a thing as natural beauty, but from where I’m sitting, these Southern gals sure are gorgeous. Cheers!

Bridesmaids

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Image credit: Bridesmaids, 2011

Are you reaaadyyy to paaaaaartyyy? I know I am, and I can’t think of two better hosts than Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig. Add in a Melissa McCarthy chaser, and you’ve got yourself a ridiculously fun time with this week’s pick Bridesmaids (Disc/Download).

A rite of passage for many of us, this film perfectly captures the expense, the hassle, the camaraderie, and the sentimentality of being a bridesmaid. Kristen Wiig’s character Annie is truly every woman who has ever balanced the happiness of her friend’s engagement with the dread of knowing you’re going to have to buy a dress that (despite reassurances to the contrary), you will never wear again. Then there’s the inevitable bachelorette weekend, plus the shower, which are all enjoyable, but still… it can be a lot. That’s why we rely on alcohol to get through all these rituals. I don’t care how nice your fellow bridesmaids are, or how much you love your friend who’s getting married, there’s going to come a time when you’ll want to pound that third glass of rosé because you just cannot deal with One. More. Posed. Picture. 

Speaking of rosé, this movie is a great excuse to bust out your favorite bottle and pretend you’re at Lillian’s French-themed shower. Unfortunately, at the time of this movie’s production, Frosé was not yet a staple among the brunch crowd. But you KNOW if it had been, Helen would have had that wine slushy machine cranking non-stop. While watching Bridesmaids, I recommend drinking Frosé.

Frosé

1 bottle Rosé Wine

1 cup Frozen Strawberries

1 cup Frozen Peaches

2 oz Simple Syrup

Luxardo Maraschino cherry

Measure out 2 cups of Rosé, and pour it into ice cube trays. Freeze 2 hours (or overnight). When ready to make your drink, pour remaining wine and simple syrup into a blender, then add frozen rosé cubes, strawberries, and peaches. Blend until smooth and slushy. Pour into glasses, and top with a Luxardo Maraschino cherry. (Serves 4).

Although this film features a heartwarming romance between Kristen Wiig and Chris O’Dowd’s characters, it’s really the female friendships that make this an instant-classic to me. In a lot of ways, I root for Annie and Lillian more than I root for Annie and Officer Rhodes. Men may come and go, but hilarious brunch companions are forever. Cheers!

Fight Club

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Image credit: Fight Club, 1999

You can tell a lot about a person by the kind of movie art they hang on their walls. Back when I was in college, the girls (and a few sensitive guys) tended to have Audrey Tautou’s precocious Amélie face holding court over their dorm rooms, while the “bros” opted for a variety of Tarantino titles. If you walked into a room and saw Adam Sandler’s Waterboy hanging over the bed, you knew to run. Oh, but then there were the Fight Club (Disc/Download) posters. As a female, they made me think, okay, this guy is probably not my soulmate. But do I really want to turn my back on Brad Pitt’s face right now? Women have stayed for a lot less. And, at least it wasn’t Boondock Saints (*shudder*).

I’ll be honest, it’s still not a love match between Fight Club and I. While I appreciate the taste of Chuck Palahniuk’s prose, it tends to get buried within the presentation. David Fincher is a master craftsman of mental illness and anarchy on celluloid, but once again I can’t help feeling (as I do with most of his films) that the editor took a lunch break one day and never came back. I love the hook of a man so dissatisfied with his consumer-driven life that his mind takes a sledgehammer to it, but do we really need so many stomach-turning scenes of violence, filth, and decay? That house on Paper Street may contain the incredibly ripped bodies of Edward Norton and Brad Pitt, but it’s so dirty I can’t even appreciate the hot men. And so then what’s the point??

Watching this movie again through the lens of a cocktail connoisseur, I can confirm that beautiful, complex drinks have no place in Fincher’s wasteland. This is a beer picture, through and through. Playing off the theme of dudes who enjoy a good toxic masculinity break, while watching Fight Club I recommend drinking this Paper Street Punch.

Paper Street Punch

3 cups Beer (I used a Mexican lager)

2 cups Lemon Soda

1 cup Ginger Beer

Lemon Wedge

Ice

Combine Beer, Lemon Soda, and Ginger Beer in a pitcher, stirring gently to combine. Pour into glasses filled with ice, and garnish with a fresh lemon wedge.

Although it might seem like I really dislike this film, rest assured that I don’t. I love the performances, especially Brad Pitt (and not just his abs, though they are quite spectacular). Plus, any cast that includes Meatloaf gets my seal of approval, forever and always. Now, if you’ll excuse me I need to go scrub myself down with a very astringent soap, while trying not to think about how it was made. Cheers!

Snowpiercer

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Image credit: Snowpiercer, 2013

It takes a lot to suck me into a story where everyone is cold, dirty, and unhappy, so it goes without saying that I was not expecting to love this week’s film Snowpiercer (Disc/Download). But after my initial watch, I remember turning the television off, staring at the blank screen, and breathing a single word- “Wow.”

Recently adapted for the small screen, Bong Joon-ho’s dystopian sci-fi action film has many similar themes to his 2019 hit, Parasite (which I also loved). Class warfare takes center stage as Chris Evans leads an army of peasants from the back of a continuously moving train, to the front section where rich folks enjoy such luxuries as sushi and saunas. This locomotive carries the last remaining humans on earth (after climate change and man’s follies have turned it into a subzero wasteland), and instead of a peaceful egalitarian community of survivors, overlord Wilfred has created a closed loop ecosystem of haves and have-nots. With a cast that includes Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer, Jamie Bell, and Ed Harris, just to name a few, Snowpiercer is that rare movie that keeps me on my toes from beginning to end. But beyond the flashy action sequences, there’s a real sense of pain and hope and desperation to these characters that makes me want to keep watching. I’ve got to see if there’s an end to this terrible trip.

Throughout Snowpiercer, food is used as a metaphor for the characters’ privilege, or lack thereof. From Ed Harris’s steaks to Tilda’s rare sushi, down to the gelatinous bug bars that the tailies consume (sorry, “protein bars”), this train’s menu is all over the place. I had a little fun this week with the protein bar theme, making a snack fit for us alcoholic peasants. While watching Snowpiercer, I recommend trying a Boozy Bar.

Boozy Bar

3/4 cup Water

1/3 cup Vodka

1/2 cup Jell-O (any flavor)

1 tsp Activated Charcoal Powder

Boil water and vodka together, then stir in charcoal powder and Jell-O. Remove from heat, and stir until gelatin is dissolved- about 2 minutes. Pour into block molds, and chill overnight. When firm, carefully run a knife around the inside of the molds and turn the blocks out onto a plate. Slice and enjoy!

This film always leaves me with a lot to think about, such as how castes can have a symbiotic relationship, each of us relying on the other to survive, whether we realize it or not. I have no idea which section I’d be relegated to on this train, but dear God let’s hope it’s not the nursery school. Now that would truly be my dystopian nightmare. Cheers!

Purple Noon

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Image Credit: Purple Noon, 1960

We’re traveling back to good ole’ Mongibello this week with the original Tom Ripley, 1960s French sex symbol Alain Delon. Purple Noon (Disc/Download), née Plein Soleil, is a striking adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley, which was adapted once again by Anthony Minghella in 1999 to become one of my top ten films of all time. I’m a sucker for beautiful people in beautiful places, and it doesn’t get much more beautiful than these two movies.

If you’ve seen The Talented Mr. Ripley, much of Purple Noon will appear familiar. Tom and “Philippe” cavorting around Rome while Marge sits at home and waits for her man to get his act together. Tom forging signatures, impersonating voices, acting almost too agreeable, too charming. Brash American Freddie Miles showing up to ruin all of Tom’s fun, before meeting his doom at the butt end of an ugly sculpture. Gorgeous Italian vistas, sailboats, and the sparkling Mediterranean. If you like Minghella’s Ripley because of the visuals, then I can guarantee you’ll love Purple Noon even more. The film is a little more poetic, lingering longer on the beauty of the coastline as well as the beauty of Delon. Like a young Jared Leto who actually cares about how he looks on-screen, Delon is all suntan, six-pack, and cheekbones, and director René Clément certainly knew what he had in this then-unknown actor, giving him ample opportunity to strut around shirtless. Thank you René. Thank you very much.

A lot of what I love about this story hinges on the idea of American decadence, so it seems like the perfect opportunity to indulge in a beautiful niche liqueur, Creme de Violette. Let’s be clear- this stuff exists only so we can have purple cocktails. Like Midori or Blue Curacao, you’re buying this for the color. But hey- nothing wrong with that! Sometimes it’s all about the visuals. While watching Purple Noon, I recommend drinking this Twilight Martini.

Twilight Martini

2 oz Gin

1/2 oz Dry Vermouth

1/2 oz Creme de Violette

1/4 oz St. Germain

Combine all ingredients in a shaker over ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a slice of dried blood orange.

Ultimately, I think I still prefer the 1999 version of The Talented Mr. Ripley to the 1960 version. A lot of that has to do with the ending, and without spoiling Purple Noon too much, I’ll just say that I like a world where Tom Ripley gets away with it. We never see him hauled away in handcuffs in either adaptation, but Purple Noon gives him a more limited chance of escape. If you ask me, that pretty face just doesn’t belong in prison. Cheers!

A Streetcar Named Desire

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Image credit: A Streetcar Named Desire, 1951

There isn’t much in this world we can count on, but at least I know I can always rely on Tennessee Williams to give me stories of hot, sweaty men and a lot of alcohol. I’ve already discussed the sex appeal of Paul Newman in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, but running a close second is Marlon Brando in this week’s film A Streetcar Named Desire (Disc/Download). I think Vivien Leigh’s face speaks for all of us when he removes his shirt for the first time- Yowza.

As we’ve seen in other works by Tennessee Williams, this play-turned-film features an unhappy family trying to imbibe their way through the drama of life. Disgraced southern belle Blanche DuBois seeks refuge with her sister and brother-in-law in their derelict New Orleans apartment, becomes the world’s worst house guest, and watches an already-volatile marriage disintegrate. Would Stella and Stanley have lasted if Blanche had never graced their doorstep? I doubt it. Stanley was always a powder keg ready to blow. But throw in a mentally unstable woman who is the exact opposite of everything Stanley stands for, have her drink all his liquor and take baths all day to calm her nerves, and the fuse is officially lit. Honestly, I almost didn’t mind that Stanley and Blanche destroyed one another– they’re both kind of horrible human beings to begin with. Who I truly feel for is Stella, poor Stella, who now has to live with the knowledge that her husband is a brute, her sister is a mid-century Mary Kay Letourneau, and she and her baby aren’t getting air conditioning anytime soon. Somebody get this lady a drink.

Speaking of drinking, these characters only have to step outside their front door to find some of the finest watering holes in the French Quarter. I want to pay homage to a great drink I had at Galatoire’s a few years ago, the Ramos Gin Fizz. Someday, post-COVID, I look forward to having another one there. But until then, give your arm a nice workout with this tasty concoction.

Ramos Gin Fizz

2 oz Gin

3/4 oz Simple Syrup

1/2 oz Heavy Cream

1/2 oz Lemon Juice

1/2 oz Lime Juice

3 dashes Orange Flower Water

1 egg white

Club soda

Orange twist

Combine gin, simple syrup, lemon juice, lime juice, orange flower water, and egg white in a shaker. Shake for about 10 seconds, then add ice. Shake again vigorously for 30 seconds, then strain into a glass. Pour some club soda into your shaker, slosh it around to collect the remaining egg whites, then pour it over your drink. Garnish with an orange twist.

If done correctly, this drink will look as frothy as one of Blanche’s party dresses. It’s fun to see Vivien Leigh in another southern role, and I can’t help feeling that Scarlett O’Hara has really let herself go. Brando was perhaps never as electric as he was in the role of Stanley Kowalski, and no matter what your thoughts are on the man or the movie, you owe it to yourself to watch him scream STELLAAAAAA at least once in this lifetime. Cheers!

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

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Image Credit: The Man from U.N.C.L.E., 2015

I can think of a lot of films deserving of a sequel that never came, but at the top of my list is Guy Ritchie’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Disc/Download). A cult-classic within the romance genre community, this 1960s-inspired spy thriller was born to have as many offshoots as Mission: Impossible or Danny Ocean’s crew. Why didn’t it? Because someone in Hollywood clearly hates me.

But seriously, what was the problem??? If I had to guess, I’d say that people just weren’t ready for such a cinematic love letter to the sixties. After all, most of the classic television shows that spawned successful movie franchises have all been updated for modern times. What’s great about The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is that it recreates the era in which the original series took place, probably to a great deal of time and expense on the part of the studio. However, you simply can’t deny the appeal and beauty of this aesthetic. The Pierre Cardin-inspired dresses modeled by Alicia Vikander are my dream wardrobe, and if you’ve never seen Henry Cavill in an expertly tailored vintage suit… well, let’s just say you better keep an ice bucket on hand. And speaking of hot, can we talk about that dance between Vikander and Armie Hammer? She’s a cheeky British operative in disguise, he’s a no-nonsense KGB agent, but put them in a luxury hotel room with pajamas and a song from Dirty Dancing, and the result is a scene that’s forever etched into my brain. In my house, we don’t call this flick The Man from U.N.C.L.E. We call it, “Sexy Pajama Slap-Dance Movie”.

Because the action largely takes place around Rome, I decided to make a cocktail that’s bright, sparkling, and reflective of the Eternal City. While watching The Man from U.N.C.L.E., I recommend drinking a classic Negroni Spagliato.

Negroni Spagliato

1 oz Campari

1 oz Sweet Vermouth

3 oz Prosecco

Orange Slice (Garnish)

Build drink over a large ice cube, stirring gently to combine. Garnish with a slice of orange.

Although we’ll probably never get a direct sequel to this film, I’m happy to report that Guy Ritchie managed to sneak some nods to U.N.C.L.E. in his latest release, The Gentlemen. It features a badass female mechanic, a cast of hot men, classic tailoring, a well-curated soundtrack, and even a Man from U.N.C.L.E. movie poster hanging in the background! This might be Ritchie’s way of closing the book on U.N.C.L.E., but I’m still clinging to any sign that we’ve not yet reached the end of the road for Solo and Kuryakin. After all, we still have Nazis to fight, and hot men still gotta work. Cheers!

Showgirls

Image Credit: Showgirls, 1995

I am not here to debate the merits of this week’s Cinema Sips pick, Showgirls (Disc). Entire dissertations have been written on the subject, and the entertaining documentary You Don’t Nomi covered it pretty well. What I am here to say is this: if you’re looking for a fun, champagne-filled movie to say goodbye to the doggie chow-flavored year that was 2020, then grab your glitter and your nail kits and take a New Year’s trip to Las Vegas with me.

In this All About Eve-inspired tale of female ambition, Elizabeth Berkley plays Nomi Malone, a down-on-her-luck dancer who dreams of seeing her name in lights. Hitching a ride to Vegas, she somehow manages to land a free couch in a costume designer’s trailer while working her way up from stripper to classy burlesque artist. Most of the initial ridicule for this film stems from Berkley’s acting, which is absurdly aggressive. However, based on how campy the dialogue is, I have to think she was encouraged to play it over-the-top. Gina Gershon and Kyle MacLachlan lend a bit of respectability to the cast… but only a bit. I have to say though, as ridiculous as this movie is, I’ve seen a lot worse this year. My opinion? Look past the boobs, look past the bad acting, and what you’re left with is a story about a powerful woman who will stop at nothing to get to the top. The fact that she does it covered in glitter only makes me love her more.

Showgirls is a great film for New Year’s Eve because there is champagne in almost every scene. For my drink pairing, I decided to do a twist on the traditional Porn Star cocktail (which typically comes with a shot of champagne on the side) in favor of this simpler concoction. While watching Showgirls, I recommend drinking this Lap Dance cocktail.

Lap Dance

1 1/2 oz Vanilla Vodka

3/4 oz Lime Juice

3/4 oz Passion Fruit Syrup

Pinch of Edible Glitter

2-3 oz Prosecco

Lime Wheel

Combine vodka, lime juice, passion fruit syrup, and glitter in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a martini or coupe glass. Top with prosecco and garnish with a lime wheel.

Even though the drink is probably better than the movie, Showgirls tends to get more enjoyable with every viewing. I suppose once I stopped expecting it to make sense, and just took it for what it was always intended to be– a cheap thrill– I started to appreciate what director Paul Verhoeven was trying to do. Like the year 2020, Showgirls might not be something we ever look back on with warm, nostalgic fondness, but if nothing else, it’s unforgettable. Cheers!

Psycho

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Image credit: Psycho, 1960.

There’s a fine line between the kind of horror movie I can handle, and the kind I can’t. A great example of a “Liz Locke-approved Scary Movie” is this week’s pick Psycho (Disc/Download). Even though Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece makes me anxious about taking a shower ever again, the psychological suspense is so well crafted that I almost welcome the terror. Plus, you know I love any movie set in a hotel ;-).

Although this film would later be remade shot-for-shot in color by Gus Van Sant, I’ll always prefer the original black-and-white version. It removes the viewer from the action a little bit, reminding us that this is fiction, and Norman Bates is not peering at me through a peephole or waiting behind a curtain with a knife in his hand. The noise I heard halfway through shampooing my hair was just the dog.

IT’S JUST THE DOG.

In his performance as a disturbed serial killer, Anthony Perkins is equal parts creepy and likeable, similar to all those other famous murderers we’ve heard about in podcasts and documentaries. You know the type: average guy next door; he wouldn’t hurt a fly. And as one of his victims, Janet Leigh’s character Marion isn’t exactly innocent, but she’s so sweet and unsuspecting of what’s about to happen to her that the viewer almost forgets she’s a “bad girl” on the run. This is what I love about Psycho– you think you understand who the criminal is in the first ten minutes, only to realize you had no idea what level of depraved criminal you’re soon about to meet.

When Marion Crane checks into the Bates Motel, she’s probably expecting to relax with her suitcase full of money and a nice cold cocktail (I know that’s what I like to do on vacation, anyway). Instead, she’s stuck talking to a sad loner about his taxidermy collection, over a pile of white bread and pitcher of water. Is this the hospitality industry or prison?? Let’s bring some fun to this lobby party with a cocktail inspired by the upcoming shower scene. While watching Psycho, I recommend drinking this 12 Cabins, 12 Vacancies cocktail.

12 Cabins, 12 Vacancies

2 oz Red Wine

1 oz Pineapple Juice

¾ oz Simple Syrup

¾ oz Lime Juice

Club Soda

Add the red wine, pineapple juice, simple syrup, and lime juice to a highball glass over ice. Top with soda water, and stir well to combine. Garnish with a dehydrated blood orange.

As blood circles the drain in one of the most artistic murder scenes ever filmed, notice how it looks remarkably like the red wine in your cocktail. Apparently Hitch used chocolate syrup, but personally I prefer a boozier option. This is a refreshing drink that’s easy to refill as you watch Norman descend deeper and deeper into madness. But then again, don’t we all go a little mad sometimes? Especially after a few tipples? Cheers and Happy Halloween!