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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!

Dangerous When Wet

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Dangerous When Wet

Image credit: Dangerous When Wet, 1953.

I have a confession to make: I’ve been cheating on Doris Day with Esther Williams. I never thought I would find an actress as charming, classy, and strong as Doris, but then Esther swam into my life. I loved her in Million Dollar Mermaid, but thought the film as a whole could have used more cocktails. THEN, I caught this week’s flick Dangerous When Wet (Disc/Download), which features roughly the same plot as her most iconic role, with the essential additions of alcohol and Fernando Lamas. Dear reader, I’m in cinema heaven.

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to dive into (pun intended) the Esther Williams filmography. After all, I am long-obsessed with swimming pools, and I happen to own an Esther Williams-brand bathing suit. I admired her as an innovator and symbol of athletic grace long before I saw any of her movies, but now that I’ve watched a few, I can’t get enough. In Dangerous When Wet, Esther plays a wholesome farmer’s daughter from Arkansas who gets hired by phony vitamin company Liquipep to swim the English Channel with her entire family. While across the pond, she meets cute with a French champagne maker (I know, I KNOW!!) who shows her there’s more to life than swimming. Fernando Lamas is decidedly dreamy as her romantic lead, and let’s just say there is a very risqué scene set in a bathhouse changing room that has some major Pillow Talk vibes. The two lovers follow it up with a moonlight swim in his family’s pool, synchronizing their movements in the water. Busby Berkeley really was not needed in this picture, with so much chemistry heating up the screen.

Romance aside, what I enjoy most about Esther Williams films is their interpretation of what it means to be a women. Esther is allowed to be vulnerable in regards to her personal relationships, but also brave enough to take on incredible physical challenges. She’s graceful in her underwater sequences, and strong while proving her endurance in long-distance swimming. She can do back-flips with Tom & Jerry and swim twenty miles across the English Channel, all while nursing a wicked Liquipep hangover. While watching Dangerous When Wet, toast Esther and the other fierce women in your life with this English Channel cocktail.

English Channel

2 oz Earl Grey Tea, cooled

¾ oz Galliano

¾ oz Cointreau

Dried Bergamot (or lemon) slice

Brew tea and allow to cool. Combine with Galliano and Cointreau in a shaker with ice, and shake until chilled. Strain into a coupe glass, and garnish with Bergamot or lemon.

English Channel

There’s a moment toward the end of the movie when Esther’s French lover jumps into the Channel to help coach her across the finish line. I literally rubbed my arms with glee when this happened, not because Fernando Lamas stripped down to his boxer briefs (though, that didn’t hurt), but because he didn’t try to stop her from continuing. He knew she could make it all the way; she just needed a cheerleader. And now, in the year 2020, she’s got another one in me. Cheers!

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir

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The Ghost and Mrs Muir

Image credit: The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, 1947.

There has never been a more requested movie in the history of Cinema Sips than this week’s pick, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (Disc/Download). After finally watching it for the first time (I know, I KNOW- I shouldn’t have waited this long), I finally understand why. This movie is literally the Venn Diagram of all my interests: Romance, Real Estate, and Rocky Beaches. Hell, let’s throw in another loop for Rex Harrison!

Starring the absurdly beautiful Gene Tierney, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir begins like any good episode of House Hunters. We see why this single mom is leaving her current home, followed by the meeting with the realtor where she talks about her budget and needs. They get in a motorized buggy, and drive up to see Gull Cottage in person. Mrs. Muir falls instantly in love with the open concept, the views, and the fact that it’s move-in-ready. The only catch? It’s haunted! But we’re not talking about just any ghost.  No, we’re talking about a sexy bearded sea captain ghost who wears black turtlenecks and gaudy belt buckles (a look he wears very well). Add to that a saucy maid and oodles of time to type up a novel, and let’s just be honest: this is my dream home.

Captain Gregg has enough stories from his seafaring days to generate a best-selling book, and although it’s not explicitly stated, I have to think most of those stories were fueled by alcohol. Let’s have this strong cocktail to celebrate the tales of sexy seamen everywhere, the Sea Captain’s Special.

Sea Captain’s Special

1 Sugar Cube

3 Dashes Angostura Bitters

2 1/2 oz Bourbon

1/4 oz Absinthe

3 oz Champagne

Club Soda

Lemon Twist (optional)

Place sugar cube in a glass, and soak with a few dashes of bitters and small amount of club soda. Muddle the sugar, rotating the glass so that the mixture lines the inside. Add a large ice cube, then pour in Bourbon. Top with Champagne, and Absinthe. Garnish with a twist of lemon (optional).

Sea Captain's Special

I really think HGTV needs to take a look at The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. I can see it now- a whole season of “Haunted House Hunters”, for people who want a little supernatural spookiness with their soaking tubs. Until then, let’s just watch this classic over and over, dreaming of romance and turtlenecks by-the-sea.  Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

Heartbreakers

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Heartbreakers

Image credit: Heartbreakers, 2001

After being cooped up inside for most of the spring, I’m really excited to watch a movie featuring beaches, cocktails, and a grand old Florida hotel. Heartbreakers (Disc/Download) is a surprisingly fun rom-com that will have you dreaming of palm trees, the Intracoastal Waterway, and romance under the stars.

Featuring Sigourney Weaver and Jennifer Love-Hewitt as mother/daughter con-artists, this movie takes the audience through a lot of twists. First, Sigourney is marrying Ray Liotta, right before catching him in a compromising position with his sexy secretary. Turns out the secretary is her daughter, planted to secure a hefty divorce settlement. Due to a strange subplot involving the ALWAYS FABULOUS Anne Bancroft, the duo heads to Palm Beach next to snag a billionaire. They check in to the Breakers Hotel (get it, HeartBREAKERS??), and begin working on Gene Hackman’s character William B. Tensey, a tobacco executive with one foot in the emphysema grave. Hackman really “hacks” his way through this part, in the best anti-smoking campaign I’ve ever seen. Things get messy when Jennifer Love-Hewitt falls for a sweet, earnest bartender (played by Jason Lee), prompting the age-old dilemma between love and money. If the plot seems bananas, it is. But if you’re looking for some escapism right now, this movie is a perfect choice.

It’s such a joy to see a rom-com set somewhere other than New York/Chicago/LA, so let’s celebrate that Florida Lyfe with a tropical martini. While watching Heartbreakers, I recommend drinking this Floridatini.

Floridatini

1 ½ oz Vodka

1 ½ oz Grapefruit Juice

½ oz Passionfruit Syrup

¾ oz Lime Juice

Dash of Peychaud’s bitters

Combine all ingredients in a shaker over ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a martini glass. Garnish with an umbrella.

Floridatini

Although I love the romance of this film, and especially the wedding dress worn by JLH, the movie’s success is actually due to the complicated, endearing mother/daughter relationship. These two actresses have great chemistry together, even when they’re stabbing each other in the back. Somehow, you still feel the love. Cheers!

 

Victor/Victoria

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Victor Victoria

Image credit: Victor/Victoria, 1982.

From Breakfast at Tiffany’s, to The Party, to the Pink Panther films, I am devoted to the comic genius of Blake Edwards. The man does party scenes like nobody else, giving us a blend of style and cheekiness that all but defines 1960s cinema. Victor/Victoria (Disc/Download) may fit squarely in the 1980s (blame Robert Preston’s hair), but I still put it alongside those other classic ‘60s gems. It’s got flair, whit, and above all, it pushes boundaries.

Starring Edwards’ wife Julie Andrews as a hungry soprano masquerading as a female impersonator in 1930s Paris, this film broke a lot of social barriers. Mary Poppins playing a woman, playing a man, who’s playing a woman is something I never thought I’d see, but this role was unexpectedly perfect for Andrews. She struts about the nightclub stage with confidence, making her audience forget about pedestrian concepts like gender and sexuality. Svengali/Manager Toddy (a role originally intended for Peter Sellers before his sudden death) provides witty banter and one-liners for days, their friendship serving as the true heart of the movie. Sure, we’re meant to root for love interest James Garner, the Chicago mobster who can’t figure out why he’s in love with a man (until realizing “he’s” a “she”), but by the end I don’t even care if James and Julie run off into the Pre-World War II sunset. I just want her to drink champagne in bed with Toddy forever.

Speaking of champagne, these characters drink a lot of it. There’s even one impressive number done by an acrobat balancing on a champagne bottle (CLASSIC Edwards physical comedy). Let’s join these liberal, sophisticated Parisians by drinking a Shady Dame.

Shady Dame

4 oz champagne

½ oz Lillet Blanc

½ oz Cointreau

½ oz Lemon Juice

Lemon Twist

Combine Lillet, Cointreau, and Lemon Juice in a shaker over ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Top with champagne, and a twist of lemon.

Shady Lady

In a lot of ways, this film is a snapshot of “before” (before WWII, before the Nazi occupation of Paris), and yet, also a preview of “after”. After we learn to give up our arbitrary rules regarding gender and sexuality and just let people be who they are. After we say it’s okay for anybody, male, female, or non-binary, to wear flamenco dresses, drink champagne, and laugh. Cheers!

Somewhere in Time

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Somewhere in Time

Image Credit: Somewhere in Time, 1980.

Of all the movies I was supposed to see at TCMFF2020, I was most excited for Somewhere in Time (Disc/Download). An underappreciated romance starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, it can best be described as Outlander-meets-Anne of Green Gables, with a dash of Moulin Rouge. Set in Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel, watching this makes me feel like I just took a trip somewhere fabulous without having to leave my living room.

More often than not, cinema time travel happens through some sort of gadget or external magic. But in Somewhere in Time, time travel is a mental state. Christopher Reeve’s character Richard Collier hypnotizes himself into believing he’s going from 1980 back to 1912. Why does he do this? Because he knows he’s been there before. When he sees a picture of a radiant Jane Seymour’s Elise McKenna, he can’t shake the feeling that this once-famous actress was someone special to him. Then he realizes she’s the same old woman who gave him a pocket watch in 1972; a watch that he would give back to her in 1912. This sets off a chicken-and-egg paradox in my mind of who actually had the watch first, for it can’t exist in the past without first existing in the present (and round and round we go). In many ways it’s a reflection of their love, traveling through time, unchanged and constant.

As mentioned, the Grand Hotel of Mackinac Island plays a central role. Because the island allows no motor vehicles even to this day, it’s the perfect location to set a story from the past. I can almost imagine myself in a wicker chair on the hotel’s wide veranda; sipping cocktails and watching the horse-drawn carriages go by. Hypnotize yourself into thinking you’re relaxing at a luxury hotel with this Grand Tonic. (hey, it’s worth a shot!)

Grand Tonic

1 1/2 oz Grand Marnier

3/4 oz Tonic Syrup (I used Bradley’s Kina Tonic, with notes of spiced orange).

Club Soda

Orange slice

Strawberry slices

Fill a glass with ice, and pour in a shot of Grand Marnier. Top with tonic syrup and club soda, and stir gently to combine. Garnish with orange and strawberry slices.

Grand Tonic

Christopher Reeve plays a dashing hero who puts himself through hell to reach the love of his life, and it makes me a little sad that he didn’t have the chance for a lengthy career of roles like this. Knowing what we do now about his tragic injury, it makes Somewhere in Time feel even more urgent. Richard, and Christopher, are both running out of time. It’s up to us movie fans to give them more of it. Cheers!

Jules and Jim

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Jules and Jim

Image credit: Jules and Jim, 1962.

Leave it to the French to shock me. Here I was, thinking of polyamory as a concept not fully embraced until the swingin’ ‘70s, but as Jules and Jim (Disc/Download) would suggest, throuples have been around long before Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice; long before that “groundbreaking” episode of House Hunters. Apparently, Paris was a hotbed of free love, even before the Great War.

Directed by Francois Truffaut, Jules and Jim is really about Jules and Jim and Catherine—the free-spirited girl at the center of this complicated love triangle. When we meet them, Jules and Jim are carefree writers who share good times and the occasional woman. But Catherine is something different. Jules stakes a claim early on, even though we can see there’s a strong attraction from Jim as well. She flirts, Jim pines, then Jules marries her and everyone goes off to war. Jules fights on the Austrian side, Jim for the French, and both are afraid of inadvertently killing their best friend on the battlefield. Coming home, Jules settles into an unhappy marriage with Catherine, though both realize something is missing. Eventually, Jim steps in to help right the balance. Despite turbulent times ahead, for a short while in the Black Forest, this throuple is undeniably, unexpectedly happy.

Watching this gorgeous movie at home makes me wish I were instead watching it on the big screen at one of my favorite cinemas, the Austin Film Society* . They have a special gin & tonic on their lobby menu that pairs perfectly with this angsty French love story. While watching Jules and Jim, I recommend drinking the AFS Gin & Tonic.

AFS Gin & Tonic

2 oz Dry Gin

¼ oz Lillet Rose

½ oz Lime Juice

4 oz Elderflower Tonic (I use Fever Tree)

Lime Wheel/Juniper berries for garnish

Combine Gin, Lillet, and lime juice in a shaker filled with ice. Stir to combine and chill, then strain into a glass filled with ice. Top with Elderflower tonic, garnish with lime wheel and juniper berries.

Lillet Gin & Tonic

As with most French New Wave films, lead actress Jeanne Moreau is sexy, cool, funny, and real. Jules and Jim are somewhat forgettable, but Catherine is a woman ahead of her time. This film was made in the 1960s, takes place in 1914-1920s, but feels completely relevant to the 2020s. Let’s touch toes and toast to this unconventional, enduring masterpiece. Cheers!

*If you’re a supporter of indie film, please consider donating to the Austin Film Society so we can all enjoy films and cocktails after the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us.

Doctor Zhivago

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Doctor Zhivago

Image: Doctor Zhivago, 1965 (Also: The Great Coronavirus Quarantine 2020)

Unlike Doctor Zhivago’s runtime, the following post will be brief. I had enormously high hopes for this film (Disc/Download), thinking it would be hot men in the snow, meets three-and-a-half hours of Julie Christie looking sad and gorgeous. I took advantage of the orchestral overture to mix a cocktail and settled in to be transported to glamorous Moscow. Expecting snow-covered romance and emotional angst, imagine my shock upon realizing I’d committed to watching an extremely tedious episode of Little Kremlin on the Prairie.

I won’t bore you with all the reasons why this movie failed me. As any writer of romance can affirm, we’re told to show, not tell. Well, I was told that Omar Sharif and Julie Christie were hopelessly in love with each other; I just wasn’t shown it. Every time even a whisper of passion came across the screen, the film made an abrupt cut. I couldn’t understand why poet/physician Zhivago would wander through the barren frozen wasteland of Russia in search of his former nurse (and patient?) Lara, when they’d shared only about 20 minutes of screen time thus far. Was it just that she was so beautiful? I’m honestly still confused.

The one bright spot in my three-and-a-half hour trip to Cinema Siberia was the cocktail pairing I chose. As previously mentioned, grand epics are tailor-made for drinkers because the lengthy overture and intermission give you plenty of time for mixing. While watching Doctor Zhivago, replicate the feeling of walking through snow and ice to kiss a girl you kinda, sorta once knew with this Russian Frostbite cocktail.

Russian Frostbite

1½ oz Vodka

¾ oz Brandy

1 oz Coffee Liqueur

1 oz Cold Brew Coffee

1 oz Rumchata

1 ½ oz Half-and-Half

Combine all ingredients in a shaker filled with ice, and shake until mixed and chilled. Strain into a glass filled with fresh ice.

Frostbite

It’s not a coincidence that this cocktail has coffee in it; you’ll need it to stay awake. While I loved the visuals of an ice-covered onion dome, Julie Christie’s shiny coif, and Omar Sharif’s forearms (!!!), Doctor Zhivago ultimately didn’t move me. It didn’t even nudge me. In the future, if I ever find myself in the mood for impossible love in the middle of a communist revolution, I’ll stick with the book. Cheers!