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Sex and the City (the movie)

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Image credit: Sex and the City, 2008

Look, I know, we’re all extremely disappointed/fatigued by the Sex and the City franchise at this point. And Just Like That… ruined it beyond repair, shining a spotlight on all the problems of the original series, while failing to distract us with witty jokes and fabulous clothes (they weren’t that witty, or that fabulous this time around). There was also a very, very bad movie sequel Sex and the City 2, which we will not talk about. But when it comes to the first Sex and the City movie (Disc/Download), I’m not ashamed to admit- I actually like it!

Here’s the absolute truth: if you enjoyed the television show, you’ll enjoy this movie. And back in my early-twenties, I adored the show. Back then, it felt like my only real responsibility was being home in time to watch it each week. But as Carrie astutely points out in this film, your twenties are for having fun, thirties are for learning the lessons, and forties are for paying for the drinks. Now that I’m pushing forty, I’m working hard to pay for the drinks and simply don’t have time to care about trivial things such as how large Carrie’s closet is. I’m building my own large closet now, thank you very much. And it’s super stressful!!!! So while I may not have the energy for a weekly date with Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha, I don’t mind them swooping in on their cloud of privilege to distract me for a couple hours in the form of a movie.

I recently came across a cocktail in one of my favorite recipe books Experimental Cocktail Club that’s a surprising and delicious take on Carrie’s signature Cosmopolitan. This one keeps the pretty pink color, but has a much more interesting flavor profile. While watching Sex and the City, I recommend drinking this Big (Cosmo) is Dead.

Big (Cosmo) is Dead

1/2 oz Velvet Falernum

1 oz Aperol

1 oz Lime Juice

1 oz Vodka

2 dashes orange bitters

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

*Adapted from Big Cosmo is Dead recipe in Experimental Cocktail Club by Mitchell Beazley.

I may have had my quibbles with these characters over the years (STEVE- YOU ARE FAR TOO GOOD FOR MIRANDA!!!), but they’ll always have a fond place in my heart. We grew up together, found love together, drank cocktails together. Sometimes, it’s nice to pay a visit to your old friends, even after you’ve gone your separate ways. Because when something is really, really funny, you’ll always find time to laugh. Cheers!

Bringing Up Baby

Image credit: Bringing Up Baby, 1938

So a leopard, a dog, and a paleontologist walk into a bar… Not really, but this week’s film Bringing Up Baby (Disc/Download) definitely feels like one long, preposterous joke you tell after a few strong drinks.  From Cary Grant in a frilly bathrobe, to Katharine Hepburn hanging off the edge of a Brontosaurus skeleton, the hits just keep on coming.

Directed by Howard Hawks, this fast-talking screwball comedy shows what happens when a buttoned-up paleontologist (Grant) meets his match in a flighty, chaotic socialite (Hepburn). She steals his golf ball and his car, he laments the cruel twist of fate that sent this #hotmessexpress careening into his ordered life, and before you know it, they’re ripping each other’s clothes off. Things get really crazy when a “tame” leopard gets delivered to Hepburn’s mansion, the family dog buries a priceless dinosaur bone, and the circus comes to town. I love any movie with a fast-paced plot and rapid dialogue, and it doesn’t get faster (or zanier) than this. Having been a longtime fan of the Grant/Hepburn pairing in The Philadelphia Story, it’s fun to see them in the meet-cute stage of a relationship, as opposed to bickering divorcees. Almost as though Bringing Up Baby is the prequel to their later film, back when this onscreen couple was just figuring out how to be “yar”.

Fans of The Thin Man will probably recognize doggie star “Skippy”, who achieved even greater fame as Nick and Nora Charles’s pooch Asta. Here he plays George, a pampered scoundrel who likes to steal bones and hide them all over his owner’s sprawling estate. One such bone is the missing piece to Cary Grant’s prized Brontosaurus skeleton, so while you’re watching Bringing Up Baby, I recommend joining the fun with this Skeleton Key cocktail.

Skeleton Key

1 ½ oz Bourbon

¾ oz Elderflower Liqueur

½ oz Lemon Juice

4 oz Ginger Beer

8 dashes Angostura Bitters

Combine bourbon, elderflower liqueur, and lemon juice with ice in a Collins glass. Stir to combine and chill, then top with more ice, and ginger beer. Stir, and top with eight dashes of Angostura Bitters.

Fizzy and sweet, the drink also has a bit of a bite to it, mirroring the sharp tongues of our hero and heroine. For witty banter, hilarious physical comedy, and chemistry that’s off the charts, give these screwballs a watch. Cheers!

All That Jazz

Image credit: All That Jazz, 1979

I don’t know what it is about my personality that makes me compatible with people who love musical theater, but somehow, the universe keeps throwing them my way. I’m left smiling awkwardly when my new friends gush about Hamilton, or the latest Funny Girl revival, pretending the very notion of a live song-and-dance routine doesn’t make me shudder internally. However, there’s one thing that helps me cross the entertainment chasm, and that’s movies about live theater. Now those, I love!! From The Goodbye Girl to Waiting for Guffman to Center Stage, to this week’s Cinema Sips pick All That Jazz (Disc), I can’t get enough backstage drama and tights. Finally, common ground with the Playbill crowd!

I love a good “puttin’ on a show” plot as much as the next person, but All That Jazz takes the trope to a new and exciting level. In this gritty, sexy, Dexedrine-fueled world of stage and screen, director/choreographer Joe Gideon (Roy Scheider) struggles to balance his turbulent love life, a new Broadway show, and feature film editing without dropping dead of a heart attack. The fact that he’s seen talking to the Angel of Death (played by a luminous Jessica Lange) in various dream sequences tells us he’s already on his way. This semi-autobiographical film from director/choreographer Bob Fosse asks us to consider how much can be piled on a person’s plate before they collapse under the weight of responsibility. This movie gets me thinking a lot about the inevitability of death, and how we humans have to balance making the most of our time here while ensuring we have that time in the first place. Joe slogs along, shooting that Visine in his eyes, taking that morning shower, popping that pill, announcing “It’s showtime, folks!” because to do the alternative is unthinkable. His body will give up before his mind or his will, and rest comes only to the dead.

Leave it to Joe Gideon to imagine that Death comes in the form of a beautiful woman in a nightclub. I’m still not sure about the frothy white getup she’s wearing (I might have opted for something more “Halston”), but I’m willing to go along with the surrealist costume because it inspires this week’s cocktail. While watching All That Jazz, I recommend drinking a classic White Lady.

White Lady

2 oz Plymouth gin

½ oz Cointreau

¾ oz lemon juice

¼ oz simple syrup

1 egg white

Combine all ingredients in a shaker without ice. Dry shake for about thirty seconds, add ice, then shake again for an additional thirty seconds. Strain into a chilled coupe glass, and garnish with a lemon twist.

In case I haven’t fully sold this movie yet, All That Jazz’s fictional play NY/LA has one of the sexiest dance sequences ever committed to film. A big part of that is the lighting and cinematography, and frankly, I just don’t see it working from the cheap seats in the back. The camera enables us to be up close and personal with these bodies, both strong and fragile at the same time, putting it all into perspective. There’s no business like show business to make you realize that every day you’re still alive, putting on that performance, is a miracle. Cheers!

Garden State

Image credit: Garden State, 2004

A movie soundtrack is a very powerful tool. It can turn the mundane into profound, the simple into lyrical. Such is true for Garden State (Disc/Download), a film I championed and saw multiple times in the theater the summer of 2004, but with hindsight, can finally acknowledge it for what it actually is—a phenomenal collection of songs layered over a totally average collection of scenes.

First, I blame my youth. On the cusp of my senior year of college, with no idea what I wanted to do afterward, this coming-of-age story about a fully grown adult who still didn’t know what he wanted from life really spoke to me. As in The Graduate, we see Andrew Largeman (Zach Braff) return to the hometown he’d left years ago, and even though it’s not right, it’s easy. When he sinks into the couch of a long-forgotten high school acquaintance, high on ecstasy, moody Zero 7 song playing in the background, and just lets the world spin around him for one night, you feel it in your soul. However, he then makes the mistake of falling for Natalie Portman’s truly annoying “quirky ingenue”, and that’s where I lose all respect. Large, you’re not in love with the girl with the epilepsy helmet and dead hamster. I promise, this is the depression talking.

There are two things every coming-of-age story must have, and that is a flirty swimming pool scene, and a cool or unusual vehicle. In Large’s case, it’s his grandfather’s old motorcycle with a sidecar. Let’s celebrate it with a variation on the traditional brandy-based cocktail, a Rum Sidecar.

Rum Sidecar

2 oz Kraken Dark Spiced Rum

1 oz Cointreau

1 oz Lemon Juice

Orange Peel Garnish

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

I may not love this movie in the way I once did, but I can confidently say the soundtrack still holds up. I remember being in New York City the week it came out, standing in line at the Times Square Tower Records, staying up all night in my parents’ hotel suite listening to it on a plastic Discman. Instead of exploring the infinite abyss of Garden State, I’d much rather reach for “Such Great Heights”. Cheers!

Inside Llewyn Davis

Image credit: Inside Llewyn Davis, 2013

I’ve never been much of a “cat person”, but Inside Llewyn Davis (Disc/Download) has definitely made me a “folk singer with a cat” person. If you look at my record collection, you’ll see a lot of 1960s folk/singer/songwriter albums, but leave it to the Coen Brothers to make me fall in love with my favorite music genre all over again. I guess that’s the thing about folk music, as they say. It was never new, and it never gets old.

When we talk about unsympathetic characters in movies and fiction, we may as well have a poster of Llewyn Davis hanging up as an example. This incredibly talented, perpetually broke singer bums couches and meals from his gullible friends, impregnates a married woman (though, to be fair, it does take two to tango, Jean), and insults his fellow Gaslight performers with no regard to the frequently sensitive nature of artists.  In short, he’s an ass. And yet, his talent makes him someone you still want to root for. Surely, if the whole world could just hear him sing “Fare Thee Well”, he’d finally get the recognition he deserves, get his life together, and become a more thoughtful person. But since the movie itself is like a folk song, we see him make the same mistakes over and over, caught in a loop of reacting (badly) to crisis after crisis.

Perhaps Llewyn’s biggest mistake made is letting a pet cat escape from the apartment where he’s been crashing. He’s then forced to carry it around New York City, in the dead of winter, and we all know how cats just love to be toted like a handbag. While watching Inside Llewyn Davis, toast his feline friend with this Tomcat cocktail. Working with an animal may have been misery for the filmmakers, but it was magic for us.

Tomcat

2 oz Old Tom Gin

1 oz Sweet Vermouth

2 dashes Orange Bitters

Luxardo Maraschino cherry

Orange Twist

Combine gin, vermouth, and bitters in a shaker with ice. Stir to combine and chill, then strain into a glass with a large ice cube. Garnish with a cherry and orange twist.

Oscar Isaac carries this movie so well, but let’s not forget about the stellar supporting cast. Adam Driver makes a fun appearance as one third of a trio singing a gimmicky song about astronauts, and even Justin Timberlake does a great rendition of “Five Hundred Miles” with Carey Mulligan. As ever, the Coen Brothers have created a world that’s very specific, and at the same time universal– much like the music they so lovingly celebrate. Cheers!

Valley Girl

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Image credit: Valley Girl, 1983

This week, let’s stop the world and watch a totally rad slice of SoCal life, Valley Girl (Disc/Download). If you ever wondered whether Nicolas Cage was a teen heartthrob, I am here to tell you, YES he was, and NO, his onscreen chest hair was not normal. But we love him anyway.

I thought I’d heard all the high school slang worth hearing after repeat viewings of Clueless, until I watched its 1980s precursor. As the “Juliet” of this Romeo & Juliet-inspired love story between Valley Girl and a Hollywood Punk, Julie loves to use choice phrases like “Gag me with a spoon” and “Like, fer-SHUR” during trips to the mall, the beach, and meals at the local diner. When she meets her bad-boy “Romeo”, Randy (Cage) at a party, he’s everything she shouldn’t want—he doesn’t wear pastels, he’s not likely to be voted Prom King any time soon, and his hair has a lot of product. But god, can he kiss. Seriously, young Nicolas Cage knew how to do a Hollywood Kiss, and forty years later, it still affects me.

But back to the slang. The language is what makes this film so endearingly funny, and I can’t help but think of how I’d use these words in my own life. These days, I’m in desperate need of a chill pill, but alcohol will have to do. You might think using a whole egg in a cocktail is grody, but I say that’s bogus. I use egg whites frequently, so like, why not a yolk? While watching Valley Girl, I recommend drinking this My Parents Are Gonna Flip! cocktail.

My Parents Are Gonna Flip!

2 oz Silver Rum

1 oz Pineapple Juice

1 oz Coconut Milk

1 oz Lime Juice

½ oz Simple Syrup

1 chopped strawberry

1 Whole Egg (yolk + white; no shell)

Strawberry Garnish

Muddle chopped strawberry in the bottom of a metal shaker with lime juice and simple syrup. Add ice, rum, pineapple juice, coconut cream, and egg. Shake vigorously for at least one minute to emulsify. Strain contents out into a separate glass and dump out the ice in the shaker. Put the liquid contents back into the shaker and shake hard again for 2 minutes to make it extra frothy. Strain into a glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with a strawberry.

Another standout element to this movie (beyond Nic Cage’s make-out skills) is the soundtrack. With hits from The Psychedelic Furs, Men at Work, The Plimsouls, and Modern English, the track list will transport you to a time when popped collars were all the rage, and peanut butter sushi was served as an hors d’oeuvre. One more time, for emphasis—Gag me with a spoon!!!

Leave Her to Heaven

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Image credit: Leave Her to Heaven, 1945

All aboard the crazy train as we attempt to go inside the twisted mind of Ellen in this week’s film Leave Her to Heaven (Disc). Played by the impossibly beautiful Gene Tierney, this femme fatale will stop at nothing to claim the undivided attention of her man. Obviously, nobody ever taught this gal how to share her toys.

When novelist Richard Harland (Cornel Wilde) first encounters Ellen on a train to New Mexico, he assumes she’s merely an attractive bookworm. The fact that she’s holding one of his books is a nice stroke of the ego, but here’s his first mistake—underestimating Ellen for even a second. Indeed, every interaction from here on feels plotted; part of a grander scheme to fully possess this man. She takes out everyone who gets in her way, from a disabled polio survivor, to her unborn baby, and even <spoiler alert> HERSELF!!!! That’s right, Ellen finds a way to make sure this man thinks only of her, even from beyond the grave. It’s a stunning psychological thriller, made haunting by the cool, calculating eyes of Tierney. Even the movie’s end credits can’t stop her effect on the audience.

Although the acting and script are huge draws, I also enjoy the Leave Her to Heaven’s settings. From the rocky desert of Sedona to the crisp, clean wilderness of Maine, this movie is a celluloid vacation. But rather than getting in the lake with Ellen, I think I’d rather stay on shore sipping a classic Remember the Maine cocktail.

Remember the Maine

2 oz Rye

¾ oz Sweet Vermouth

½ tsp Absinthe

2 tsp Cherry Heering liqueur

Luxardo Maraschino cherry

Combine rye, sweet vermouth, absinthe, and cherry liqueur in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a cherry.

Having read the book this is based on, I can confirm the film adaptation does a great job of capturing Ellen’s mysterious, devilish allure. In a weird way, you start to understand where she’s coming from. Like her, I wouldn’t want my husband’s relatives to interrupt my romantic vacation, nor would I be thrilled to find myself with child. I don’t think satin pumps and a trip down the staircase would be my solution to that problem, but the way things are going with our reproductive rights, who knows? And that’s what makes Ellen so scary—she could be any woman, who gets pushed just a little too far. Cheers!

Fun in Acapulco

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Image credit: Fun in Acapulco, 1963

Cinema Sips is traveling this week, to 1960s Acapulco! If the question ever arises of where and when I would go if I had a time machine, at the top of the list would be this glittering resort town in the era of movie stars, margaritas, and luxury hotels. And no film makes it look as glamorous as the Elvis Presley classic Fun in Acapulco (Disc/Download).

As with most Elvis movies, we’re given a fairly thin plot and almost zero character development. However, there are beaches! And Edith Head dresses! And a charming song “Margarita” that I would love to play on a vinyl record during my next cocktail hour. But back to the clothes. Ursula Andress’s costumes are a technicolor feast for the eyes, and I wish I could find even one or two of these ensembles in current retail shops. Elvis does a decent job of playing a PTSD-suffering former circus performer, whose only solution to overcoming his fear of heights is to dive from the famous Acapulco cliffs. He also gets a gig singing in a hotel nightclub, along with a daytime job as their lifeguard. I’m not even complaining about this paper-thin excuse to show Bond Girl Andress in a bikini again because I enjoy nothing more than a good swimming pool scene, and this movie is full of them.

Something else this movie is full of is margaritas! Frankly, I don’t think the prop guy had ever seen a margarita before making this because the ones in the movie look like salt-rimmed coupes of water. Loyal readers of Cinema Sips (or literally, anyone who’s ever been to a Mexican restaurant) know better. So this week, let’s make a cocktail worthy of The King- the Cadillac Margarita.

Cadillac Margarita

1 ½ oz Anejo Tequila

¾ oz Fresh Lime Juice

¾ oz Agave Nectar

½ oz Grand Marnier

Lime Twist

Combine tequila, lime juice, and agave nectar in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a glass filled with fresh ice. Slowly float the Grand Marnier over the top. Garnish with a lime twist.

I find that this movie only improves with repeat viewings, especially once you stop trying to make sense of the plot and just enjoy the pretty scenery and hilarious songs. “No Room to Rhumba in a Sports Car” is a personal favorite, as Elvis laments the difficulties of getting it on with a female matador in her tiny vehicle. Viva el amor, indeed. Cheers!

Cast Away

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Image credit: Cast Away, 2000

Isolation, survival—these are words we’ve heard a lot over the past several years. They’re words that echo in my head as the summer blues set in, and I start to forget what it’s like to walk outdoors in the middle of the day, meet a friend for a drink, or even talk to anyone outside of my immediate household. My dog may as well be named Wilson. Thus it seems appropriate to revisit the Tom Hanks classic Cast Away (Disc/Download), the movie that always reminds me that no matter how lonely or frustrated I may feel about spending June-September trapped indoors, things could be worse.

When FedEx employee Chuck Noland washes up on a remote beach in the South Pacific after a harrowing plane crash, he’s still sporting a fuzzy Fair Isle Christmas sweater and a little holiday weight. He must use whatever was in his pockets to stay alive until he’s rescued, which it turns out consists of nothing more than an antique watch, a flashlight, and one sock. Eventually some FedEx packages from the crash wash up, giving him a few more marginally useful items (VHS tapes—who knew???), as well as volleyball BFF, Wilson. The audience thinks this will be just a short stay on the isle of loneliness, until the film jumps four years into the future and Hanks is… still there. He’s slim, he’s blonde, he’s learned to catch fish and make fire, and he’s made a little cave home. He’s adapted, as we all did in the spring of 2020. The struggle is still there, but now it’s a constant buzzing in the background, instead of an intermittent roar.

Speaking of struggle, this guy has it rough. Making fire is a battle waged with calloused, bleeding hands, and don’t even get me started on the coconuts. Piña Coladas will never look the same to me. Let’s toast this castaway’s ingenuity and perseverance with a tasty Tiki cocktail, the Suffering Bastard.

Suffering Bastard

1 oz Brandy

1 oz Gin

½ oz Lime Juice

¼ oz Simple Syrup

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

4 oz Ginger Beer

Fill a glass with ice and set aside. Add more ice to a shaker, along with Brandy, Gin, lime juice, simple syrup and bitters. Shake until chilled and combined, then strain into prepared glass. Top with ginger beer and stir gently.

To look at still frames of this movie, one would think Noland has landed in paradise. But what that picture doesn’t show is the yearning he feels for his loved ones, the sadness from feeling forgotten and stuck, and the desperation that would drive a man to head into the vast ocean with nothing more than a few logs and half a Porta Potty. And of course, Wilson. Because like the Bette Midler song says, you gotta have friends. Cheers!

Magnificent Obsession

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Image credit: Magnificent Obsession, 1954

I’m always up for a good Rock Hudson catfishing scheme, and after watching him ensnare Doris Day in Pillow Talk and Lover Come Back, I’m ready for him to hook Jane Wyman in Magnificent Obsession (Disc). So long Rex Stetson and Linus Tyler—meet Robbie Robinson.

In Douglas Sirk’s classic melodrama, Hudson plays Bob Merrick, a supreme jerk who enjoys fast boats and fast women. That is, until his actions contribute to the death of Helen Phillips’s husband, and eventually, to the loss of her sight. Realizing he has to make a change, he seizes his chance when the newly blind, widowed Helen encounters him on the shores of her lakeside retreat. They begin a relationship, which becomes a… wait for it… magnificent obsession as Merrick does everything in his power (including going to medical school and becoming a world-renowned brain surgeon???) to transform himself into a man worthy of her. The only catch? She doesn’t immediately realize the person she’s falling in love with (Robbie) is the same guy (Bob) who brought so much tragedy to her life.

If this sounds like a soap opera, that’s because it is. And because it’s made by Douglas Sirk, you can expect glamorous gowns, gorgeous homes, beautiful scenery, and schmaltzy music. Crafting a drink that’s fitting for the elegant Helen is no small feat, but this lovely sipper seems like something she’d enjoy either sitting beside Lake Tahoe, or on the balcony of a Swiss chalet. While watching Magnificent Obsession, I recommend drinking this Saint Helen cocktail.

Saint Helen

1 ¼ oz Gold Rum

½ oz Velvet Falernum

¾ oz Lime Juice

½ oz Lillet Rosé

Champagne, to top

Lime twist

Put all the ingredients except champagne in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Top with champagne, and garnish with a lime twist.

Although I wouldn’t have immediately thought to pair Jane Wyman with Rock Hudson, somehow, their chemistry just works. I love them together in All That Heaven Allows, and I love them in this movie. Catfishing aside, it isn’t the worst thing in the world to become obsessed with doing good deeds for others- just maybe don’t wait until you’ve killed someone to start. Cheers!