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Tag Archives: movie cocktails

To Die For

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To Die For

Image credit: To Die For, 1995.

This story is the type of salacious true-crime stuff I live for. Local weather girl hires her sixteen-year-old lover to kill her husband so she can pursue a career in television? It’s a dark, twisted soap opera, and I am HERE FOR IT. To Die For (Disc/Download) is a great example of a ‘90s indie film with a pedigreed cast, many of whom would go on to win multiple Oscars and accolades in the coming decades. But let’s be clear—it’s still a soap opera.

To Die For came back on my radar after the recent death of screenwriter Buck Henry. He wrote one of my all-time favorite scripts, The Graduate, but this later film is equally brilliant. It was a mockumentary before every TV sitcom adopted the format, and through these faux interviews we see a Hard Copy-style tale of a power-hungry woman who would stop at nothing to achieve her dreams. Is it weird that I feel a strong kinship with Nicole Kidman’s Suzanne Stone? I too am a fan of the alliterated name, and I’ve chosen a career that’s next to impossible to break into. I haven’t gone to the lengths of prostituting myself, but anyone who’s ever done a Twitter Pitch event for writers knows it’s not all that different. You feel pretty cheap and debased by the end. I wouldn’t murder for my art, but I would rock a Donna Karan knock-off suit and French twist at my next writer’s conference.

The thing that really sells me on this movie is the torrid affair Nicole Kidman has with the much younger Joaquin Phoenix. And we’re talking yooooooung Joaquin, with a mullet and sad little stutter. It’s an icky relationship for sure, but I can’t help but feel for this horny kid who just wants attention from a beautiful woman. And Nicole is stuck in a lame marriage to Matt Dillon—need I say more? While watching To Die For, I recommend drinking this Forbidden Fruit cocktail:

Forbidden Fruit

1 ½ oz Frankly® Apple/Ginger vodka

½ oz Hofland Meesterbitter liqueur

½ oz Lemon Juice

4 oz Ginger Beer

Apple garnish

Combine vodka, liqueur, and lemon juice in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into an ice-filled glass. Top with ginger beer, and stir gently to combine. Garnish with an apple slice.

Forbidden Fruit

Finally, I’d like to give props to adorable Pomeranian Walter (after Walter Cronkite), who is the unsung hero of To Die For. I genuinely feel his distaste for his mom’s actions, but also his narcissistic need to look cute in his little outfits. Out of anyone in this film, Walter is the only character deserving of a happy ending. Cheers!

Kate & Leopold

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Kate and Leopold

Image credit: Kate & Leopold, 2001

I’ve discussed how great hair can turn a movie into a hit (see Sliding Doors) but now it’s time to talk about when bad hair does the opposite. There is no obvious reason why Kate & Leopold (Disc/Download) shouldn’t be a major success. It’s got all the elements of a rom-com classic: charming Hugh Jackman, interesting time travel premise, sparkling script, Breakfast at Tiffany’s nod, and even the quintessential dinner-on-a-NYC-rooftop scene (with twinkle lights and a violin for god’s sake!). If I had to sum up its one failure, it would be this: Meg Ryan’s hair.

Rom-Com audiences know Meg as the adorable sweetheart Tom Hanks just can’t get enough of. She’s got curly, wavy, soft hair in all of her films. Until… Kate. Kate has flat-ironed hair styled at a gravity-defying angle, like a mop or one of those dogs that looks like a mop. There is no excuse for this hair. I maintain that if she’d had soft waves, this movie about a nineteenth-century duke who time travels to modern-day New York and falls for a brash ad exec, would have been a massive hit. Hugh Jackman is absolutely irresistible as the duke, and even Breckin Meyer turns in a fun performance as Kate’s brother. But when Meg walks in with that coif and an unflattering leather button-up vest, I just cringe. You can’t have chemistry with that situation.

One of my favorite scenes is when Leopold makes Kate breakfast in the morning, bringing her perfectly prepared toast (because he fixed the broken toaster himself!!!) covered in mascarpone and strawberries. And he does the dishes.

Swoon. Major Swoon.

While watching Kate & Leopold, toast this ultimate romance hero with a Strawberry Gimlet.

Strawberry Gimlet

2 oz Strawberry Vodka (I use Frankly®)

½ oz simple syrup

½ oz lime juice

Lime Twist/Fresh Strawberry for garnish

Combine vodka, simple syrup, and lime juice over ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with lime and strawberry.

Strawberry Gimlet

If you can get past the hair, this is an utterly charming romance. Hugh Jackman could have played this campy, but instead his duke is funny, intelligent, and principled. I guess sometimes you have to go back in time to find a hero deserving of a modern woman. Cheers!

Sliding Doors

Sliding Doors

Image credit: Sliding Doors, 1998

On the cusp of a new year and a new decade, it’s natural to think about the choices we’ve made over the last twelve months. Did we pick the right mate or perhaps dodge a bullet? Are we where we expected to be in our careers, or could we have done something a little bit different to change the trajectory? In the film Sliding Doors (Disc/Download), Gwyneth Paltrow gets to experience both sides of life’s coin to see what a difference one tiny twist of fate can make.

When we meet Anna, she’s a successful PR exec with a boyfriend and very few cares in the world. But when she gets fired for “borrowing” vodka from the company stash, she retreats to the London Underground to catch a train home.  Here’s where the film splits- in one narrative she catches the train, and in the other she doesn’t. If she catches it, she arrives home in time to find her boyfriend cheating on her, setting off a domino effect of smart, brave career choices, a new Scottish love interest, and a fetching short haircut. If she doesn’t, she’s stuck with the philandering boyfriend, multiple crappy waitress jobs, and a long brunette ‘do that does absolutely nothing for her skin tone. But just when it seems like life is just a game of random luck and misfortune, the filmmakers throw us a curve ball and Anna finds herself in exactly the same situation in both narratives. You can miss the train, but you can’t escape fate.

I applaud Sliding Doors for giving us a lot of great alcohol moments. Getting fired will drive anybody to drink, bad boyfriend or not. But my favorite scene is when Gwyneth plays detective with a brandy glass she finds in the laundry basket. Let’s ring in the new year with a festive brandy cocktail, perfect for celebrations and sorrow-drowning alike. While watching Sliding Doors, I recommend drinking a classic Between the Sheets.

Between the Sheets

1 oz Brandy

1 oz Light Rum

1 oz Cointreau

1/2 oz Lemon Juice

Lemon Twist

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

Between the Sheets

No matter what your opinion is on Ms. Goop, you have to admit that she gives us one of the greatest hair moments since Audrey chopped her locks off in Roman Holiday. When her stylist spins the chair around and we see blonde, bright-eyed Gwyneth with the short cut, you instantly know this girl is going to pick herself up from whatever dragged her down. I’ve had two haircuts like this in my life (one just six months ago), and I’m sure I’ll have more in the future. But for right now, on the eve of 2020, my hair is short, and my gaze is hopeful. Cheers!

Christmas Perfection

Christmas Perfection

Image credit: Christmas Perfection, 2018.

“Okay campers, rise and shine, and don’t forget your booties ’cause it’s COOOOLD out there today…” Wait, wrong movie. I got confused because Christmas Perfection (Download) is basically a Christmas-themed version of Groundhog Day. If it weren’t for all the charming accents, I’d start to wonder if this actually takes place in Punxsutawney instead of Ireland.

Christmas Perfection is a delightful surprise within a crowded holiday landscape of milquetoast heroes and low-stakes plots. Our hero Brandon has a scrawny, Ben Whishaw appeal, and it’s easy to picture him standing beside you in a real-life grocery store, looking for the herb goat cheese. Our heroine Darcy is the classic STRESSED AT THE HOLIDAYS-type; a perfectionist who can’t handle it when her holiday doesn’t align with the picture she had in her head. Through the powers of a magical miniature holiday village, she’s transported to a small town in Ireland, where every day is Christmas, and it’s the perfect Christmas she always dreamed of. Except, even perfection gets old after a while. A girl can only take so many gingerbread cookies, cute red-headed children, and Lego-haired Stepford boyfriends; eventually she needs something different. Enter Brandon, her lifelong friend who also transports to the Irish village and helps her see that perfection isn’t everything. I was skeptical about this hero at first, but the actors’ chemistry is off the charts, particularly in one steamy foot-rub/yule log scene. Things get worse before they get better, and there’s even a Groundhog Day-esque moment with the smashed alarm clock (alas, no Sonny & Cher), but eventually Darcy realizes the most perfect Christmas is an imperfect one.

If you’ve got a bottle of Bailey’s sitting around, here is your chance to use it. The thing I’ve noticed with these TV Christmas movies is that there’s usually romance, but never any sex. If you want an Orgasm, you’ll have to make it happen yourself with this cocktail.

Orgasm

1 ½ oz Bailey’s Irish Cream liqueur

1 ½ oz Amaretto

1 ½ oz Coffee Liqueur

Aztec Chocolate bitters

Combine Bailey’s, Amaretto, and Coffee Liqueur in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a glass with ice. Top with Aztec bitters.

Orgasm

I’ll admit, I saw a lot of myself in this heroine. I too like to play with miniatures, and go to painstaking efforts to decorate my dollhouse exactly the same way every year. I enjoy creating a world where everything is perfect, where not even a tiny Christmas card is out of place. Meanwhile, my real house is full of chaos and warmth; of memories and mistakes. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Cheers!

The Spirit of Christmas

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The Spirit of Christmas

Image credit: The Spirit of Christmas, 2015.

Sing it with me: It’s the most…Wonderful time…Of the year. That’s right, I’m talking about CHRISTMAS MOVIE SEASON!!!!  I’ve featured a lot of great holiday classics over the years, but now it’s time to move to the small screen.  We are living in the age of the made-for-TV Christmas Movie, and Hollywood just can’t compete anymore (see: Last Christmas).  Thanks to Hallmark, Lifetime, and Netflix, we’ll never have to experience this holiday without bland men in chunky sweaters, klutzy heroines, and cookie baking contests ever again.  There’s literally a movie for every day of December.  It was tough going, picking out just 4 or 5 for Cinema Sips, but I suffered through a lot of research to bring you the best of the best (really, it was my husband who suffered.  I loved it). Kicking things off is my personal favorite, The Spirit of Christmas (Disc/Download).

Remember what I said about bland men in chunky sweaters?  Yeah, not this movie.  The Spirit of Christmas features a sexxxxxxxxy bootlegger ghost haunting an inn for twelve days every December, mixing up cocktails, trimming his beard, and trying to figure out who killed him nearly a hundred years ago.  Enter Kate, the big city estate attorney tasked with getting the inn appraised for sale, who comes face-to-ghost-face with hot bearded Daniel, forcing him to open both his heart and his liquor cabinet for her.   This movie truly has it all:  romance, cocktails, actual snow, a little murder mystery, and cheesy supernatural effects.  It’s like they decided to throw all the genres together and see what happens.  The plot is ludicrous, but I’ll have you know that Daniel wears GLASSES, a vest, suspenders, a shawl cardigan, and in one glorious scene, an unbuttoned shirt.  And did I mention the beard?

Before his fatal death blow, Daniel made a living as a talented rum-runner in the days of Prohibition.  So let’s celebrate The Spirit of Christmas with this Rum Runner cocktail!

Rum Runner

1 oz Light Rum

1 oz Dark Spiced Rum

1 oz Banana Liqueur

1 oz Chambord

1 oz Orange Juice

1 oz Pineapple Juice

Splash of Grenadine

Fresh fruit for garnish

Combine all liquid ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a hurricane glass filled with crushed ice.  Garnish with fruit and drink umbrella.

It may seem a little strange to be drinking a tropical tiki drink while watching a Christmas movie, but honestly, it’s not as strange as the movie itself.  Case in point, Kate’s “gift” to Daniel is an old birth certificate proving that it was his baby who died shortly after birth, and not his girlfriend’s supposed lover’s. In other words, “Merry Christmas, it was YOUR dead baby.”  All I can say is strap in—it’s gonna be one wild December on Cinema Sips.  Cheers!

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

Image credit: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, 1967.

This week marks yet another Thanksgiving for Cinema Sips, and although in the past we’ve covered cinema feasts such as those in The Godfather and Giant, I really don’t feel like cooking this year. Luckily, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (Disc/Download) features no actual dinner; only cocktails.  In other words, my kind of party!

Made in 1967 during the height of the civil rights movement, this final Katharine Hepburn/Spencer Tracy film collaboration features Sidney Poitier as the fiancé of a white, upper-class daughter of two liberals who have difficulty practicing what they preach.  Sure, they proudly proclaim that African Americans should have equal rights, but when their daughter gets off a plane from Hawaii with a handsome black doctor, those beliefs become complicated.  Directed by Stanley Kramer, this richly drawn film presents all sides to the debate of love vs. societal prejudice.  The daughter (played by Hepburn’s niece Katharine Houghton) comes across as naïve, but with a pure heart untouched by prejudice and hate.  And isn’t that what we all wish for?  That kids would never have to hear ugly racist words, and never be faced with a “pigmentation problem” as Tracy puts it. This girl has found the perfect man, one who’s handsome, smart, and respectful, and looks ever-so-charming with a daisy behind his ear.  I’d say that’s worth fighting a few bigots for.

As this dinner party at a San Francisco mansion grows to include the bride’s parents, the groom’s parents, the central couple, and a priest, the bar cart gets some heavy use. Meanwhile, the sassy maid is hiding in the kitchen with her cauldron of turtle soup, wondering why these crazy people won’t sit down and eat something.  Let’s take our lead from the moms in this movie, those sensible moms with a preference for sherry and young love.  While watching Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, I recommend drinking a Sherry Cobbler.

Sherry Cobbler

3 ½ oz Sherry

½ oz simple syrup

2 orange slices

2 lemon slices

Cranberries for garnish

Combine simple syrup and one slice each of orange and lemon in the bottom of a shaker.  Muddle oranges, then add sherry and ice.  Shake well, until chilled.  Strain into a Collins glass filled with crushed ice, then garnish with a fresh orange slice, lemon slice and fresh cranberries.

Sherry Cobbler

As I write this post, many dinner tables across America are still deeply divided.  There is a chasm between young and old, liberal and conservative, much as there was over fifty years ago in this movie.  Equal rights are still a dream we’re fighting for, but as this movie shows us, it’s worth fighting for.  It’s worth it to stand up to your elders and say love is all that matters; hate has no place at the table.  Cheers!

The World of Henry Orient

The World of Henry Orient

Image credit: The World of Henry Orient, 1964.

YA literature of the 1950’s and ‘60’s knew what girls wanted. I think of it as the three F’s:  Friendship, Freedom, and Fun. Some of my favorite authors of the time period, including Jane Trahey (The Trouble With Angels), Mary Rogers (Freaky Friday), and Beverly Cleary (Ramona books) covered the three F’s so well that their books and movie adaptations will always be timeless.  Such is the case with this week’s film, based on the novel by Nora Johnson, The World of Henry Orient (Disc/Download).

In many ways, this movie displays a fairy-tale version of Manhattan.  Two teenage girls roam freely through Central Park, leaping over sidewalk trash cans, having grand and glorious adventures under the shadow of skyscrapers and brownstones without fear of being raped, murdered, or mugged. Marian and Viv are like charming characters from a Wes Anderson film (down to the fur coat worn by disaffected Viv); more concerned with meeting heartthrob pianist Henry Orient (played by Peter Sellers) than they are with their parents’ divorces.  In fact, it’s only when Viv’s adulterous mother (played by a sexxxxxxy Angela Lansbury) has an affair with Orient that the adult world starts to seep into their halcyon afternoons.  They’re suddenly forced to grow up, to realize that the people who are supposed to protect them aren’t doing such a good job of it.  Maybe all a girl can really count on is her BFF. And, a cuddly Tom Bosley.

The Peter Sellers character Henry Orient is a strange bird.  He spends most of his time having affairs and playing piano very, very badly. His name gives rise to some Asian-influenced style choices by the girls, including one scene with conical hats, and his apartment is very red and very lacquered.  He also sounds like he hails from either Italy or New Jersey, depending on the scene and the sentence.  Truly, a man of mystery.  While watching The World of Henry Orient, I suggest drinking this Red Lotus cocktail

Red Lotus

1.5 oz Vodka

1.5 oz Hana Lychee Sake

1.5 oz Cranberry juice

1.5 oz Lime Juice

.5 oz Grenadine

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

Red Lotus

There’s something about these vintage teen girl stories which resonates even stronger with me than the YA literature we know today. In discovering The World of Henry Orient as an adult, I’ve found a tale that feels like a cool wind whipping through the leaves of Central Park. It allows me to imagine an innocent place where precocious girls giggle, whisper, and “adventure” long after the sun has set, experiencing the heady rush of true freedom. Cheers!