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Tag Archives: movie cocktails

Inception

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Image credit: Inception, 2010

Let’s not pretend any of us truly understand this week’s pick, Inception (Disc/Download). Sure, we may have a vague idea of the general plot, but director Christopher Nolan, ultimate master of cinema magic tricks, has crafted a film so full of misdirection and ambiguity that it’s impossible to know what’s real and what’s an illusion. So let’s just pour a drink and follow along as best we can.

As far as I can tell, this film is about dreams and the people who infiltrate them. The goal is to plant an idea that will then take root and manifest as change in the real world, without the sleeping victim being any the wiser. Leonardo DiCaprio plays a dream manipulator who is hired by a rich tycoon to go inside his rival’s mind and lead him toward dissolving his business. Aided by a team of Nolan regulars (including Tom Hardy in a role where he actually has a chance to show off that pretty face!!!), Leo inserts himself into Cillian Murphy’s dream, then deeper to another layer, and deeper again, until he’s able to get to the root of what drives this man’s subconscious. So basically, it’s a dream, within a dream, within a dream, until the end when you realize the whole freakin’ movie might be a dream?! Am I in a dream right now?? Christopher Nolan has effectively made me question the very foundation of human existence.

In thinking about Inception as a cocktail, I realized that infusing alcohol can achieve a similar effect. You start with a base spirit, allow a spice or flavor to soak into it, leaving it forever changed. And with this cocktail, I’ve achieved double inception, going even deeper into that flavor profile. While watching Inception, I recommend drinking a Kick cocktail.

Kick

1 1/2 oz Cardamom/Coffee-infused Vodka*

3/4 oz Kahlua Liqueur

1/4 oz Maple Syrup

3 drops Rosewater

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

*To make Cardamom/Coffee Vodka, put six-seven Cardamom pods in a cup of vodka. Allow to infuse overnight. The next day, remove pods, then pour in two tablespoons of ground coffee. Allow to infuse overnight, then strain out solids through coffee filter.

One line from this movie stands out to me, particularly after a recent watch. DiCaprio says, “An idea is like a virus. Resilient. Highly contagious. The smallest seed of an idea can grow. It can grow to define or destroy you.” As I look around, at a vocal part of our society clutching so tightly to dangerous ideas at the expense of everyone around them and a rapidly evolving virus, this quote feels more timely than ever. What’s more insidious: COVID-19, or the denial of COVID-19? The temptation is understandable; the yearning to “wake up” and proclaim that all of 2020 and 2021 was just a bizarre subconscious state. An inception that forced us to appreciate the small things in life, like sitting in a diner booth, or meeting a friend for coffee, or flying to visit a parent. We’ll open our eyes, and the nightmare will be over, instead of just beginning again. But life isn’t the movies; and reality is different than our dreams. We’re already awake.

The Revolt of Mamie Stover

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Image credit: The Revolt of Mamie Stover, 1956

It took all of ten seconds to get me hooked on The Revolt of Mamie Stover (Disc), a campy 1950s melodrama directed by Roaul Walsh. As we watch Jane Russell step out of a police car to noirish music, the camera zooms in just as she turns to face the screen with a scowl of defiance. Talk about an entrance!!!!

Set in Hawaii on the cusp of the Pearl Harbor attack, this DeLuxe Color soap opera features strong female characters, romance, tiki drinks, and vinyl records. In other words, just a typical Sunday night in my living room. As sex-worker Mamie Stover, Jane Russell is smart, acerbic, and focused on one thing and one thing only—money. Although tempted into the straight life by writer Jim Blair (Richard Egan), Mamie understands sex is her ultimate weapon. If a guy can’t handle that, then aloha, buddy. Don’t let the bamboo door hit you on the way out. Sure, she makes a legit fortune buying up cheap properties in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attack (shot in an incredibly moving, realistic way), but she still can’t relinquish the power that comes with her regular dance hall gig. Mamie is the star attraction, and club owner Agnes Moorehead (!!!) will stop at nothing to prevent her meal ticket from leaving.

If there was ever a movie that begs for a tiki cocktail, it’s this one. I’m taking inspiration from our red-headed star seductress for this drink, which goes up in flames just like Mamie’s love life. While watching The Revolt of Mamie Stover, I recommend drinking a Flaming Mamie.

Flaming Mamie

3 oz Jamaican Rum

1 oz Brandy

1 oz Lime Juice

1 oz Orange Juice

1 oz Cinnamon Syrup

½ oz Velvet Falernum

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

½ Fresh Lime

1 oz 151-proof Demerara Rum

Combine first seven ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Set aside. Fill a scorpion bowl with crushed ice, then strain cocktail into it. Place a hollowed-out 1/2 lime in the center reservoir, fill with 151-proof rum, and light on fire. Serve with two straws.

This spicy cocktail is a lot like Mamie herself- complex, hot-headed, and dangerous if you get too close. As much as I love to think of Mamie in a tropical paradise, cashing those rental checks forever, a part of me is glad she eventually decides to head back to her small, judgmental hometown. It means this revolt isn’t over yet. Cheers!

The Four Seasons

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Image credit: The Four Seasons, 1981

Anyone who knows me know I love vacations. Talking about them, going on them, planning them—I live for escapism. So imagine my delight to discover a 1980s Alan Alda film The Four Seasons (Disc/Download), in which three couples do nothing but take vacations. Sign me up!

In addition to this fantastic premise, the cast is what really sold me. Alan Alda, Carol Burnett, Sandy Dennis, Rita Moreno—a who’s who of interesting, intelligent, funny people. We see these actors bicker and laugh as they travel from rustic New England cabins to St. Thomas yachts, and back to an ivy-covered college campus. But even in the most gorgeous, unbelievable surroundings, the characters feel so down-to-earth and real. There’s a particular scene where Alan Alda and Carol Burnett are lying in bed on the boat, listening to their friend and his new girlfriend make love in the adjacent stateroom, and they just can’t stop giggling. It makes you feel like you’re right there with them, on this ridiculous trip, with these ridiculous people. Their life is your life, for the length of this trip.

Speaking of boats, I think it’s straight-up #goals to see Jack Weston chilled out on the top deck, relaxing with a drink while everyone else argues about naked Bess Armstrong crashing the party (for all you My So-Called Life fans- yes, I’ve now seen Patty Chase’s butt).  While watching The Four Seasons, make believe you’re cruising the Virgin Islands with this Painkiller cocktail.

Painkiller

2 oz Dark Rum

4 oz Pineapple Juice

1 oz Cream of Coconut

1 oz Orange Juice

Nutmeg (for garnish)

Combine liquid ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a glass or tiki mug filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a pinch of nutmeg and a tiny umbrella.

I’ve always loved movies and television shows about the complexities of marriage and adulthood because they’re an opportunity for relatable conflict. Throwing people into the chaos of vacation brings existing tensions to the surface, in a way that’s believable. We’ve all been there, on this trip where not everything goes to plan, and maybe your travel companions are getting on your nerves. But knowing you can go back to your room and just laugh with your favorite person on the planet—that’s what makes it all worth it. Cheers!

A Single Man

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Image credit: A Single Man, 2009

I don’t know what type of movie Tom Ford might have up his tailored sleeve in the future, but consider this my official RSVP. It’s rare to find a filmmaker who can so expertly merge style with substance, but with this fashion designer-turned-director at the helm, I find myself connecting with the the visuals just as much as the drama. He may have shocked and terrified me (in a good way) with Nocturnal Animals, but he truly made me feel with A Single Man (Disc/Download).

Set in my favorite era (the 1960s), this adaptation of Christopher Isherwood’s fantastic novel follows Stanford English professor George Falconer (Colin Firth) over the course of a single day as he grieves his deceased lover Jim (Matthew Goode) and contemplates his own suicide. Through flashbacks, we witness George and Jim’s love story, from meeting in a crowded bar, to buying a beautiful mid-century modern home together, to adopting dogs, and all the way to that horrible call with the news that Jim has been in an automobile accident. Deprived of even the smallest dignity of attending the funeral, George’s life has suddenly lost all meaning, and even a sarcastic, gin-swilling Julianne Moore can’t pull him out of his despair. It takes a brazen student (played by Nicholas Hoult in a fuzzy mohair sweater), a midnight skinny dip in the ocean, and several important revelations to make him realize there may be more in store for him than a lifetime of sadness.

Something I particularly love about this film is its use of color. George’s life looks normal at first, until the first time he feels a strong emotion. Suddenly, it’s as if the celluloid gets dunked in a warm Instagram filter, and the hues burst from the screen. As soon as the memory, or sexual desire, or happiness fades, we go back to the original muted tones, and George’s grief is all the more obvious. I thought about joining Julianne Moore in a few Tanqueray & Tonic’s, but that just doesn’t seem bright enough. Let’s bring this drink into full color with the addition of Blood Orange. While watching A Single Man, I recommend drinking a Sunset Tonic.

Sunset Tonic

2 oz Malfy Con Arancia Gin

1 bottle Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic

Slice of blood orange

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

A Single Man is the kind of movie that stays with you for days after you watch it. Not only does it make you think about the ones you’ve lost, but it makes you contemplate what kind of future you’ll have now that they’re gone. Is it to be one of sadness and longing, or one of moonlight swims and dancing? What would they have wanted for you? It’s a question a lot of us will ask ourselves one day, and maybe Tom Ford just got me a little closer toward the answer. Cheers!

Emma.

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Image credit: Emma. 2020

As any frequent moviegoer will tell you, 2020 was pretty much our worst nightmare. While theaters began to shut their doors last March, we saw our hopes for carefree, popcorn-scented afternoons dashed as quickly as that animated roller coaster flings itself around a cartoon soda in the opening pre-show. Perhaps you spent some time thinking about the last movie you saw before lockdowns, wondering if you made the right call. In my case, I could rest easy knowing I went out on a high note with Emma. (Disc/Download).

Though any Jane Austen scholar will likely critique this film’s deviation from its source material, to me it captures the spirit, whimsy, and fun of the book. Plus, in contrast to Clueless (my other favorite Emma adaptation), we get to enjoy the sumptuous costumes and polite society of the Regency era. I’ll always have a fondness for “Rollin’ With the Homies,” but there’s something about a choreographed quadrille that just makes me grin from ear-to-ear. Autumn de Wilde’s directorial style shows similarities to that of Wes Anderson or Sofia Coppola- heavy on style and symmetry, light on melodrama and manic performances. Anya Taylor-Joy is perfection as our meddlesome title character, and of course I adore Bill Nighy as her lovable, hypochondriac father whose greatest foe is a chill draft. It’s a pastel world of manners and manipulation, and in a year when literally everything seemed beyond our control, it was comforting to think of another character who had to abandon her controlling ways to find happiness. I was not alone in the struggle.

In the dark days of the pandemic, I often thought about the candy-coated costumes and production design of this film. Even down to the tiniest stitch or ribbon of paint, every element was an important piece of the visual tableau. In my beverage choice, I wanted to celebrate Emma’s love of flowers and bold pastel colors. While watching Emma., I recommend drinking this Night Bloom cocktail.

Night Bloom

1 1/2 oz Gin

1/2 oz Creme de Violette

1 Egg White

1/2 oz Lemon Juice

1/2 oz Simple Syrup

2 dashes Orange Bitters

Flower Garnish

Combine Gin, creme de violette, egg white, lemon juice, bitters, and simple syrup in a shaker. Shake vigorously for ten seconds, then add ice. Continue shaking until chilled and frothy, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a flower.

As I write this, I’m about to head back to the movie theater after sixteen months away. The flick: To Catch a Thief. Hollywood still has a long way to go before it lures me back with new material, so until then I’ll be enjoying some old favorites and savoring the memory of watching Emma Woodhouse dance with Mr. Knightley for the very first time (*sigh*). Cheers!

Magic Mike

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Image credit: Magic Mike, 2012

Living in Austin, it’s hard to escape the name Matthew McConaughey. Our local celebrity keeps popping up everywhere from University of Texas classrooms to the New York Times Bestseller list, and now there’s even talk about seeing him on the ballot one day. This former Dazed & Confused burnout has come a long way, but there is one particular stop along his long and winding journey that was truly unforgettable: the role of Dallas in Magic Mike (Disc/Download).

Say what you want about this crazy Texan, but it takes guts to strut around onstage in nothing but a g-string and cowboy hat. This Steven Soderbergh film about a Tampa male revue club could have easily been swallowed up by campy dance numbers and too many penis jokes (See: Magic Mike XXL). Don’t get me wrong, it still has those. But it also shows us the gritty underbelly of this sex and drug-fueled world. The odd thing about Magic Mike is that for a movie about sexual desire, there’s very little about it that’s sexy to me. So what are we left with? Raw performances, surprisingly beautiful cinematography, and the magnetic screen presence of McConaughey. Like a greasier version of Cabaret‘s Joel Grey, the Master of Ceremonies keeps us engaged, even when we think we’ve reached our limit of screaming women and wet one-dollar bills. Sure, there’s a lot to make fun of in this movie (Channing Tatum’s “furniture line” comes to mind), but this flashy scene-stealer is not one of them.

Now, I have a theory that Dallas is the original “Florida Man”, giving rise to a whole subgenre of trashy urban legends. Can’t you just see him pulling a gun on a McDonald’s employee because the McFlurry machine was broken? Let’s channel some of that Florida energy with a cocktail fit for your girlfriend’s bachelorette party at Xquisite, the Strawberry Mojito.

Strawberry Mojito

3 Fresh Strawberries

1 oz Simple Syrup

2-3 sprigs Fresh Mint

1 oz Lime juice

2 oz Light Rum

3-4 oz Club Soda

Muddle strawberries and mint with simple syrup and lime juice. Add Rum and ice to the shaker, and shake until chilled. Double strain into a glass filled with ice, and top with club soda. Stir gently to combine, and garnish with mint and lime twist.

As someone who has been to an all-male revue exactly one time (shout out to Thunder From Down Under!!!), I can say that the real thing is every bit as cringe-inducing as it looks in this movie. If your friends try and convince you it’ll be fun, just politely sit them down and suggest watching Magic Mike instead. You’ll save your eardrums, and your dignity. Cheers!

The Great Escape

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Image credit: The Great Escape, 1963

This might make me a traitor to the 1960s, but I’ve never totally understood the lure of Steve McQueen. After watching several of his films recently… I still don’t. (side note: am I the only one who realizes this man had a terribly unflattering haircut???). However, this week’s film The Great Escape (Disc/Download) is so much more than just a McQueen vehicle (pun-intended). Rather, it’s a well-choreographed ensemble piece that surprised me at every turn.

First, I assumed that a movie about military prisoners in World War II-era Germany would feature scene after scene of torture and random killings at the hands of the Nazis. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. The film opens with a jaunty Elmer Bernstein score, where we catch our first glimpse of a POW camp that encourages gardening and crafts instead of starvation and forced labor. It’s all so… civilized? I was slightly amazed by how frequently the prisoners are left to their own devices, allowing them time to dig three tunnels, sew new clothes, forge documents, and manufacture gadgets to aid in their escape. My second surprise was that although McQueen gets top billing, he doesn’t necessarily get the most screen time. I actually thought Charles Bronson and James Coburn were the true MVPs of the cast. Watching Bronson crawl through those tunnels with his RIPPED arm muscles was a sight to behold, and I can’t help but be reminded of my late father, who served as a tunnel rat in Vietnam. Now it makes sense to me why he owned this movie (and why I’ve now inherited it)- it wasn’t about McQueen. It was always about The Tunnel King.

You’d think alcohol would have no place in a POW camp, but remember this is a civilized camp. Prisoners make their own hooch with the potatoes they’ve grown, which serves two purposes—getting rid of the excavated tunnel dirt, plus letting off a little steam. This week, pay tribute to those Allied prisoners of The Great Escape with this Dirty Martini!

Dirty Martini

2 ½ oz Potato Vodka

½ oz Dry Vermouth

½ oz Olive Brine

Olives for garnish

Combine vodka, vermouth, and olive brine in a shaker with ice. Stir until well chilled and combined, then strain into a martini glass. Garnish with olives.

It’s so interesting that the escapees didn’t just want their freedom—rather, they wanted to force the Nazis into devoting valuable resources to recover the prisoners. In that sense, the escape was successful. Yes, it has an unsatisfying ending for some of the characters, but nevertheless, this remains a fantastic cinematic example of what it means to be brave, selfless, and strong. Cheers!

Dangerous Beauty

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Image credit: Dangerous Beauty, 1998

If you’re looking for a movie that features all the heart, heat, and feminist energy of a romance novel, then look no further than this week’s pick Dangerous Beauty (Disc/Download). Based on the biography of 16th century Venetian courtesan and poet Veronica Franco, this will leave you swooning over sumptuous costumes, moonlit canals, and a powerful woman who chooses learning above all else.

Made during the late 1990s, when small-budgeted, female-centric pictures still had a place within the cinema landscape, Dangerous Beauty stars Catherine McCormack as the beautiful young Veronica who falls in love with Marco, a man far above her social status. Unable to afford the dowry it would take to marry him, and unwilling to settle for a loveless marriage to someone else, she is instead schooled in the ways of seduction by her mother (Jacqueline Bisset), a former courtesan herself. Veronica agrees to this arrangement because being a courtesan means having access to great libraries and learning institutions. Blossoming as a poet and a woman of intellect, she finds success in her profession, never settling for the easy option. Yes, this is a love story between Veronica and Marco, but it is also a story of a woman claiming her power during a time when women didn’t have many options. As she says, “an education is a woman’s greatest and most hard-won asset.” Not marriage.

Beautifully directed by Marshall Herskovitz, this movie will have you longing for romantic rides in a gondola, followed by drinks on a balcony overlooking the canal. Maybe if you’re lucky, someone will drop off a peacock or drunkenly serenade you. While watching Dangerous Beauty, I recommend mixing up a classic Venetian Spritz.

Venetian Spritz

1 ½ oz Aperol

3 oz Prosecco

1 ½ oz Soda Water

Green Olive

Orange slice (garnish)

Build drink in a glass over ice, stirring gently to combine. Garnish with an olive and orange slice.

Of course, all good times must come to an end, and in Veronica’s case that means plague, war, and the Spanish Inquisition. But even when confronted with so much darkness, she never loses sight of who she is and what she wants. It sounds weird to say it, but as a teenager watching this movie, I totally wanted to be like Veronica when I grew up. Hell, I still do. Cheers!

Coming to America

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Image credit: Coming to America, 1988

There’s a rumor I’ve heard, and maybe you’ve heard it too. Apparently, a long time ago, in a land not so far away, Eddie Murphy used to be funny. You’ll forgive me if I’m skeptical—after all, I grew up in the era of The Nutty Professor. I know Eddie as the strange guy in the fat suit.  So when my husband sat me down and told me the comedian had starred in a really great 1980s rom-com called Coming to America (Disc), I decided to take a chance. And shock of all shocks—I loved it!!!

Although there are a few absurd disguises in this (Eddie as an old Jewish man? Pass.), for the most part Murphy keeps his juvenile gimmicks in check. As Prince Akeem, he’s surprisingly earnest for a man who has rose petals thrown at his feet wherever he goes. This royal yearns for true love instead of an arranged marriage set up by his parents, so he and man servant Semmi go to the most logical place for a future king to find his mate—Queens, NY! Once there, he finds shelter in a literal crime scene, a job at the local knock-off fast food joint (McDowell’s anyone?), and a sweet romance with the boss’s daughter. Rather than reveal his true identity, he pretends to be a poor immigrant student in order to ensure that his lady loves him for who he is instead of what he has back in Zamunda. Aside from some cringe-worthy scenes in a barber shop, this is a solid A+ rom-com that left me smiling from beginning to end.

Prince Akeem goes to great lengths to find his queen, but luckily you don’t have to. Just make this aptly named cocktail and pretend you’ve got Royal Bathers waiting for you in the shower. While watching Coming to America, I recommend drinking a Queen’s Park Swizzle!

Queen’s Park Swizzle

2 oz Aged Rum

½ oz Lime Juice

½ oz Simple Syrup

2-3 dashes Angostura Bitters

5-6 leaves Fresh Mint

Muddle mint in the bottom of a glass, dragging it up to coat the sides with oils. Add the rest of the ingredients and fill the glass 2/3 full with crushed ice. Use a swizzle stick to mix, until the outside of the glass becomes frosty. Fill the glass the rest of the way up with crushed ice, and garnish with more fresh mint.

If you’re curious about this film’s recent sequel (the oh-so-cleverly titled Coming 2 America– 🙄), don’t feel like you’re missing much if you decide to skip it. While it’s fun to watch some of these actors again, it in no way justifies having to sit through another Sexual Chocolate song. Randy Watson can stay back in 1988. Cheers!

Mildred Pierce

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Image credit: Mildred Pierce, 1945

This week, we’re taking a step back to 1940s Hollywood to examine one of the most iconic onscreen mother/daughter duos, Mildred and Veda in the classic Mildred Pierce (Disc/Download). Maybe, like me, you grew up with the Joan Crawford NO WIRE HANGERS image seared into your brain. Thus it might be jarring to see her playing a part like Mildred, a fabulous working mom saddled with a spoiled hellion of a daughter. If Joan was an abomination in real life, watching her play this patient, loving character only proves that she’s one of the greatest actresses of any generation.

Michael Curtiz’s suspenseful noir has a lot of things going for it: murder mystery, non-linear storytelling, beautiful clothing, a gorgeous beach house, and cocktails in just about every scene. And pie! Lots and lots of pies. In flashbacks, we learn that Mildred started out as a housewife who was just trying her best to give her children everything she never had. She sells baked goods to the neighbors, and after her husband leaves her for that simpering homewrecker Mrs. Biederhof, Mildred waits tables in a busy restaurant to make ends meet. Eventually, she learns enough about the business to start her own restaurant, which quickly becomes a smash hit. But is this good enough for eldest daughter Veda? Oh, no. She can’t stand the fact that her mother works for a living. No, Veda would rather earn her fortune through blackmailing and pregnancy scares. It can be frustrating to watch Mildred defend her child’s evil actions, but she’s a mom. She can’t help wanting to see the best in her daughter, even when that daughter seduces mom’s playboy husband for herself. Talk about a soap opera!

As I said, there are a ton of cocktails in this. Martinis, straight bourbon, scotch & soda—you name it, they drank it. One beverage in particular caught my attention during a scene where Mildred and her ex have a drink in a California tiki bar. I can’t transplant myself there, but I can mix up this simple, delicious cocktail. While watching Mildred Pierce, I recommend drinking a Rum Collins.

Rum Collins

2 oz Vida Caña 2-yr Aged Rum

1 oz Lime Juice

1 oz Simple Syrup

Topo Chico sparkling water

Lime Garnish

Combine Rum, lime juice, and simple syrup in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a Collins glass filled with ice. Top with Topo Chico, and stir to combine. Garnish with Lime.

If you want to catch a glimpse of my dream abode, look no further than the opening scene at Monte’s beach house. Steps from the ocean, it features multiple bars, a glassed-in patio, spiral staircase, and plenty of lounge spaces, perfect for either entertaining or murder. I guess it depends on whether or not you made the mistake of procreating. Cheers!