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Tag Archives: movie cocktails

Love & Mercy

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Love & Mercy

Image credit: Love & Mercy, 2014.

The above photo says it all. I cannot resist 1960’s California modern architecture and will watch literally any movie that features it. Lucky for me, Brian Wilson apparently owned a seriously cool house, straight out of Blake Edward’s The Party. Wilson also wrote some great songs with The Beach Boys, but let’s be clear- I’m here for his swimming pool. Grab your sunblock and antidepressants—we’re watching Love & Mercy (Disc/Download).

As far as music biopics go, this one doesn’t follow the standard formula. Switching back and forth between 1960’s and 1980’s Brian Wilson, the film stars Paul Dano and John Cusack as two versions of the same complicated man. In the heyday of The Beach Boys, he was the mad genius behind so many of their hits, crying out for help in his lyrics, with a family unwilling and/or unable to see that he needed serious medical attention. By the time the 1980’s hit, he’d lost a brother, spent a decade in bed, and hooked up with crooked doctor Eugene Landy (played by a villainous Paul Giamatti). Shuffling through life like a sad, lonely child, he’s trapped in a haze of pharmaceuticals until he meets Cadillac saleswoman Melinda Ledbetter (played by Elizabeth Banks), who helps him find a way out from under Landy’s control. While Paul Dano gets the splashier role of young Brian, mixing it up in the studio and harmonizing over Pet Sounds, John Cusack’s performance is so quiet and lovely you almost miss it. The romance he shares with Melinda makes you feel like this is what he’d been singing about all that time– he just didn’t know it yet. God only knows what he’d be without her.

Although I love the ‘60s aesthetic in half of the movie, I also adore Elizabeth Banks going full-on ‘80s with her hot-rolled hair and pastel sweaters. If this lady were a cocktail, she would be something light, refreshing, and sweet. She would be a Sea Breeze.

Sea Breeze

1 ½ oz Vodka

4 oz Cranberry Juice

1 oz grapefruit juice

Lime Wedge

Combine vodka, cranberry, and grapefruit juices in a shaker with ice.  Shake until well mixed, then dump entire contents of shaker into a glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.

The real Brian Wilson is still touring the country, packing venues full of middle-aged men in Hawaiian shirts and one very nostalgic Liz Locke. And good for him! Between this film, his records, and those concerts, I’m left with nothing but Good Vibrations, and a Smile. Cheers!

Selena

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Jennifer Lopez in "Selena"

Image credit: Selena, 1997

Upon moving to Texas, one learns very quickly- Selena is a big deal here.  Not even death can diminish this Latina legend, whose face still graces reusable grocery bags, t-shirts, candles, and air fresheners in cities and towns north and south of the Rio Grande. Her story will never be forgotten, thanks to the efforts of the HEB grocery chain, and this week’s film Selena (Disc).

It’s easy to watch Jennifer Lopez’s star-making movie and draw comparisons to my other favorite biopic about a domineering dad and his musical offspring, The Jacksons: An American Dream. However, the key difference between the two stories is that the Quintanillas seem fairly normal. There are no cinder block punishments, no pet mice (well, Selena does have that chicken….), and no tragic scenes of child abuse. This film simply tells the tale of a hardworking, talented family who realizes they have a chance to create something special.  Something that could cross borders and bring people together.  Selena forged her own path as a woman, as a Latina, and as a musician. And she did it with her family by her side, while wearing a sparkly bra. Sorry, bustier. Hats off to you, sister.

Something we celebrate widely in Texas, besides Selena, is the Michelada. Often served with brunch, it’s a refreshing alternative to the heavier Bloody Mary. While watching Selena, I recommend drinking a Michelada.

Michelada

Lime wedge

Chili salt

2 oz lime juice

2 tsp hot sauce

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 bottle light Mexican beer (I use Corona)

Run a lime wedge around the edge of a glass, and dip in the chili salt. Pour lime juice, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce into a glass. Add a couple pinches of the chile salt, then add ice. Top with beer, and stir gently to mix.

Michelada

While the debates rage on about gun control and immigration, it seems like a perfect time to revisit Selena.   This singer was the tragic victim of gun violence, but she was also a shining example of how communities can come together.  Her father struggled with being “not Mexican enough” in Mexico and “not American enough” in America, but somehow Selena charmed both countries.  As I watch Jennifer Lopez do the washing machine in a bedazzled jumpsuit, and drink my spicy beer, I have to wonder- if simple things like music and art and cinema can break down even the strongest borders, what’s the point in trying to build them back up?  Cheers!

Casablanca

Casablanca

Image credit: Casablanca, 1942

You Must Remember This…… No, this is not a cocktail tribute to Karina Longworth’s stellar podcast (though, that’s not a bad idea!). Rather, it’s a long-overdue post on one of the greatest romances in the history of cinema. I’m a sucker for tragic love and glamorous gin joints, so of course, Casablanca (Disc) is a perfect fit for Cinema Sips.

Starring Humphrey Bogart as a salty bar owner in 1940’s French-Morocco, Casablanca is a stirring testament to the power of cinematic storytelling during wartime.  The sets of this film remind me of an Epcot pavilion—almost too perfect to be real, but I would still move in tomorrow. To live above Rick’s Café, enjoying the piano stylings of Sam, watching expatriates wrangle visas to the United States while sipping on a cocktail or a glass of champagne—the image is so clear, I can even picture the satin dress I’d wear. Ingrid Bergman brings all the angst to this picture as the beautiful woman caught between her husband and former lover, both good men, and both hopelessly devoted to her. This is a love triangle for the ages, one that can only end in heartbreak for someone. Maybe their problems don’t amount to a “hill of beans” in their crazy world, but to me, there’s nothing insignificant about the ecstasy and agony of love.

There are so many wonderful cocktail moments in this film that it’s difficult to focus on just one. I love it when Rick’s floozy ex-girlfriend requests French ‘75’s Nora Charles-style (line ‘em up!), but Bogey also does some fairly admirable sulking over a bottle. The ambiance at Rick’s is so tantalizing, it almost makes you forget that half the patrons are Nazi’s. Let’s celebrate that bygone era of cocktails with a twist on an old favorite, the Moroccan ’75.

Moroccan ‘75

1 oz gin

½ oz lemon juice

½ oz Stirrings® Blood Orange syrup

½ oz Cointreau

2 oz Champagne

Combine gin, lemon juice, blood orange syrup, and Cointreau in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Top with Champagne.

Moroccan 75

When I think of Casablanca, I picture champagne bottles, coupe glasses, and beautiful people using evening gowns and tuxedos to disguise their desperation. This film is an example of how perfect cinema can be, when all the elements come together in just the right way. Here’s looking at you, Hollywood— you were great once, and I think you can be again.  Cheers!

California Suite

California Suite

Image credit: California Suite, 1978.

Well, I don’t know what to say about the Oscars this year except they’ve really mucked it up, haven’t they? From the host debacle, to the televised category back-and-forth, to the lack of female nominees, it’s enough to make even the most die-hard film fan skip the ceremony altogether. Me, I love a good train wreck.  But if you REALLY must skip,  I suggest watching California Suite (DVD/Download) instead. In this delightful gem of a film, Maggie Smith perfectly sums up the Academy Awards in one sentence: “I’ve been getting ready for this horseshit affair for THREE HOURS!!!!” I feel ya, Mags. All they have left are the dresses.

Adapted from a Neil Simon play, California Suite follows four couples who are all staying at the Beverly Hills Hotel. In these vignettes, we get to enjoy the following highlights: Maggie Smith, shit-faced after losing the Academy Award, arguing with her semi-closeted gay husband played by Michael Caine. Walter Matthau, waking up next to a hooker he has to hide from his wife. Jane Fonda and Alan Arkin, bickering over custody of their daughter. Richard Pryor and Bill Cosby, playing tennis, wrestling, and showing us why it’s a bad idea to travel with friends. Shot on location at the Beverly Hills Hotel, this film is a vintage textile lover’s dream. That banana leaf wallpaper— SWOOOOON! I know I’ll never be Maggie Smith, and I know I’ll never be up for an Academy Award, but I can sure as hell get drunk in the hall and fondle that wallpaper. One might even say it’s on my bucket list.

While Maggie prepares to lose the Oscar, her fabulous husband is busy pouring the gin. As he says, “three gins, one tonic”. Sounds like the perfect ratio. You could make one strong drink, or you could join me during the red carpet coverage in trying ALL THE GINS, and a little bit of tonic. Cheers!

Gins and Tonic

We love to hate on this year’s Academy Awards broadcast, but California Suite proves that people have been hating on this damn dog-and-pony show since the 1970’s.  Probably even before.  Whether you watch this movie to mock the absurdity along with Maggie Smith (who incidentally, did win an Oscar for her role in this), or watch it for the wonderful slice-of-life script, just watch it. Preferably with three gins of course ;-). Cheers!

The Days of Wine and Roses

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Days of Wine and Roses

Image credit: The Days of Wine and Roses, 1962.

I’ve spent a lot of time watching rom-coms and writing books with that all-important Happily Ever After, but this February, I’m planning a deep dive into the tragic romance genre. I want to celebrate those tear-jerker movies that leave you gutted, but nevertheless believing in the all-consuming power of love. This week, I’m subjecting myself to a serious punch to the face by watching The Days of Wine and Roses (Disc/Download).

I’ll be honest, when I hit play on this film, I was expecting something much different than what I got. I thought Blake Edwards + Henry Mancini + Jack Lemmon = a romantic comedy with great music and fabulous party scenes. Well, I got the music, parties, and romance, but there’s nothing funny about this movie about two alcoholics struggling to get sober. Like Reefer Madness before it, and Leaving Las Vegas decades after, this is a film that will make you want to give up all your vices and just stay home with a glass of water. It strays a little too far into propaganda-territory for Alcoholics Anonymous, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a powerful film about loving someone who can’t love themselves. Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick give powerhouse performances as a doomed husband and wife who fall on and off the wagon multiple times, and when each subsequent fall is from a greater height, you start to really ache for them. You hope that their love is enough to help them through this, but eventually, it becomes clear—it might not be.

When the film begins, Lee Remick is a teetotaler, until she meets the sweet, drunken charmer Jack Lemmon and his Brandy Alexander‘s. One sip, and it’s all downhill. You could certainly enjoy that cocktail with her, but this film is also a great excuse to use rosewater. Especially when Jack Lemmon is tearing through a greenhouse looking for the bottle he stashed in a plant. It’s so moving, you can almost smell the soil, roses, and bitter stench of cheap booze. While watching The Days of Wine and Roses, I recommend this Wilted Rose Martini. (But seriously- just one, dear reader.)

Wilted Rose Martini

2 ½ oz Lemon Vodka

½ oz Elderflower Liqueur

½ oz Lemon Juice

½ oz simple syrup

3 drops Rosewater

Lemon Twist

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

Wilted Rose Martini

I count my lucky stars that I’m able to have only one or two cocktails and call it a night. I know how slippery that slope is for many people, and this film gives me empathy for their struggle. The ending is ambiguous, and we don’t know if either of these people will ever stay clean. But I have hope that they do—I believe in love, and I believe that people can conquer their demons.  Maybe there’s a Happily Ever After still to come. Cheers!

That Funny Feeling

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That Funny Feeling

Image credit: That Funny Feeling, 1965.

If I had to describe my favorite film genre, I’d have to say, “anything with 1960’s cocktail dresses”.   Even before Mad Men came on the scene, I was already obsessed.  Blame Doris Day, blame Sandra Dee– so many wonderful actresses took me down that A-line chiffon rabbit hole.  This week, I’ll be watching one of my favorites in the “pretty dress” canon, That Funny Feeling (Disc/Download).

Starring Sandra Dee and her then-husband, crooner Bobby Darin, That Funny Feeling follows the familiar Pillow Talk formula that worked so well for Doris and Rock. Sandra’s character Joan is a maid/struggling actress, who meets cute with Bobby Darin’s lothario character Tom, never realizing that he owns the apartment she cleans every morning. His trip gets cancelled, right after Joan allows him to escort her home to “her place”, which is actually his place! He has to move in with a friend (Donald O’Connor, in a truly bizarre role), to maintain the charade, during which time she covers his leather sofa with chintz slipcovers and hawks his suits– I’m still not sure why. Maybe so we can enjoy the sight gag of Bobby Darin climbing down a New York City fire escape in nothing but a plaid parka?   Strange plot devices aside, this movie is full of beautiful cocktail dresses, gin, midcentury interior décor, vintage stereo equipment, and sassy best friends. That’s enough to sell me on even the worst movie.

Sandra Dee is a classy lady in this film, allowing Bobby Darin to buy her gin and quinine that she takes one lousy sip of. Until later, when she has (oh dear!) a FULL GLASS and gets hammered. You can certainly watch this movie with a gin and tonic (I like the quinine ratio in Jack Rudy Tonic Syrup), but I also want to highlight the scene where her roommate dumps a bunch of brandy and Cointreau on a roast duck and lights it up with her cigarette. God, I love the 60’s. While watching That Funny Feeling, I recommend drinking a Big Apple Sidecar.

Big Apple Sidecar

1 ½ oz Calvados Apple Brandy

1 oz Cointreau

1 oz spiced apple cider

1 oz lime juice

½ oz lemon juice

½ oz simple syrup

Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass.

big apple sidecar

I will admit, there’s a cringe-inducing part of this film where Sandra Dee pretends to have a Japanese accent. It’s bad. It’s very, very bad. However, the script does lament the pervasive white-washing of Hollywood, much to my surprise. That’s the thing about these Sandra Dee movies- they may look all fluffy and retro on the surface, but dig deep and you’ll find some thoroughly modern problems.  After all, sometimes even the best cocktails need a little sweet to balance the bitter. Cheers!

The Darjeeling Limited

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the darjeeling limited

Image credit: The Darjeeling Limited, 2007

Trains are pretty fascinating if you stop to think about it. Depending on which seat you choose, you have the ability to look forward or backward in time, contemplating how the past will influence the future, and how your present is just a brief stopping point on the journey to somewhere else. In this week’s film The Darjeeling Limited (Disc/Download), three brothers do just that on a sleeper car through India. Grab your savoury snacks and teapot- it’s time to dig deep.

Perfectly placed within the Wes Anderson film canon, The Darjeeling Limited features familiar elements like vintage luggage, perfectly tailored suits in various states of dishevelment, a place for everything/everything in its place, and a lot of paterfamilias drama. As three brothers (Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, and Adrien Brody) grapple with their father’s death and their mother’s abandonment, they reexamine their relationships with one another to figure out where they went off the rails (pun intended). The Darjeeling Limited train is pretty much the only way I would ever travel through India, and only if it was designed by Wes Anderson. I thought I was partial to the 20th Century Limited in North by Northwest, but the Darjeeling Limited has a quirky exoticism to it I can’t resist. Plus- SAVOURY SNACKS!

During the summer, I would definitely watch this film with a sweet lime gimlet (recipe here).  But during the winter, a toddy feels more appropriate.  With exotic spices and flavors, this drink will make you feel transported to the sunny, hot climate of India.  While watching The Darjeeling Limited, I recommend drinking a Darjeeling Toddy.

Darjeeling Toddy

1 bag Darjeeling tea

1 cup boiling water

1 oz dark spiced rum

1 oz cognac

1 Tbsp honey

1 small piece dried ginger

2 tsp lemon juice

1 lemon wedge

Combine water, rum, and cognac in a saucepan, and drop in tea bag and ginger to steep. After about 5 minutes, discard tea bag and ginger, then stir in honey. Strain mixture into a mug, and add the lemon juice. Garnish with a lemon wedge.

darjeeling toddy

There’s such a romance to trains that it’s easy to see why they’re still featured in cinema, even when they’re no longer a part of most people’s itineraries.  In an era of depressing air travel and trying to get somewhere as fast as possible, it’s nice to watch people slowing down to experience the journey itself. Cheers!