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The Addams Family

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Image credit: The Addams Family, 1991

They’re creepy and kooky, mysterious and spooky. No, not the First Family; I’m talking about… The Addams Family! (Disc/Download) Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, this 1991 adaptation of the comic strip and hit 1960s television show is exactly the level of scary I want in my Halloween movies. That is to say—none at all.

While this film lacks a delightful jingle, it hits a lot of high notes with clever one-liners and stellar acting. Angelica Huston is radiant as Morticia Addams, the glamorous goth mom who always finds her light, and Raul Julia, who brings such joy to the role of Gomez that I want him to be my permanent drinking buddy. These two characters are supposed to be obsessed with death and the occult, but their chemistry makes this one of the happiest, healthiest marriages in the history of popular culture. And then there’s precocious little Christina Ricci as their daughter Wednesday, who enjoys electrocuting her brother and poisoning the neighborhood Girl Scouts. I feel absolutely no shame in admitting that I wanted to be Wednesday as a little girl. Hell, I still want to be her. There’s a ludicrous plot involving amnesia and stolen treasure, but obviously we’re all just here for the deliciously macabre set, black roses, and a disembodied hand named Thing.

Rounding out the Addams Family is Uncle Fester, played by an almost unrecognizable Christopher Lloyd. We’re supposed to believe he’s been lost in the Bermuda Triangle for decades despite the fact that he’s practically transparent from lack of a tan. Let’s give a toast to Fester’s #islandlyfe with this Black Sand tiki cocktail!

Black Sand

¾ oz Lime Juice

¾ oz Coconut Cream

Pinch of activated charcoal powder

1 ½ oz Pineapple Juice

2 oz Dark Rum

In the bottom of a shaker, dissolve charcoal powder in the lime juice and coconut cream. After well combined, add ice, pineapple juice, and rum. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass.

“Fleshlette” hand sculpture by http://paynescultpures.com

I can’t end this post without mentioning Cousin It, who like many of us in quarantine, is in desperate need of a haircut. If you need a break from reality right now, treat yourself to a little absurdity. The Addams Family is ready to welcome you with a lethal drink and an antique torture device. Cheers!

Far From Heaven

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Image credit: Far From Heaven, 2002.

In many ways, I owe the existence of Cinema Sips to this week’s film, Far From Heaven (Disc/Download). When I had the idea seven years ago to start writing about films and cocktails, it was based on the image of Julianne Moore in a perfect pastel 1950s dress, pouring a pitcher of daiquiris for her girlfriends in the middle of the day. That, right there, was the life I wanted for myself. Unfortunately, I (and most of my girlfriends) have day jobs. There are no lunchtime daiquiris, and most of us live in different states at this point. But what if we could all watch a movie, make a cocktail, and feel like we were together? And what if I could share the experience with the whole world? Just like that, Cinema Sips was born.

It’s no shock that I adore this movie, since I’ve raved on here before about my love of the ’50s melodrama. From Douglas Sirk films like Magnificent Obsession and All That Heaven Allows, to Sirk-adjacent picks like Peyton Place and A Summer Place, I simply cannot get enough of beautiful facades hiding the torrid scandals of a soap opera. Every detail of Todd Haynes’ homage to vintage melodramas is perfection, from the tailored dresses, to the stellar production design, to the script that touches on everything from racism to homosexual shame to domestic violence. You see, even though these characters exist in an idyllic world of brightly colored autumn leaves and silk party dresses, beneath that surface lies a lot of pain and sadness.

As I mentioned, this movie gets me very excited about daiquiris in the middle of the day. If you’re looking for that recipe, you can find it here. However, now I’d like to pay tribute to modern housewives, who, each September, start sucking back the Pumpkin Spice products like a seasonal heroin. Pumpkin Spice was not really “a thing” during the 1950s, but if it were, I’m pretty sure Cathy and her gal pals would be enjoying a pitcher of these Pumpkin Spice Margaritas.

Pumpkin Spice Margaritas

2 parts Reposado Tequila

1 part Cointreau

1 part Lime Juice

2 parts Pumpkin Spice Puree*

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail pitcher with ice. Stir until chilled, then pour into glasses filled with fresh ice.

*Pumpkin Spice Puree: Combine 1 cup brown sugar + 1 cup Water + 2 Tsp Ground Pumpkin Spice in a saucepan. Heat until lightly boiling and the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, then stir in 3/4 cup Canned Pure Pumpkin Puree. Cool, and refrigerate.

In the role of Cathy Whitaker, Julianne Moore shows us that even though many of us may look back fondly on a lot of things from this era, in the end we’re only gazing at a pretty picture. The reality was anything but pretty. If I had my pick, I’d leave the intolerance back in the previous century, but keep the dresses and decor. Day-drinking with friends can also stay. Cheers!

Dead Poets Society

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Image credit: Dead Poets Society, 1989

If nothing else, the horror-show that is 2020 has proven once and for all that teachers are goddamn heroes. Often putting their lives and personal sanity at risk, they’ve had to work three times as hard this year to ensure that kids are not only educated, but comforted during these unprecedented, uncertain times. Even when faced with a laptop screen full of tiny faces, it’s up to them to make every child feel safe, and above all, seen. No movie has communicated the truth of this better than Dead Poet’s Society (Disc/Download).

A perfect pick for Fall viewing, Peter Weir’s film opens on a bucolic New England boarding school just as the leaves are starting to change. The boys who inhabit these drafty buildings want so badly to be men, and it isn’t until they meet their new English professor Mr. Keating (Robin Williams) that they start to learn what that truly means. You see, Mr. Keating doesn’t just teach them poetry. He teaches them to be brave, to inhabit the world with honor, and that feelings and emotions matter. To me, this shows what an important role a great teacher can play in one’s life. At the end of it all, you might not remember what a quadratic equation is, or who wrote the words, “O Captain! My Captain!” but you’re damn sure going to remember the person who encouraged you to be curious about the world, and fearless in the face of adversity.

Because this movie gives me all the cozy New England vibes, I’ll be drinking a nice, warming apple brandy cocktail, perfect for poetry readings in caves. While watching Dead Poet’s Society, I recommend drinking this Captain’s Mule.

Captain’s Mule

1 ½ oz Calvados Apple Brandy

½ oz Lime Juice

3 dashes Angostura Bitters

6 oz Ginger Beer

Dried Apple for garnish

Place first three ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a copper mug filled with fresh ice. Top with ginger beer, and garnish with dried apple.

There have been a lot of great teachers in cinema, but out of all of them, John Keating is the one I most wish I’d had the pleasure of knowing. Someone to tell me that words are important, and to not be so afraid that my thoughts are worthless or embarrassing. If Cinema Sips is my barbaric YAWP!, then let it be heard. Cheers!

It Happened One Night

Image Credit: It Happened One Night, 1934.

I don’t know what this says about me, but I have a thing for grumpy heroes in popular culture. I guess when I really stop to think about it, I’m the grumpy hero of my own life: I don’t have time for nonsense, my baseline descriptors are sarcastic and pessimistic, but deep down inside I’m a romantic puddle of mush. Maybe that’s why I adore Clark Gable so much in this week’s film It Happened One Night (Disc/Download)—we are two cynics who found love, despite our better instincts.

Hailed as one of the greatest romantic comedies of all time, It Happened One Night 100% lives up to the hype. It’s amazing to me how this 1930s screwball comedy about a scandalized socialite falling for a wisecracking journalist still manages to feel fresh and relevant nearly a century later. Featuring tropes as old as time (enemies-to-lovers + forced proximity), Frank Capra’s ode to romance on the road is smart, daring, and unbelievably funny. While the script is great, it’s the acting that really sells it for me. Claudette Colbert is both ballsy and vulnerable, so desperate to get to The Wrong Man that she jumps off a yacht, hops on a Greyhound, spends the night with a total stranger (The Right Man), and flashes her gams while hitchhiking. And yet, she still needs Clark Gable to tell her how bus schedules work, and the proper way to dunk a donut, and how to not stand out like a sore thumb among the plebeians. Meanwhile, he needs a woman who makes him laugh, calls him out on his oversized ego, and is ready and willing to take the leap into a life of adventure. These two may be on opposite sides of the curtain, but we know it’s only a matter of time before those walls of Jericho come tumbling down.

Claudette Colbert’s character Ellie Andrews is described as a spoiled brat, but I think she’s more of a pissed-off brat. She’s tired of other people calling the shots in her life, and she’s ready to take the reins. This cocktail I found a few months ago in the New York Times cooking section seems tailor-made for Ellie- The Bitter Heiress!

The Bitter Heiress

3 oz Lillet

1 oz Fresh-squeezed Orange Juice

½ oz Campari

Orange peel

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, and add the first three ingredients. Stir until chilled, then strain into a chilled martini glass. Take the orange peel, hold it over the glass with the skin facing down, then strike a match and hold it between the peel and the drink. Squeeze peel toward match to spray citrus oil onto the surface of the drink, and discard. Garnish with a fresh slice of peel.

If you need a fun romp for an at-home date night, or just a solo screening that’ll make you feel a little less pessimistic about the world, quit bawlin’ and give It Happened One Night a chance. Here’s to the merry go round!

The Karate Kid

Image credit: The Karate Kid, 1984

Before going down the Cobra Kai rabbit hole (if you don’t know what this is, GET A NETFLIX SUBSCRIPTION NOW!!!), I decided to revisit the film that inspired the world’s new favorite soap-opera-for-the-middle-aged. Plus, with Halloween right around the corner, it seemed like a good time to examine the genesis of my childhood nightmares—those motorcycle-riding blonde villains in their skeleton costumes and terrifying makeup. The Karate Kid (Disc/Download) is a nostalgia trip to the 1980s, but you know what? I’m pretty excited to go back.

First things first—Ralph Macchio was and still is a BABE. Pre-teen Liz was all about sweet Daniel and his luscious olive skin, and don’t even get me started on that dopey shower curtain costume. So creative! My husband loves to champion his theory that Daniel LaRusso is the real bully of The Karate Kid, but I wholeheartedly disagree. Daniel does not dress up like a creepy skeleton and beat a kid within an inch of his life. He does not sweep the leg. All he does is fall for the wrong single girl (sorry Johnny, you had your chance), and douse his tormentor with water. However, the fact that my husband and I have such differing opinions on this proves that the film has very layered, nuanced characters. This is not just a group of one-note villains and heroes. They all have complex backstories, none more so than that of Daniel’s sensei, Mr. Miyagi. As a child watching this movie, Miyagi’s tragic past didn’t even register to me. But as an adult, my heart breaks for the war hero whose wife and child perished in a Japanese Internment Camp. The fact that this role was played by comic Pat Morita with such dignity and honesty (for he, too, had spent time in the camps), makes it all the more powerful. This is not just a movie about martial arts; this is a movie about finding the hero within oneself, even when the world may have turned its back on you.

My drink this week is an ode to Mr. Miyagi’s low-key, retro style. I can just imagine him sipping a tiki beverage in his Japanese garden, watching Daniel wax-on/wax-off. While watching The Karate Kid, I recommend enjoying this Hai Karate cocktail.

Hai Karate

2 oz Aged Rum

1 oz Lime Juice

1 oz Orange Juice

1 oz Pineapple Juice

1 tsp Maple Syrup

1 dash Angostura Bitters

Dried citrus/Luxardo Cherry for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then pour (unstrained) into a glass. Garnish with citrus slices and Luxardo Cherry.

One of the things I love so much about the television show Cobra Kai is that it goes out of its way to pay tribute to the fan-favorite aspects of The Karate Kid. Cutting in scenes from the movie, they weave a story that feels contemporary and classic all at once. We feel the joy of an ‘80s muscle car blasting power ballads, the thrill of finding familiar faces on our screens once again, and above all, we feel the loss of Mr. Miyagi. Daniel tries to spread his teachings of balance and peace, and somehow it feels like the big battle of our modern times. Can the Miyagi-do principles of tolerance and inclusivity triumph once again, or will the bullies win this round? I guess we’ll find out in about forty-four more days. Cheers!

That Thing You Do!

Image Credit: That Thing You Do!, 1996

Anyone who knows me (or really anyone who’s ever read this blog) knows I have a thing for the 1960s. But where did this obsession come from? I blame the following: endless Nick at Night marathons in the ’90s, and this week’s movie, That Thing You Do! (Disc/Download).

Having been raised on the Pittsburgh oldies station in my dad’s car, I knew this era’s music inside and out. So when Tom Hanks “the director” burst onto the scene with his ode to ’60s pop, I was instantly hooked. Add to that Liv Tyler’s cigarette pants and high ponytails, Tom Everett Scott’s electronics shop wonderland (THOSE VINTAGE RADIOS!!!), and all those references to forgotten stars like Gina Lollobrigida and Suzanne Pleshette, and I was officially a goner. I’d found my pop culture home, and the mid-1960s was it. I wanted to live in this world where the One-ders could rise to superstardom on the strength of one hit song, and not flashy boy-band dance moves. This world where rock bands got to pretend-perform in movies as Capt. Geech and the Shrimp Shack Shooters. This world where jazz and rock & roll was still somewhat interconnected, and a talented musician like Guy Patterson could perform in front of screaming teenage girls one minute, and studio icons the next. Maybe, at the end of it all, I just wanted to imagine a world where I could leave Pennsylvania and follow my dreams—wearing those cigarette pants, of course.

It’s still incredibly odd to me that Tom Hanks hasn’t found more projects like this to direct, because clearly the guy’s got skills. He made a perfect gem of a movie that captures a specific moment in time, pulling together exceptionally talented people to realize his vision. Let’s celebrate this maestro of ’60s nostalgia with one of my favorite cocktails, the classic Tom Collins.

Tom Collins

2 oz Gin

1 oz lemon juice

½ oz simple syrup

Club Soda

Lemon garnish

Combine gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a shaker with ice.  Shake until chilled, then strain into a Collins glass with fresh ice. Top with Club Soda, and stir gently to combine. Garnish with lemon.

I did a thing I pretty much never do, which was to watch an unedited version of this movie one lazy Friday night. I know a lot of people enjoy Special Features and Extended Cuts, but to me, theatrical cuts exist for a reason. In most cases, it’s the best version everyone could agree on. But I got curious, wondering what was tossed from my perfect film, and WOW it was a lot. For example, poor Charlize took the biggest hit, and now that strange Spartacus line finally makes more sense. Sort of. Also- Tom Hanks’ manager character was actually gay?? That’s actually something I wish they’d left in. Aside for some great dresses that ended up on the cutting room floor, most of the edits were necessary. Would I watch the extended version again? Probably not—it was extremely long and slow-moving. But as a lesson in how all the parts have to come together in just the right way to tell the best story possible, it was invaluable. Like the difference between the Oneders vs. The Wonders, simple is usually better. Cheers!

To Catch a Thief

To Catch a Thief

Image credit: To Catch a Thief, 1955

I’ve taken a lot of cinema travels this summer, so it’s fitting that I end the season with one last trip to the French Riviera. Alfred Hitchcock’s classic To Catch a Thief (Disc/Download) will make you feel like you’re sipping champagne at the Carlton Hotel in Cannes, before meeting your lover for a sexy rendezvous. This week, say bonjour to style, suspense, and sun-drenched 1950s beaches.

This is one of those movies I could watch with the sound off and still feel like I got my money’s worth. To see Grace Kelly slink across the screen in her gorgeous Edith Head costumes is such a treat, but then Hitch had to go and add the Mediterranean Sea. And champagne. And Cary Grant in a lovely French farmhouse. Is he TRYING to make me swoon? If you like the Ocean’s Eleven trilogy, you’ll really enjoy this plot involving a retired cat burglar trying to clear his name after a string of “copycat” jewel thefts. Cary latches on to Grace Kelly’s jet set heiress, using her to draw the real thief out. But somewhere between sunbathing, picnicking, and enjoying the fireworks from a luxury hotel room, she falls for him. Can Cary catch the thief? Can Grace catch Cary? Can the world stop catching coronavirus so I can go to the French Riviera for real???

As previously mentioned, this is a champagne-heavy movie. For my cocktail pairing this week, I’m adapting the classic French Riviera cocktail into something a little more bubbly, and a little more American, in a nod to Grace Kelly’s roots. While watching To Catch a Thief, I recommend drinking this Copycat cocktail.

Copycat

1 ½ oz Bourbon

½ oz Rum

1 tsp Apricot Jam

½ oz Lemon Juice

1 oz Honey Syrup (2 to 1 ratio, honey to water, boiled then cooled)

3 oz Champagne

Combine Bourbon, rum, apricot jam, lemon juice, and honey syrup in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a glass filled with fresh ice. Top with champagne, and stir gently.

Copycat

This spritz cocktail is perfect for lounging near the beach or pool in your couture, as I know we’re all doing during quarantine. Maybe just me? No matter your plans this Labor Day, I hope you get to take a day off, and I hope that day off involves a fabulous movie or two. Cheers!

The Bad News Bears

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Bad News Bears

Image credit: The Bad News Bears, 1976

I have absolutely no idea what’s happening in the world of professional sports right now, but I’m guessing things are not normal. If you’re missing your peanuts and CrackerJack, and starting to wonder if you’ll ever get back, then allow Cinema Sips to tide you over with a classic baseball flick, The Bad News Bears (Disc/Download). Featuring an alcoholic coach, a feminist pitcher, and a ton of salty language, this 1976 ode to Little League and Southern California will have you experiencing all the flavors of summer.

In this perfect time capsule of a movie, Walter Matthau plays Buttermaker, a retired Minor League pitcher and current pool cleaner of the San Fernando Valley. He accepts a gig coaching a team of all the kids who weren’t good enough to play on the existing Little League teams, thinking it’ll be an easy day in the dugout with a cooler full of beer. As the misfits and all their schoolyard problems start to get under his skin, he realizes he has an opportunity to give these kids a badly needed confidence boost. He recruits the talented Amanda (Tatum O’Neal) for her golden arm, motorcycle-riding delinquent Kelly Leak (Jackie Earle Haley) for his stellar batting average, and brainy Ogilvie (Alfred Lutter) to help him Moneyball the heck out of this league. Buttermaker’s strategy works, and eventually the Bears start winning games. The script is genius, but it’s the realistic performances that make me come back to this film year after year. I feel like I get to journey back to an era where people went inside a Pizza Hut to have dinner without irony, and a towheaded kid named Lupus could mix you the perfect martini.

Speaking of alcohol, it’s kind of amazing that Coach Buttermaker could hand out brewskies to a group of eleven-year-olds after the game and it wasn’t all over social media the next morning. I’m sure he still got to keep his job, and I bet those kids didn’t even care that they lost. While watching The Bad News Bears, join in the fun with this Honey-Bear Shandy.

Honey-Bear Shandy

1 oz Vodka

1 oz Orange Juice

½ oz Lemon Juice

½ oz Honey Syrup (2 parts Honey to 1 part Water, boiled and cooled)

5 oz Hefeweizen Beer

Orange Slice for garnish

Combine vodka, honey syrup, orange juice, and lemon juice in a shaker filled with ice. Shake well until chilled, then strain into a glass filled with crushed ice. Add beer, stirring to combine. Garnish with an orange slice.

Honeybear Shandy

If you’ve ever known what it is to get picked last in gym class, if you’ve ever been underestimated because you’re a girl, or if you’ve ever felt like you’ll never live up to the expectations someone has for you, then you’ll probably relate to this film. I always say, I love baseball movies not because of the sport, but because of the sportsmanship. This year may be full of bad news, but we’ll always have the Bears. Cheers!

Jurassic Park

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Jurassic Park

Image Credit: Jurassic Park, 1993

Admit it- the second you saw Jurassic Park (Disc/Download) had hit Netflix this summer, you cheered a little bit inside. I’m typically not one for big blockbusters, but I’ll always have a special place in my heart for that old T-Rex with the tiny hands. I remember seeing this in the theater when it came out in 1993, and during the parts where my eyes were actually open, I knew I was witnessing something incredible. Twenty-seven years later, it still gives me chills.

There have been a lot of sequels, but in my opinion, Steven Spielberg’s original is the undisputed best. Special effects have come a long way since this was made, becoming slicker and smoother as the years passed, but damn if these dinos don’t look insanely real, even by today’s high standards. Watching this as an adult, I can appreciate the true awe these characters must have felt, in a way I couldn’t before. Imagine, you’re an archeologist who’s spent your whole life trying to piece together dinosaur bones, then some crazy nut in a Panama hat tells you he’s extracted dino DNA from fossilized mosquitoes, hatched some new creatures in the lab, and you can actually go see them in a Central American amusement park. This would be like someone telling me there’s a classic Hollywood theme park and for the price of admission I get to ride around in a vintage Corvair and shake hands with the cloned, VERY REAL versions of Doris Day and Cary Grant. What wouldn’t I give for a chance like that? Of course, Doris doesn’t have the claws of a raptor or the natural instinct to tear the flesh from my bones, but nevertheless, we don’t really know what she’s like without her morning coffee. Things could get ugly.

With any jungle-set film, I enjoy a good tiki beverage. Of course I had to incorporate those dino eggs somehow, plus the whole gory death motif. While you take a trip to Isla Nublar, I recommend drinking this Isla de Sangre cocktail!

Isla de Sangre

1 1/2 oz Black Rum

1/2 oz Beet Juice

1/4 oz Angostura Bitters

1/2 oz Lime Juice

1/2 oz Orgeat Syrup

1 Egg White

Dried Blood Orange garnish

Combine rum, beet juice, bitters, lime juice, orgeat syrup, and egg white in a shaker. Shake vigorously for 10-15 seconds, then add ice. Shake again for another 15 seconds, and strain into a glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with a dried blood orange slice.

Isla Sangre

I want to give a special shout-out to sexy mathematician Jeff Goldblum, in his finest performance to date. It takes a special kind of person to show up to the jungle in a black leather jacket, but he’s got the confidence to pull it off. Me? I like the looks of that Panama hat. Cheers!

 

Jeeps

Movie jeeps, spotted in the Bastrop, TX Dinosaur Park

 

TRex

Lucky to be alive.

The Proposal

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The Proposal

Image credit: The Proposal, 2009.

While Texans were sticking to their car seats in rush hour traffic, I was supposed to have been playing with sled dog puppies and cruising open waters. Thanks to COVID, my Alaska vacation is now a distant dream, but in a way, I can still take it through the power of movies and cocktails. This week, go on a fake journey with me to Sitka, Alaska (by way of Massachusetts) as we watch The Proposal (Disc/Download).

This rom-com starring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds has so many of my favorite tropes, I don’t even know where to begin. Enemies-to-Lovers! Workplace romance! Marriage of Convenience! “There’s only one bed”! Add to that a gorgeous house on the water, a humorous (if false) look at the world of book publishing, and a cute dog named Kevin, and I am officially smitten. Directed by Anne Fletcher, The Proposal tells the story of Margaret Tate, a buttoned-up book editor with an immigration problem. She strong-arms her assistant Andrew into agreeing to marry her, but in order to sell the relationship to ICE, they must put on a united front at his Grandma’s 90th birthday in Alaska. Turns out Andrew is secretly the beloved prince of Sitka, and honestly what woman could resist a funny, gorgeous, wealthy scion? Plus, his grandma enjoys strippers and is played by Betty White. If Margaret won’t marry him, can I?

I actually saw this movie in the theater with my grandma, and it would turn out to be our last visit to the multiplex together. We both loved Betty, but agreed her weird Native American dance scene needed to end up on the cutting room floor. I’m thrilled to use one of grandma Jo’s vintage glasses while I drink this week’s classic cocktail, the Alaska.

Alaska

1 1/2 oz Gin (I used Mahon)

1/2 oz Yellow Chartreuse

Dash Orange Bitters

Lemon twist

Combine Gin, Yellow Chartreuse, and Bitters in a shaker with ice. Stir until chilled, then strain into a chilled coupe glass. Release lemon oils over glass, then drop the twist in.

Alaska

I can absolutely picture Margaret sipping one of these while she redlines a manuscript late at night, and the chemistry between the gin and yellow chartreuse is just as electric as the chemistry between Bullock and Reynolds. If I can’t actually go to Alaska, this is the next best thing.  Cheers!