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Tag Archives: movie cocktails

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!

The Mummy

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Image credit: The Mummy, 1999

As we enter the era of the Brendan Fraser comeback, it feels appropriate to watch the blockbuster that put him in every multiplex across the country, spawning several sequels (and several operations) for this workhorse actor. The Mummy (Disc/Download) was not exactly my cup of tea when it was released, and honestly, it still isn’t. But nevertheless, I think it’s fascinating to examine it next to the other big action movie of the year, last week’s The Matrix.

On the surface, these two films have a lot in common. They’re both filled with numerous battle scenes, both rely heavily on special effects, and both feature wafer-thin romances that seem like nothing more than marketing afterthoughts. I know, I know, romance fans have clung to The Mummy‘s feisty librarian heroine Evelyn Carnahan (Rachel Weisz) like she’s the second coming of Elizabeth Bennet, but in truth she shares precious few swoon-worthy moments with Fraser’s Rick O’Connell. Most of this movie is taken up by gun fights and swirling sand as these adventurers go searching for treasure and instead find a pissed-off mummified priest and flesh-eating scarabs that burrow under the skin. Maybe I’m biased after too many scorching Texas summers, but this just seems like the least romantic setting on earth.

When American adventurer Rick O’Connell is asked about Hamunaptra, the city of the dead, he explains that he and his French Foreign Legion cohorts found nothing there but blood and sand. Coincidentally, this is also the name of a classic cocktail inspired by a 1922 Rudolph Valentino film. While watching this 1999 iteration of The Mummy, I recommend drinking a Blood and Sand cocktail.

Blood and Sand

3/4 oz Scotch

3/4 oz Sweet Vermouth

3/4 oz Blood Orange Juice

3/4 oz Cherry Heering

Orange peel

Dried Blood Orange slice

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a glass. Flame an orange peel over the top to release the oils, then garnish with a dried blood orange slice.

The visual effects of The Mummy seem impressive… until you watch The Matrix. Interestingly, both films handle a bug-under-the-skin rather well, making me lose my dinner (and my drink) in the process. This might be the final 1999 movie in my series, but rest assured, there are plenty of others I’ve already covered on Cinema Sips. Was it the greatest movie year ever? Well, that depends entirely on your tastes. But one thing I can say about this seminal year, there was definitely something for everyone. Cheers!

The Matrix

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Image credit: The Matrix, 1999

I’ll be the first to admit—I am decades late to The Matrix party. When this movie (Disc/Download) came out in 1999, to me it was only a poster on a wall, hanging in the video store where I worked after school. I must have glanced at that picture of Keanu Reeves in a trench coat a thousand times, restocked the tape boxes triple that amount, but never felt tempted to see what all the fuss was about. Well, let’s just say my indifference ended this year thanks to pandemic boredom, a reboot, and one exceptionally good trailer.

The trailer I’m referring to is that of The Matrix: Resurrections, the most recent installment of this franchise which enjoyed a buzzy streaming release last winter. One whiff of a Jefferson Airplane song and the gracefully aging face of Keanu Reeves, and I was hooked. I wanted to see what these red and blue pills were all about. But to do that, I had to watch the original Matrix, a movie I’d successfully avoided for the past twenty-three years. So… I watched it. And I got lost. And then more lost. And then I gave up around the time Joe Pantoliano was gulping his wine. “What the hell is happening in this movie?” I shouted. “What is even real???”

My husband urged me to watch it again, this time with no distractions and my smart phone out of reach. And you know what? He was right. With nothing dividing my focus, I finally understood it. In the world of The Matrix, robots have taken over, sucking energy from humans, placing them in a weird dream state while they power the grid. A few humans have broken out of the Matrix, but then they go back in, but must escape again before either their real version or their Matrix version gets killed. There are also some giant robotic squids attacking a ship at one point??? Oh, hell, maybe I still don’t get it. But the pleather costumes are glorious.

There are a lot of references to Alice in Wonderland in The Matrix, so if you’re having a watch party, it might be fun to make White Rabbits with red and blue rimming sugar. Let your guests decide which one they want!

White Rabbit

1 ½ oz Gin

¾ oz Amaretto

¾ oz Vanilla non-dairy creamer

¼ oz Lemon cream liqueur

Red and blue rimming sugar

Run a lemon around the edge of a glass, then dip in rimming sugar. Add gin, Amaretto, creamer, and lemon cream liqueur to a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled then strain into prepared glass.

This might feel like a slightly heavy cocktail (in truth it tastes like a lemon meringue pie!), but this is a heavy movie in my opinion. It plays on our fears that we are doomed to be cogs in the machine, urging us to rise up and make a change; to be “The One” in our own lives. To believe we have the power to stop bullets and stand up to those who see us as nothing more than an expendable vessel.

I think.

American Beauty

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Image Credit: American Beauty, 1999

I’m not going to lie—this week was a challenge. Do I revisit a movie that was dubbed the Best Picture of 1999, a movie I really liked at the time, but have since abandoned after its star’s misdeeds made watching it an incredibly uncomfortable experience? American Beauty is a difficult film to write about in the year 2022 because it’s hard to reconcile my original opinion with an ever-evolving consciousness of cinema’s impact and responsibility. Nevertheless, if I’m going to look at the year 1999, I feel like I have to look at it warts-and-all. And by warts, I mean the casual acceptance (perhaps even, glamorization) of statutory rape. Dear lord, what were we thinking?

Here’s the thing—I still believe there are some great performances in this movie. I still adore the cinematography and score. I still enjoy the critique of the suburban middle class, and the way the ending unfolds like an episode of Dateline. It leaves us guessing about what comes next, which I find exciting. If I could only watch the brilliant Annette Bening in the role of a frustrated wife, mother, and realtor, I’d be watching this on repeat without hesitation. I want her to sell that house today, and the ensuing breakdown when she fails still reflects the tiny voice inside me that screams every time the thing I desperately wanted to achieve just doesn’t work out—you weak, stupid, baby. But American Beauty isn’t a one-woman show. It also features Kevin Spacey, in a role where we, the audience, are supposed to be rooting for him to turn his boring life around by seducing his daughter’s teenage friend. It isn’t cool now, it shouldn’t have been cool then, and shame on all of us who looked through his perverted lens and couldn’t see the trauma for the rose petals. I’m amazed that it took the star’s real-life crimes to wake us up to the problems with this character, but I can only assume we were distracted by Lester Burnham’s “Great Resignation” before it was a trend.

Maybe, like me, you’re curious and want to go down this rabbit hole one more time. If so, you will need a drink. Let’s celebrate Carolyn Burnham’s prize rose collection with this simple cocktail, tailor-made for easy refills. While watching American Beauty, I recommend drinking a Rosewater Gin & Tonic.

Rosewater Gin & Tonic

2 oz London Dry Gin

6 oz Fever Tree Tonic

3-4 drops Rosewater

Lime Slice

Rose Petal (for garnish)

Juniper berries (for garnish)

Combine ingredients in a highball glass over ice, stirring gently to combine. Garnish with a lime slice and rose petal.

I suppose this whole ordeal opens me up to thinking about my own tolerance for movies that have not stood the test of time. There are some I find easier to watch than others, and I can’t even explain why. But I think that complexity is true for a lot of us—we’re not perfect, and our understanding and reaction to painful histories is an ever-evolving process. However, I think having the space to examine things through a more critical lens, without judgment, is key to creating better content. We can’t move forward in a productive way without examining mistakes of the past. And in 1999, I’ll be the first to admit—I was wrong about American Beauty. Let’s not do this again.