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The Mating Game

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Image credit MGM, The Mating Game, 1959

Image credit MGM, The Mating Game, 1959

I’m reaching back into the vault this week to highlight a little movie I happened to catch on Turner Classic Movies a few years ago, which has since become one of my favorites. It’s a tradition in my house to watch this during tax season, preferably after completing one’s taxes, with a strong cocktail (because nothing makes me want to drink more than itemizing deductions). This week’s Cinema Sips movie is The Mating Game (DVD), a 1959 comedy starring the adorable Debbie Reynolds and Tony Randall at his geeky, persnickety best. You may be thinking, “How is a movie about taxes funny?” Well, trust me, this one is.

The Mating Game tells the story of the Larkins, a family of rural Maryland farmers. Pop Larkin makes his living as a trader/barterer (physical money rarely exchanges hands). Whatever object he needs, he just trades another one for it. Now, it isn’t expressly stated how this family pays for ordinary things like the electric or phone bill, but as for the rest of their belongings, it’s a pretty great way to operate. Of course since they make no actual money, they don’t file an income tax return, and eventually the government comes calling. The IRS sends Tony Randall to investigate, he falls for the eldest daughter played by Debbie Reynolds, and the rest is history. The Mating Game was actually the final film featuring Paul Douglas, who plays the lead role of Sidney “Pop” Larkin, and who sadly died of a heart attack the same year the film premiered. He is absolutely terrific in the role, and it’s unfortunate to think of the parts we never got to see him play.

My drink this week is inspired by the nauseating cocktail creation the Larkin family plies Tony Randall with in an effort to keep him on the farm and helpless against their daughter’s charms. Their beverage had a hefty dose of moonshine, and I promise mine is a lot more drinkable. Still, it’s big, it’s boozy, and it’s the perfect way to unwind after doing your income taxes. While watching The Mating Game, I recommend drinking a Smirking Hyena.

Smirking Hyena

1 3/4 oz Bourbon

3/4 oz Sweet Vermouth

3/4 oz Cointreau

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

1/2 oz fresh lime juice

1 sprig of mint

Combine the liquid ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Garnish with mint.

Smirking Hyena


Let it be known that I’m madly in love with the Larkin family’s greek key-trimmed living room bar, and the vintage glassware makes me swoon. It’s easy to see how Tony Randall got suckered into drinking such a mess of a cocktail in the film- how to say no to the genial, larger-than-life Paul Douglas? Hopefully, you’ll be a little more sensible with your imbibing and your family won’t find you passed out on a pool table come morning. But, if your taxes are as labor-intensive as mine, who could blame you? So tally up your figures, sign your forms, and end the day on a high note with The Mating Game and a strong drink. Cheers!


Pillow Talk

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Image Credit: Universal Pictures 1959

Image Credit: Universal Pictures 1959

This is one of those weeks where the drink I want to make is the main influence for my movie selection. Today, I really wanted to use the new Deep Eddy Grapefruit Vodka that I bought myself as a Christmas present, plus I had a great mock-tail recipe I wanted to convert into a cocktail. Because the drink is pink-hued and sweetened with honey, I immediately thought of Pillow Talk. This is one of my all-time favorite films, and it made me a lifelong lover of all things Doris Day. I love her Manhattan apartment with its pink walls and pink countertops, her fun little hats, and the way she’s a smart, sophisticated, career-oriented woman during a time period when that was not really the norm. Doris Day did a number of working-gal romantic comedies during the late 1950’s-early 1960’s, but this one is by far the best.

In Pillow Talk, Doris Day plays Jan Morrow, an interior decorator who shares a party line with Rock Hudson’s character Brad Allen. For those youngsters who aren’t familiar, a party line was a phone line you shared with a total stranger. Brad Allen is a playboy musician who spends most of his time romancing women over the phone, and Jan can’t get any business calls through. They argue with each other over the phone, but then by chance Brad sees Jan in real life, falls head over heels, and disguises himself as Rex Stetson, the Texas-twang-voiced cowboy with a penchant for dip recipes and calling women “ma’am”. Jan falls for him, not knowing his true identity, and well, you can probably figure out the rest. I love Day’s intelligent pluckiness, and the chemistry between her and Rock Hudson is electric. Tony Randall also turns in a hilarious performance as Jan’s lovesick client (a pre-Niles Crane study in effeminate straight male characters) and let’s not forget Thelma Ritter as Jan’s boozy maid Alma.

For my drink, I’ll be using Deep Eddy Grapefruit Vodka, which is a great mixer, or just fine on its own with a little lime over ice. I came across a wonderful non-alcoholic mixed drink on TheKitchn blog which I posted on the Cinema Sips Facebook page a week ago, and it got such a good response that I felt inspired to use it here. I’m keeping most of the recipe the same, but tossing in a shot of grapefruit vodka to up the ante. Note, this recipe produces enough syrup for several servings of this drink, so either invite friends to drink with you, or refrigerate the leftovers. In celebration of Rex Stetson’s charming colloquial sayings, I call this one the Honey Lamb.

Honey Lamb

Zest of 1 large pink grapefruit

1 cup freshly-squeezed pink grapefruit juice

¾ cup mild-flavored honey

1/4 cup chopped fresh ginger

Deep Eddy Grapefruit Vodka

Carbonated water (I used grapefruit-flavored water)

Combine the grapefruit zest, juice, honey, and ginger in a small saucepan over medium heat. Boil for 2 minutes, stirring to dissolve the honey.

Remove from heat and let cool. Strain the syrup through a sieve into a clean container and discard the solids.

Put 2 tablespoons of the grapefruit syrup into a collins glass filled with ice. Add a shot of grapefruit vodka. Top with carbonated water and stir lightly.

Honey Lamb

Feel free to invite some of your non-imbibing friends to your viewing party and just leave out the vodka. I promise, even people that aren’t really into classic cinema will love this film. Doris Day’s fashions alone are enough to make me swoon, and that’s even before dreamy Rock Hudson makes his appearance on screen. Just for fun, I suggest taking a drink every time he plays the “You Are My Inspiration” song. Warning- if your drink does contain vodka, you may want to take a lesson from Alma and stay out of fast-moving elevators tomorrow. Cheers!

(Note:  The cute straws in my drinks can be found here)