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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 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!

Punch-Drunk Love

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Punch Drunk Love

Image credit: Punch-Drunk Love, 2002

With a title that includes the words “Punch”, “Drunk”, and “Love”, Paul Thomas Anderson’s dark romantic comedy seems like a natural fit for my collection. However, Punch-Drunk Love (Disc/Download) is not a movie I liked on the first watch, or even the second. It’s rare that my opinion shifts so drastically on a film, but that’s exactly what’s happened over the ensuing eighteen years. Now, in our cursed year of 2020, I adore it.

The reason I initially had a hard time connecting with this story was because I just didn’t know what to make of Adam Sandler’s character Barry. Was he being weird for weird’s sake? Was he simply shy with a dangerous undercurrent of anger? No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t figure him out. But since this movie’s release, we have a new language to describe people like Barry. I don’t know that this theory has ever been confirmed by the filmmaker, but to me, this guy is very clearly on the Autism spectrum. And with that realization, I now root even harder for him to find love with fellow lonely-heart Lana. Paul Thomas Anderson did something really incredible in this movie, making us feel through the camerawork and music, what it’s like to be in Barry’s head. Adam Sandler gives an incredible performance (as if there were any doubt- he’s been my uncut gem for YEARS), and I want so badly for this novelty toilet plunger salesman to find the one person in the world who “gets” him. I long for him and Lana to take those pudding cup miles and ride off into the sunset.

Speaking of sunsets, how gorgeous is the scene on Waikiki Beach? I’ve been lucky enough to sit at that beachside bar at the Royal Hawaiian, sipping a Mai Tai, and it’s a memory I cling to during lockdown. Someday, I’ll get back there (in fact, there’s already a room booked for June 2021. Call me an optimist.). But in the meantime, let’s have a drink with Barry and Lana. While watching Punch-Drunk Love, get those Waikiki sunset vibes with this Mai Tai Punch.

Mai Tai Punch

1 cup Light Rum

1 cup Gold Rum

1 cup Cointreau

½ cup Lime Juice

½ cup Orange Juice

½ cup Orgeat Syrup

Dark Rum for topping

In a glass bottle or punch bowl, combine Light Rum, Gold Rum, Cointreau, Lime and Orange juices, and Orgeat. Stir or shake until well combined. Pour into cups filled with crushed ice, and drizzle dark rum on top.*

Mai Tai Punch

There’s a moment in Hawaii when Barry and Lana are in bed, and they start saying violent, mildly shocking things to one another. He looks down at her and says, “This is right. This is good.” Those words perfectly describe what love is—finding that one other person who understands your weirdness and jumps right on into it with you. Barry, I’m sorry it took me so long to get to the diving board. Cheers!

*This gold pineapple glass, while attractive in a photo, is hands down THE WORST container I have ever put a drink in. The top wobbles and falls off, and the bottom gets so cold and slippery that you can’t even hold it. I have a dried puddle of Mai-Tai on the back of my couch cushion to prove it. If you got this from Target on a whim, do yourself a favor and THROW. IT. OUT.

Summertime

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Summertime

Image credit: Summertime, 1955

It’s official- the summer doldrums are here. Every July, I become a thoroughly unpleasant person to be around as I slog through a Groundhog Day existence of air conditioning and double showers. But this year, I made the wise choice to take a short jaunt to Venice with Katharine Hepburn in the lush 1950s drama Summertime (Disc/Download). And cookie, I’m glad I did.

When this film begins, Hepburn’s character Jane is excited about her trip to Venice. She’s saved up for it, made all the arrangements, and idealized the Italian city in her mind. She knows it’s a place for romance, but she doesn’t even dare hope for that. She’s been single a long time, and well…it’s enough just to see the beautiful canals. That’s what she tells herself, anyway. But then she actually arrives and discovers that Venice is THE WORST place to go if you’re single. I should know—I went there alone in 2002 and it was the loneliest trip of my life. Thankfully, she meets a charming antiques dealer, who may or may not be trustworthy, but still manages to pull her out of her shell and turn this trip from depressing to romantic. It’s here that Hepburn makes you feel what it is to fall for someone. To hope, but not let yourself hope too much, then to take that first tentative step before rushing in with open arms and saying “I love you” on the first date. She may get her heart broken, but oh, that first, initial joy is worth it. To truly live, is worth it.

Aside from my admiration for this character’s wardrobe (an enviable mix of shirt dresses and plucky hair bows), I also love that Jane travels with her own bourbon. You just can’t count on a foreign country to have all the comforts of home. Lucky for Jane, her pensione has all the ingredients on hand to turn that bourbon into a classic Boulevardier.

Boulevardier

1.5 oz Bourbon

1 oz Campari

1 oz Cinzano Sweet Red Vermouth

Orange Twist and Cherry garnish

Combine first three ingredients in a shaker with ice. Stir until chilled and combined, then strain into a glass filled with a large ice cube. Garnish with a twist of orange and Luxardo cherry.

Boulevardier

Cousin to the more popular Negroni, I actually prefer a Boulevardier if I’m going to commit to a heavier, alcohol-forward cocktail. And really, that’s what this movie needs. Something a little bitter, a little sweet, and very strong, just like Jane’s heart. Cheers!

Eat Pray Love

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eat pray love

Image credit: Eat Pray Love, 2010

I’ve written about several travel-centric movies this month, even gone to Spain and back.  And now it’s time to ask the question-  what does it all mean?  What’s the point of sitting in a cramped airline seat, fighting off jet lag, trying desperately to translate languages you only partly understand, and spending far too much money on shoes?  Why do we do this to ourselves?  To help me answer these questions, I’m watching the cinematic adaptation of a book that caused a generation of women to start saving up their frequent flier miles, Eat Pray Love (Disc/Download).

When I first saw this film almost ten years ago, I was underwhelmed.  It felt too long, too full of bumper sticker philosophy, too privileged. But now that I’ve grown up a bit, had some successes and setbacks of my own, I see it through a new lens.  What was once a story about an unsympathetic, deeply flawed woman traveling to Italy, India, and Bali to “find herself” (which in this case means eating carbs, wearing colorful scarves, and sweating beautifully) is now a permission slip.  It’s permission to chase happiness, to make mistakes, and to take care of yourself.  It’s permission to have that second glass of wine, to have the courage to extricate yourself from a relationship that’s gone south, and to do something wildly irresponsible (in my case, taking a trip to Menorca while I’m still paying off my new kitchen). If Elizabeth Gilbert’s book and this film have taught us anything, it’s that we only have this one life.  What we do with it is entirely up to us—a fact that’s equal parts scary, exciting, and empowering.  I may not have all the answers yet, but I believe balance might eventually be within grasp.

There’s a lot of beautiful scenery in this film, but I most connect with the scenes shot in Rome and Naples.  The pizza! The pasta!  The delightful small cars!  To celebrate this search for pleasure, I’ll be making a cocktail I found on my own travels, which uses my favorite summertime Italian aperitif. While watching Eat Pray Love, I recommend drinking an Aperol Sour.

Aperol Sour

2 oz Aperol

½ oz Gin

¾ oz lemon juice

½ oz simple syrup

1 egg white

Orange peel for garnish

Add Aperol, gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, and egg white to a cocktail shaker.  Do a dry shake to combine, then add ice.  Shake vigorously until chilled and frothy (about a minute).  Strain into a coupe glass, and garnish with an orange peel.

Aperol Sour

On my recent vacation, I spent a lot of time on the beach reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s other bestselling book, Big Magic.  In the way that Eat Pray Love encourages us to find balance in our lives, Big Magic encourages us to find the creative energy within and let it out into the world.  This may all be a lot of self-help mumbo jumbo, but I can’t deny that both of these books, and this film, have brought new energy into my writing.  And I give special thanks to Eat Pray Love for introducing me to my favorite mantra: Smile with your liver.  Cheers!

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

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secret life of walter mitty

Image credit: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, 2013

When I started on my journey with Campari, I had no idea where it would take me. But as is so often the case, when you venture into the unknown, great things can happen. Such was my experience watching this week’s film, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (DVD/Download). The classic film fan in me wanted to put this Ben Stiller remake in a large box labeled ‘why???’, but then I sat down and watched it. And loved it.  And wanted to tell everyone I know about it. So here we are.

What The Secret Life of Walter Mitty does so well is incorporate special effects in a way that’s, well, special. Life magazine employee Walter Mitty seems to enjoy a rather mundane existence cataloging negatives, but deep inside his head he’s got the ultimate blockbuster on constant stream. Only within his daydreams do we see buildings blowing up, crazy fight sequences, and luscious Tom Cruise hair. But then slowly, in a way you don’t even notice it’s happening, Walter’s life becomes actually exciting, and magic, and it’s not all a celluloid trick.  It’s real. Ben Stiller does an amazing job both as a director and actor, bringing relatability to this character who has me wondering if maybe I need to take more risks- to see behind walls, to draw closer, to feel.

Taking inspiration from Walter’s mom’s clementine cake, beloved by warlords and Sean Penn alike, this cocktail is the perfect beverage to toast the adventurer’s spirit.  While watching The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, I recommend drinking a Clementine Negroni.

Clementine Negroni

1 clementine, peeled

3 dashes orange bitters

1.5 oz gin

1.5 oz Campari

1.5 oz sweet vermouth

Clementine Twist for Garnish

Place peeled clementine and orange bitters in a shaker and muddle until clementines are broken down and pulpy. Add gin, Campari, vermouth, and ice. Shake vigorously to chill, then strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a clementine twist.

In a way, I often feel like Cinema Sips is my secret life.  Hum-drum publishing accountant by day, mixologist and cinephile by night, this blog has always felt like an opportunity to reveal more of myself; to find the ‘special’.  And maybe, when my readers take the time to watch these films, and enjoy a well-mixed beverage, they’ll find it too.  Cheers!

Weekend at Bernie’s II

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Weekend at Bernies 2

Image credit: Weekend at Bernie’s II, 1993.

I harbor a secret (or not-so-secret) love for most of the terrible sequels I’ve featured this month. A lot of them were favorites from my childhood that still bring me a certain amount of glee. I went into this week thinking that Weekend at Bernie’s II (DVD/Download) was actually pretty good, based on my memory from 20 years ago. Welllllll……. I admit. I was wrong. Go ahead, put in me in movie jail and make me watch Ingmar Bergman films as punishment. I deserve it.

I get a shocking amount of traffic on Cinema Sips from my original Weekend at Bernie’s post, so I know there are a lot of Terry Kiser fans out there. The first movie was ridiculous, but it was FUN! You kind of believed that it was possible for a self-centered group of one-percenters to not notice an actual human corpse in their midst. But in the sequel, all believability goes out the window with a trio of asinine plots. #1- Bernie is raised from the dead by a voodoo priestess working for mobsters. #2- the people who actually perform the voodoo ceremony are two random dudes with no connection to anything, yet they spend the whole movie following a shuffling Bernie around in search of the mob’s money. #3- Rich and Larry are back, and decide to look for the money Bernie embezzled in the first movie. They’re being trailed by Barry Bostwick, who is hired to prove that the two doofuses were in on the embezzlement. Essentially, all these people are following Bernie, I can’t keep anything straight, and I eventually throw my hands in the air and accept that this movie MAKES NO SENSE.

The one thing Weekend at Bernie’s II has going for it is a gorgeous tropical locale in the Virgin Islands. Richard and Larry spend most of their time at the hotel bar, avoiding the stench of a rotting corpse in their mini fridge (don’t ask). If you’re like me, you’ll need a lot of rum to make this funny. While watching Weekend at Bernie’s II, I recommend drinking a Voodoo cocktail.

Voodoo

2 oz aged rum

¾ oz Martini Rosso Vermouth

2 ½ oz pressed apple juice

½ oz lime juice

¼ oz simple syrup.

Combine all ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a rocks filled Collins glass.

I’d like to think I’ve always had impeccable taste in movies, but this one proves that there are a few missteps in my past. It also proves that not all sequels are created equal. For every Before Sunset, there’s a Weekend at Bernie’s II, which (like Bernie himself), is long past its sell-by date. But if you must watch, by all means please- do it with a cocktail. Cheers!

*Side note-  Pretty, pretty please do not judge Andrew McCarthy for participating in this film.  I like to think that he financed his later career as an AMAZING travel writer with the money he got from this schlock.  In my opinion- totally worth it.  I highly recommend his book The Longest Way Home.

Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights

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Dirty Dancing Havana Nights

Image credit: Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, 2004

I’m not going to pretend that this sequel holds a candle to the original Dirty Dancing. I don’t care what re-makes or sequels come down the pipeline, there will never be another Patrick Swayze. However- if you’re looking for a fun film with fabulous vintage clothes, gorgeous Cuban aesthetic, and the ever-adorable Diego Luna, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights (DVD/Download) has you covered. Plus- bonus Swayze cameo!

In the same spirit of the original, Havana Nights follows a “good girl” who falls in love with a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. Katey can’t stand the entitled American jerks of her own social set, so when a cute Cuban waiter rescues her from the mean streets of Havana, she jumps at the chance to befriend him and spice up her ballroom dancing with some Latin moves. Even Patrick Swayze pops up as the hotel’s dance instructor, in a strange Johnny Castle time-warp. But even 17 years later, he’s still got the moves.

I’ve already featured the recipe for a classic mojito with the much-more-authentic revolution film I Am Cuba, as well as a watermelon sandia with the original Dirty Dancing. So why not combine the two? While watching Dirty Dancing Havana Nights, I recommend drinking a Watermelon Mojito.

Watermelon Mojito

2-3 Fresh watermelon cubes

2 oz white rum

Fresh mint leaves

2 tsp sugar

1 oz lime juice

Club Soda

Muddle watermelon, sugar, lime juice, and mint in the bottom of a glass. Add rum, then top with club soda. Stir gently to combine.

Watermelon Mojito

I’ll admit, this movie is mainly just a great excuse to ogle Diego Luna and drink mojitos. And damn if that Wyclef Jean song isn’t just as catchy as “Time of My Life”. Now that Americans can finally visit Cuba again, it might be time to dust off my Spanish and figure out the visa situation. But only if I can dance like a gringa and yell “Cooba!”  Cheers!

Away We Go

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Film Title: Away We Go

Image credit: Away We Go, 2009

Sometimes travel has nothing to do with business or pleasure, and everything to do with searching. Searching for a person, or a place, or maybe just a feeling. In Away We Go (DVD/Download), two soon-to-be parents embark on a quest across North America to find perhaps the most important thing of all- Home. As it turns out, this is one of the hardest destinations to find.

Directed by Sam Mendes and starring John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph, Away We Go is full of both earnestness and humor. I see myself and so many people I know in these characters, two well-meaning people forced to grapple with this idea of adulthood and finding one’s place in the world. Pregnancy is a catalyst, but don’t mistake this for a She’s Having a Baby type of discourse on parenthood. Instead this is a film about two unique individuals who finally have to grow up and figure out the kind of future they want. Visiting friends and relatives in Phoenix, Madison, Montreal, and Miami, they search for an anchor to tie their boat to. Beautifully shot, with a soundtrack by Alexi Murdoch, this film truly feels like a journey.

Throughout Away We Go, John Krasinski waxes poetic on the allure of the Mighty Mississippi, and wanting to give his child a “Huck Finn” kind of upbringing. It’s a romantic notion, and certainly refreshing in the age of smartphones and videogames. When we finally see the Mississippi in this film, it feels utterly majestic. While watching Away We Go, I recommend drinking a Mighty MissisSip.

Mighty MissisSip

1 ½ oz Light Rum

1 oz Whiskey

3 oz fresh lemon juice

½ oz simple syrup

Lemon Twist

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker full of ice, and shake until combined. Strain into a chilled coupe glass, and garnish with a lemon twist.

I was in the very fortunate position to decide where I wanted to build a future before I got tied down with responsibility. I knew I didn’t like where I was living at the time (sorry DC), so I considered all the places I’d ever been that had felt like home. Austin won out, and not for a clear-cut reason. Nobody can explain why a certain place feels like home, it just….does. And as much as we want to tell ourselves that home is a person, I’m not sure I believe that. There’s a unique sense of purpose and hope that one feels when they look around and realize they’ve discovered the place where they belong. Like the characters in Away We Go, I’m grateful to have found mine. Cheers!

Y Tu Mamá También

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Y Tu Mama Tambien

Image credit: Y Tu Mamá También, 2001

Travel Month continues on Cinema Sips with a road trip through Mexico. Full warning, this movie contains a lot of sex. Like, A LOT of sex. However, it also contains enough beautiful scenery, humor, and political discourse to give Y Tu Mamá También (DVD/Download) a sheen of respectability. Plus, a with a pedigreed, Academy Award-winning director like Alfonso Cuarón at the helm, it’s no wonder this was a hit with critics and audiences alike.

I remember a Mexican friend telling me once upon a time that teenagers in his country considered this their American Pie. It was a huge blockbuster, and the film anthem of a generation. I find this absolutely absurd, only because I assume teenagers have zero taste in quality (as evidenced by the popularity of American Pie in the US). But perhaps our southern neighbors are cinephiles in disguise. As a film about randy teenagers on a road trip with a sexy dying woman, Y Tu Mamá También has crude teen jokes galore, but somehow when an English speaker reads them as subtitles, they don’t seem so lowbrow. And a drunken threesome, when set in the backdrop of a sandy paradise, seems artistic and daring.

What do eighteen-year olds do on summer break? Drink of course! Plus, Mexico is home to some truly amazing cocktail delights. I consider this week’s drink a vacation in a glass, so if you need a break from reality, this will transport you. While watching Y Tu Mamá También, I recommend drinking a Charolastra Margarita.

Charolastra Margarita

1 oz silver tequila

2 oz pineapple juice

1 oz Cointreau

½ oz Lime Juice

Lime twist for garnish

In a shaker filled with ice, combine tequila, pineapple and lime juices, and Cointreau. Shake vigorously until chilled. Pour into a glass filled with ice, and garnish with lime twist.

Charolastra Margarita

Making stars out of lead actors Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna, Y Tu Mamá También was unlike anything at the multiplex at the time of its release. Sexy, bold, funny, and moving, it’s a film about the journeys we take both as travelers and humans. Eventually, we all end up at La Boca del Cielo. Cheers!