Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mixing movies and cocktails

A friend of mine recently sent me an article from the NY Times about pairing DVDs with drinks I liked the concept and the fact that the author mentioned one of my favorite obscure British films, I Know Where I'm Going!I liked the concept, but I felt, as a classic movie buff and a cocktail maker/drinker, I had something to add. So I'm stealin' his meme, breakin' out my cocktail shaker (they don't call me the "nipper" fo' nothin'), and droppin' my "g"s all over the place.

The Thin Man/martini: How can you talk about movies and booze and not make The Thin Man the first stop in your cinematic bar crawl? This is a movie in which the main characters start drinking when they get out of bed in the morning and don't stop till the case is solved several days later. They get a little tipsy, but no one gets falling-down-drunk. Yes, I realize it's fantasy but it’s a fantasy with enough reality in it to make it a very popular escapist film. Even today, this movie can be relied on to take away all but the deepest, funkiest of blues. Perhaps it’s their old-school alcohol metabolism that keeps them afloat, but I think it’s the fact that the drinks Nick and Nora Charles imbibe are really much smaller than we are used to. It's a case of the dreadful portion-size inflation that has taken over American dining and drinking. The glasses Nick and Nora used were about a third the size of the typical "martini" glass nowadays. In one scene, Myrna Loy orders three martinis and drinks them one after another. If she were to do that with a contemporary martini (which is often not a cocktail at all but just a big, cold glass of neat gin or vodka) she would spend the second half of the film having her stomach pumped. The martini she drank in 1934 would have contained quite a bit of melted ice, vermouth and bitters, as well as a large, alcohol-displacing garnish, like olives or a lemon twist.

Nick and Nora Charles have the Best Christmas ever: booze, toy guns and a new fur coat.

Martini: Fill a shaker half full of cracked ice. I usually crack the ice in the palm of my hand with a large, heavy spoon. Some find this a bit scary, though, so an alternate method is to place ice in a plastic ziploc bag and whack it against the counter top until the ice is broken. If the ice is too small it will melt and make your drink too weak; if it is too big it won’t melt enough. Trust me: it needs to be cracked. Perfecting this technique will not only stand you in good stead not only for martinis but for most other cocktails.For each cocktail, place one room-temperature jigger of gin, a large tablespoon of room-temperature vermouth and a dash of orange bitters into the shaker. Shake or stir, whichever you prefer, Mr. Bond, and strain into small martini glasses. (Ebay is a great source of vintage cocktail glasses.)

The Public Enemy/Salty Dog You have to have at least one movie about bootleggers, and this is probably the most famous. Based on a novel named "Blood and Beer," the film appeared in 1931 and made James Cagney a star. In the movie’s most famous scene, of course, Cagney smashes a grapefruit into Mae Clark's face. That's why the drink that goes best with this movie is the delicious, refreshing "Salty Dog," whose main ingredient is grapefruit juice.

Salty Dog: Fill a tall, Tom Collins glass about half full with ice and add five ounces of grapefruit juice. This drink is mind-blowingly good with fresh-squeezed juice. Add a jigger of gin (bathtub quality is fine, since the juice covers up the flavor anyway) and a pinch of salt. Stir and serve. For a more elegant presentation, you could put the juice and gin in a shaker and use a cocktail glass whose rim has been salted. Technically, a Salty Dog is a mixed drink, as it only contains one kind of alcohol. A drink becomes a cocktail when it contains two or more spirits. Yeah, I know, you wanna smash a grapefruit in my face when I say pedantic stuff like that.

Philadelphia Story/champagne cocktail/Eye-opener: Lots of old movies celebrate champagne, but perhaps none with such devotion as Philadelphia Story. This movie really goes out of its way to make sure that you know just how drunk the main characters get on the stuff. But what really sells it to me as a necessity for a movie/booze post, is its hangover scenes. Everyone who drinks in the film feels the effects the next day, to a comic degree. Was Cary Grant ever more welcome in a movie than when he dashes in fresh as a daisy (he's a recovering alcoholic who doesn't get plastered with the others) and volunteers to make everyone an "Eye-opener that will pop the pennies off the eyelids of dead Irishmen"?

Liz Imbrie (Ruth Hussey) manages to drink Uncle Willie under the table and then sobers up quickly to do some secretarial work for her "wandering parakeet" boyfriend. I've often rooted for Dexter and Liz to hook up, but that's just because I identify with her.

Champagne cocktail: Put a sugar cube at the bottom of a tall champagne flute. Soak the cube in bitters. Angustura is the classic and most available, but any bitters will do. I like orange bitters because the result has the flavor of a mimosa without watering down the champagne with juice. Fill the glass with champagne and enjoy. This works best with a mid-priced sparkling wine, I think. If you get real champagne at $40-plus a bottle, it's sort of a waste to put sugar in it.

Eye opener: If you have too many champagne cocktails while watching Philly Story (as is easy to do), you can enjoy this classic hangover cure. Fill a shaker half full with ice (if you are hung over, you may not want to fuss with cracking the ice). For each cocktail, add a jigger of white rum, a dash of Pernod, a dash of creme de cacao, a teaspoon of finely ground sugar and an egg yolk. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. This drink was originally made with absinthe, which has recently become available again. If you happen to have it in your bar, use it in place of Pernod. Try not to ride in any carts with Dinah and you should be fine.

Manhattan/Manhattan: A few years ago, my husband and I were in Manhattan and ducked into a fancy hotel for drinks. We ordered,--what else? A Manhattan. The bartender made the drink with rye whiskey and it completely changed my life. Bourbon Manhattans, which are more common, are sweeter and heavier. They will make you feel as if you are sleepwalking until you wake up the next day with a terrible headache. Rye Manhattans have a complex character, like the town after which they are named. I feel that Woody Allen's masterpiece Manhattan best reflects the warmth and unexpected edge of this cocktail. It's one beautiful movie, to boot.

Manhattan: Fill a shaker half full with cracked ice. For each cocktail,add a jigger of rye whiskey, a large tablespoon of sweet vermouth, and a dash of angustura bitters. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail, garnishing with a cherry.

Platinum Blonde /White Lady: This Frank Capra comedy tells the story of a hard-boiled reporter (Robert Williams) who marries a society dame (Jean Harlow) but falls for his gal Friday (Loretta Young). Toward the end of the movie the reporter’s pals show up at his house, late at night, drunk. He continues to entertain them and winds up on a bender that lasts for days. When he sobers up, Harlow throws him out, and he moves in with Loretta Young. They live happily ever after, thanks to the non-enforcement of the Production Code. Since Platinum Blonde was made toward the end of Prohibition, it seemed appropriate to choose a gin-based cocktail, whose other components could easily hide the taste of bootleg hooch. The White Lady with it sweet and sour flavors fills the bill.

White Lady:

Fill a cocktail shaker half full with cracked ice. For each cocktail, add a jigger of gin, half a jigger of Cointreau or triple sec and a generous tablespoon of fresh-squeezed lemon juice. Serve in a chilled cocktail glass with a sugared rim and garnish with a lemon slice. This is one of my favorite drinks, and I owe my knowledge of it to my mother-in-law, who once visited us in Minnesota in March, bless her soul.

Roman Holiday/Campari shakerato:
Roman Holiday isn't really a boozy movie, but, as this piece progresses, I find myself thinking of my favorite cocktails, first, and then trying to come up with movies to match. When I think of Campari shakerato, I think of sunshine and walking around as a tourist, gasping for a drink. Roman Holiday celebrates both those things. Also, Campari shakerato isn't as strong as other drinks on this list, so you can enjoy a couple and still go dancing on that barge in the river later.

The only drinky scene in Roman Holiday. It looks like something stronger than shakerato!

Campari shakerato: For each cocktail, squeeze the juice of one orange (about four ounces) into a shaker with ice (no need to crack it). Add a jigger of Campari, shake and strain into a large, chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange slice.


Barry Kryshka said...

Nicely done. Is it in poor taste to flog our upcoming screenings of Platinum Blonde?

Weekend of July 23, alongside Nothing Sacred.

Jennythenipper said...

Goodness, no Barry. Plug away. I plan to be at both those screenings. I will probably have a White Lady at Town Talk beforehand!

Barry Kryshka said...

Thanks! One of the many plans I haven't gotten around to implementing: half off the related cocktail at the Town Talk with a Trylon ticket stub that weekend. I should really get on that.

Jennythenipper said...

Wonderful idea! You already have devoted customers for life (lucky you!) in my family, but I'm sure you can get some of the more cerebral bar flies at TT with that promotion.

Jennythenipper said...

And further to your benefit, people who've had a drink or two are more likely to buy concessions.

ladybug said...

Your selection of movies and drinks is delightful and just in time for the weekend. And these drinks sound much better than the concoctions some friends and I use to mix during our very frugal college days (at a church school no less). Great for any marathon movie weekend, even if the movies aren't the ones listed. And thanks for being pedantic, I didn't know the difference between mixed and cocktail. You have furthered my education.

For those still on budgets, you can still be sophisticated. Get your martini glass and fill it with Blatz or Lone Star. Would Nick or Nora really care?

But for real kicks, get some authentic triple distilled vodka and Russian pickles. A shot of vodka followed by the pickle and you save lots of money on mixers. You may also be unconscious for the rest of your life.

KC said...

I can't even remember the last time I had a cocktail, but suddenly I want to try all of these. Since it has been a while, I might have to use the old-school small glasses though--eh?

Daniela said...

Great Post! I really think I started enjoying cocktails mainly because they were a constant feature in classic movies.
Personally, I like to add a bit of Brandy or Cognac to the Champagne Cocktail - gives it a nice kick.
And let's not forget the Paradise Cocktail from "One way passage". Have you tried that one?

Jennythenipper said...

Ladybug: pickles and vodka! Yes, my polish friends taught me that. Delicious! The only way to do vodka shots. And George would approve of putting Blatz in cocktail glasses.

KC: I insist on small glasses for every level of drinker. Big martini glasses are for Appletinis and Jennifer Anniston marathons.

Daniela, thanks for the tip. I'll try that.

Oh the Paradise Cocktail. I forgot all about it. I can see I'm going to have to a follow up. I've never tried one, but they sound delicious: gin, flavored brandy and OJ.

Driving home yesterday after wrestling for hours with html gremlins in this post, I was suddenly struck with an inspiration. I could make a citrus juicer with Mae Clark's face on it. And of course a pencil sharpener with Herbert Marshall's face on it. (Kickbacks to ladybug for that one).

Daniela said...

If mentioning the Paradise Cocktail means you'll be considering doing a Part 2 on this one, I'm glad I did it!

Celluloid Girl said...

Great post! I once got a set of coasters for a present with cocktail recipes on 1 side and movies on the other (which I must check when I get home). It's nice to see more drink/movie ideas, 'specially w/ 3 of my favorites: Thin Man, Philadelphia Story and Roman Holiday. :)

vagabondshoes said...

I love putting the movies and drinks together, can't wait to put it to good use!

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SteveQ said...

In case you're interested, I pulled a Rupert Pupkin and made a list:

What drink goes with Nothing Sacred?

Jennythenipper said...

Nothing Sacred: would require something sacri-licious involving midori I would think.

Thanks for the link. I'll check it out. It's got the word "cult" in the title, so I'm there.

SteveQ said...

I figured out what goes with Nothing Sacred: boil a lamb in its mother's milk and then use the result in making a White Russian.

Sarah said...

Love. This. Entry.

The Thin Man (1934)
"Say listen, is he working on a case? "
Nora Charles
"Yes, he is. "
"What case? "
Nora Charles
"A case of scotch. Pitch in and help him."

THANK YOU for the tip on where to find vintage cocktail glasses. I have been looking in thrifts everywhere and can't seem to find what I term the Nick n' Nora giggle water glassware.

I am in total agreement on rooting for Dexter and Liz to hook up. EVERYTIME I watch The Philadelphia Story, I think it may happen.

Salty Dog is my new favorite drink. Nothing tops gin or grapefruit juice in my book.

Off to create a Fredric March cocktail for Nothing Sacred- maybe it'll have fruit "punch".

Jennythenipper said...


The now defunct Costco knock off chain World market used to carry glassware. When they went out of business I found these itty bitty martini glasses there and bought a ton of them. You might use the search term "cordial" glass on ebay. I think cordial and cocktail were interchangeable terms for a while.

We should form a Liz + Dexter 4ever fan club.

Let me know what you come up with for a Nothing Sacred cocktail.


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