A Week of Movie Nights (with Cocktails)
So I recently learned that there exists a drink called the Tequila Mockingbird, which, apparently, they served at Monroeville, Alabama’s celebration of To Kill a Mockingbird’s 50th anniversary. This is just too awesome, I thought, so I went on a bit of a hunt for more literature- and movie-related drinks. Here, my friends, is the result of my effort: seven drinks that go with seven (or so) movies. Try them out. It’ll certainly be an adventure. And remember: watch responsibly.
To Kill A Mockingbird
The book got a Pulitzer Prize for author Harper Lee. The movie got Gregory Peck a Best Actor Oscar, along with two other academy awards and five nominations. There is also a stage play. The story is one of social injustice in the segregated American South, and of the courage it takes for someone to stand against nearly all of his friends and neighbors to do what’s right.
The book is also one of the most banned and challenged books of the 20th century, according to the American Library Association. Once you’ve read it, it’s easy to see why: it takes an unvarnished, unfiltered look at the ugliness of racism and the tragedies that happen when racism is endowed with the weight of the law. It shows, without apology, the abysmal behavior of people toward those who are different. The book, the film, and the play will all make you feel uncomfortable in many ways, which will be different depending on who you happen to be. No matter who you are, you should read the book, or at least watch the film. It’s not a feel-good story, and there is no happy ending. But you can at least toast the progress we’ve made so far, and drink to a future when “liberty and justice for all” won’t be confined to the Pledge of Allegiance.
Take 1 ½ ounces of your favorite tequila (I like Sauza Conmemorativo), ¾ ounces of white crème de menthe, and the juice of one lime. Put them into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a julep cup, and garnish with a sprig of mint (optional).
Drink to Harper Lee’s health, and resolve to be more like Atticus Finch.
The original classic, 50 years later.
The book and the movie that share this title bear very
little resemblance to each other. In the novel, Robert Roy MacGregor is a
supporting character at best (though a pivotal one). In the film, Rob,
portrayed by Liam Neeson, is the star. Tim Roth’s
Archibald Cunningham is a perfect villain, whose sense of self-loathing
makes him sympathetic. A lot of the film is hard to take, notably
a brutal (though nudity-free) rape scene and a tragic suicide. But fans of
Scottish nationalism (and of justice) will take heart in Rob’s eventual triumph
over the treacherous Englishmen who have wronged him and his clan.
Put 1 ½ ounces of your favorite* Scotch whiskey, ½ ounce of sweet vermouth, a dash of bitters, and some ice into a cocktail shaker and do what comes naturally. Strain into a cocktail glass, garnish with a maraschino cherry, and serve.
*A Rob Roy is traditionally made with Dewar’s, but use what you like. Some will argue that a good Scotch should never be mixed into a cocktail. They’re free to never mix their Scotch if they want, but what you do with yours is none of their business, thank you.
The original 1817 novel by Sir Walter Scott.
I must admit that I have not read Pierre La Mure’s novel by this name, nor have I seen most of the films that share the title. But the latest one, Moulin Rouge! (with an exclamation point), stars Ewan MacGregor and Nicole Kidman in a celebration of Gilded Age decadence. The film is visually sumptuous, winning Oscars for art/set direction and for costume design, and reminds one of the opera La Bohème. In the style of Bollywood, the players unexpectedly break into song and dance, with anachronistic music from across the 20th century. But it works.
Invite some friends over, get all dressed up, screen the film, and suspend the giving of damns while you knock back a few of these. Mix 1 ½ ounces of sloe gin, ¾ ounce of sweet vermouth, and a dash of bitters in an ice-infested shaker. Strain over ice into a cocktail glass. Be happy that you’re not dying of consumption.
The latest movie, with Nicole Kidman and Ewan MacGregor.
This film (first a Broadway musical) is another tragic
celebration of love and decadence, this time set during the last years of the
Weimar Republic. Much of the story takes place at the Kit Kat Klub (parallels,
anyone?) in Berlin, and the rise of the National Socialist party looms ever
larger in the background. It’s very different from the stage version, which
includes several more songs. You can get the missing ones on the Broadway cast
album. Liza Minnelli snagged a Best Actress Oscar for her performance as Sally Bowels, singing and dancing to drive away the darkness.
“…there was a City called Berlin in a country called Germany. It was the end of the world, and I was dancing with Sally Bowles… and we were both fast asleep."
You can drink yourself into sweet oblivion with a cabaret, old chum. Put a bunch of ice cubes, ½ ounce Benedictine, 1 ounce of gin (I recommend Bombay Sapphire), ½ ounce dry vermouth, and a generous dash of bitters into your shaker. Use the shaker for its intended purpose and strain the drink into a cocktail glass. Drop in a maraschino cherry. Bonus points if you can tie the stem into a knot using only your mouth.
Liza Minnelli is amazing.
Mutiny (on the Bounty)
This one is for the lovers of historical dramas (and for those dealing with unreasonable managers). Several novels and films have been based on the true story of Master’s Mate Fletcher Christian’s mutiny against the much maligned Lieutenant William Bligh (called Captain by courtesy aboard his command). The most famous Bounty film, released in 1962, stars Trevor Howard and Marlon Brando. A much better version (at least, from a historical perspective), called simply The Bounty, was released in 1984, with Sir Anthony Hopkins as Bligh and Mel Gibson as Christian. The newer version highlights the fact that Bligh and Christian were initially good friends, and shows their relationship declining as Bligh grows more domineering. After a long time at sea with this guy, anyone could be forgiven for needing a few drinks to keep from starting a revolution.
Mutiny (The Cocktail)
Invite your friends from the office for a screening of one of the Bounty films and mix a pitcher of these: pour 1 ½ ounces of dark rum (Pusser’s is my rum of choice), 2 dashes of bitters, and ½ ounce of Dubonnet Rouge over some ice in a shaker. Shake. Strain into a cocktail glass (are you noticing a theme here?) and garnish with a cherry. You should definitely use one of those little plastic swords for this one. Be careful not to oppress your guests, or you may find yourself adrift.
This one's good.
Nightmare (on Elm Street, or Before Christmas)
The original Nightmare on Elm Street is a frightening film, but the sequels (the ones that I’ve seen, anyway; there are nine films all together) get progressively more comical. There are even drinking games, but I don’t recommend playing them unless you want to do (and clean up after) the occasional spit-take. You could easily do an all-nighter with this series and the right combination of guests. If you’re doubting your endurance (or your ability to deal with dream-violence), get a copy of The Nightmare Before Christmas instead.
Tim Burton’s creepy stop-motion animation makes this film both beautiful and a touch unsettling, as does Danny Elfman’s score. The story is about Jack Skellington’s misguided attempt to trade places with Santa Claus after getting bored with doing Halloween year-in and year-out. Gothy people will love this film, as well as the accompanying booze.
Nightmare (the cocktail)
Add ½ ounce orange juice, 1 ounce of Madeira wine, 2 ounces of gin, and an ounce of cherry brandy to a shaker half-full of ice, and shake the living daylights out of it. Strain it into a cocktail glass and for the love of Mike, don't. Fall. Asleep.
One stop shopping for all your Krueger-related needs.
This disaster film is about an alarmist scientist who warns of the opposite of global warming. Yes. Look out, Earth’s magnetic field is about to shift! The world is going to get flash-frozen! And it’s going to happen in about an hour! Run for the... where is there to run to, exactly? The very premise of this film is silly, but again, gather the right crowd and it can be a rollicking MST3K-worthy evening. Especially when the right alcohol-based catalyst is introduced.
Put some ice in your shaker and add 1 ounce of cream, ½ ounce of peppermint schnapps, 1 ounce of Khalua (or another coffee liqueur, if you prefer), and 1 ounce of Absolut vodka. (You could use another brand of vodka if you must, but Smirnov Zero sounds stupid, and doesn’t work as a pun.) Shake what your liquor store sold you, and strain the drink into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a sprig of cool mint. You might also want to put a bowl full of Altoids on the coffee table. Crank up the air conditioner and serve ice cream, too, what the heck.
Here's the movie.
Bonus Film: Cocktail
For those of you who just can’t decide which drink you like the best, you can always rent Cocktail, with Tom Cruise, Bryan Brown, and Elizabeth Shue. This excruciatingly dated and utterly predictable film has two great advantages over the others listed above. First, Elisabeth Shue is in it. Second, and equally importantly, it’s called Cocktail. You can make whatever drink you want and still be in keeping with the evening’s theme. If you’re feeling up to the challenge of being an amateur bartender for the night, stock up your liquor cabinet, call your favorite people over, and pop this in the…my god, you might have to use a VCR for this movie! Be sure to practice your bottle-flipping routine before the guests arrive.
Predictable and dated, but, Elizabeth Shue!
You Must Chill!
Finally, remember: if you host a boozy movie night, do it
responsibly. Take the car keys when the people arrive, and put them someplace
where folks who’ve had a few too many can’t get at them. Prepare for impromptu houseguests. Have extra blankets and pillows on hand for the evening, and spare toothbrushes for the morning after. If possible, select a
Keeper of the Keys. Be safe, and cheers!