My lifelong love for movies has been fostered by my dad, a man whose film collection is extensive and whose thorough enjoyment of those movies is immensely contagious. My favorite game to play while riding with him in the car was always “Name the movie quote”, and we have had endless hours of discussion and pleasure fueled by our mutual love for films. Since Dad has been getting in touch with his inner chef over these past few years, much to my mom’s and my great delight, our more recent conversations also run along the lines of “What are you cooking this week?” in addition to “What have you seen lately?”
In honor of Dad, whose birthday is today, I’m celebrating our mutual enthusiasm for both movies and meals, and I am going to share my three Top Ten Lists of film-inspired food over three separate blog posts. Since it is often quite lovely to have an aperitif to whet one’s appetite before getting to the real meat of the issue, I hereby present you with the first of my Top Tens: a cocktail list. CHEERS!
9. Negroni : “Roman Holiday”. Had I been a princess escaping my royal duties to have a day of sight-seeing in Rome, I would have planned a very similar day to what Audrey Hepburn experienced. How could you go wrong with espresso, gelato, the Trevi Fountain, a ride on a Vespa and a dance on a boat, all done in the company of a very dashing Gregory Peck?! When they go to the waterfront café in the evening, a Negroni seems like the perfect thing to drink. The Campari in this classic Italian cocktail is bracing yet inviting, and it would be a good pick-me-up after a long day of sight-seeing.
8. Manhattan (with brandied cherries) : “The Last Seduction”. Linda Fiorentino plays a femme fatale who steals a fortune from her husband and is on the lam within the first ten minutes of the movie. She gets stuck in a cow-town out in western New York, cutting a striking stiletto-heeled figure when she wanders into the local dive bar. The locals don’t know what to make of this woman in the swinging trench coat with a no-bullshit attitude, especially when she commands the bartender to “give me a Manhattan,” her voice sheathed in black leather. She spends the rest of the movie trying to get back to Manhattan, no matter what she has to do and who she has to use to get there.
7. Spiked Eggnog -- “L.A.Confidential”. This favorite movie of mine opens with a Christmas party at the downtown L.A.P.D. station , where the cops are celebrating Christmas Eve while being quite liberal with the hooch. Unfortunately, the alcohol gets the better of them and all hell breaks loose, triggering a chain of events which sets the movie in motion. But as long as no violence enters our picture, I would propose a very boozy Christmassy punch whose components represents two of the main cops in this fantastic film: an eggnog made with real eggs and heavy cream, as silky smooth as Kevin Spacey’s suave Sergeant Jack Vincennes, and spiked liberally with bourbon and rum, packing a punch as powerful as Russell Crowe’s muscleman cop, Officer Bud White.
6. Absolut Kurrant Vodka and Lingonberry Juice, a.k.a. The Wolfpaw : “The Empire Strikes Back”. The Wolfpaw was a lip-smacking libation that I experienced at the Ice Bar in Stockholm. One is given a heavy fur-lined cloak to don before entering the temperature-controlled room where the benches and the bar itself are all made of ice, and even the drinks are served in hollowed-out blocks of ice. This combination of icy vodka with tart lingonberry juice is a nod to two locations that bookend “Empire”, the opening on the Hoth ice planet and towards the end in the rosy-skied Cloud City. If someone served me this particularly magical cocktail and said to me, “I love you,” I would probably be tempted to respond as Han Solo did to Leia: “I know.”
4. Espresso Shakerato : “The Talented Mr. Ripley”. This movie definitely turns dark midway through, but in the beginning the sun is shining on Matt Damon’s Tom Ripley when he enters the orbit of the Jude Law’s handsome mercurial millionaire playboy and his devoted girlfriend played by Gwyneth Paltrow. There are beautifully poured cups of espresso in the morning and fabulous martinis every afternoon during these early halcyon days together in a little town on the Amalfi Coast. I have combined the two ideas in the form of the Shakerato: espresso blended vigorously in a cocktail shaker with a teaspoon of sugar and ice, strained into a chilled martini glass, and garnished with a twist of lemon.
2. Margarita : “The Shawshank Redemption”. Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman forge a friendship when they are both imprisoned in the Shawshank Prison. Tim Robbins’ character is a man with a plan, and he waxes eloquently about a little beach town in Mexico where he would settle if he were ever to escape. Rita Hayworth plays a role in this film, albeit in pin-up form, and her presence casts a glamorous shadow in this movie. Her presence combined with the characters’ longing for an idyllic beach in Mexico makes me think of a perfectly shaken margarita made with nothing other than good tequila, a splash of orange liqueur, plenty of fresh lime juice and rimmed with salt.