James Bond without his martini? “The Big Lebowski” dude without his White Russian? Unthinkable.
You won’t see any “Best Supporting Drink” in this year’s Academy Awards ceremonies, but cocktails play a major role in movies, serving as props, symbols and reflections of what’s going on behind the scenes.
“The thing about cocktails is they’re about what’s going on in time and the media, and actually, they create a timeline,” said Cheryl Charming, a New Orleans-based bar manager who tracks the history of movie drinks on her website, MissCharming.com.
Charming’s list starts all the way back in 1917 with the Charlie Chaplin film “The Adventurer,” in which he makes what appears to be a whiskey and soda. Exact method: Squirting the soda in the bottle, drinking from the bottle, then using the glass as an ashtray.
Let’s hope that didn’t start a trend.
But another old-time classic, the 1922 silent movie “Blood and Sand,” did make an impression on the bar scene, writes cocktail historian Erica Duecy in her book, “Storied Sips.”
The movie helped make a star of Rudolph Valentino — also known as The Great Lover — and one of the screen’s first sex symbols. Valentino played a poor boy who grew up to become one of the greatest matadors in Spain and is torn between his wife, a friend from childhood, and a wealthy widow. (There was a 1941 remake starring Tyrone Power.)
Valentino, known for his elegant good looks, leaned toward macho roles as a kind of counterbalance, and the Blood and Sand cocktail, which first appears in the 1930 “Savoy Cocktail Book,” is a mix of masculine-feminine. There’s rugged scotch, the sand-colored spirit, mixed with a fruity cherry brandy and sweet vermouth, the “blood” side of things.
The result, writes Duecy is “more than the sum of its parts, a smoldering, luscious cocktail that seduces on the first sip.”
Sometimes the movies show us how to make a cocktail, like the ’80s romantic drama “Cocktail,” in which Tom Cruise shows off his mad bartending skills.
Or there’s the 1934 movie “The Thin Man,” in which William Powell explains the science of shaking.
“My favorite line, which Nick delivers to a crew of white-vested bartenders,” Duecy says, “is ‘The important thing is to always have rhythm in your shaking. A Manhattan you shake to foxtrot time. A Bronx to two-step time. A dry martini you always shake to waltz time.’ “
The cult classic “The Big Lebowski,” released in 1998, has amassed loyal fans, many of whom have adopted the White Russian — vodka, coffee liqueur and cream or milk — favored by the film’s protagonist, played by Jeff Bridges.
Of course, one of the most famous cocktails in movie history is the vodka martini that appeared in the first James Bond movie, 1962’s “Dr. No.”
“Americans didn’t drink vodka back then,” Charming says. “All of a sudden, sales soared.”
Years later, when Pierce Brosnan’s version of Bond ordered a mojito in the 2002 movie “Die Another Day,” Charming found that “people were walking into bars saying, ‘Can I get a mojito?’
“And none of the bars had mint,” she added with a laugh.
Pink Champagne cocktails are the drink of choice in 1957’s “An Affair to Remember.” Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr quaff them during their shipboard romance, with the pink, or rose, Champagne symbolizing a carefree attitude.
Looking to try some silver-screen sips? Here’s a recipe for Blood and Sand, as well as one for a pink Champagne cocktail — we’ve used a version that includes a splash of brandy.
Blood and sand
- 1 ounce blended Scotch whisky
- 1 ounce orange juice
- 1 ounce Cherry Heering (cherry liqueur)
- 1 ounce sweet vermouth
- Amarena cherry, to garnish
Fill a coupe glass with ice to chill. In an ice-filled shaker, combine all ingredients except the cherry, then shake for about 15 seconds. Empty the ice from the glass and strain the cocktail into it. Garnish with the cherry.
Adapted from Erica Duecy’s “Storied Sips.”
- 1 sugar cube
- 3 dashes Angostura bitters
- 1 ounce brandy
- 5 ounces chilled Champagne or rose Champagne
- Orange twist, to garnish
Place the sugar cube in a Champagne flute, then sprinkle the bitters onto it. Add the brandy and Champagne, then top with an orange twist. Makes 1 serving.