James Bond without his martini? The 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 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.
Hopefully, that didn’t start a trend.
Another old-time classic, the 1922 silent movie “Blood and Sand,” also 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, who is 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, Duecy writes, 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, such as the ’80s romantic drama “Cocktail,” in which Tom Cruise shows off his mad bartending skills. There also is the 1934 movie “The Thin Man,” in which William Powell explains the science of shaking.
Said Duecy: “My favorite line, which Nick delivers to a crew of white-vested bartenders 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 said. “All of a sudden, sales soared.”
Finally, 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 a Champagne cocktail – we’ve used a version that includes a splash of brandy – as well as a recipe for blood and sand.
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.
Yields 1 drink.
Recipe 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.
Yields 1 drink.