Book Review: “Cocktails of the Movies” Helps You Shake It Like a Paramount Picture

Book Review: “Cocktails of the Movies” Helps You Shake It Like a Paramount Picture

The latest iteration of the evolving Titanic drinking game my partner and I play with our friends requires everyone to chug a beer when Rose does so at the party in steerage. If we wanted to be authentic, though, what kind of beer would we chug? Probably not our preferred IPA.

The question hadn’t even occurred to me until I read Cocktails of the Movies. Author Will Francis details the preparation of 71 mixed drinks consumed by characters in movies ranging from 1914’s Caught in a Cabaret (ever try a “horse’s neck”?) to 2020’s The Wrong Missy (a mismatched couple try to scratch the “tropical itch”).

There are plenty of guides to cocktails inspired by books and movies, but Cocktails of the Movies — illustrated with character portraits by Stacey Marsh — is distinctive in that its drink list isn’t just derived from puns on the films’ titles or even mere thematic connections. These are the drinks the characters are actually seen sipping, so the book amounts to a cultural history of cocktails.

In some cases, the drinks are famous enough that they didn’t need any cinematic boost, though it took some impressively close observation for Francis to deduce that the martini Jack Nicholson sips in Batman (1989) is “wet,” with a two-to-one ratio of gin to vermouth. In other cases, it was the movies that made the drinks iconic: for example, the Dude’s signature white Russian in The Big Lebowski (1998). In the belated 2008 film adaptation of Sex and the City, Francis reminds us, the middle-aged characters toast the cosmos they popularized in their HBO days.

The book’s publication is timely, now that we’re all looking for ways to add a little excitement to watching yet another piece of streaming content. At your next virtual movie marathon, why not add some flamed zest to that old fashioned you’re creating to drink along with Ryan Gosling in Crazy Stupid Love (2011), or wake yourself up with a jolt by shooting an amber moon over brunch along with Sir John Gielgud in Murder on the Orient Express (1974)? While you’re riding the rails and cracking some eggs, you can also make a gin Alexander to warm your spirits as Bing Crosby and company sing about snow in White Christmas (1954).

I’m not even sure where to start making Cocktails of the Movies, but I think I know where to finish: it would be my crowning glory as a cinephile mixologist if I could whip up a turquoise blue, the Cuban variant invented for Tom Cruise’s character in Cocktail (1988), while juggling the bottles for TikTok’s benefit.

Oh, and the Titanic beer? Likely Wrexham Lager. Cheers!

Jay Gabler