I love a good cocktail. I also love early screwball comedies. When I turned 21, I came to the fabulous realization that all those fun cocktails that the characters were sipping on in the movies were ones that I could legally enjoy. While most of the cocktails the characters are drinking in these movies are martinis, I like to mix it up with different concoctions. I have to admit though, I do love a great martini. Movies are obviously great on their own, but adding a cocktail into the mix makes the experience otherworldly.
The art of a well-made cocktail used to be an indispensable skill not just found behind the bar, but also in the home. The art of being able to concoct an exhaustive list of well-made cocktails seemed to become a lost art for everyone sometime in the second-half of the 20th century, but luckily, older cocktail recipes are making a comeback! Craft cocktails and speakeasy-styled bars are appearing all over the place. Basically, drinking one of these cocktails with an old movie will still keep you up to date with what's 'cool.' Let's get started (P.S. All cocktail names are linked to recipes):
Movie: My Man Godfrey (1936) + Cocktail: Champagne Cocktail = Zany Frivolity
My Man Godfrey. God I love this movie. I have seen it hundreds of times, and each time I still find myself laughing out loud and wishing that I could either be part of the crazy Bullock family, or live in a dump with Godfrey by the East River. Both lifestyles sound like perfect bliss to me if it means I get to spend time with these characters and deliver perfectly worded lines. It's definitely one of the best screwball comedies ever made, and one of the best movies of the 1930's. Madcap socialites, glamorous romance, and biting social satire all combine to take the viewer on a whirlwind ride. Wealthy Irene Bullock (Carole Lombard) meets Godfrey (William Powell) in a 'forgotten man' contest (rich people, man), and then hires him as the family butler. Godfrey ends up teaching the Bullock family some much needed lessons, despite being a 'forgotten man.' If you haven't seen this movie, it is imperative that you watch it immediately. I like sipping on a champagne cocktail when watching this movie personally because while I could just drink champagne to feel like the 5th Avenue heiress I aspire to be, I like to do a cocktail because the inclusion of bitters and garnish changes up a tried and true drink like champagne, much like what Godfrey does to the Bullock family.
Movie: The Awful Truth (1937) + Cocktail: Spiked Eggnog = Wholesome Craziness
The Awful Truth has some of my favorite lines ever uttered in a movie; such as, 'That's right, Armand. No one can ever accuse you of being a great lover' and 'Go on, divorce me! It'll be a pleasure.' Riotous and cutting, it's a load of fun to watch Lucy (Irene Dunne) and Jerry (Cary Grant) decide to divorce each other over a misunderstanding, and attempt to live different lives without each other. I found this movie totally captivating after I first watched it because it was refreshing to watch a couple start out together, and breakup very early in the movie--not at all the typical course that a romance is supposed to take in a movie, or in life (apparently). Also, this movie features Mr. Smith (Skippy, best known for playing Asta), their adorable dog, so you know you will enjoy it. Why I like drinking a spiced eggnog when watching this movie is because they make this drink in the movie. Really original, right? But actually though, the drink is perfect for this movie: the wholesome sentiment behind eggnog (Christmas, duh), mixed in with some rum, creates the right amount of craziness that is reflected on the screen. A happily married couple splitting up over one disagreement, and then trying to one-up each other is true wholesomeness gone awry. Oh, and when you do watch this movie, be prepared to fall in love with Irene Dunne's musical and cackling laugh. And her personality. But her laugh is really incredible.
Movie: Merrily We Live (1938) + Cocktail: Sidecar = Intelligent Dysfunction
Merrily We Live is not a movie that has stood the test of time in terms of popularity or mainstream recognition. It was a big hit back in 1938, but it does not have the same staying power that other films from the Golden Age seem to have. This unfortunately happens to many films from the early days of Hollywood, even the ones that were successful. I will most definitely mention this same occurrence about other films as the blog grows. Anyway, besides being a somewhat forgotten film, the real tragedy is that no one seems to remember the stunning Constance Bennett. She was part of the famous Bennett acting family and was a major star during the 1930's. Her best remembered film is the hilarious Topper (1937). Anyway, Merrily We Live concerns the eccentric antics of a wealthy Long Island family and their new butler (Brian Aherne). Not a whole lot happens, but it's so charming and entertaining that it really doesn't matter. They're so wealthy in this movie that the only perfect drink pairing is a sidecar. I was first introduced to the idea of a sidecar as an opulent drink when I was ten and reading the The Princess Diaries book series; when I watched this movie sometime later, I knew that a sidecar was the ideal drink to swig while watching this movie because, besides champagne, a sidecar seemed like the drink that rich people made for themselves. Besides that very intuitive reason, a sidecar does go down well with this movie because the refined cognac is a great stand-in for Aherne, while the lemon juice is a good proxy for Bennett--her feisty acidity fights with his British sensibilities, but they end up making 'beautiful music together' (a wonderfully old, cheesy line that I wish was still in circulation). While this movie never seems to make the Top 10 list, a viewing is definitely worthy of your time.
Movie: His Girl Friday (1940) + Cocktail: Bourbon = Rapid Hilarity
A lot has been said about this brilliant movie. I could go on and on, adding more laurels to its wreath, but I will try to confine it. What made me love this movie (besides literally everything) was how fast the characters spoke to each other. When I speak fast, I'm told that I'm not understood and am often asked to slow down. Having everyone understand you, even if you were speaking too fast, was glorious to fifteen year-old me. Rosalind Russell, Cary Grant, and Ralph Bellamy's ability to keep up with each other is one of the best synchronized events I've ever seen. While drinking alcohol during this movie may impede you from keeping up with the rapid-fire dialogue, bourbon needs to be drunk while this movie is playing. Before anyone calls me out on it, I know that bourbon by itself is not a cocktail per say, but I cant imagine drinking anything else with this movie. Depending on the bourbon**, I like it neat, and if it's not my favorite brand, I drink it over ice. There is no wrong way to drink bourbon in general, and that is equally true whilst watching His Girl Friday. To me, before I had actually tried bourbon, it seemed to be the perfect fast-paced, go-hard liquor, and I was right. A (print) newsroom in the early 20th century was a hurried environment, so why wouldn't reporters keep a bottle of bourbon in their desks? Exactly. They would.
Movie: The Lady Eve (1941) + Cocktail: Bee's Knees = Tantalizing Schemming
The Lady Eve was the first movie that showed me how to properly tease and seduce a man at the same time. It's become both a favorite film of mine, and a romantic manual. Watching Barbara Stanwyck breathily talk to Henry Fonda about ideal soulmates, while sexily playing with his ear and hair, is easily one of the most sensual scenes in American film. I love drinking a bee's knees** while watching this Preston Sturges treasure because, while I don't think Fonda says the term 'bee's knees' in this movie, his character seems like someone that would. Also, Stanwyck's reformed-by-true-love con woman is a true representation of the sweet and tart taste the drink yields. It would honestly make more sense to drink a beer while watching this movie because Fonda's character is the heir to a beer company, but I don't often like doing things that make sense. This movie will leave you wanting to trick the wealthy, and grab a lanky lover at the same time.
**Side note: I personally like to use Queen's Courage Old Tom Gin to make a Bee's Knees. I find it achieves that perfect balance between sweet and tart. Also, I have met the owner of the distillery and he was the one who first got me hooked on this drink, and all other gins have paled in comparison when I've made it. Always trust the experts**
I hope all of you have a chance to try out these screwball movie-cocktail combinations, but if cocktails aren't your thing, definitely watch one or all of these movies. And if you don't like movies, please try out these cocktails. You will definitely not be disappointed.