Relaxing with a great drink in your hand and an excellent movie cued up on your screen is one of life’s great, simple pleasures. It’s also something many of us have more time to do now than ever before.
Perhaps it’s no coincidence that many of the best movies of all time include a heavy focus on imbibing, from ongoing thematic references to entire booze-soaked plots: The night of excess and its regrettable decisions; the plot hatched in the bar’s back booth; the frat house party; the alcohol-fortified hero.
If discovering the perfect match between a glass of wine and a bite of cheese amplifies the pleasure of both, then why not do the same by finding the just-right drinks to pair with the best drinks movies?
Of course, even if you’re stuck Netflix-and-chilling by yourself, there are now ways to get friends in on the fun virtually. For instance, with Netflix Party, you can synchronize playback through Google Chrome while participating in a group chat through the same interface.
From iconic films to debauched comedies, here’s what to watch — and what to drink while you do.
10. The 007 James Bond Franchise
Few movie characters are as inclined to imbibe as James Bond. Author Ian Fleming both giveth and taketh away, though. While he’s responsible for the creation of the Vesper, his words haven’t always been to the betterment of booze: Some say that “shaken not stirred” stunted the advancement of cocktails for decades. (Hate-mail disclaimer: Martinis are a personal matter, so make them as you please).
As you’re working your way through the anthology and arrive at “GoldenEye,” switch up your drink to the cocktail of the same name. It’s the house cocktail at the GoldenEye Resort in Jamaica, and was concocted by Chris Blackwell, Rock & Roll Hall of Famer, creator of Blackwell Rum, and owner of the estate since the mid- 1970s.
According to Blackwell, the drink, which fittingly is a visual match for its name, was a creation of convenience. “I simply put equal amounts of pineapple juice and rum in the cocktail shaker and took a sip,” he says. “It was too sweet, so I added some fresh-squeezed lime to taste. And there it was.”
It’s a welcome drink for his guests, and a new drink for you to sip on while watching Brosnan-era Bond. Blackwell is even collaborating on a 007 Limited Edition of his rum, which will be released this fall in conjunction with the franchise’s 25th effort, “No Time To Die.”
9. Wine Country
The newest edition to the list of best drinks movies is 2019’s “Wine Country.” Directed by Amy Poehler, and starring a six-strong cast of female comedic heavyweights, the movie is centered on a 50th birthday weekend getaway in Napa Valley.
When you can’t head out for a weekend of in-person wine tasting, bring the wine into your living room. A number of Napa Valley wineries are currently offering virtual tastings. The list includes AXR Winery, B Cellars, Clos du Val, Round Pond Estate, and St. Supéry Estate Vineyards & Winery.
Sign up for one, do the tasting, then start the movie and polish off all those bottles you just opened. Or pair with any Napa Valley wine to feel the “Wine Country” vibe.
“Cocktail” stands tall 32 years later as the zenith of bad 1980s cocktail culture. Neon lights, flair bartending, and cringeworthy shot names — it’s all there, now with some measure of nostalgic appeal (who doesn’t want to sidle up to a beachfront bar these days?).
Of course, there’s no shortage of options for what you should be imbibing while watching. One needs only to pull up the “The Last Barman Poet” scene, in which Tom Cruise mentions a dozen different concoctions: “The Sex on the Beach, the Schnapps made from peach, the Velvet Hammer, the Alabama Slammer. I make things with juice and froth. The Pink Squirrel, the 3-Toed Sloth. I make drinks so sweet and snazzy. The Iced Tea, the Kamikaze, the Orgasm, the Death Spasm, the Singapore Sling, the Ding-a-ling.”
Thankfully, if you can’t quite settle on any of the above, Cruise’s character has mercy on us at the end of his recital: “America you’re just devoted to every flavor I got. But if you want to get loaded, why don’t you just order a shot?”
7. The Frat Party: Animal House and Old School
“Old School” and “Animal House” together represent the classic new and, well, old school takes on the frat movie. You’re probably never going to agree with your dad on which is better, either. It’s a generational preference whether you lean into the John Belushi-powered 1978 film, or the 2003 flick with Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn, and Luke Wilson.
What everyone can agree on is that you’re drinking beer for this movie-drinks pairing; there’s no way around that. And not a 4-pack of your favorite triple dry-hopped, semi-naturally fermented, seasonal farmhouse hazy IPA, either. This calls for a case of your cheap, collegiate, macro beer standby. Maybe it’s Schlitz, maybe it’s PBR. You do you.
6. The Hangover (Three-Part Series)
We’ve all been there. A night gets a little out of hand. Memories are foggy. Everything hurts. Of course, this doesn’t usually involve tigers, Mike Tyson, potential kidnappings, and hastily arranged marriages. The antics only continue in later films, from Tyson-style face tattoos in Thailand to hasty trips to Tijuana. That’s what makes “The Hangover” great: It’s hilarious and relatable while still letting you off the hook, in an “at least my friends and I aren’t that bad” kind of way.
The truth is, you’re most likely watching this while nursing your own hangover. So mix up a Bloody Mary or something low-ABV with fresh juice to bring yourself back up to speed.
“Swingers” sports the classic scene of Jon Favreau ordering a Scotch, “A Scotch on the rocks, please. Any Scotch will do, as long as it’s not a blend, of course. A single malt. Glenlivet, Glenfiddich perhaps. Maybe a Glengow… any Glen.”
The movie is also a favorite of the drinks industry today. “I love the movie ‘Swingers,'” says Elayne Duff, a consultant and strategist with Duff On The Rocks. For her, the 1996 movie brings back memories of the era. “We had a very cool version of this secret bar with a swing band [in the Lower East Side of New York]. I went there almost every Saturday night and drank Cosmopolitans; it was the ’90s, after all. This movie was money, as they like to say, so many great lines and Vince Vaughn was at his best.”
“Maybe I’ve been incepted by all the movie posters I’ve seen with Vince Vaughn, Martini in hand, or maybe it’s the way I can relate to both Mike and Trent at different times in my life, but I don’t think I’ve ever watched that movie without some form of drink in hand,” says Trevor Frye, the president of Wash Line LLC, who has also been running the B.A.R.E. SolidariT-shirt fundraising project, selling shirts and stickers to provide donations to hospitality professionals.
So drink a Cosmo, a Martini, any Glen you can find, or, in Frye’s case, just the whiskey of your choice. “I’d sip on a whiskey with some bite to it. E.H. Taylor Barrel Proof and Noah’s Mill are currently open on my desk, and either would do just fine,” Frye says. “And water; like a deli quart’s worth of water.”
If you asked any film buff to name the most famous movies, “Casablanca” would likely be on the list. This Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman vehicle happened to be set, predominantly, in a nightclub and casino, Rick’s Café Américain. (Word to wise: Don’t bother if you and when you find yourself in Morocco; the actual establishment may fall short of what you’ve envisioned).
There’s plenty of drinking in the movie, as you’d expect, and much of it is centered around Champagne. You’ll want to drink some bubbles yourself while watching, ideally out of a coupe glass to match the stylish, classic vibes. Intersperse that with the occasional French 75 or Champagne Cocktail, both of which are mentioned, to keep the mood going all night long.
3. Lost in Translation
What does Bill Murray whisper to Scarlett Johansson in the final scene of “Lost in Translation”? We may never know. What we do know is the line he says over and over again while filming his character’s television commercial, “For relaxing times, make it Suntory time.”
Unless you’re sitting on a secret cache of Yamazaki 18 year-old or Hakushu 18 year-old — in which case, we’ll be right over — a Highball is the way to go here, deploying a blended whisky like Suntory Toki and your favorite high-carbonation soda water.
We all remember Paul Giamatti’s infamous quote: “I am NOT drinking any f*cking Merlot!” So devastating was the impact, that a decade and a half after the release of “Sideways,” California Merlot is only recently rebounding in the mind of consumers.
When you watch, consider doing the opposite of Giamatti and finding an excellent bottle of Merlot to accompany the film. There’s no shortage of serious, truly delicious Merlots coming out of California right now.
1. The Big Lebowski
The Dude and a White Russian. Name a more iconic duo; we’ll wait. The comedy classic from the Coen brothers is the perfect excuse to wear your pajamas all day long while steadfastly maintaining a drink in one hand.
The cocktail is easy to make, too: Just pour two ounces vodka and one ounce coffee liqueur over ice in a rocks glass. Top with an ounce of heavy cream. A flick of your wrist is the only stirring you really need. Up for an epic drinking-game challenge? Drink not only when The Dude drinks, but when the word “dude,” is spoken, which is apparently 160 times. Good luck!