It started in Hollywood’s Golden Age, when viewers were first introduced to the effortlessly smooth, white-jacket-and-black-bow-tie wearing bartender in “Casablanca.” And still today, with the hard-drinking protagonists of the Netflix generation —here’s looking at you, Don Draper — cocktails have had a storied relationship with moving pictures.
Pop culture cocktails range from blockbuster to cult classic, black and white to ultra HD. Here are 11 movies and television shows and the cocktails they made famous.
It’s hard to think of a better known on-screen cocktail reference than that line — shaken, not stirred, and preferably uttered in a Scottish brogue. The bond between movie and drink (sorry, I’ll get my coat) runs so deep, it’s become practically impossible to order a Vodka Martini without subconsciously channeling your inner Sean Connery.
For some, casting Daniel Craig as the sixth actor to play James Bond was controversial (a blond Bond, how dare they?!). When it comes to cocktails, however, Craig went straight to the text: In the 2006 blockbuster “Casino Royale,” he orders a Vesper Martini — “Three measures of Gordon’s; one of vodka; half a measure of Kina Lillet” — a cocktail invented by Fleming in the 1953 novel of the same name. In the film, when Craig-as-Bond is asked if he’d like a Vodka Martini shaken or stirred, he irritably replies, “Does it look like I give a damn?”
The Big Lebowski
While it may not have enjoyed immediate box office success, the Coen Brothers’ comedy crime caper did big things for this creamy digestif. A combination of vodka, coffee liqueur, and light cream, the White Russian — or “Caucasian,” as slacker lead the “Dude” Lebowski calls it — appears nine times during the film, and its popularity surged with the movie’s cult following. Just like the Dude himself, his followers abide, man!
If, like some of us here at VinePair HQ, you deem a crystal whiskey decanter to be an attractive and practical desktop accessory, you’re likely a fan of the ‘60s-based TV drama “Mad Men.” Drinking is a central theme in the lives of the show’s fictional, high-profile Madison Avenue advertising executives. None more so than lead character Don Draper, whose favorite cocktail — the Old Fashioned — had disappeared into relative oblivion when the show first aired in 2007. A little over 10 years later, and driven by the success of the binge-worthy drama, the Old Fashioned can arguably be described as the most successful cocktail of the past decade.
Meet the Parents
It is also the favorite drink of Robert De Niro’s character in the nightmarish in-law comedy, “Meet the Parents,” with multiple references and appearances throughout the feature. Fun fact: Though it is not his actual favorite cocktail — that’d be a classic Martini with a lemon twist — this is not the first movie in which De Niro has had an on-screen connection with the classic highball cocktail. In the gangster epic “Casino,” Tom Collins is the alias that his character, Sam “Ace” Rothstein, uses to register his personal safe deposit box.
Even though the majority of the action in this Hollywood classic takes place in the multipurpose nightclub, casino, and “gin-joint,” Rick’s Café Americain, we actually only witness the preparation of two cocktails in the entire film. One is a non-specific “Champagne cocktail.” The other is the now-legendary French 75, a boozy World War I-era concoction said to hit you with the full force of a 75-millimeter French artillery gun.
The Blues Brothers
Like many of the cocktails on this list, the Orange Whip enjoyed a resurgence in popularity hot off of its big-screen cameo. In the 1980s musical-comedy “The Blues Brothers,” Jake Candy’s character orders three of the rum-and-vodka-based, sweet, frothy cocktails, declaring: “Who wants an Orange Whip? Orange Whip? Orange Whip? Three Orange Whips!” The line has gone on to receive numerous popular culture references.
The Red Eye
There can surely be no more fitting an inclusion to a list about movies and cocktails than a movie entitled “Cocktail.” Released in a bygone epoch, when pre-Scientology Tom Cruise was still considered cool (no, really), the film tells the story of an aspiring business student who takes up flair bartending to cover his tuition. The movie introduces viewers, and a baby-faced Cruise, to the Red Eye, a now-popular hangover cure consisting of vodka, Bloody Mary mix, cold beer, and a cracked raw egg.
Sweet Vermouth on the Rocks with a Twist
If you were somehow stuck in the limbo of repeating one day of your life, over and over again, how would you fill your time? In “Groundhog Day,” cantankerous weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray) decides the best use of his seemingly unlimited existence is to try to woo a co-worker (Andie MacDowell). It takes a little longer than he bargained for, during which time he learns that a sweet vermouth on the rocks with a twist is reminiscent of “Rome — the way the sun hits the buildings in the afternoon,” and that one should always toast to world peace. Amen.
Some Like it Hot
Given that it is one of the six basic drinks named in David Embury’s definitive manual “The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks,” perhaps the only thing more famous than a Manhattan cocktail is the star-studded cast of this 1959 romantic comedy, which included Tony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe, and Jack Lemon. Monroe famously prepares the whiskey-and-sweet-vermouth-based drink in a hot water bottle “shaker,” using bourbon instead of a more traditional rye base.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Singapore Sling with Mezcal on the Side
“Twenty-four hours ago we were sitting in the Pogo Lounge of the Beverly Heights Hotel — in the patio section of course —drinking Singapore Slings with mezcal on the side, hiding from the brutish realities of this foul year of Our Lord…”
If you’ve ever been brave foolish enough to try and recreate a Hunter S. Thompson drinking session, you’ll know that this combination has the potency to do way more than just “hide” you from reality. While you might, just, remain on your feet after a couple of rounds of Singapore Slings (which contain a truly intoxicating mix of gin, cherry brandy, and Benedictine), the mezcal chaser is certain to land a knockout blow to even the most veteran of drinkers.