On this episode of the “VinePair Podcast,” hosts Adam Teeter, Joanna Sciarrino, and Zach Geballe look back on the most iconic movie cocktails in cinematic history in celebration of the upcoming Oscar Awards.
James Bond can always be found with a Martini in hand — shaken, not stirred. Meanwhile, the White Russian was popularized by “The Dude” in “The Big Lebowski.” The trio also discuss their favorite wine and beer movie scenes, and how drinks can define characters and shape stories. Tune in for more.
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Adam Teeter: From VinePair’s New York City headquarters, I’m Adam Teeter.
Joanna Sciarrino: And I’m Joanna Sciarrino.
Zach Geballe: In Seattle, Washington, I’m Zach Geballe.
A: And this is the “VinePair Podcast.” From a very sick Seattle, Washington it sounds like. Zach, are you feeling OK, buddy?
Z: I was just sick without you around, Adam. Missing my co-host fever.
A: What’s your regimen when you’re sick?
Z: It all goes to sh*t when you have kids. The whole house was sick at various times. What I would like to do is curl up and watch old episodes of “Futurama” and not do anything. But what I have to do is take care of my son and my daughter, and be taken care of by my wife, because I also injured my Achilles tendon right before I got sick. It’s been a real week and a half in the Geballe household.
A: A real sh*tshow in Seattle, like “Sleepless in Seattle.” I’m curious about when you guys are sick, do you drink Hot Toddies? Do you do any of that kind of stuff? I avoid alcohol like the plague.
J: No alcohol for me when I’m sick.
Z: It depends on what kind of sick I am and where in the sickness curve I am. In the last couple of days, I definitely have had a drink in the evening. Because, again, with aforementioned children, the alcohol helps a little bit. My son is a wonderful human being in so many ways, but like most kids, he is a miserable piece of sh*t when he is sick.
J: But I feel like drinking wine when you’re sick is not good.
Z: No wine. Just straight liquor.
A: Straight whiskey to the face.
Z: It’s not so much because I need more booze. I can’t smell much, so what’s the point of having something that I’m supposed to be savoring the nuances of?
A: Truth. Did you guys miss me?
Z: We did. I want to hear about your trip.
A: It was good. We were out in Napa and Sonoma recording some live segments for some upcoming “Wine 101” podcasts. So Keith and I were out there. Obviously, the topics are going to be Napa and Sonoma, that’s where we were. We got to go to some really fun places. We went to Louis M. Martini and we went to Kokomo. We got to see the Monterrosa Vineyard, which is one of America’s grand cru vineyards, which is really amazing. We had some fun meals as well, just Keith and I. I finally went to Charter Oak, which was really great. I had some probably too-late-night drinks at Cadet Wine Bar in Napa. But it was fun. It was a great experience. The weather was great, but the weather everywhere now feels like it’s getting great.
J: Yeah, we’re coming out of it.
A: Yeah, we are.
Z: I mean, it was pouring here today.
A: Oh, sorry. Obviously, I don’t really pay that much attention to these things because I don’t make wine, I just like to enjoy it. But they’re three to four weeks ahead of the growing season already out in California. They were full-on into bud break already, which was really crazy. Lots of the vineyards were full of buds and tiny leaves and things like that. Who knows what that means for the harvest? Climate change is real, though, for sure. They were saying that there are already certain days in parts of Sonoma and Napa where they were expecting to hit 90 degrees.
A: Here it goes. They definitely are going to have a drought again. But it’s great to be out there, lovely to visit California. I love living in NYC, but it’s lovely to visit California.
Z: You’re not moving.
A: Yes, it was cool. But I’m glad to be back and getting ready for Oscar night. That’s what we’re going to talk about: Movies and drinks. But before we talk about those, have you guys watched any of the contenders?
J: I don’t even know what’s nominated. Do you know?
Z: I actually have a better question, not that this isn’t a good one. Were either of you ever really into the Oscars? I’ve never cared, personally. I went through a movie phase when I was younger and definitely enjoyed movies. But I never had much of a feeling about, “This movie should win” or, “Oh my god, I can’t believe such and such got snubbed.” It’s just never been a thing. I save that kind of fandom for sports, I guess. But were either of you into the Oscars, now or ever?
J: I mean, I like to see the movies that are nominated for Best Picture. But I don’t know that I root for them in particular. I just like to have seen them.
A: I used to be really big into the Oscars. I was a theater kid. I was really into that kind of stuff. I’d watch and be like, “Oh, I love these movies.” I thought I was going to be going into film when I went into college and was like, “No, I don’t want to do this.” For some reason, journalism feels way more legit. I used to be into it. I have to say, it’s been a little weird. Even though we’ve heard that one of the good things that Covid brought is a lot of movies being watched at home, one of the other things that it kind of lost is that pull that you have to see it in the theater. I feel like I was more aware of the films when they were in the theater. I think I’m a lot less aware now of the films than I used to be. Now that so many of the films stream almost immediately, they’re competing against prestige TV. And that becomes a really hard competition. I knew that there was a new “Batman” movie coming out, for example, but I’d forgotten when it was coming out. I was seeing it everywhere and I was like, “Oh, it’s cool, I’m not into that anymore anyways.” I have some prestige TV to watch. I will admit I have not seen a lot of this year’s contenders. I hope to see more. I thought the Williams docu-drama was amazing, with Will Smith. I saw “West Side Story,” which is incredible. Most people think that’s going to win, just because it’s Spielberg. It’s just amazingly shot. It’s a beautiful, beautiful movie and it’s such a classic musical. But then you have the same issue with films like that. It bombed at the box office, no one went to see it. So now the thought is, well, maybe it wins the Academy Award and then everyone’s like, “Oh, we have to rent this.” I haven’t seen the Western that everyone is talking about on Netflix.
J: I did not like it. “The Power of the Dog.” It was really slow going.
A: I heard it’s so slow, and that’s why I haven’t watched it. I don’t want to sit down on a Friday night, watch something so slow, and go to bed. You didn’t like it, huh?
J: I didn’t love it, no.
Z: I actually realized I have seen one of these movies.
A: Which one?
Z: I’ve seen “Dune.”
J: I saw “Dune,” too.
Z: I actually went to a theater with my dad to see “Dune.”
A: “Dune” was great. What else have you seen?
J: I’ve seen, “Don’t Look Up.”
A: “Don’t Look Up” was fun. No way it’s going to win. But it was fun, though,
J: I also saw “Nightmare Alley.” I don’t know that that will win either.
A: No, I think it’s going to be either “Power of the Dog” or “West Side Story.”.
J: Or “Coda”?
A: It’s a great story, but I don’t think it wins. You have to remember, the academy loves big, expansive movies that make a statement. “West Side Story” makes the statement they want to make right now, which is them thinking they’re woke. But it’s not actually that woke of them to have “West Side Story” win. But I could see them going for “West Side Story.” And again, it’s just a classic musical. And then they love the director. Or “The Power of the Dog” because they love westerns. It’s got this really interesting story, it’s a different kind of western. The question is, will they let it win because it’s a Netflix movie and all the politics aside? But this is not a movie podcast, this is a drinks podcast. We thought we’d use this opportunity to talk about some of our favorite drinks moments in movies. I’m curious what those would be for y’all.
J: I have a handful of them that were pretty remarkable for me growing up and in my drinking age. One was in “Some Like it Hot.” There’s this really great scene, the Manhattan scene. The party in “Upperseven” with Marilyn Monroe, who was actually an idol of mine as a kid.
J: Yeah, I had a poster of her on my wall. It’s kind of weird. I loved her. I thought she was the coolest. I obviously didn’t know much about her.
A: How did you get introduced to her?
J: I don’t know.
A: Do you think your parents showed you a movie of hers and you were like, “She’s the best?”
J: It must have been that. Anyway, I think that that’s such a great scene. They have that bottle of bourbon, her and Jack Lemmon, and they’re drinking it. They call a friend to get some of the vermouth to make Manhattans in their little Dixie cups, and then it becomes a big party. I just love that scene so much. Maybe subconsciously, that’s why I love Manhattan so much. You had that one, too, Zach?
Z: I did, yeah. What’s also great about it is it’s a lot of fun and, it’s not exactly slapstick, but the physical comedy element of that scene. But also it conveys something that’s very interesting. I made my list and I was like, OK, I’m gonna watch some of these scenes, because I saw “Some Like it Hot” 20 years ago. I don’t remember it super well. What was interesting to me is that we now think of the Manhattan more through the lens of classic cocktails. Here’s the proper way to make it. In the context of the movie, you just get some bourbon and some vermouth and pour them in a cup, and there’s your Manhattan. It was almost a nice, refreshing reminder that it’s also a thing you can have fun with. It doesn’t have to be taken uber seriously.
J: Yeah, I love that.
Z: I’ve got one that was hugely impactful on my life, which we can just dispense with right away. I’m just going to call it the White Russian because that’s the cocktail.
A: We knew it was coming.
J: Yeah, politics.
Z: I’m just saying, we’re not getting into that. This is also not a politics podcast, although it’s maybe closer to that than a movie podcast sometimes. This was a really important drink for me in college. It was one of my go-to drinks. It’s a terrible go-to cocktail for a college student for a variety of reasons. But I liked the sweetness of it. I liked the balance of it. I will be honest, “The Big Lebowski” was never one of my favorite Cohen Brothers movies. I thought it was fine. I think it’s a movie that, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve appreciated a little bit more. But there was something about the way that the cocktail functions in the movie. There’s another one that I’m sure we’ll get to soon that serves a similar function, but it’s so iconic in the hands of the character that it’s a totem of the movie in a way that very few other cocktails are.
A: Nice. I’m going to throw us a curveball and go away from cocktails.
Z: We’re two cocktails in. Let’s totally change up the format.
A: Let’s change the format. I’m going to say the one that’s very obvious, which is the other one that you said, and I’m not going to do that yet. I’m going to let one of you do that, probably Joanna, because she’s a huge fan of those films and knows all of them. Do you guys want to go to a party at the Moon Tower? I think that the “Dazed & Confused” keg party scene is one of the most iconic representations of what underage drinking is in any film I have ever seen. It’s just what it actually is. There’s some fights. It’s so well done. I feel in “Superbad,” it’s almost more forced to get the alcohol, get the girl, and have sex. That’s actually not what “Dazed & Confused” is. It’s just a party. This is the party to start the summer and to hang out. At that time, it’s also legal for so many of them to be drinking because of when it’s supposed to be shot in the ’70s when 18 was the drinking age. When I first saw that movie, I was like, “Yeah, this is what it’s all about.” It’s so great. They start playing “Tuesday’s Gone” and the party’s over, and you see them trying to pump that last keg. Then they dump the red cup over the pump and everyone starts dispersing. It’s just such a great film. That, to me, is what a great party is. That is my most iconic drink scene in a movie.
J: It’s so funny because I feel like these both seem very formative for you.
A: It’s funny, I didn’t really watch “Dazed & Confused” a lot in college. I watched it a lot right out of college. When I first moved to New York, I would watch “Dazed & Confused” with friends every once in a while. You just remembered college. It was a fun time. I didn’t go to college in the ’70s, folks. All right, Joanna, what’s the movie?
J: The other one that we were probably going to talk about is “Casino Royale.” Of course, James Bond is known for his Martini. But in the scene where he’s at the poker table with Mads Mikkelsen’s Le Chiffre, he orders a dry Martini. He changes the order to three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet, shaken over ice, then add a thin slice of lemon peel. So that’s the Vesper, not our Martini. It’s such a huge moment. Bond is known for this drink. Yeah.
A: That’s really cool.
J: It’s a good one.
A: They’ve always done such a great job with Bond and drinking. It’s always been a central part of his character, whether it’s Champagne or the Martini — shaken, not stirred — or it’s the Vesper, it’s so ingrained in the character. It’s what makes all of those movies special. It’s what makes you want to have a drink when you are watching those movies.
Z: I have two thoughts on this. One thing that’s interesting about Bond is, in the books that Ian Fleming wrote, Bond is much less of a one-drink man than he is portrayed in the films. He’s portrayed as a very classic, British sophisticate. He’s not an expert in wine, but he’s versed in wine and he orders different cocktails.
J: He knows the brands.
Z: In the film adaptations, especially in the middle portion of them, he got very distilled down — pun intended — into a vodka-shaken-not-stirred Martini drinker. It essentially became a calling card for him, and it was just the image that worked. But it’s also funny to me to think about. I know they’re constantly reinventing it, but the scene where James Bond looks at a cocktail list in a bar and tries to figure out what the f*ck a cocktail is, would be hilarious to me and only me. Come up with a random ingredient, and him asking the bartender for a recommendation. I feel like it will never happen because Bond is too serious for that. But I would find that very funny. It would break with his established image as a knower of all things, even if he’s not an intellectual in any real way.
A: Yeah, totally. What’s your next one, Zach?
Z: I remember being very struck by this. It was referenced in a movie that I watched when I was probably in my early 20s and didn’t know anything about it and had to go out and try and find one, is the Singapore Sling in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” It’s what they are drinking at the very beginning of the movie, and it’s not like it’s a big part of the film. But I just remember hearing it. Like many great tropical cocktails, it’s such an evocative name and you’re just like, “Oh man, I have no idea what that is.” It sounds like a disaster in the glass, perhaps. It definitely sets the tone very well for the movie. It’s not central to the plot or anything in the way that some of these other things are. But it’s definitely a drink that I associate with very, very clearly.
A: Another one for me — I’m going back to before my drinking time — I remember watching this one scene in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” where Harrison Ford is going shot for shot. I was just thinking, “Huh, is that what drinking is like?” It’s this really iconic scene where he just keeps taking shots. Oh, sorry, it’s not him. It’s the female lead. What’s her name? I guess this must make you a good drinker when you could just drink someone under the table. That’s when I learned about drinking someone under the table. It’s just such a funny scene. Also to be a kid watching that movie and thinking, “Oh wow, I guess it’s totally normal to drink 30 shots.” At that time when they shot that film, they had no regard for showing excessive consumption and things like that. No, this is part of the plot of the movie. I’ve always thought it was a very funny scene for drinks.
J: Yeah, that’s a good one. Another one that’s not a cocktail per se, is in “The Shining.” A pretty iconic bar in “The Shining.” Jack Torrance is sitting there talking to Lloyd, the bartender, and he asks for a bottle of bourbon, a glass, and some ice, and he just wants to be left alone. And of course, he obviously proceeds to drink himself silly. Is he real? Is he not real? What’s happening? I just love that scene. I love that movie. All of the bar scenes in “The Shining” are just so great.
Z: A weird thing of mine that I’ve always wondered about, which is that these days, I don’t think it’s possible anywhere to go into a bar and be like, “Leave the bottle.” That is not a thing that you can do.
J: But I feel like that happened back in the day.
A: I think it did.
Z: How would they do that? They’d just be like, “Yeah, here’s your bill for half of the bottle” or some sh*t? It doesn’t make sense to me.
A: Look, if you’ve ever been in a bar where they’ve done that, please let us know. It’s like, you drank this much, we are going to charge you for that many ounces of liquid that you’ve drunk.
Z: I guess so.
A: At least they always have made it look like that’s what happened. Maybe it never happened. But they always made it like that was what would happen. They would leave the bottle so that you keep pouring yourself shots. Just keep it rolling, man. What a time.
J: I’m trying to think of other cocktails, where we now know the cocktail from the movie. That is absolutely the case with “The Big Lebowski” and the White Russian. And to some extent, the Vesper and also a Martini with Bond. But what are some others?
A: I don’t know.
Z: The other thing I had on my list was not a specific cocktail, so I will come back to this one that I was thinking of. To the question of other things where the drink is really known from the movie, I think it’s kind of hard to come up with this. I was thinking about this and doing a little bit of research and investigation, you see a lot of drinking in movies, whether it’s the kegger in “Dazed & Confused,” there’s certainly lots of movies about drinking mostly wine, but other things, too. But in a lot of ways movies, and TV shows to some extent, too, are very uncreative when it comes to putting cocktails in people’s hands in a way that makes sense. There are definitely movies where you see the character with a very over-the-top tropical cocktail as a way to convey something about them or about the setting or whatever. But as far as making the drink a part of that person’s identity, I don’t feel like you see that a lot in a way that does strike me as odd. We could certainly talk about this in a broader sense to a person who drinks one thing notably. That is what makes the White Russian and “The Dude” such a good fit. It’s a strange drink and it’s the only thing he drinks, basically. It says so much about his character in that very understated way.
A: That repetitiveness throughout the entire movie is what puts that drink on the map for the viewers. If you enjoy the movie, if you love the character, if you get into it. Oh my God, I have to try a White Russian, that’s all they talked about. There are two other movies I can think of that I think were synonymous for putting a drink on the radar for the majority of consumers. One, we’ve talked about way too much so just put it out there, which is “Sideways.” The wine industry talked about it forever. I think it really did help make Pinot Noir relevant. And the other one is “Lost in Translation.” There were a lot of Americans that had no clue what Japanese whisky was. When you think of good times, you think of Suntory times. Suntory, as a company, came on the radar for Americans, and the fact that there was Japanese whisky came on the radar for Americans. The way that the movie is shot and how high-end everything feels becomes this spirit that people became aware of, in a large part, because of the film. I can’t think of other movies like that besides the four that we’re talking about, where they really made the thing. If you have others, please shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org because we’re definitely missing something. There are not only four movies.
Z: I want to shout out one other movie really quickly before we wrap up. I don’t think it’s a great movie, and I don’t think it’s a great place to learn drinks recipes. But I will say that the scene in the movie “Cocktail” with Tom Cruise, where he works his first night behind the bar. I had seen that movie a long time ago, probably when I first started in the restaurant industry. I was curious because I was interested in bartending. I saw it and was like, “Oh, this is silly.” But then I was rewatching some of the scenes the other day preparing for this, and it does capture something very perfect about being new to something like bartending. People are just yelling at you. They’re telling you drink names and you’re like, “What the f*ck is that?” One of the waitresses is like, “A Cuba Libre” and he’s like, “Why didn’t you just say a Rum and Coke?” Again, I don’t think it’s a great movie. Maybe it was more accurate to bartending in the ’80s than anything I’ve ever experienced. But just in terms of that element of it, that in-the-weeds, over-your-head, frenetic nature of a busy night behind a busy bar, that part did ring true to me.
A: We have to shout out one other movie, or else Tim McKirdy will be like, “Why the hell did I listen to this podcast and they didn’t say “Crazy, Stupid Love”? There are a lot of people who feel that that scene is iconic. It’s funny, I don’t
J: It’s an Old Fashioned.
A: He’s making an Old Fashioned, which was a cocktail that was cool at the time of the movie, too. A lot of people knew about it already. Yes, he does make it correctly. I think that that’s why cocktail people love the movie, because it’s one of the only scenes where the actor actually makes the drink the right way.
J: Because he consulted with a bartender.
A: Which again, is cool. But until Tim told me about that scene again, I had totally forgotten that scene in the movie. With some of these other ones, they are scenes that are at the pinnacle of the film. The keg scene in “Dazed & Confused” is the scene we all were waiting for.
J: Those are the things that made their way into popular culture.
A: Exactly. But we had to shout it out because Tim’s listening. But otherwise, if you have other favorite films and scenes we haven’t talked about, shoot us an email at email@example.com. It’s always super interesting to rediscover the movies that we love, maybe the movies we didn’t love, movies we didn’t see, and watch those scenes as well. And we haven’t even gotten to TV. There are a lot of really cool scenes in TV as well.
Z: Whenever the Emmys are, we can do it then.
A: We can do it then. Until then, feel better Zach. Take some Sudafed, maybe drink a Hot Toddy. I will talk to you both Monday.
J: Yes, have a great weekend.
Z: Sounds great.
Thanks so much for listening to the “VinePair Podcast.” If you love this show as much as we love making it, please leave us a rating or review on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever it is you get your podcasts. It really helps everyone else discover the show.
Now for the credits. VinePair is produced and recorded in New York City and Seattle, Washington, by myself and Zach Geballe, who does all the editing and loves to get the credit. Also, I would love to give a special shout-out to my VinePair co-founder, Josh Malin, for helping make all of this possible, and also to Keith Beavers, VinePair’s tastings director, who is additionally a producer on the show. I also want to, of course, thank every other member of the VinePair team, who are instrumental in all of the ideas that go into making the show every week. Thanks so much for listening, and we’ll see you again.
Ed. note: This episode has been edited for length and clarity.