From the flaming rum punch in the 1940s classic It’s a Wonderful Life to Carrie Bradshaw’s Cosmopolitan in the Sex in the City series and movies, hard booze and films go quite nicely together.
And it was while watching the 2007 thriller Zodiac, as Jake Gyllenhaal’s character discovers the Aqua Velva cocktail thanks to Robert Downey Jr’s maverick crime reporter, that writer Will Francis and writer and illustrator Stacey Marsh thought up the idea for the book Cocktails of the Movies.
Cocktails of the Movies - In pictures
“The scene felt quite central to the film and their relationship and we thought that it’d be great if there was a book which brought those booze-based moments together," he tells The Independent "We looked online and there wasn’t one. So we set about finding great scenes, rich characters and iconic actors where the cocktail was significant."
Over the course of two years of watching movies and drinking cocktails (poor guys!) the pair pieced the book together. And managed to get married, too.
“It was hard and we were planning our wedding at that time. I’m happy to report we’re still happily married and developing more books,” jokes Francis.
“We started out grabbing everything we could find from famous, already documented appearances to our own discoveries by painstakingly rushing through hundreds of movies.
“When we started to narrow it down we were conscious of making it evenly spread over the last ten decades, between men and women, young and old. And there were many duplicates, mostly Martinis which appear in lots of films," he adds.
Cocktails, says Francis, seem to have the power to transport us to a specific time and place: even if it’s somewhere fictional that we’ve only ever been via the cinema or sofa.
“Firstly, the fact that bars where a house cocktail costs £20 are full every night shows what a tiny glass of intense flavour, aroma and visual play does to people," he argues. "A well made drink feels rare and special, away from our everyday lives. Secondly there’s the romance around specific drinks. Who doesn’t feel suave sipping an Old Fashioned. Or in summer holiday mode slurping a Mai Tai.”
And after testing so many cocktails, the duo know a thing or two about making a decent drink. What are their top tips?
“Stick with inexpensive classic gear,” says Francis: “A Boston shaker, spoon and strainer. Buy good big cubes of supermarket ice so you can use lots of it. Follow recipes but trust your own tastebuds. Customise again and again to find what you like. Don’t underestimate the power of citrus zest, bitters and cooking ingredients around the house to transform a simple drink into something special.
He goes on: “Make your own sugar syrup for easy sweetness precision in drinks with equal parts sugar and water, boiled, cooled, stored in an empty bottle rinsed with vodka. Always use fresh citrus juice, you’ll need a slice or zest for garnish anyway. And if you have friends over for cocktails big-batch serves are your friend. Make jugs of your cocktail to the same proportions with lots of ice and garnish. They look great and are fun to serve.”
The Grand Budapest Hotel • 2014 M. Gustave / Ralph Fiennes
1 oz / 25 ml brandy
½ oz / 12.5 ml orange liqueur
1 tsp Maraschino cherry syrup
Stir the first three ingredients with ice and strain into a champagne saucer. Top up with champagne and drop a Maraschino cherry in the glass.
Champagne or claret ‘cups’ appear in the earliest cocktail books and were clearly popular, though the origin of the cup style of drink is unknown. In Jerry Thomas’s How to Mix Drinks of 1862 the author describes the drink as excellent, and suggests it ought to be called the ‘nectar of the Czar’ due to its popularity in Russia ‘amongst the aristocracy of the Muscovite empire’. His recipe is similar to the modern one, though with more vegetation, some sherry and what he describes as ‘ratafia of raspberries’ – an old term for fruit steeped with sugar in alcohol. Today’s best equivalent would be the syrup of Maraschino cherries, or a liqueur such as Chambord.
After an epic journey conquering mountains, prisons, forests and vicious criminals, M. Gustave has finally proved his innocence, and can once again return to the Grand Budapest Hotel. He loves it dearly, and it loves him back. As he relaxes in the bar, sipping a Champagne Cup with the rich, blonde, older ladies of whom he is so fond, he can now reflect on his triumph against all odds. Zero will take over his concierge duties and in time inherit his mentor’s fortune, but even in middle age his protégé can never leave this monumental relic of a bygone age.
Flaming Rum Punch
It’s a Wonderful Life • 1946 Clarence the Angel / Henry Travers
½ cup / 100 g cloves
½ bottle aged rum
½ bottle cognac
½ cup / 130 g sugar
2 pinches cinnamon
2 pinches ground nutmeg
20 oz / 500 ml warm apple cider
16 oz / 400 ml hot water
12 oz / 300 ml orange juice
6 oz / 150 ml lemon juice
Stick the cloves in the oranges and bake in a medium oven for 30 minutes, until they soften. Place in a punchbowl and pour over the rum and cognac, followed by the sugar. Light the rum and, once alight, sprinkle over the spices. After around 20 seconds pour in the cider, water and juices slowly. As you do so, the flame will extinguish. Ladle into toddy glasses and garnish with a light sprinkle of ground nutmeg.
Punches are as ancient as the spirits with which we make them. First seen in the West in the early 17th century, it is thought that the drink was brought by early commercial sailors to Britain from India. The name is derived from the Sanskrit word for five (panch), indicating the original number of ingredients: spirits, water, lemon juice, sugar and spice. Initially, Western punches contained wine or brandy, but as Caribbean rum became available it grew into the most popular base spirit. Here we use equal parts of cognac and rum, partly to hark back to those early days of Punch served in dank taverns and heated by plunging a hot poker into the drink, but chiefly due to the sensationally fiery depth of flavour when the drink is served warm.
George is starting to believe that his new friend Clarence might just be the guardian angel he claims to be, sent from heaven to save him from suicide. Having dried off from their plunge into the freezing river, they walk through the Bedford Falls that could have been, the one with no George Bailey, and dominated by the ruthless Mr Potter. In this alternate universe they enter Martini’s bar to see it’s a smoky, boozy den called Nick’s. Clarence, being the 292-year-old angel he is, orders what he knows – a Flaming Rum Punch, or maybe a Mulled Wine. Either would be perfect to warm their frozen selves, but all his talk of wings and angels sees them being thrown face-first back into the bitter snow.Reuse content