Drinks and a movie

As the 79th annual Academy Awards presentations close in on us this weekend, one spirits company after another has been sending out suggestions for cocktails tied to (a) a movie theme, and (b) increasing their profits.

Nothing wrong with that, of course, but I'm an old-fashioned guy who would rather pay attention to cocktail classics as presented in the films themselves. It seems to go over rather well with the opposite sex, especially for those of us normally bereft of romantic imagination -- the sort of men who break out in a cold sweat lest our ideas be compared to those of other men and found wanting.

Relax, and visit your favorite public library or video store for inspiration. Avoid such bar-centric flicks as 1988's "Cocktail" and 2000's "Coyote Ugly." They're all flash and no soul. And, even if they're funny drinkers like Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughan in 2005's "Wedding Crashers" or vaguely instructive like Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church in 2004's wine country epic "Sideways," all you learn there is that overindulgence makes asses of people you might otherwise like.

Likewise, avoid such cinematic drunks as those portrayed in classics from Ray Milland in 1945's "The Lost Weekend" to Jack Lemmon in 1962's "Days of Wine and Roses" to Nicholas Cage in 1995's "Leaving Las Vegas." Lots of soul, zero romance.

Rather, I'm suggesting a cozy, dimly lit setting at home, with a few light hors d'oeuvres, a tape or disc of a classic romantic movie with a definite cocktail component, and drinks appropriate to the film. After all, cocktails and movies have long had a companionable relationship. Even 1977's "Star Wars" had a great bar scene.

At one time, classy bars and cocktail parties were used as part of the courtship ritual, both on-screen and off.

When asked for a drink to accompany a romantic film, most people I surveyed immediately said, "Champagne, of course." Given the popularity of the bubbly, whether in the hand of a suave Robert Redford in 1974's "The Great Gatsby" or of a tipsy Katharine Hepburn in 1940's "The Philadelphia Story," such a mind-set is understandable.

However, nothing on film rivals the martini for romance, elegance and mystery. It was the favorite drink of sophisticated 1930s productions in which everyone was immaculately groomed and impeccably dressed even if they were of meager financial means.

William Powell (seen above) and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles in the "Thin Man" classic 1930s-'40s film series helped make the cocktail a religion of sorts, often having as much fun creating as consuming drinks.

"The important thing is the rhythm. Always have rhythm in your shaking," private eye Nick Charles (Powell, seen here) instructed wealthy wife Nora (Loy). "Now, a Manhattan you shake to fox trot time, a Bronx to two-step time, a dry martini you always shake to waltz time."

Of course, this was long before Powell helped the aforementioned Jack Lemmon mix up an atrocious fake Scotch potion in the immortal 1955 Navy film "Mr. Roberts."

That reluctant romantic Humphrey Bogart not only gazed soulfully at his lady love over the rim of a cocktail glass in 1942's immortal "Casablanca," he even owned the place that dispensed adult beverages to Ingrid Bergman and other glamour pusses. It was a place where champagne cocktails abounded along with bourbon, brandy and "a fine French wine." Star-crossed and sad, but romantic nonetheless.

If one is into romance of the guns-gadgets-tuxes genre, there is always that old reliable, James Bond. Finding the proper drink to go with a 007 flick isn't that difficult. Bond was just as specific about his beverages as he was about the caliber of his guns and his girls.

Most of us remember his signature vodka martini in "Dr. No" - and the instruction that it was to be "shaken, not stirred." In the same 1962 film, he turns up his nose at a 1955 Dom Perignon champagne, snootily telling his villainous host, "I prefer the '53 myself."

In 1964's "Goldfinger," Bond says of a brandy he is served, "I'd say it was a 30 year old Fine indifferently blended, with an overdose of Bon Bois."

You may get extra points from your companion of the evening by casually letting it drop that because brandies sometimes are concocted from grapes from different areas of France's Cognac region, those from less well-regarded areas as Fine (or Fins) Bois and Bon Bois are inferior. Of course, you run the risk of being called a pretentious jerk. Your choice.

As the old saying goes, love is where you find it.

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