Nowhere in popular culture are cocktails so identified with specific moods, feelings and moments as in film. Some have served to revive unfashionable drinks, like The Dude’s penchant for White Russians in The Big Lebowski, while other drinks have been defined by (and often maligned because of) television and film associations, like Sex and the City’s Cosmo.
Whether you’re looking to pair an evening of cocktails and movies on the couch, or simply want to know how to make some iconic drinks you may never have tried, here are eight cocktails and films that highlighted them.
Casablanca / French 75
Of all the fictional gin joints in all the towns in all the world, none may have been more famous than Rick’s Café Américain in the 1942 film Casablanca. Owned by Humphrey Bogart’s character, Rick Blaine, plenty of booze is featured in scenes set in the bar, particularly glasses of wine and brandy and Veuve Cliquot 1926. But the drink that skyrocketed to fame after being ordered by Yvonne (Madeleine Lebeau) is the French 75.
Casino Royale / Vesper Martini
Though simplified to a basic vodka martini in later sequels, the original drink consumed by James Bond in Casino Royale was the Vesper Martini. Named after one-time love interested, part-time double agent Vesper Lynd, this particularly boozy martini variation uses both gin and vodka, and a discontinued aromatized white wine called Kina Lillet.
Despite formulations of bottles used in author Ian Flemming’s original recipe changing over time, you can make a modern version of this classic with the recipe here.
The Big Lebowski / White Russian
One of the most iconic film/cocktail pairings in recent decades has been the White Russian and actor Jeff Bridge’s mustache in The Big Lebowski. Inseparable through large swaths of the movie, little in the film does more to drive home the slacker bonafides of Bridge’s “The Dude” like paying for a quart of milk with a personal check, and constantly mixing himself one of the least fashionable cocktails of the era.
Still, the drink’s inclusion in the cult classic prompted a younger generation who missed the White Russian’s mid-century heyday to try the cream, vodka and Kahlua combination for themselves. The revelation? It’s actually pretty delicious.
Groundhog Day / Sweet Vermouth, Rocks with a Twist
While not necessarily a cocktail, hearing “Sweet vermouth, rocks with a twist,” said over and over (and over again) burned it into our memories as the favorite drink of Andi MacDowell’s Groundhog Day character, Rita Hanson. And honestly, in an era sandwiched between Tom Cruise slinging Alabama Slammers in “Cocktail” and the sugared fruit-’tinis of the late-90s, Rita’s drink is actually class in a glass.
While how to make this drink is self-explanatory, there’s never been a greater wealth of craft vermouth worth trying on the rocks. If you’re interested in exploring the category yourself, click below for 10 bottles to try. Don’t forget the twist.
Sex and the City / The Cosmopolitan
Ah, the Cosmo. It’s hard to separate this drink from associations with the film and TV empire of Sex and the City. From fashionable to maligned to half-ironic resurgence, this cocktail has seen it all. Despite firm pre-millennium associations, this drink is really just a slight variation on a classic sour cocktail template, the same formula used by everything from the gin gimlet to the margarita, just with a vodka base and splash of cranberry.
Whether you’re having a ’90s themed get-together or really just need something to do with leftover vodka, triple sec and cranberry in the fridge, here’s how to make a balanced Cosmo that isn’t terrible.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas / Singapore Sling
In Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter S. Thompson’s alter ego Raoul Duke sips “Singapore Slings with mescal on the side.” Sometimes said to be a favorite of Thompson, the silliness of the drink order seems meant to accentuate the bizzare scene which takes place on the patio of the Pogo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
However, the actual story behind the Singapore Sling, created at Raffles Hotel in Singapore, has a fascinating history involving colonialism, gender roles and gin’s historic ties to British maritime power. Read on for the full tale, and Raffles original recipe to make it right.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood / Bloody Mary
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Quentin Tarentino’s ode to Golden Age filmmaking, features plenty of cocktails. But maximum throwback impact may go to Brad Pitt’s aging stuntman, Cliff Booth, cautiously sipping a neon-red Bloody Mary in a wood-paneled fern lounge while navigating the drink’s celery stalk.
Bloody Mary’s have come a long way since the previous century’s bare-bones vodka-and-tomato-juice combinations. If you’re looking for an updated version of the classic with enough spice to jump-start your morning, check below.
Boogie Nights / Margarita
Before spiraling into a bevy of other substances in the film’s second and third acts, Mark Wahlberg’s Dirk Diggler lives a life of Southern California pool parties and blended margs in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights.
While we respect John C. Reilly’s free-pour tequila-counting technique for measuring his pitcher of margaritas (“Two, four… whatever.”) if you’re looking to make this classic the right way, here’s the best recipe to do it.
Last Updated: June 12, 2023