Reel Drinks: From Bond’s Martini to Carrie’s Cosmos, Delicious Cocktails Inspired by Hollywood

Cocktails

Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman share cocktails in Alfred Hitchcock's 1946 spy thriller 'Notorious.' Photo: John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images

Looking for a little libation inspiration? How about cocktails that you can make at home that are as delicious as the Hollywood history that helped popularize them? Serve up a swish drink – along with the equally tasty story behind it – with these seven classic cocktail ideas.

 

Boozy Bond Girl

 

“Vodka martini, shaken not stirred,” are the words most famously associated with James Bond, despite the fact that, in the novels, the suave secret agent only drank gin martinis. Less known is that Bond author Ian Fleming invented a spin on the classic cocktail for his 1953 debut novel, Casino Royale. In fact, the Vesper Martini, a stiff blend of gin and vodka laced with French lillet (fortified white wine), is the first martini mentioned in his martini-drenched espionage series. The book is also the first time that Bond offers his immortal “shaken, not stirred’ directive to a barman. 

Served in a sultry champagne coupe, the cocktail befits its inspiration, the real life Polish-born British spy Krystyna Skarbek, who reportedly served as the basis for the character Vesper Lynd played by Ursula Andress in the 1967 “unofficial” Bond film Casino Royale and Eva Green in the 2006 remake with Daniel Craig. Skarbek (or Christine Grenville, her spy name), was also Winston’s Churchill’s favourite operative and renowned for such death-defying exploits as skiing out of occupied Poland with evidence of Nazi plans to invade Russia. 

Ursula Andress (centre), Orson Welles (far right) and Peter Sellers (to the left of Andress) on the set of Casino Royale, alongside their martini-filled champagne coupes, 1967. Photo: Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

 

A real life heroine Fleming described as “literally shining with all the splendours of a fictitious character,” the best thing to enjoy with a Vesper is The Spy Who Loved: The Secrets and Lives of Christine Granville, the definitive autobiography by Clare Mulley. You will NOT believe the ending…

 

The Casablanca Classic

 

Oceans of booze, including Veuve Cliquot 1926, are featured in this Rick’s Cafe-set classic. But it’s a more glam, much boozier, take on the Tom Collins (one that replaces the soda with champagne) called the French 75 that shot to fame thanks to this film. Ordering a row of French 75s, Yvonne’s escort, a Nazi officer, offends other people in the bar, which leads to a brawl and one of Casablanca‘s most pivotal and moving scenes – patrons belting out the French national anthem, La Marseillaise, with increasing fervour to drown out the strains of Die Wacht am Rhein bellowed by SS soldiers. 

Dooley Wilson and Ingrid Bergman looks on while Humphrey Bogart pours a row of French 75s in a scene from Casablanca, 1942. Photo: Warner Brothers/Getty Images

 

When Casablanca premiered in 1942, only two weeks after the Nazi-occupied city itself surrendered to U.S troops, no one foresaw that it would become one of Hollywood’s most beloved movies. But the cocktail’s history doesn’t begin there. 

Some believe the French 75 was created by First World War flying ace, Raoul Lufbery, keen to give his champs more kick – and a man who deserves honourable mention in any drink’s column for owning a pair of pet lions he named Whiskey and Soda. 

Others credit the New York Bar in Paris, which would become the legendary Harry’s New York Bar, for inventing this loaded libation, so named because it feels like being shelled with a French 75 – a powerful 75mm artillery weapon famed for its accuracy. For a fresh, summery take of this storied cocktail, replace the bubbly with sparkling rose.

 

Cary’s Cocktails

 

Hitchcock’s stylish 1959 thriller, North By Northwest, had Hollywood’s most charming man, Cary Grant, downing Gibsons – martinis with pickled onions instead of olives or a twist. Adding a unique savoury umami nuance to the timeless cocktail, some say it was created by California businessman Walter D.K. Gibson, who named it after himself, sometime in the late 19th century at the Bohemian Club. Others believe it was invented  by Charles Dana Gibson, the artist famed for his turn of the century Gibson Girl drawings who asked a bartender at New York’s Players Club to improve his martini, who complied by tossing an onion in the drink. 

Eva Marie Saint toasts Cary Grant in a scene from North By Northwest, 1959. Phot: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Getty Images

 

Either way, it’s the most classic cocktail to sip while enjoying this stylish caper – though in real life, Grant preferred to sip on Stingers, a blend of fine cognac and white crème de menthe. A pre-Prohibition, high society cocktail associated with the Vanderbilt clan, Grant quaffed them onscreen in The Philadelphia Story (1940), The Bishop’s Wife (1947), and Kiss Them For Me (1957) in the latter, even telling the bartender: “A Stinger… and keep them coming!”

 

Carrie’s Cosmos

 

Invented by Toby Cecchini, a barman at Manhattan’s ultra-fashionable Odeon in the ’80s, it’s impossible to separate this now iconic drink from Sex and the City. The Cosmopolitan has seen it all thanks to Carrie Bradshaw, going from wildly fashionable to excessively trendy to semi-ironic drink selection. A variation on the standard sour cocktail recipe popular in drinks from the Gimlet to the Margarita to the Kamikaze – spirit alcohol, sugar, and lime – the tweaks for the Cosmo are that sugar is swapped out for triple sec with cranberry and lime added for sharpness. But the secret to a good one is coming down on the tart side.

Sarah Jessica Parker and Kim Cattrall share cosmopolitans in the film Sex and the City 2, 2010. Photo: Craig Blankenhorn/©Warner Bros./courtesy Everett Collection/Canadian Press

 

Holly’s Angels

 

Speaking of famously fashionable New York ladies, in the 1961 film adaptation of Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Holly Golightly throws very lively parties and certainly enjoys a good cocktail. 

“Promise me one thing,” says Audrey Hepburn in the lead role to her would-be paramour, Paul Varjak, played by George Peppard. “Don’t take me home until I’m drunk – very drunk indeed.” 

Champagne cocktails, Manhattans and Mississippi Punch all feature, but it’s the White Angel that’s most associated with the movie. A bracing mixture – half vodka, half gin, no vermouth – poured by the bartender at Joe Bell’s, a neighbourhood bar that, in the novel, the duo visits “six or seven times a day.” Sidestepping that recipe, raise a glass to Holly Golightly with her classic Southern punch.

Audrey Hepburn enjoying “a good cocktail” with actor George Peppard (L) and musician Nino Tempo in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, 1961. Photo: Donaldson Collection/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

 

Midcentury Man

 

Celebrating an era when every elegant executive’s office included teak furnishings and a full bar, when Mad Men premiered in 2007, the show singlehandedly revived the Old Fashioned. The star of the decade’s craft cocktail movement, it was a cocktail that had been largely forgotten until the slick HBO series brought it roaring back to vogue as the preferred drink of Don Draper.

An advertising executive played by Jon Hamm, in a role that also shot him to stardom, the Old Fashioned was the perfect choice for the show’s lead retro alpha male lead character. An aptly named tipple that’s, literally, the world’s first “cocktail.” A word first used in 1806 to describe a drink composed of spirits, sugar, water and bitters that’s expanded to include any libation with hard liquor, the Old Fashioned refers to only those comprised of those original for ingredients. Though Don Draper famously added a maraschino cherry to his. 

 

The Russians in Black and White

 

Another retro cocktail reintroduced to a new generation by a cult classic, the 1993 Cohen brothers film, The Big Lebowski, brought us Jeff Bridges as The Dude – an inimitable character inseparable from his White Russians. But this sweet tipple’s entertaining, pop culture history harks back to the 1940s when Gustave Tops, barman at the Hotel Metropole in Brussels, invented the Black Russian – a Cold War blend of Soviet vodka and coffee liqueurin honour of Perle Mesta, then U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg, who frequented the bar. 

Jeff Bridges, with an almost-gone White Russian, Steve Buscemi (centre) and John Goodman in The Big Lebowski, 1998. Photo: Gramercy Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

 

Mesta would also serve as inspiration for Sally Adams, the leading lady in Irving Berlin’s Call Me Madam. A smash 1950 Broadway musical that won five Tonys, it starred Ethel Merman as a well-meaning, hapless, ill-informed socialite known as the “Hostess with the Mostess” who’d been appointed the US ambassador to the fictional European nation of Lichtenburg. What genius added a splash of cream for a White Russian, sometime in the 1960s, is a mystery lost to history, but modern takes abound. 

Kahlua was the original choice, but feel free to swap in the Jamaican coffee cordial, Tia Maria, or Patrón XO Café Tequila Liqueur made from aged añejo tequila and the natural essence of coffee. One hard rule: White Russians are most attractive when layered, the cream hovering above the liquor. Do not stir before serving; leave that to the drinker, so you will need to provide a cocktail stick.

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