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Drinking Man's Guide to Cinema
  • December 05, 2011 : 20:12
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In 1916, Charlie Chaplin stumbled home soused in the short film One A.M. and spent the next 30 minutes drunkenly trying to make it into his bed. Audiences loved it, and this was the drinking movie born. Here are the ones we watch when we're sipping our favorite libations.


: The Thin Man. You can’t make a reputable list of drinking movies without this 1934 caper from the Dashiell Hammett novel. Sleuthing spouses Nick and Nora Charles (William Powell and Myrna Loy) are constantly cocked as they solve a murder mystery. The movie is full of time-tested wisdom like this from detective Nick, delivered as he shakes up some of the film’s plentiful martinis: “The important thing is the rhythm. Always have rhythm in your shaking. Now, a manhattan you shake to fox-trot time, a bronx to two-step time. A dry martini you always shake to waltz time.”

NECESSARY EQUIPMENT: Gin, vermouth, ice, a shaker, cocktail glasses and bags of style.

OR SHAKE UP: M*A*S*H* (1970). Martinis from the jerrybuilt still in Hawkeye’s tent always make us thirsty.


DRINK WHILE WATCHING: The Big Lebowski, the 1998 Coen brothers ode to slack and bowling that made the white russian cool again. The Dude (Jeff Bridges) is seldom without a glass (or a joint) as he seeks retribution for the defiling of a rug that “really tied the room together, man.” Becostumed superfans (a.k.a. achievers) gather annually for Lebowski Fest. This year it’s May 7 and 8, in Los Angeles (

NECESSARY EQUIPMENT: Two ounces of vodka, one ounce of Kahlúa and one ounce of half and half on the rocks. Use nondairy creamer instead and it’s called a caucasian. Sip yours every time someone says “dude.”

MORE VODKA, PLEASE: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) reminds us what an underrated goddess Karen Allen is as she drinks a giant goon under the table in Nepal and out-sloshes a Frenchman in Egypt.


DRINK WHILE WATCHING: Drunken Master (1978), the lighthearted kung-fu classic in which incorrigible troublemaker Freddie Wong (played by a young Jackie Chan) is taken under the wing of a homeless dipsomaniac master who, after brutalizing him with a torturous training regimen, teaches him the secret style of zui quan, which is “easier to master after you’ve had a drink.” High jinks ensue. Go for the jaw-dropping slapstick martial arts (all of which are done by the actual actors), stay for the horrendous dubbing.

NECESSARY EQUIPMENT: They’re probably drinking baijiu (it’s China), but sake’s pretty close, and we like it better. Try Tenzan or Kurosawa.

PREFER A RED? Sideways (2004) and Bottle Shock (2008) prove the impossible: Movies about wine nerds can be excellent fun.


DRINK WHILE WATCHING: Casablanca (1942), the most romantic movie ever made. In a flashback to their salad days, Humphrey Bogart’s Rick serves a champagne cocktail to the woman of his dreams (Ingrid Bergman’s Ilsa) and deadpans, “Here’s looking at you, kid.”

Try the 1995 Henriot Cuvée des Enchanteleurs. It’ll be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

High Society (1956), with Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra vying for Grace Kelly while Louis Armstrong plays the Cole Porter soundtrack.


DRINK WHILE WATCHING: Where the Buffalo Roam (1980), a scattered mess of a film redeemed by Bill Murray’s virtuoso performance as the brilliant, if addled, Hunter S. Thompson as he half stumbles, half dances his way across the country in search of the American dream. It never gets weird enough for him. We’re grateful.

Six grapefruits, a bottle of Chivas, a bottle of Wild Turkey, a hunting knife and your attorney.

OR CRACK INTO: Deadwood (2004) for the Bulleit bourbon poured in most scenes, Lost in Translation (2003) for relaxing times or The Bank Dick (1940) for the heavyweight champion of drunken actors, W.C. Fields.

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