Hollywood Cocktails

by Tobias Steed

Published by Willow Creek Press

128 pages, 1999


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Silver Screen Libations

Reviewed by Linda L. Richards

 

If the film industry didn't invent the cocktail, they sure cemented it into the culture. And with dozens of glam broads and well-tailored hunks quaffing cocktails by the gallon on the silver screen, certainly no one ever looked as good doing it as the legions of stars who made the cocktail hour look like a pretty civilized way to kill some time.

Hollywood Cocktails by Tobias Steed celebrates the silver screen's love affair with drinks with a kick. More than a collection of recipes -- though those are here as well -- Hollywood Cocktails is a film buff's tour of historical libations. It's a fun book that could help set the tone for that Oscar party you've been dreading.

Hollywood Cocktails opens with a chapter called "Cocktail Etiquette," which includes advice on equipment, ingredients, technique and even setting the scene:

You may make the best cocktails in the world, but if you're rustling them up in a messy kitchen with loud rock music blaring in the background you might just as well be making a cup of instant coffee. For the full effect you need to set the scene, and the means soft music (jazz maybe), softer still lighting and a sofa that isn't strewn with beer cans and old newspapers.

Four drink sections pull the recipes into drinks for the appropriate time: "After Office Hours: the Cocktail Hour," "Dinner at Eight: Aperitifs & Digestifs," "From Here to Eternity: Drinks for All Occasions," and "Remember Last Night: Drinks for the Day After the Night Before." Almost every drink recipe commands a two-page spread and includes a photo from the movie that it was consumed in, a short rundown of the film in question, a quote from the movie, a short explanation of the history of the drink or its salient ingredients and, of course, a recipe for the drink itself. For instance, the recipe for a Rusty Nail appears with a photo of Ray Milland (a highball glass appropriately in hand) and Jane Wyman in a scene from Billy Wilder's The Lost Weekend (1945). While Casablanca (1942) rates two drinks: the Champagne Cocktail and the Singapore Sling.

This is a book that works very well on several levels. The cocktail recipes -- like good recipes everywhere -- are straightforward and easy to prepare. They've been concocted for this book by Ben Reed, the manager of the Met Bar in London and the 1997 Cocktail Barman of the Year. He clearly knows his stuff. Author Steed is a writer and sometime actor with a passion for Hollywood classics. That passion is apparent in Hollywood Cocktails, a book that is at least as much about film as it is about drinks. In addition to good, clear writing, the production values and design here are first rate. The book is stylishly executed in black, white and silver and the result is very elegant and sophisticated. | March 2000

 

Linda L. Richards is the editor of January Magazine. Her fourth novel, Death was the Other Woman, will be published early in 2008 by St. Martin's Minotaur.