Oscartails 2018: If this year's Oscar nominees were cocktails

As Hollywood prepares to roll out the red carpet for another year and celebrate the very best creative talent in front of and behind the big screen, I'm marking the occasion in my own way: my mixing some things with some other things and drinking the result.

For some reason which is lost to me now, I decided to try to create a cocktail themed around each of the nine Best Picture nominees for this year's Academy Awards. Warning: Tenuousness lies ahead.

Shape Of You (Shape Of Water)

2oz Dà Mhile Seaweed Gin
1oz Lime Juice
1/2oz Blue Curacao
1/2oz Sugar Syrup
Egg White

Method: Shake the first four ingredients with ice, then strain out the ice, add the egg white and shake again. Strain over ice and garnish with a wedge of lime.
This first film in the line-up is a charming, romantic story that just so happens to star Doug Jones as a big fish creature.

Directed by Guillermo Del Toro, this is a wonderful, timeless fairytale about a mute woman, Elisa (Sally Hawkins), bonding with and eventually falling in love with a mysterious merman at a secret facility where she works as a cleaner. It’s a funny, beautiful and poignant movie - a bit like a supernatural Amelie with added moral drama.

For the drink I used as a base - of course - the amazing Dà Mhile Seaweed Gin, mixed with some blue curacao and lime to create a suitable aquatic colour, and then topped with some egg white foam in a nod to Elisa and Amphibian Man’s shared fondness for boiled eggs. And then, of course, it all has to be presented in a glass that lives up to the movie’s name.

The Sunken Place (Get Out)

2oz Bulleit Bourbon
4oz Half And Half Milk
1oz White Creme De Cacao
1/2oz Honey Syrup

Method: Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a highball glass. Serve with a side of froot loops.
Perhaps typical given its themes, Get Out, written and directed by Jordan Peele, is something of an outsider in this year’s Oscar race. It’s an establishment-smashing social horror flick that plays with - and defies - scary movie tropes. Hardly the self-important Hollywood-flattering fare that usually fills out the nominee lists.

Even if horror films aren’t normally your well-stirred cup of tea, I would urge everyone to see this film for the incredible performances by Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams to say the least, and then immediately see it again to really appreciate how Jordan Peele layers his ideas and themes throughout the film.

For the drink, I was inspired by one particularly psychotic scene in which a character - and it’s probably a spoiler to say which - enjoys a bowl of dry froot loops alongside a separate glass of milk, while shopping for new victims.

So, given the milk, the all-American bourbon, the film’s honey-trap premise and the multi-coloured froot loops, this is my ‘bid’ for this film’s cocktail.

Secret In The Lining (Phantom Thread)

1.5oz BIRDS Adventure Spirit
1oz Ruby Blue Potato Vodka
1/2oz Belsazar Dry Vermouth

Method: Stir all ingredients with ice and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with the longest thread of lemon peel you can make.
Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread marks what is supposed to be Daniel Day-Lewis’ last performance before retiring, but he’s said that so many times now, I can only assume he’s actually just researching for his next ‘method’ role as an actual retiree.

Anyway, he plays Reynolds Woodcock, a controlling, fastidious dressmaker who takes a young woman, Alma (Vicky Krieps), as his muse and lover, resulting in an unhealthy relationship that leads to resentment and a dark power struggle between the pair.

For this homage, I kept thinking about how Alma would offer Reynolds a drink, asking if he wanted a wine or martini. And I say, why not combine the two?

This was made possible by the brilliant bunch We Are Birds, and their wholly unique wine-based craft spirit BIRDS, which is distilled from Riesling wine and flavoured with 12 botanicals to make something that is similar to gin in concept but with a completely original wine taste. I also opted for Belsazar vermouth in this martini, which uses only fresh (rather than oxidised) premium wines and botanicals that enhance their flavour.

I have combined them both here in a Vesper riff for an incredibly strong but ultimately quite fruity dry wine martini. Overall, I think Reynolds would be happy with the result. Probably. Or he wouldn’t say anything either way because he simply has no time for confrontations.

Whatever The Cost May Be (Dunkirk)

45ml Sea Salt Vodka
60ml Breakfast Tea
30ml Lemon Juice
15ml Cointreau
1tsp Strawberry jam

Method: Shake all ingredients with ice and fine-strain over more ice in whatever vessel you have at home that most closely resembles those army tin mugs.
I realise this is a rather understated-looking drink in homage to the visceral cinematic experience that is Christopher Nolan’s epic Dunkirk, but I was going for a wartime rations kind of feel...

With all its giant scale and scope, Dunkirk is a film about individuals. Whether it’s Harry Styles on the ground or Tom Hardy in the sky, no one is ever aware of the bigger battlefield at large. It’s frontline action told from a blindly chaotic personal point of view, and so it felt right to go small-scale with this cocktail.

Inspired by the sense of British fortitude and canteen sustenance, I made a breakfast tea cocktail, using strawberry preserve with just a hint of beach thanks to Isle of Wight Distillery’s sea-salt vodka. Oh, and there’s Cointreau in there too because, just like Kenneth Branagh’s Commander Bolton, we shouldn’t forget about the French...

Love And Attention (Lady Bird)

1.5oz Bulleit Rye Whisky
1oz Conker Spirit Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur
1oz Sweet Vermouth
2 dashes El Guapo Chicory Pecan Bitters

Method: Stir all ingredients with ice and strain into a coupe glass. Spill coffee beans everywhere to look artsy.
Time now for this quirky dramedy (I hate that non-word) from writer-director Greta Gerwig, about the give and take between mother and daughter as young Lady Bird makes plans to fly the nest.

Saoirse Ronan plays the coming-of-age teen enjoying (and occasionally battling) adolescence while Laurie Metcalf is her often-nagging, unintentionally-belittling mum. The result is a funny, relatable story about the tragedy of growing up and of letting go in pursuit of independence.

For this drink, I wanted to make something that represented Lady Bird’s stay-or-go dilemma, as she finds herself feeling trapped in her home town of Sacramento and is desperate to attend college in New York and experience the world at large in the Big Apple instead.

A little research tells me that Sacramento has one of the highest number of independent coffee shops per capita, and Lady Bird even works at one in the film. So looking at the geographical push and pull for her in this film, I came up with this coffee variation on the classic Manhattan.

Tiger's Mouth (Darkest Hour)

2oz Johnnie Walker Red Label Scotch Whisky
1oz Apple Juice
3/4 oz Sweet Vermouth
1/2oz Cherry Brandy
Cinnamon Stick

Method: Scorch the end of a cinnamon stick under an old fashioned glass so that it captures all the resulting smoke. Then put a lid on it while you shake the remaining ingredients with ice. Fill the glass with ice and pour the drink, before balancing the remaining cinnamon stick carefully on the rim as a garnish.
Now, surely, this is what the Oscars are all about. None of these kooky, relatable teen dramas or culturally significant social horror films. No, this straight-up serious biopic of an important historical figure must be where it’s at. Just look at this critically renowned ach-tor doing all this critically renowned ach-ting.

And that’s exactly what Darkest Hour is meant to be. It’s an emboldening insight into a crucial moment in British history, all built around one giant grandstanding performance by Gary Oldman. Somehow, underneath all that make-up and prosthetics, Oldman manages to deliver a career highlight as Winston Churchill, fighting for respect among his cabinet as he vows to keep fighting until the end.

Obviously, for this drink, I had to combine smoke and whisky to do Churchill justice. For the latter, I used his favourite brand - Johnnie Walker Red Label - as the base, and for the former, I burned the end of a cinnamon stick to infuse the glass with smoke before pouring and then used the now cigar-like stick as a garnish.

Beloved Brother (Call Me By Your Name)

1.5oz Campari
2oz Apricot Juice
1oz Peach Liqueur
1/2oz Cherry Brandy
1tsp Grenadine

Method: Shake all ingredients with ice, strain into a low glass and garnish with a sexually suggestive cherry.
This sun-soaked coming-(out)-of-age film is a sweet, quietly powerful tale of blossoming homosexuality in Northern Italy in the early 80s. And, thankfully, it was probably the easiest Best Picture nominee in this whole project of mine around which to create a cocktail.

Call Me By Your Name puts relative newcomer Timothée Chalamet on the list of “Incredibly talented actors destined to become megastars” as he plays the lead role, Elio, an intelligent, musically gifted 17-year-old boy staying in the Italian countryside with his mother and archeology professor father. When Oliver (Armie hammer), a 24-year-old academic student, comes to stay for the summer to help his father with paperwork, he and Elio explore friendship and feelings for each other against a gloriously sunny setting of fruits and lakes and cycling. So much cycling.

So why so easy for the cocktail? Almost straight away, Oliver learns that the orchard on the grounds of the 17th century villa where they all stay bears cherries, apricots, peaches and pomegranates - so there I already have my ingredients.

As the main characters spend much of the film chugging fresh apricot juice, I used that here, as well as cherry brandy, grenadine (pomegranate syrup) and - yes, to those who have seen the film, giggling at the back - peach liqueur. I built all of those around that other wonderful product of Northern Italy, Campari.

How Come, Chief Willoughby (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

3/4oz Bulleit Bourbon Whisky
3/4oz Campari

Method: Pour the bottle of Bud into a tall glass and then add the bourbon and Campari before giving a quick stir.
I promise this is more than just a glass of beer. Just.

In writer-director Martin McDonagh’s character study of grief, resentment and social politics in a small Midwestern town, everyone does basically just drink lager though, so I knew I had to make this a beer cocktail.

It probably doesn’t do the film justice at all, but when you have a movie like this, telling the story of a mother publicly lashing out at the local police for having not arrested anyone for her daughter’s rape and murder, featuring incredible performances from Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson, it’s hard to know how.

So, sticking with the title alone, this is a three-ingredient cocktail, mixing in some all-American bourbon with some righteous bitterness in Campari. And that lager? Just Budweiser, originally introduced in 1876... in Missouri.

Rough Draft Of History (The Post)

1.5oz Conker Spirit Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur
1oz Fernet Branca
2oz Double Cream

Method: Stir the first two ingredients with ice and pour over more ice. Then lightly whip the double cream and pour over the top.
What else could I end on but the Oscar powerhouse triumvirate of Spielberg, Hanks and Streep? Despite this talent though, The Post isn’t a particularly showy movie. It doesn’t feel like it is over stretching for awards, by any means. It only ever feels like it has one aim in mind: to espouse the importance of truth in media, of journalistic integrity, at a time when that is currently being severely undermined in the public eye to a practically irreversible effect.

Hanks plays Ben Bradlee, Editor-in-Chief of The Washington Post, and Streep plays Katharine Graham, the new owner of the paper trying to make her name as an assertive publisher in an industry of men who don’t value her opinion. Together they have to learn to work together while they decide whether to publish the classified Pentagon Papers, which contain shocking revelations about the White House. Meanwhile, Spielberg plays a director who is very keen to make a very significant point about the parallels between the story in this film and the current Trump administration.

So how to represent this as a cocktail? Well, I wanted to create a simple black-and-white drink in homage to the print press, with a coffee base, inspired by the epic all-nighter that the Washington Post journalists pull in this film in preparation for publishing the story. As for the allusion to the current political climate, sometimes you just can't fit everything into one cocktail. So I just opted for this simple White Russian instead..
Thanks to everyone who made this feature possible. To Dà Mhile, to Conker Spirit, to Axiom Brands, to my mum, my agent, etc, etc

Tags: Oscartails, Films, How to, Recipes

You might also like...