Handing over a long-stemmed crimson rose and then sliding into a leather banquette for an overpriced steak dinner is one (trite) way to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Even more alluring than this age-old script is plopping down on the sofa for a few hours and succumbing to a good ol’ cinematic love story. Whether there’s someone underneath the blanket with you or you’re taking a plethora of pauses to swipe through Tinder, these classics from the 1980s and ’90s are gems to watch over and over again. Along with that mess of takeout cartons, whip up one of these cocktails to evoke that fabled movie romance.
Before there was Friends, there was this Joel Schumacher Brat Pack flick exploring the post-grad shenanigans of close-knit Georgetown University pals. Such amorous escapades include Kirby’s (Emilio Estevez) obsessive infatuation with Dale (Andie MacDowell) and Wendy’s (Mare Winningham) unwavering loyalty to unworthy bro Billy (Rob Lowe). While the beer flows at St. Elmo’s Bar and party girl Jules (Demi Moore) is oft seen taking nips of vodka, it’s brandy that gives brooding writer Kevin (Andrew McCarthy) the chutzpah to tell Leslie (Ally Sheedy) he’s in love with her. This oft-unappreciated spirit always shines best in a tart-sweet Sidecar.
When tatted Zack Mayo (Richard Gere) and lithe Paula Pokrifki (Debra Winger) meet for the first time at a dance—a bright spot in the Navy-man-in-training’s 13-week whipping from Sergeant Foley (Louis Gossett Jr.)—he immediately whisks the fetching brunette over to the punch bowl. She turns down the ladled tipple, but not Mayo, thus leading to an intense few months of tender motel romps. Unlike the scads of gold-digging “Puget Sound Debs” prowling around for officers, Paula’s love for Zack is genuine. Savor this winter punch while watching the tear-jerking finale in which the once hard-hearted Zack carries Paula out of the rote paper factory where she works into a seemingly blissful new life.
Long before quirky teen everyman Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) holds up the iconic boom box blaring Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” outside the window of Diane Court (Ione Skye), he asks out the doesn’t-know-she’s-beautiful valedictorian of Lakewood High School to a raucous party where drinking Purple Passion cocktails is among the star attractions. Instead of that cloying vodka-fruit-juice concoction, make the decidedly British Southside Fizz. Throughout the Cameron Crowe film, a shadow of fatalism is cast over Lloyd and Diane’s future by her upcoming fellowship to England. That he decides to join her in the U.K. adds a layer of international intrigue to this unlikely romance.
Hollywood hooker Vivian’s (Julia Roberts) luck changes dramatically upon encountering wealthy businessman Edward (Richard Gere). Wearing a tawdry, out-of-place getup—a wig, a cropped tank top, thigh-high boots—she gets a shocking taste of the good life in a plush penthouse suite at the Regent Beverly Wilshire hotel. Few prostitutes get paid to wash down strawberries with Champagne and settle in with old episodes of I Love Lucy. Then again, it’s just a mere prelude to a Beverly Hills shopping spree and dreamy white limo. For this contemporary fairy tale, bubbly is the only suitable companion. Buoy a flute of the good stuff with Angostura bitters and a delicate sugar cube.
It is at Angus and Laura’s wedding—the first of the hyped quartet in this British rom-com—where the perpetually late, can’t-commit-to-a-woman English gent Charles (Hugh Grant) immediately falls for Carrie (Andie MacDowell), a fashionable American. Later, at the Lucky Boatman pub, their flirtatious repartee leads to a one-night stand in room 12—but not without the aid of warming whisky. The Scottish theme is further reinforced at Carrie’s over-the-top and ill-fated wedding to Hamish. To make it through the painful awkwardness of the movie’s final nuptials, a stiff Bobby Burns is mandatory.
Just before the Titanic met its fate with a deadly iceberg in 1912, first-class passengers sat down to a luxe meal that included a Punch Romaine palate cleanser, a boozy slushie of sorts. But a romance as ripe and enlightening as that of Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose (Kate Winslet) requires something more elegant and aromatic than shaved ice. Behold the romantic Rose, a proper ode to the heroine who decades later still secretly clings to the blue diamond necklace as a reminder of the awakening love that set her free from an oppressive past dictated by class niceties.
Already perturbed by her family’s failure to remember her monumental 16th birthday, Samantha Baker’s (Molly Ringwald) day gets infinitely worse through a number of embarrassing encounters with a horny, braces-donning freshman-year suitor—aka the Geek (Anthony Michael Hall)—and Jake Ryan (Michael Schoeffling), the hot senior she not-so-secretly desires. One of the more heartening scenes in John Hughes’s beloved coming-of-age tale features these dissimilar dudes in a messy kitchen drinking grown-up, olive-laden martinis. In honor of that 1980s backdrop, make tonight’s dirty martini one starring vodka.
“Nobody puts Baby in a corner” is arguably the most famous line of this cult hit with a memorable soundtrack. But myriad other treasures are uttered at this circa-1960s Catskills resort where Baby (Jennifer Grey) develops a forbidden crush on brawny dance instructor Johnny (Patrick Swayze). So flustered is she in his presence that instead of effortlessly flirting she makes ridiculous and adorable statements like, “I carried a watermelon.” Watch the duo dance on a precarious log, then, with a watermelon-tinged Paloma. Even in the depths of winter, it has the power to conjure lazy-day picnics and cookouts.
Inevitably, once one-time escort Susie (Michelle Pfeiffer) joined the Fabulous Baker Boys’ tired jazz act, one of the brothers would take a fancy to the beautiful blond. Jack (Jeff Bridges) does exactly that, while a concerned Frank (Beau Bridges) anticipates ensuing mayhem as a result of the union. A tale highlighting ambition and thwarted dreams as much as intensifying attraction, it’s an undoubtedly sexy film, matching dark, well-worn cocktail lounges with a scantily clad Susie crooning and suggestively slithering atop a piano. An Old Fashioned, a staple of such atmospheric joints, is a fitting choice for a viewing, but it undoubtedly deserves a fiery punch to match the seductive mood.
Despite their clashing views on relationships, the grape seeds he unattractively spews out the window and her anal dining habits, the long car ride Harry Burns (Billy Crystal) and Sally Albright (Meg Ryan) share from Chicago to New York is rife with sexual tension. A decade and a few serendipitous run-ins later, the banter-fueled chemistry is just as robust. The most renowned scene of this Rob Reiner film of course unfolds at the fabled Katz’s Delicatessen, where Sally loudly fakes an orgasm much to the bewilderment of pastrami-eating patrons. To capture the aura of this Lower East Side institution—and to celebrate that ever-present New York setting—make a Manhattan, naturally starring rye.
Mixing your cocktail