Lots of your customers love a cocktail. Their sophistication and status – what they say when allied to a warm ambience and good company – is a symbol of our leisure time and society. Cocktails have long played a significant role in movies, acting as more than just a drink in a glass but as indicators of sophistication, power, and character development. Cocktails often serve to elaborate on the storytelling and give us some feeling for the character’s personality and social status.

One of the most iconic cocktails in film history must be the martini, famously associated with James Bond. Bond’s preference for his martini “shaken, not stirred” is a phrase which has passed into everyday language. Bond is a suave and discerning character. His choices underline his sophistication and meticulous nature. That was all well and good for the Bond movies but beyond the silver screen it set a trend in our real-world cocktail culture.

In The Big Lebowski the White Russian cocktail becomes an extension of the main character – Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski. His laid-back, unconventional lifestyle is perfectly represented by his drink of choice, which he sips throughout the film. The White Russian is almost a secondary character, a symbol of his nonchalant and somewhat chaotic approach to life.

Cocktails also serve as a backdrop for social interaction and plot progression. In the Bogart/Bergman classic Casablanca Rick’s Café Américain is a central setting where characters frequently engage over drinks. The cocktail glasses clinking in the dimly lit bar, the piano playing and smoke rings forming in the air all contribute to the film’s atmospheric tension and the unfolding of complex relationships. Here’s looking at you.

Then The Great Gatsby – the Robert Reford and Leonardo Di Caprio versions – feature lavish parties with flowing cocktails, representing the excess and opulence of the Jazz Age. The champagne cocktails and mint juleps are not merely refreshments but reflections of the characters’ desire for extravagance, their spending power and their pursuit of the American Dream.

Cocktails in movies and on TV often reflect a cultural and historical context. In the series Mad Men, the proliferation of classic cocktails like the Old Fashioned and the Manhattan highlights the 1960s era’s drinking culture, emphasizing the social norms and business practices of the time. Most business deals are accompanied by a trip to the bar. Don Draper knows how to mix a cocktail and how to order one in the most sophisticated bars and restaurants in New York. How we’d like to be so sophisticated.

Cocktails in the movies are powerful narrative tools that do more than quench thirst—they define characters, set the mood, and offer deeper insights into the era and social dynamics portrayed on screen. That’s a bit deep when all we want is a choice at the bar with the chance to bring some joy into our lives – and joy into the lives of our friends and partners on a lunch or dinner date. Cheers.

Cocktail recipes:

Bond’s Martini is always: “Three measures of Gordon’s gin, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet (white vermouth) – shaken not stirred – poured over ice with a thin slice of lemon peel added.” Bond’s contemptuous look is a matter of personal choice.

The White Russian: A delicious creamy drink with a hidden kick and a sophisticated look not unlike a liquid dessert. Take one measure of good vodka and one measure of Kahlua coffee liqueur. Stir together, then add slow-melting ice (densely frozen or large cubes) and gently top with a good quality dairy cream. The proportion of cream added is a matter of taste but be sparing if you want to retain the kick of the cocktail’s main ingredients.

A Champagne Cocktail: Adding anything to champagne can create a cocktail but the classical tipple is champagne with cognac, bitters and a sugar cube. Treat the sugar cube with the bitters until the cube has absorbed all the liquid then put it in a champagne flute. Pour over a measure of cognac (10ml or so) and then add the champagne (75ml or so) very slowly. A twist of orange peel to decorate is a nice touch. If you’re going to Wimbledon it will undoubtedly be a strawberry.

Mint Julep: The only alcohol in a mint julep is Bourbon so make your choice a good one. Add crushed ice to a julep cup or tumbler. Put a handful of mint leaves into the ice and stir around, keeping the shape of the leaves intact. Now add the bourbon; at least a double measure but more if you want a bigger kick. Stir again, add a little more crushed ice then drizzle the bitters on to the top of the drink. A very popular drink at race meetings in the summer but very refreshing whenever the sun shines.

An Old Fashioned: It is vital to use your favourite whiskey or whisky (or rye or bourbon) as your key ingredient. Like many cocktails this is a mixture of three elements which combine beautifully in the proper proportions but let one dominate another and it can go wrong. Add bitters on to sugar and dissolve a modest quantity of water into a cocktail shaker. Add the spirit and shake. Strain into a tumbler and add a large ice cube. Perhaps twist a little orange zest into the drink and add the peel to decorate or garnish the old fashioned. Some things never need modernising.

A Manhattan: Ordering a Manhattan in a Manhattan bar was the highlight of a recent trip to America. It’s not unlike an old fashioned in its ingredients but differs in how it’s served and the fruit garnish with which it may be decorated. Again, choose your base whisky well. Add vermouth at a ratio of one to three (or to taste – this drink can kick like a mule). Stir a cherry syrup and some bitters into the mix, shake and then serve in a martini glass with a maraschino cherry to top it off.