Cocktails Issue 16 Virginia Miller

From The Big Lebowski to Alice in Wonderland: cocktails inspired by film

A selection of hot cocktails. Winter drinks. Hot wine. On a black wooden background.

By Virginia Miller

Bartenders share their cocktail recipes inspired by film and television

A majority of people around the world have probably been affected by a movie or television show. Films and TV laid a backdrop to our childhoods, are part of distinct memories, awaken us to the realities of others, or help us escape tough days. Here, three bar managers we love around the globe tell us about their favourite movies or shows and share their film-inspired recipes.  

Abraham Israel Delgado Flores at Barra Matilde Mi Amor

Calle Colonias No. 221, Vía Libertad, Tercer Piso, 44160 Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico

Barra Matilde Mi Amor is situated on an expansive rooftop in Guadalajara’s hip Colonia Americana, with an open-air space expanding onto a colourful patio. The bar and its delicious food are a bit cinematic in style. This is intentional, explains Abraham Israel Delgado Flores, head of bar and kitchen and Matilde partner alongside Steffin Oghene of El Tequileño Tequila.

“Matilde is primarily inspired by retro-vintage Mexican design. This is also where our bar gets its name. Matilde, with an ‘e’ at the end, was a common Mexican name in the 1970s. It also happens to be my mother’s middle name, which she doesn’t particularly like,” Flores says with a laugh. 

Abraham Delgado and Gaby Arroyo of Matilde Mi Amor
Abraham Delgado and Gaby Arroyo of Matilde Mi Amor

Retro green and cream chairs surround the tables, while the bar is lined with blueish-green tile, blue banquettes and red lamps under a faux grass ceiling. The space feels like a party, with exquisitely balanced cocktails ranging from tiki-inspired sippers to a floral Tequila milk punch infused with guava and orange leaves and azahares, a “seven blossom” blend that includes passion flower, chamomile, rose and anise.

Like all of us, Abraham has his film favourites: “My favourite film genres are grindhouse, sci-fi, action and anime. My favourite directors are Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. I’ve watched all of their films!” 

But when it comes to his Eat Me, Drink Me milk punch, Flores explains, “Alice in Wonderland is a big influence in Matilde Mi Amor’s creative concept … This particular drink is our most theatrical cocktail, with limited daily availability because of the time it takes to prep and serve.”

Eat Me, Drink Me cocktail from Matilde Mi Amor
Eat Me, Drink Me

Eat Me, Drink Me

  • 3oz/45ml Milk Punch batch*
  • 1.5oz/15ml Beefeater London Dry Gin

*Milk Punch batch:

  • 34oz/1 litre whole milk
  • 17oz/500ml coconut water
  • 17oz/500ml Marrakech mint tea (already steeped; 1oz/30g of tea to water)
  • 17oz/500ml raspberry herbal tea (already steeped; 2oz/60g of tea to water)
  • 10oz/300ml orange blossom syrup**
  • 10oz/300ml ginger syrup***
  • 0.5oz/15ml malic acid
  • 0.5oz/15ml citric acid

Stir ingredients 1-6 in a container with a barspoon, then add citric and malic acid for the clarification process. Strain through a couple of layers of coffee filters. To make the cocktail, combine milk punch and London dry gin in a shaker and shake lightly. Serve in an Old Fashioned glass with a large ice cube and garnish with an orange twist. 

**Orange blossom syrup

  • 13.5oz/400ml simple syrup
  • 13.5oz/400ml agave syrup
  • 13.5oz/380g orange peels 

Mix and rest for 24 hours. Strain and bottle.

***Ginger syrup

  • 17oz/500ml simple syrup (1:1) 
  • 8.5oz/240g fresh ginger

Steep ginger in hot simple syrup for 30 minutes, then strain and bottle.

Kellie “Kelso” Norris at Genever

3123 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90057, USA 

Entering Genever off LA’s busy streets, you find an oasis of chandeliers, velvet banquettes and soothing rose, gold and cream tones. An Art Deco wallpaper-lined alcove and wall art of a feather-covered woman recall the glamour of the 1920s. It feels romantic, seductive and relaxed. 

The female-run bar was opened in 2018 in LA’s Historic Filipinotown neighbourhood by Roselma Samala, Christine Sumiller and Patricia Perez, aka Red Capiz Partners (RCP). The bar is gin-focused, featuring flights of gins from around the world, including rarities like the Filipino Ginebra San Miguel. 

Genever bar in Los Angeles
Inside Genever in Los Angeles

Beverage director Kellie “Kelso” Norris crafts cocktails featuring Filipino ingredients such as pandan, calamansi or bitter melon. She explains, “I love how seamlessly cultures and cuisines mix here. I’m from New York City, which is another melting pot, but LA is on another level, and the produce is unmatched. We strive to highlight local brands, and BIPOC [black, Indigenous and people of colour] and female-driven products, and are fortunate there are so many to choose from.”

Living in LA, one cannot help but be informed by entertainment. Kelso’s favorites? “So. Much. Comedy. I have a toddler who is obsessed with SpongeBob, so we watch a lot of cartoons in our house.” 

Kelso says she took inspiration from the Coen Brothers’ cult classic The Big Lebowski for her cocktail The Dude in HiFi. “This is a riff on the White Russian and a love letter to the cultural melting pot of the Historic Filipino neighbourhood where our bar is located, highlighting a Filipino staple, lambanog, a spirit made from coconut nectar. I’m lactose intolerant but love milky drinks, and wanted to make something for those of us who avoid dairy.”

The Dude in Hifi cocktail
The Dude in HiFi

The Dude in HiFi

  • 1oz/30ml Lambanog Filipino coconut wine (Kelso suggests Papo J’s Lambanog Vodka)
  • 1oz/30ml Bimini Coconut Gin
  • 1.5oz/45ml coffee liqueur-spiked horchata*
  • Dash of Xocoltl Mole Bitters
  • Cocoa powder mix**

Add all ingredients to a cocktail tin with ice. Shake and strain over crushed ice. Top with a dusting of cocoa powder. 

*Coffee liqueur-spiked horchata

  • 1.33 cups/280g uncooked long-grain white rice 
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 cups/960ml water, divided
  • 1.5 cups/360ml coconut milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla paste
  • 2 tbsp ground cinnamon and nutmeg
  • 0.3-0.5 cups/65-105g granulated sugar
  • 12oz/355ml coffee liqueur

Blend the rice, around half the water and cinnamon sticks until roughly ground. Add remaining water and blend again. Allow to sit. Pour contents into a container with fitted lid and let sit at room temperature overnight or for at least eight hours. Fine strain into a pitcher and discard the rice. Stir in coffee liqueur, coconut milk, vanilla and cinnamon, then add sugar to taste. Store in fridge.

**Cocoa powder mix

In a coffee grinder, add 1 tbsp cacao powder, 1 tbsp nutmeg, 1 tbsp cinnamon and 1/4 cup chocolate espresso beans. Grind and save. 

John Nugent at The Diplomat

Shop 1, LG/F, H Code, 45 Pottinger Street, Central, Hong Kong 

Opening as the pandemic hit in February 2020 hasn’t stopped small bar The Diplomat from making a big impact, winning The World’s 50 Best Bars London Essence Best New Opening Award 2021 and placing #20 on the Asia’s 50 Best Bars list. John Nugent works deftly with classic cocktails and variations, alongside popular bites like truffled mac and cheese and a burger often dubbed one of Hong Kong’s best. 

The Diplomat’s brass-rimmed window peeks into an intimate bar lined with leather seats, brass finishings and ceiling tiles marked with its logo. Behind the bar is a hidden reservation-only Social Club. The exterior’s sweeping curved corner recalls Edward Hopper’s 1942 painting Nighthawks. On the menu, mini-cocktails (Tuxedos, Negronis, Gibsons and more) join a pitch-perfect Irish coffee or milk punch. 

John Nugent at The Diplomat bar Honk Kong
Bomshbee cocktails at The Diplomat with John Nugent

Hailing from Seattle, Nugent has a love for film and TV. “Obviously, like everyone else, I have my guilty pleasure for those damn superhero movies,” he says. “But I do love a classic crime noir movie or TV show: True Detective, LA Confidential, Heat, and even some classics like Maltese Falcon. I have also started watching more Hong Kong cinema, specifically Wong Kar-wai. His movies are so melancholic, with deep meaning and incredible visuals.”

Nugent’s Tarling is a twist on an underrated classic, nodding to Southeast Asia with pandan-infused gin, alongside white port, baking spices, clarified orange juice and coconut water. 

“The drink itself is inspired by a classic cocktail called the 20th Century,” he explains, “which is named after the famous train line from NYC to Chicago carrying actors, diplomats and other members of high society. We wanted to make an extrapolated version using some modern methods and Southeast Asian ingredients.” 

Tarling cocktail from The Diplomat bar in Hong Kong
Tarling cocktail. Credit: The Diplomat, Hong Kong


  • 1.5oz/45ml pandan-infused London dry gin*
  • 0.5oz/15ml Grahams white port
  • 0.75oz/22ml clarified (acid-adjusted) OJ**
  • 0.5oz/15ml spiced syrup***
  • 1oz/30ml coconut water

Shake all ingredients together on ice and strain into cocktail glass. 

*Pandan gin

  • 23.5oz/700ml London dry gin
  • 3oz/80g pandan leaves

Cut pandan leaves and place in a vacuum seal bag with gin. Seal, then sous vide (cook in a water bath) for four hours at 80ºC. 

**Clarified OJ

  • 25oz/750ml orange juice
  • Agar agar powder (0.2 per cent of total weight)

Separate orange juice into 250g and 500g. Add agar to the 250g of juice and heat up to hydrate the agar. Bring to a very light simmer. Add remaining juice very slowly. Once all is added, let simmer for two to three minutes. Set the batch in its container in an ice bath – the mixture will start to curdle. Once curdled, strain through a muslin or cheesecloth.

***Spiced syrup

  • 9oz/250g granulated sugar
  • 8.5oz/250ml water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 whole black peppercorns
  • 2 cardamom pods

Add all spices to a pan and toast for 30 seconds. Add sugar and water, then reduce slightly. Strain and refrigerate.  

Find more cocktail inspiration here.

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