If there’s one filmmaker whose worldview always evokes intensity, mad humor, indelible imagery and downright hallucinatory experiences, it’s British auteur Stanley Kubrick. Typically polarizing, often ground-breaking and always memorable, every film he made during his remarkable, not-so-prolific career has seldom been matched. Except when it comes to pairing ‘em with a good drink.
This one is easy. Just turn to General Ripper, the unhinged Air Force commander who orders the first nuclear strike on the Soviet Union, an action that triggers the rest of the film, right down to its iconic Yeehaaah! cowboy hat-waving, bomb-riding conclusion. Follow his example and ask someone to make you a drink of grain alcohol and rain water. We suggest two parts booze to water—and be sure you use only natural rain water to guarantee the purity of essence and to protect your precious bodily fluids from the communist conspiracy attempting to subvert our American way of life.
The entire film feels like one long intoxicated trip through a half-familiar quasi-future, made all the more uncomfortable in large part by the way Kubrick included the slang-dense vernacular of Anthony Burgess’ book. And when it comes to drinking, the most prominent cocktail is the highball Moloko Plus (or Knifey Moloko) served at the infamous Korova Milk Bar, where the protagonist and his droogs prep for a night of ultraviolence. In the film it’s clear that the milk is spiced with opiates or mescaline or other hallucinogenic substances (which…good luck with that). To keep it somewhat less mind-bending try this bracing variation: an ounce of both absinthe and absinthe liquor, two ounces of Irish cream, a tablespoon of sugar and five ounces of milk, all shaken up and certain to turn your head sideways.
This masterpiece of surreal storytelling revolves around Jack Nicholson’s descent into madness as he succumbs to the influence of the haunted Stanley Hotel, isolated in the snowy confines of the Rocky Mountains. We’re told he’s a recovering alcoholic, but it’s not long before he’s accepting a drink from a ghost. In Stephen King’s book, it’s a martini—a large martini. In the movie, it’s “hair of the dog that bit me,” which phantom bartender interprets as bourbon on the rocks, which is a good drink to combat the chills of both Jack Torrance’s murderous rampage and the impenetrable cold that is his eventual undoing.
This two-part examination of the Vietnam War will have you emotionally exhausted before the characters even get in country. And once they do, the absurdity, humor and horror of that failed military mission comes into clear focus. Drinking itself doesn’t play much of a roll in the film (unless you count all those scenes shot in the pouring rain). But a few bottles of Tiger beer should help evoke a sense of the atmosphere of this Southeast Asian country.
Perhaps because of its casting (Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise at the peak of their celeb star power oversaturation), this film ranks to some as one of Kubrick’s lesser works. But its reliance on intoxicants throughout the movie—as well as the on-the-nose symbolism of masks and the impulse to use alcohol to escape reality—makes it worth inclusion here. A shared joint in the second act triggers the rest of the plot, including Cruise’s hallucinatory wandering through New York after his wife has emasculated him. But to get into the film’s vibe, look to the party scene that precedes the marijuana, when a worldly elder statesmen takes Kidman’s glass of Champagne—“I think that’s my glass,” she says. “I’m absolutely certain of it,” he replies—and then drinks it slowly, looking directly into her eyes.