We’re not talking about the 60’s version starring Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack (though that movie had its charms)…no, we’re talking about the sleek, sophisticated, wittier 2001 production starring the gold standard of Hollywood actors, George Clooney and Brad Pitt. It’s a good classic heist movie, but what makes it work, what makes it memorable is the intelligent screenplay (yes, this version actually has one, as opposed to the Sinatra vehicle which was more of an excuse for the Rat Pack to party in Vegas) and snappy dialogue. Although Clooney and Pitt, as to be expected, receive the lion’s share of the spotlight, Ocean’s Eleven is, at its best, a fine piece of ensemble acting–from Matt Damon (Linus Caldwell) and Bernie Mac (Frank Catton) to Elliot Gould (Reuben Tishkoff) and Don Cheadle (Basher Tarr).
The interplay between Danny Ocean and his crew of con men and misfits is what propels the narrative and keeps us thoroughly engaged…so much so that they managed to produce two more movies after this. Since the cast is rather large, spanning three movies, we’ve decided to tackle the movies separately in a series, starting with the first Ocean’s Eleven.
While you would think that it would be fairly easy to come up with cocktail ideas for this movie (I mean, come on, it’s Vegas baby), it proved to be somewhat of a challenge–mainly because there were too many characters and too many possibilities. At first we thought we had to have a cocktail for Danny Ocean, but then I realized Danny drinks his whiskey straight up–so no cocktail for him. His wife Tess (Julia Roberts), on the other hand, might partake in a cocktail or two, though given her attempts to reinvent herself as an (ahem) art curator, I think she’d want something a bit more “fancified” than straight whiskey…and what’s more fancy than champagne? Tess’s Regret (she does regret having dumped Danny for Terry by the end of the movie) is a whiskey-based cocktail, flavored with a homemade tart cherry-vanilla bean syrup and a little lemon juice, topped off with champagne or sparkling wine, and garnished with tart cherries. Think of it as a sparkling, glitzy Vegas version of a Manhattan.
1 oz. Whiskey
3/4 oz. Tart Cherry-Vanilla Syrup*
1/2 oz. Lemon Juice
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
3 oz. Chilled Champagne or Sparkling Wine
2 Tart Cherries, for garnish
Pour the whiskey, syrup, bitters and lemon juice into a cocktail shaker with 2-3 ice cubes. Shake to blend, then strain into a chilled martini glass and top off with champagne. Garnish the cocktail with two tart cherries.
*To make the syrup, combine 1/2 cup frozen tart cherries and 1/2 vanilla bean (split and scraped) with 2/3 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Allow the syrup to cool to room temperature. Strain out the vanilla pod before using. Reserve the cherries for garnish.
Laura came up with the name for our other cocktail The Blackberry Blackout Bellini, a play on the Bellagio Hotel, which figures prominently in the movie, and the blackout that Basher creates during the big fight night as a diversion for the heist. What gives this take on the traditional bellini its “one-two” punch is the tequila and lime. If you have more than a few of these, you just might blackout!
The Blackberry Blackout Bellini
1 oz. Blackberry Puree*
1/4 oz Agave Syrup
1/2 oz. Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
3/4 oz. Tequila, Reposado
2 oz. Chilled Champagne or Sparkling Wine
Fresh Lime Slice, to garnish
In a shaker with a 2-3 ice cubes, combine the blackberry puree, agave, lime juice and tequila. Strain into a champagne flute, then top off with chilled champagne or sparkling wine and garnish with a slice of lime.
*To make the blackberry puree, blend a cup of fresh or thawed frozen blackberries with 2 Tbsp. sugar, then strain out the seeds.
Next up…some decadent dishes for noshing on the Vegas Strip!