For fans of classic era film musicals, 1953’s “The Bandwagon” usually ranks somewhere just below “Singin’ in the Rain” in terms of sheer greatness. Devotees of director Vincente Minelli might even argue it’s somewhat better. At the same time, like it’s competition, the final film I saw at this year’s TCM Fest is not a movie that takes itself seriously. Indeed, the whole point of the film is that even just a little too much gravitas can have some pretty disastrous show business outcomes. It’s also a given by the conclusion that, when something isn’t working, it’s best to throw out your original idea and start something new.
Not unlike the behind-the-scenes story of an initially troubled Broadway musical, my road to creating a decent drink was beset by troubles. To start with, I was feeling a bit under the weather, so I decided to skip a few days drinking, leaving me only a couple of nights to work on this week’s drink.
My problem, once I finally got started, was that I was somewhat overly besotted with one of the lesser known numbers from the film, the adorably mock-Teutonic “I Love Luisa” and its intoxicating refrain, “More beer!” Indeed, I had so much luck with some previous drinks topped off with beer that I was sure my conception was sound. It wasn’t.
The problem was that the German lager of my choosing, Spaten, was just fine on its own, but somehow seemed to lend an unpleasant bitterness to anything I came up with. So, much like Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, Nanette Fabray, Oscar Levant and Jack Buchanan, I had to discard my prior approach and come up with something a great deal simpler and more traditional. Maybe something with as little bitterness as possible.
I wouldn’t call my liquid take on “The Band Wagon” anything like a cocktail classic but, much like what happens in the movie, keeping things simpler defintely improved the result… though I did get a bit creative with my blend of hard liquors. See what you think.
1 ounce bourbon
1 ounce Scotch
1/4 ounce ginger liqueur
1/4 ounce grenadine
1 cocktail cherry (optional garnish)
Combine the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake (or stir). Strain into a cocktail glass and add the cherry, if you’ve got it. Salute the simpler pleasures of life and the movies.
I didn’t have a whole lot of time to get jiggy with my ingredients on this, but I decided to keep things simple there as well. My Scotch was Cutty Sark (seemingly the official Scotch of 1950s and 1960s Hollywood, judging from the movies I saw at the 2016 fest), which is a decent, straightforward product I’m starting to develop a taste for. My bourbon was Evan Williams. Nice, inexpensive and simple. The American and Scottish whiskeys play surprisingly well together, though the result is a little sweet. Sure, I could reduce grenadine or my fancy Dekuyper Mixologist Collection Ginger Liquer or maybe I should have added bitters. In any case, it’s really all just cocktails.