Quentin Tarantino is not shy about working his fetishes into his films (see foot fetish or his controversial treatment of women) And, it appears that the auteur also has a compulsion for cocktails. For example, Django Unchained famously featured a Polynesian Pearl Diver. In QT’s latest offering, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, the drink references are abundant, befitting the 1969 setting. Here, we break them all down for you.
In an opening scene, Brad Pitt (playing stuntman Cliff Booth) and Leonardo DiCaprio (playing actor Rick Dalton) visit the bar at Musso and Frank Grill. The LA icon is officially described as a “New York style bar and grill,” but the establishment is all LA. The venue’s list of regulars spans the gamut from Marilyn Monroe, Charlie Chaplin, and Greta Garbo to Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, and George Clooney.
Most regulars at Musso and Frank come for the Martinis (2.5oz. gin, .5oz. vermouth masterfully mixed by the legendary Ruben Rueda until 2017). However, in the film Pitt opts for a ginormous Bloody Mary. (A hangover would be in-character.) Bottles of Tabasco and Worcester Sauce remind us that the drink is made from scratch- no Zing-Zang here. In the meantime, DiCaprio slurps down an unidentifiable semi opaque concoction served on the rocks with a cherry.
Soon, we meet Maury Shwarz, an agent played by Al Pacino. We learn that in his screening room, his wife prefers to drink Mint Juleps while he likes Cognac on the rocks. We’re fairly certain that the bottle he choses is Hennessy XO. Lest you suspect that Shwarz is free-pouring his cocktails, the production designers make a point of including a jigger in the shot. Solid.
When Dalton returns home to soothe his ego, he finds solace in his home bar. The character mixes up some Whiskey Sours. There’s no mix here, just egg white, whiskey, lemon, and (presumably) simple syrup.
Despite Dalton’s instance on fresh ingredients, his bartending skills are lacking. Not only does he eschew straining, but he dumps the contents of the shaker, ice and all, into a classic, covered beer stein.
When, it comes to the film-within-a-film, the players make a point of drinking Mezcal “like that time in Juarez.”. NP was impressed until the players each shot the agave in a single gulp and proceeded to suck on lime wedges.
The film’s third act begins with an airplane scene (another favorite of Tarantino). He keeps it simple here. Both Dalton and Booth sip on Bloody Marys again.
Then a ton of margaritas are quaffed in the buildup to Once Upon A Time’s climactic scene. The Sharon Tate character and her retinue head to LA institution El Coyote for margaritas (as they did in real life). Operating since 1931, El Coyote is legendary for their drinks and their famous clientele. (The food, itself, is pretty standard Tex-Mex fare.) The Margarita, which incorporates pineapple juice and Sprite, is the venue’s signature offering. Check out the specs here.
Simultaneously, Dalton and Booth head to Sherman Oaks for drinks at Casa Vega. Vega is about 20 year’s younger than El Coyote, but matches the venue in legendary status. Vega boasts better food and top-tier service, but like most Mexican restaurants of the era, their Margaritas are their trademark. In the film, our protagonists (understandably) overindulge in these delights and call a cab home. Check out the Casa Vega Margarita specs here.
Fittingly, the film ends with an invitation for drinks. Alas, no specifics are given, but then again, a good fairY tale should leave something to the imagination.