Western saloons, English pubs and underworld speakeasies are only a few of the thousands of drinking establishments found in the movies.
During the Depression, audiences could vicariously imbibe bootleg gin by watching gangster films or travel across the seas to countries where drinking was legal. After Prohibition was lifted, all varieties of cocktails were displayed on screen … whether in the hands of mystery-solving Nick and Nora Charles or secret agent James Bond with his signature vodka martini — shaken, not stirred.
Read on for a movie lover’s bar guide fit for fans seeking to slake their cinematic thirst.
Rick’s Café Américain
Ask about watering holes in Casablanca and it won’t be long before somebody tells you “everybody goes to Rick’s.” But don’t expect to see proprietor and ex-patriot Rick Blaine (he never drinks with customers and sticks his neck out for nobody).
Instead, sip Champagne and listen to piano man Sam’s expansive jazz repertoire. Avoid the fat man in the white suit and mind your wallet around smooth talking locals. If you are lucky enough to encounter Rick, you’ll find him tough on the outside but really a stand-up guy willing to help hard-luck travelers trying to get back home.
Rick may claim neutrality, but in the end he’s a fool for love and a reminder of everything good and decent about America. Always popular on Valentine’s Day, Rick’s is famous for generating return business.
Featured drinks: Champagne and cognac.
Bob’s Country Bunker
“The Blues Brothers” (1980)
Famous for its stage surrounded by chicken wire, Bob’s features both kinds of music: country and western. There’s no pretense here, just good ol’ boys and cowgirls who saddle up like family at the picnic-bench-style seating. The food’s equally no-nonsense, including a mean pepper steak, and if you don’t like the music, the management’s just fine with letting the performers know it any way you please. That’s why the chicken wire’s there.
Featured drink: American beer.
“Star Wars” (1977)
Located just off the main drag of Mos Eisley, this venerable establishment is a colorful oasis in an otherwise wretched hive of scum and villainy.
Despite a house band with a limited repertoire, the joint is always jumping (or hopping and slithering) as it caters to a host of intergalactic drifters, travelers, pirates and bounty hunters. The regulars have all the stories and are eager to relate them for the price of a drink, but don’t believe everything you hear (i.e., “Greedo shot first”).
One of the few places left in the galaxy where patrons can still smoke, the cantina’s policy toward droids is far less liberal: they’ll have to stay outside.
Featured drink: Membrosia.
The Moulin Rouge
“Moulin Rouge” (2001)
This Parisian nightclub and dance hall is an explosion of color, music, costumes and flesh, where the rich and powerful gather to play with the beautiful creatures of the underworld.
In addition to the tuxedoed upper class, visitors will surely encounter a cadre of Bohemian artists lead by the diminutive Toulouse Lautrec, all dedicated to truth, beauty, freedom and love. The world-famous floor show featuring the sublime courtesan Satine, a vision of red hair and luminous skin, is not to be missed.
Be sure to rendezvous with “the green fairy” via a cocktail of absinthe, the world’s most misunderstood liquor, which became a fin de siècle sensation due to a drought-induced wine shortage, but once the grape crop rebounded was targeted by a vintners conspiracy as the cause of a Swiss axe murderer’s rampage.
Featured drinks: Champagne, absinthe.
The Slow Club
“Blue Velvet” (1986)
Lumberton may seem like your typical American small town, but just below the surface lurks sultry, seductive and even dangerous characters. If a walk on the wild side sounds tempting, then stop in at The Slow Club and hear owner and chanteuse Dorothy Valens croon “Blue Velvet.” Apparently the only number she sings, the locals can’t seem to get enough of it and you’ll soon sink into the quirky, occasionally shocking goings on. The club features a full bar and wide beer selection, but if you order a Heineken, you risk being shouted down by sinister local Frank Booth, a man strangely dedicated to Pabst Blue Ribbon and nitrous oxide.
Featured drinks: Heineken, PBR, Bud (King of Beers).
The Formosa Cafe
“L.A. Confidential” (1997)
Located just across the street from the old Pickford-Goldwyn Studio, this landmark Hollywood bar and restaurant — with its Chinese décor and walls covered with celebrity photographs — has been a late-night stop for celebrities since its opening in 1925.
Like the famed Frolic Room on Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles detectives including two-fisted Bud White, ambitious Ed Exley and “Badge of Honor” technical advisor Jack Vincennes have been known to frequent The Formosa while investigating homicide cases, like the shocking Night Owl murders. Once it gets late, you may also come across a few of the neighborhood “ladies of the night,” some dolled up to look like movie stars (most notably, Lana Turner). The real Miss Turner, along with boyfriend/mobster Johnny Stompanato, has also been spotted here, fiery temper and all.
Featured drinks: martini with lemon twist, Schlitz in the bottle.
“Shaun of the Dead” (2004)
There’s no better place to let the zombie apocalypse blow over than this historic pub in London. You can smoke here, the juke box is loaded with great tunes, and they offer a full menu and wide away of potato crisps.
So what if hoards of zombies surround the place?
Just slacken your face and shamble through the walking dead so they think you’re one of them and you’ll be through the door and laughing it up with a pint of Guinness before you can say “kill Philip.”
Featured drink: flaming shots.