Oscars Drinking Game: Punches for Best Picture Nominees (Photos)

A mint julep for The Help. A gin and whiskey blend for War Horse. Spice up your viewing party with nine do-it-yourself punch recipes, each tailored to a Best Picture nominee. By Brody Brown.

Lucas Jackson, Reuters / Landov

Lucas Jackson, Reuters / Landov

A mint julep for The Help. A gin and whiskey blend for War Horse. Spice up your viewing party with nine do-it-yourself punch recipes, each tailored to a Best Picture nominee. By Brody Brown.

Courtesy of The Weinstein Company

<em>The Artist</em>

For an Artist-appropriate drink we wanted Raphael Reyes of 1534 in New York City to riff on the film’s black-and-white palette and use the Russian movie mentioned at the movie’s start as the inspiration for his punch. Reyes explains: “As Jean Dujardin is French and Bérénice Bejo is French-Argentinean, I tried to incorporate those elements while using their heritage and the plot of the film where George Valentin is attending to the premiere of his latest film, A Russian Affair and meets Peppy Miller. The punch is based on the classic Black Russian (Kahlúa and vodka) and The Russian (vodka, gin, crème de cacao) drinks that were created during the communist period in Russia.”

1927 Affair

Created by Raphael Reyes of 1534

10 oz. Kahlúa
10 dashes Fernet Branca
1 ½ oz. white crème de cacao
1 ½ oz. Bénédictine
1 ½ oz. Frangelico
10 oz. Egyptian licorice tea*
15 oz. vodka 

Serve over a big ice rock in a punch bowl, garnish with cinnamon sticks, star anise, lemon wheels and shaved fresh nutmeg on top. If a large ice rock is not available, serve punch into glasses with large ice cubes. 

*To prepare the Egyptian licorice tea, use hot water and Egyptian licorice tea bags, with a ratio of approximately eight tea bags per every 20 oz. of water. Allow to cool completely before adding into the punch.

Fox Searchlight

<em>The Descendants</em>

For a not-so-obvious Hawaiian punch, we sought help from Allan Katz of Caña in Los Angeles. “After reading about Alexander Payne's eight months living in Hawaii prior to making the movie I thought, Man, I better get the authenticity right with this if I'm going to reference the setting, because clearly this guy's dead serious about setting,” Katz explains. “Then I read up on native Hawaiian fruit. I used to think there wasn't any. Now I know there's hardly any; certainly none anyone in L.A. could get their hands on. So I decided to riff on the bittersweet finish of the film.” 

“When Matt King is kissing Elizabeth's comatose body goodbye, you can really see how the bond of a marriage can envelop any foreign entity, even infidelity, and transcend the score-keeping that we so often doom ourselves with. And it literally got me thinking of the tiny black ball made of cracked pepper and spice sitting in a diffuser while the syrup is cooking around it. How in the end, you're left with the hint of those spices, but all that remains is the honey; the rest is discarded, much in the same way Matt King finds peace with the circumstances surrounding his wife's unfortunate accident. And hey, it's got a mango in it too, so cue the ukelele.”

Exiled In Paradise

Created by Allan Katz of Caña

8 oz. bourbon (Katz uses a spicy one like Four Roses)
8 oz. cognac (Katz uses the 90 proof Pierre Ferrand 1840)
8 oz. reposado tequila (Katz uses Gran Centenario or Carmessi and warns the tequila should be mellow, not “agave-forward”)
12 oz. fresh lemon juice
8 oz. spiced clover honey syrup*
8 dashes Bittermens' Elemakule Tiki Bitters
8 dashes Angostura Bitters
1 moderately ripe mango
Lemon wheels and mango slices (for garnish)

Infuse all spirits at least one day with a moderately ripe mango. The mango should have some green, orange, and red to it, and the flesh should still be semi-firm. This will yield a uniquely flavorful base for the punch.

Blend all ingredients with 20 ounces of crushed ice. If you have an immersion or "stick" blender, you can easily do this in a pitcher or almost any mixing vessel you choose. Blend until ice is dissolved.

Pour into punch bowl or luau-ready vessel with a block of ice in it. (A note from Katz: Freeze distilled water in Tupperware to make an easy block of ice at home.) Garnish with thin lemon wheels and mango slices or inverted lime shells filled with ignited 151 proof rum

*To make the spiced clover honey syrup: Combine 8 ounces of filtered water, 1 1/2 ounces of crushed black peppercorns, 1/2 ounce of powdered cumin. Simmer until reduced by fifty percent. Super-fine strain (a re-useable coffee filter is a great household item for this). Mix the resulting 4 ounces of "pepper tea" w/ 8 ounces of pure clover honey. Stir until well integrated.

Warner Bros.

<em>Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close</em>

Michael Neff of Ward III in New York City created a punch inspired by the young protagonist of this film and explains that, “as the child tries to figure out who he is in an uncertain world, I wanted to create a punch recipe that speaks to both emotional extremes as well as a feeling of balance. This punch is based on a classic British-style punch recipe that uses both whisky and gin. The whisky that I used, The Glenrothes Select Reserve, is special in this case, because it helps to add a particular balance to the drink. The Glenrothes is a whisky that creates vintage bottlings based on maturity—not age—and I think in this film we see that the age of the boy is but a number, which is exactly what The Glenrothes says about their whisky.”

Though it makes us whimper a bit to think of pouring a whole bottle of lovely whisky into a punch and masking its subtleties with sugar, tea and a trio of other spirits, we think you’ll find this concoction sophisticated and smooth, with just a subtle touch of spice.

The Pull-No Punch

Created by Michael Neff at Ward III

4 lemons
1 cup super-fine sugar
2 bags Earl Grey tea
4 cups water
1 cup London dry gin (we recommend Beefeater, particularly since you’ll be using it in the “War Horse Punch” later)
¾ cup sweet vermouth
¼ cup Fernet Branca
1 750 ml bottle The Glenrothes Select Reserve
4 cinnamon sticks
15 cloves
½ 750 ml bottle dry sparkling wine

Place sugar in a medium-size bowl, then peel lemons, and mash the peels into the sugar. Reserve the lemons themselves for juice. Cover the bowl, and then set aside. In the meantime, steep the tea bags in four cups of cold water. After half an hour, place sugar into water and stir until dissolved. Add contents to punch bowl (except dry sparkling wine), then add all spirits and spices. Let sit for 15 minutes, then taste.

When ready to serve, fill the punch bowl with the largest cubes of ice that you can find, and add dry sparkling wine. Serve as quickly as possible.

Dreamworks Studios

<em>The Help</em>

Skeeter Phelan’s mother would probably be aghast if her daughter helped herself to more than just one polite serving of this punch, but not even the pleas of our own mothers could hold us back from this concoction, mixed up by Colin Maxwell, the resident mixologist of Abe & Arthur’s in New York City.  For this drink, Maxwell marries two of our favorite treats together and explains, “in The Help, the character Minny got some pretty ‘sweet’ revenge with her chocolate pie. Here’s a recipe that’ll show your guests some real Southern hospitality. It’s so tasty and refreshing, you’ll wish you were drinking it on a porch in Mississippi.”

Chocolate-Spiked Mint Juleps

Created by Colin Maxwell of Abe & Arthur’s
2 ½ cups Maker’s Mark Bourbon
¾ cups simple syrup (1:1 sugar to water)
1 cup packed fresh mint leaves
1/3 cup dark crème de cacao
Several mint sprigs (for garnish)

Gently muddle mint in the bottom of the punchbowl with a muddler or wooden spoon. You want to try and release the oils from the skin of the leaves without tearing them apart too much. Then add the rest of the ingredients and fill the bowl with ice (the larger the cubes the better.) As the bowl sits out, the bigger ice cubes will melt more slowly so the drinks won't get too watered down) and stir to mix and chill. For added authenticity, serve over crushed ice in metal julep cups. Garnish with mint sprigs.

One tip for punchbowl ice is to use one "cube" formed in a metal mixing bowl. Make sure that the bowl is smaller than the punchbowl you'll be using. Fill the metal bowl with water and put it in the freezer. It'll take longer to freeze than a normal ice cube tray but it's worth the wait. When it does freeze, let it sit out for a few minutes to loosen it from the bowl before gently putting it into the larger punchbowl.

Paramount Pictures


For Scorsese’s family mystery set in a railway station in Paris, Neal Brown, the owner of The Libertine in Indianapolis, provides a drink that he feels “reflects the mood of the film, in that it is at once rich with character, light enough to be approachable, but also a little bit dark and brooding. It drinks like a true punch, with notes of quinine from the Bonal, and white pepper from the chartreuse. Like the film, it finishes with a bit of a mystery, leaving the taster to ponder how the next sip will be different from the first, and also, what lies in store for the evening ahead.”

Le Metro

Created by Neal Brown of The Libertine

20 oz. cold soda water
20 oz. Bonal aperitif*
10 oz. Yellow Chartreuse
10 oz. Bénédictine
10 oz. simple syrup (1:1 sugar to water)
10 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 Tbls. Peychaud’s Bitters
Meyer lemon slices (for garnish)

Combine all ingredients in a punchbowl and refrigerate until ready to serve. When serving, garnish with at least 12 dense ice cubes and Meyer lemon slices. Allow guests to help themselves by ladling the punch into punch glasses. The older the glasses used to serve the punch in, the better. (Hint from Brown: You can find really cool punch glasses at secondhand stores such as Goodwill.)

*Should you have trouble finding a bottle of Bonal, substitute the Bonal for a dry vermouth (not extra dry), and substitute one ¼ of the soda with a high quality tonic water.

Sony Pictures

<em>Midnight in Paris</em>

Because we wanted to start with a vintage drink that was being poured around the Art Deco period that much of Midnight in Paris was set in, we asked Regan Moloney, the beverage manager at New York City’s Hotel Chantelle, to build on the Black Rose cocktail. Moloney not only rose to that challenge but artfully fused this classic recipe with Woody Allen’s 42nd film. Inspired by the Van Gogh painting on the movie’s poster, the midnight theme of the title and plot, and the punch’s dark color and bright yellow highlights, Moloney created the “Starry Night.”

“For a cocktail with a light, refreshing taste, I used a fresh lemon juice base,” he says. “I wanted to keep it balanced and give it the kick a 20s-style cocktail needs to command. To achieve this I turned to a mix of traditional and honey bourbons, accented with flavorful bitters.”

Starry Night

Created by Regan Moloney of Hotel Chantelle

10 oz. honey bourbon
10 oz. bourbon whiskey
10 oz. dry vermouth
7 ½ oz. lemon juice
2 ½ oz. simple syrup
5 dashes honey bitters (If unable to find honey bitters, use regular—unflavored—bitters)
1 oz. grenadine
Lemon peel (for garnish)

Combine all liquid ingredients in a medium to large size punchbowl, with large blocks of ice. Add lemon peels to the punchbowl and make available to guests as they ladle this punch into their own glasses.


Since we couldn’t take the easy way out and do a repeat of the beer cocktail we had Oakland-based bartender Christ Aivaliotis make last September when this film was released, we reached out to Arturo Vera-Felicie, the bar manager of the farm-to-table restaurant The Farmhouse, in Kansas City. Though the Oakland Athletics ultimately beat the Kansas City Royals in Moneyball, we knew Vera-Felicie could provide a recipe for a winning punch.

“If you're going to do a punch themed after Kansas City, whiskey is the way to go,” insists Vera-Felicie. “KC was a huge whiskey town pre-Prohibition and the neighborhood where the train stations and stockyards were was considered one of the wettest blocks in the U.S. And if I'm sitting at Kauffman Stadium watching the game on a hot summer day, I can think of no other cocktail to quench my thirst like a variation of a whiskey Southside (think bourbon mojito). If I was the head of the Royals’ Clubhouse, I would have a bowl ready for the team after every game.”

Kansas City Clubhouse Punch

Created by Arturo Vera-Felicie of The Farmhouse

15 oz. Four Roses Bourbon*
7 ½ oz. freshly squeezed and strained lemon juice
7 ½ oz. mint syrup**
Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Bitters
5 oz. dry sparkling wine (brut Champagne or blanc de blancs)

Mix bourbon, lemon juice, mint syrup and Champagne into glass punchbowl. Add bitters to taste.

The night before you make the punch, freeze a large ice cube in a mold filled with large lemon peels and mint sprigs, for a practical garnish to your delicious drink.

*For best results, muddle the lemon peels from three lemons into whiskey and let infuse overnight. 

**To make the mint syrup, take 10 ounces of turbinado sugar (raw sugar) and mix with 5 ounces of hot water in a pot. Once syrup is formed, add a handful of mint leaves with a few of the stems. Bring to boil then reduce for 15 minutes. Take off of the stove and steep for 10 minutes then strain off the mint. Allow mint syrup to cool before use. Depending on the freshness of the mint, longer steeping times might be necessary. Spearmint works the best.

Twentieth Century Fox

<em>The Tree of Life</em>

Because we couldn’t even come to a consensus regarding what The Tree of Life was about, we were just as stumped when it came to figuring out where we’d begin to find inspiration for a drink inspired by this film. Thankfully Paul Sanguinetti from Ray’s & Stark Bar at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art took the reins on this intimidating project, and guided us through the process of creating a housemade gin for this punch’s base.

“I chose this cocktail for the film The Tree of Life because it’s a movie that looks into the deeper questions of life and the interconnectedness of it,” he explains. “I created this cocktail to use the garden botanicals that we grow here behind the restaurant, and to me sourcing these from our own garden creates that interconnectedness of what is growing here in our garden to the finished product in the glass. I also thought a cocktail inspired by a film titled The Tree of Life should incorporate something with roots. I called it the ‘G-Funk Era’ because of its gin base and grapefruit essence and its local Cali roots, as well as my love of west coast rap music. So whether it be 1950s Texas, or 1990s Los Angeles, there’s a spirit that carries on and manifests itself in many ways, and to me, gin and the g-funk sound is what resonates with me.”

G-Funk Era

Created by Paul Sanguinetti of Ray’s & Stark Bar

1 one-liter bottle of good quality vodka of choice (i.e. Russian Standard, Hangar One, Grey Goose)
4 oz. dried juniper berries
5 leaves lemon verbena
2 leaves rose geranium
3 large citrus peels each—lemon, orange, grapefruit
2 pieces star anise
½ oz. caraway seeds
Orange Bitters
Fever Tree Tonic Water

Additional grapefruit peels and lemon verbena (for garnish) 

Combine first seven ingredients in a glass container, seal and store in fridge for 36 hours. This can also be done without the lemon verbena and rose geranium if difficult to obtain. Strain into a glass container. 

In an old fashioned or rocks glass, add two dashes of orange bitters, two ounces of vodka and spice mixture (housemade gin), and cracked ice, and top with Fever Tree tonic water. (Per Sanguinetti: Fever Tree is ideal, or any tonic that doesn’t have high fructose corn syrup, but of course, any brand tonic will work.) Garnish with fresh grapefruit peel and lemon verbena.

Andrew Cooper, SMPSP / Dreamworks

<em>War Horse</em>

War Horse’s English setting and World War I plot led us to think we needed an English gin that was alive and kicking during the “Great War.” New York-based mixologist Jim Meehan of PDT ran with that small requirement and concocted this flavorful, citrusy punch.

“Using the recipe for Chatham Artillery Punch as a template, I combined Beefeater Gin (guards anyone?) and Galliano L’Autentico (named after a 19th-century Italian war hero) in place of rye whiskey and cognac; the use of a liqueur allowed me to omit sugar,” says Meehan. “I chose Banks 5 Island (which features three horses on the label) as my Jamaican style rum and substituted Iron Horse Sparkling Wine for Champagne. I think this drink is ready to rumble.”

War Horse Punch
Created by Jim Meehan of PDT

15 oz. Iron Horse Classic Vintage Brut Sparkling Wine*
5 oz. Beefeater Gin
5 oz. Banks 5 Island Rum**
5 oz. Galliano L’Autentico
5 oz. fresh lemon juice

Combine ingredients a large punch bowl filled with ice cubes. Grate nutmeg over the surface of the punch (roughly half a teaspoon). Ladle each portion into punch cup, pinch a lemon peel over the surface and serve.

*If unable to find Iron Horse, use a brut Champagne such as Moët Imperial.

**If unable to find Banks, use a Jamaican white rum such as Appleton White.