Contagion: Cocktails Inspired From Film

For this week’s film-inspired drink, a curative blend for 'Contagion’s fallen. By Brody Brown.

Are you experiencing a slowly growing desire to bed Matt Damon?

Well nip that burgeoning lust in the bud, because caring about Matthew Paige Damon could be one of the most ruinous emotions one could ever develop.

At least, that’s what we’ve gleaned from seeing how things end up for many of his cinematic co-stars. Film after film in the actor’s portfolio proves a dalliance with Damon is almost always an indicator that the character will end up miserable, abandoned, or robbed of his of her life. (Or, in the unique case of 2003’s “conjoined twin comedy” Stuck on You, it is we, as the audience, that feels miserable and robbed after watching it.)

For your convenience, and to serve as a warning for naïve thespians, we’ve highlighted a few characters who have suffered from subsequent plot twists after encountering Damon on screen.

Every brave girl’s nightmare is Minnie Driver’s reality when she goes out on a limb and expresses her feelings and desire to cohabitate with an emotionally stunted Damon in 1997’s Good Will Hunting. Oh sure, the movie ends with us believing that Will Hunting is en route to California to rekindle the romance with the one he pushed away, but that’s only after he shoots down her original invitation to move there with him and after she tells him she loves him and he says that the feelings are unreciprocated. Funny how the ones deemed “geniuses” always act the most asinine in relationships. (Sorry, are we projecting?)

How many members of 1998’s Saving Private Ryan’s star-studded cast had to perish on the mission to save Matt Damon’s Private First Class James Francis Ryan? While the patriotism and selflessness behind their effort is admirable, we watched as Tom Sizemore, Adam Goldberg, Vin Diesel, Barry Pepper, Giovanni Ribisi, and Tom Hanks were all snuffed out on screen. We might be Matt Damon fans and all, but that’s too much sacrifice for one boyishly cute Bostonian.

Then, later that year in Rounders, we observed as Matt Damon’s Mike McDermott character dumps Gretchen Mol’s Jo to return to the warm [?] embrace of the poker table. A bunch of gambling chips beat out being the back spoon in bed with Ms. Mol? So much for promises and priorities. (Oops, projecting again. Apologies!)

Inarguably Damon’s most bloodthirsty character was Tom Ripley, who sufficiently sullied his mitts in 1999’s The Talented Mr. Ripley. Jude Law’s dashing Dickie Greenleaf welcomes Damon’s character into his life, only to wind up getting beaten to death by the oar-wielding con artist. After Ripley kills Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s meddlesome character, he applies a sanguinary frosting to an already blood-soaked cake in the film’s disturbing finale and strangles his own boyfriend on a cruise.

Too bad Casey Affleck’s Gerry missed the memo before venturing into the desert with Matt Damon’s Gerry in the 2002 movie with the same name as the two friends. That might sound kind of confusing if you weren’t able to catch Gerry and watch the men get lost in the desert without any cocktails to sip or even any bar fruit to nibble on. But there’s little confusion when you witness Damon roll on top of Affleck and choke out the man who shares his moniker.

We breathed a sigh of relief when Franka Potente managed to keep her character Marie Kreutze alive until the end credits roll for the first Bourne. Although, knowing Damon’s track record and what usually happens to pretty girls who fall for reckless spies, we probably should have expected that she wouldn’t make it through 2004’s sequel, The Bourne Supremacy, in which we see her shot and killed while riding in a Jeep with Damon.

These incidences considered, the ideal person to play opposite Damon would be one who is more than willing to succumb to the odds and go out with a bang. And for our movie-going pleasure, it seems that the only thing Damon’s Contagion co-star Gwyneth Paltrow likes to do more on-screen than sing—Duets, Country Strong, Infamous—Gwyn, we get it, you’ve got pipes—is die.

Back in 1993, when she didn’t quite possess the star wattage that would grant her top billing on a movie poster alongside Alec Baldwin and Nicole Kidman, Paltrow starred in Malice, a thriller with murder, blackmail, deception, and Bebe Neuwirth. Though Neuwirth and Kidman survive until the end, Paltrow turns up dead relatively early on when Bill Pullman discovers her corpse in the garden behind her house.

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She also doesn’t fare any better in 1995’s Se7en, even though we’re led to believe she may not have been part of a sadistic murderer’s killing spree until we find out her severed head has been boxed up and handed over to her on-screen husband Brad Pitt.

But who needs murderous enemies when you’ve got fatally depressive tendencies of your own? In 2003, Paltrow shows she’s not so keen on living as the troubled writer in Sylvia and sticks her head in the oven to end it all. Seven years later, playing music star Kelly Canter in Country Strong, she takes matters into her own guitar-strumming hands and pops enough pills to turn the lights out on her own life’s stage for good.

Combine Damon’s fatal partnering powers with Paltrow’s penchant for dying on screen and it’s a wonder that the GOOP-tress even makes it past the first three minutes of the Contagion movie before she kicks the bucket.

Come on now, you don’t even need to see the trailer to know she dies. The movie poster alone shows Gwynnie’s face twisted in horror like she just saw a preview for MTV’s The Hills: The Movie.

Without giving anything away, we could even tell you that she makes it to just about the eight-minute mark before it’s curtains for her character, and then you’re left with 97 glorious but absolutely terrifying minutes of movie. And combine one “Bad Luck Bob” like Damon with a “Lights Out Lucy” like Paltrow and everyone in the movie should assume they’re in trouble. It’s essentially the perfect storm of deadliness.

For the perfect cocktail to accompany this perfect storm, we reached out to Ken Whang, the bar manager of Koi Los Angeles. As nearly any savvy Angeleno knows, Koi made a huge splash on Los Angeles’s restaurant scene when it opened its doors in 2002. But even after opening outposts in New York, Las Vegas, and Bangkok, Koi continues to enjoy a good deal of popularity among locals and tourists alike. Of course for our cocktail-curious purposes, we’re more interested in the innovation behind Koi’s bar.

Considering Contagion’s dramatic struggle to find a vaccine or cure for the aggressive pandemic that stars in the film, we asked Whang to find inspiration from spirits that were once believed to have curative properties to aid the afflicted or help the not-yet-sick remain healthy. Thus Whang put a modern twist on a classic drink and incorporated St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur into a traditional, but slightly modified version of Campari’s Negroni cocktail.

“I often hear bartenders asking customers to ‘pick your poison’ when ordering a cocktail,” says Whang, “but cocktails should be the opposite! Though filled with notoriously medicinal spirits, Sweet Serum doesn’t taste anything like the cough syrup you hated as a child. Campari, Vermouth, and elderflower have all been used throughout history to treat measles, inflammatory diseases, and more. When mixed together into the 'Sweet Serum,' they’re just what the doctor ordered to toast a night out with friends.”

Sweet Serum Created by Ken Whang of Koi Los Angeles1 oz. Hendrick’s Gin1 oz. Campari½ oz. Sweet Vermouth½ oz. St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur

Stir ingredients with ice in a mixing glass and pour over fresh ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with an orange twist.