The Debt: Cocktails Inspired From Film

A ‘Debt’-inspired drink from New York-based mixologist Duane Fernandez.

Whatever happened to the opinion famously uttered by Jimmy Carter’s budget chief Bert Lance: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”?

That popular sentiment turns out to be curiously absent when it comes to the decision-making process used to green light major feature films.

What if we could spread the rumor that a school bus of orphans would go off the road every time some studio executive says, “Hey, we should remake that classic!” Would that derail or at least stymie the popularity of remaking old movies?

We want such good things to happen for Julianne Hough, but can’t help but feel a tad irate when thinking about the upcoming October release of the remade Footloose. Footloose? Because Kevin Bacon and Lori Singer did such a bad job the first time around? Is nothing sacred? Or is Gone With The Wind next? Not to give anyone any ideas….

And yes, he may have been People’s “Sexiest Man Alive” in 2003 and 2009—and seeing him on screen, even when he’s playing a murderer or wild swashbuckler, is a tasty and sexy treat—but the jury’s still out on whether anyone really needed to see Johnny Depp step into the colorful shoes Gene Wilder once filled as Willy Wonka.

Perhaps one of the most hostile acts perpetrated by the entertainment industry in 2010 was re-imagining The Karate Kid. Hollywood tinkered with America’s nostalgia for Macchio’s martial arts movie…and casting Jaden Smith?! A little piece of our country’s heart certainly died when that film debuted with a $55-million box office in June of last year.

It just seems like such a waste of film to remake a movie that still stands up, even decades after it was originally released. Perhaps it’s slightly understandable when a film is made in one language and then remade years later in another. But still, what’s up with that? Is reading subtitles really too onerous a task for Americans’ sensitive eyes?

Yet if foreign scripts were never translated into a tongue that’s less taxing on our brains, we’d never see Naomi Watts fight for her life in The Ring, the 2002 remake of the original 1998 Japanese film Ringu.

Because they recognized how the drama of a presumed-to-be-dead soldier’s return home to his wife and his brother would resonate with American audiences, director Jim Sheridan and a savvy producing team lifted the core story from the Danish film Brødre and made the heartbreaking Brothers with Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhaal and Natalie Portman.

Where would we be if Guy Ritchie hadn’t remade the 1974 Italian film Travolti da un insolito destino nell’azzurro mare d’agosto and cast the Queen of Pop in a more succinctly titled Swept Away, or if Nicolas Cage hadn’t been able to play the starring role in Bangkok Dangerous, the remake of the Thai crime film with the same name? OK, scratch those last two examples and consider Robin Williams and Nathan Lane’s hysterical chemistry in The Birdcage, the remake of the French La Cage aux Folles. Perhaps now you can replace that grimace with a smile.

And point out a person who hasn’t read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and then tell us that person is not burning with excitement to see Rooney Mara kick some serious pervert butt as Lisbeth Salander in the English-language rendition this December, even if they’ve already seen the 2009 Swedish-language version starring Noomi Rapace in the same role.

This week marks the debut of The Debt, a remake of the Israeli film that had the same name and was released in 2007. Though apparently the stories are similar, the older Israeli rendition lacked the star wattage of Sam Worthington, Jessica Chastain, and Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire Helen Mirren. Despite having its release date delayed more than eight months from the original date, the buzz surrounding this drama-thriller has been for the most part solid and promising.

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For a cocktail inspired by this film, we consulted Duane Fernandez, a New York-based mixologist who shook up cocktails at Donatella Arpaia’s DBar, before bringing his talent to Tribeca’s Theater Bar and Entwine in the West Village. We stole Fernandez away from developing Entwine’s fall cocktail menu to create an appropriate Debt-inspired drink.

Because the film spans a period from 1966 to 1997, Fernandez felt it was important to use ingredients that reflected these key decades.

“Given whisky was the spirit du jour of the '60s,” Fernandez explains, “I elected to use The Glenrothes, a quality, vintage-distilled whisky, as the spirit base. Since the film then flashes forward to 1997, it made sense to feature the 1998 vintage from The Glenrothes, which was laid down in cask in 1998, but contains the golden, buttery harvest of 1997.”

To throw a smooth and delicious spirit like The Glenrothes Select Reserve into a cocktail—eek!—some Scotch whisky fans might be appalled and confused. But we applaud the move; in our humble opinion, whisky needn’t be solely enjoyed on the rocks. That’s like saying a traditional aperitivo can only be enjoyed before a meal and that vodka’s best when its flavor isn’t inspired by a chewing gum or carnival treat. OK, well maybe we do agree with the latter view; that sort of extreme flavoring can veer dangerously close to sacrilege.

But we digress. To round out his cocktail, Fernandez explains he looked to the cast to determine his final ingredients.

“The film features three central characters, and as such the cocktail features two other ingredients to layer in with the macho whisky (Tom Wilkinson); namely, the aged rum (Ciarán Hinds) and femme fatale-esque maraschino liqueur, (Helen Mirren).”

Secret Agent No. 3Created by Duane Fernandez of Entwine2 oz. The Glenrothes Select Reserve½ oz. Flor de Cana 7-Year Rum¼ oz. maraschino liqueur¼ oz. fresh lemon juice¼ oz. agave nectar2 dashes Dutch’s Colonial Cocktail Bitters2 dashes liquid smokeShake all ingredients over ice and strain into a chilled coupe glass rimmed with black pepper and smoked salt. Top with bitters and liquid smoke and garnish with a flamed lemon zest.