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How Alcohol Appears In Quentin Tarantino Movies: A Guide For Fans

Cinema and drinks

Once upon a time in a Quentin Tarantino movie, there was very little alcohol. Yes, the first couple of Tarantino flicks like Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction had little to do with bars or cocktail culture. For a high school dropout turned filmmaker, bars were an unfamiliar setting and most of the pivotal scenes in some of his earliest works take place in cafes or diners.

It was only when Tarantino spent a few years writing cinema and exploring Los Angeles that bars and cocktails of the high-end variety became a familiar accessory in his movies, taking the story forward. And this could perhaps be reflective of Tarantino’s refined tastes as well, so that now, his cocktail genius can actually be spotted as an underlying theme in his cinema.

Jackie Brown

In his 1997 movie Jackie Brown, which is an adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s novel, Rum Punch, not only does Tarantino break away from what had been his earlier narrative technique to portray characters that appear more human but also showcases them as adults who enjoy the occasional drink.

The eponymous character, Brown, meets the gunrunner Ordell Robbie to discuss a potential smuggling plan in a bar. While Jackie sips on white wine, Robbie orders himself a Screwdriver. Many Tarantino fans talk about the simple cocktail of vodka and orange juice as something deeper than a drink, perhaps a way for Robbie to mask his hard edge with a little bit of sweet juice.

screwdriver cocktail

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

The film which received a lot of critical acclaim actually features quite a few drinking scenes. It is evident that alcohol is always tastefully woven into Tarantino’s works to give his characters a distinct edge. In this film too, Cliff Booth, essayed by Brad Pitt is often shown sipping on a Bloody Mary which seems rather apt considering how the stuntman often bloodies himself while doing dangerous scenes for Leonardo DiCaprio’s Rick Dalton.

So too, the way cocktails are made seems to suggest something about the setting. For instance, in Kill Bill Vol. 2, Budd’s margarita appears to be every bit as sloppy as his character, essayed by Michael Madsen. 

And these drinking moments almost always occur just when chaos is about to ensue. In Kill Bill too, Budd’s character is shown to sip on a margarita right before his untimely death. As well, in Pulp Fiction, Mia invites Vincent for another drink prior to making a bad error. The drink precedes chaos or violence about to take place, cementing its role in the overall narrative.

Cinema and drinks

Death Proof

Tarantino’s treatment of alcohol seems to have matured as time passed because one of his most underrated films, Death Proof, portrays a brilliant scene featuring spirits and an iconic drinking scene. An essay on VinePair elaborates how the bar scene features three young ladies celebrating a birthday and the bartender sends over chartreuse shots even before the “modern cocktail renaissance” had put this concoction on the map.

When Tarantino himself appears in the scene as the bartender Warren, he says of the drink, “The only liquor so good they named a colour after it.” Undoubtedly, the filmmaker wrote these lines himself and this points to leaps he had taken by 2007 in terms of showcasing his knowledge of mixology. 

Inglourious Basterds which released two years later was not far behind either and often used alcohol as a symbol to portray certain characters. Wine runs throughout the movie across various scenes but there is one particular moment which depicts a far more volatile result of the culture of drinking. This is the scene when Hicox comes to a basement tavern pretending to be a German soldier and asks for a single malt in the British, and not the German way. Catastrophe indeed! 


Scotch arrives a moment before all hell is about to break loose!

So, the next time you watch a Tarantino flick observe these little scenes when alcohol appears at the most opportune moments, right when something crucial is about to happen.

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