Halloween is the best holiday; this is a fact. Kids get to dress up like minions or a Frozen or whatever, stay out late and -- unless their neighbours hand out toothpaste, an act somehow not punishable by law -- eat a truly unconscionable amount of lollies. Adults can do all of the above and get drunk while watching horror movies, which is my preferred way to observe the day.
Photo: A.A. Newton (I don't have a TV right now, so this is how I watch movies.)
These days, I'd rather spend Halloween inside with people I already know I like than go to a costume-mandatory rager. If you're at a similar point in your life, why not throw a themed movie party this year? Choose a horror movie or two, invite as many or as few people as you like, cook some food (or just buy a lot of lollies) and serve themed cocktails.
I find cutesy, highly Instagrammable food to be more trouble than it's worth, but I am all about a themed cocktail. On a practical level, I usually need a few to make it through any horror movie because I'm a large, anxious baby. Besides that, themed cocktails are just plain fun to think up and, when properly executed, embody the essence of a movie in a way no appetiser can.
There are no rules for making the perfect themed cocktail; your references can be broad and thematic or hyper-specific. The goal is to come up with something that makes people go "hell yeah" when you tell them what they're drinking that evening, so I suppose the only "rule" is to be passionate about the subject matter.
I chose four of my all-time favourite horror movies for this list, and I hope it inspires you to concoct some spooky libations of your own.
Mild spoilers ahead; skip the blurbs and just read the recipes if you're worried about ruining any of these movies.
Suspiria (1977) and Sour Patch Kids Vodka
Suspiria (1977) via Seda Spettacoli/Produzioni Atlas Consorziate.
Here's the basic plot of Suspiria: an American ballerina travels to Germany to attend a prestigious ballet academy and amongst a series of grisly deaths, realises that something nefarious is afoot. It's truly got everything: an aesthetic and soundtrack that can only be described as "dope", hilariously bad accents, even worse dubbing and an ancient witch coven.
Watching this glorious mess of a movie is like eating LSD-spiked fairy floss and I love it.
One of my deepest, darkest secrets is that I've always wanted to try Sour Patch Kids-infused vodka. Finally, I had my excuse: after all, what pairs better with a candy-hued fever dream of a movie than literal candy liqueur? Plus, Claire just taught us all how to make sous-vide liqueur, so it was clearly meant to be.
Sous-Vide Sour Patch Kids Vodka
Photo: A.A. Newton
For some reason, nobody else has thought to apply the sous-vide, bespoke liqueur technique to the monstrosity that is Sour Patch Kids vodka, so I had to do some experimenting. Thankfully, it turned out to be fairly straightforward.
- Digital kitchen scale
- 1L freezer bags or mason jars with lids
- Immersion circulator
- Fine mesh sieve
- Coffee filters (one per flavour)
- Sour Patch Kids or other sour lolly, sorted by colour
- Vodka (I used 50 per cent ABV Smirnoff, but would recommend something less paint thinner-adjacent)
- (Optional) Freshly-squeezed lemon juice, to serve
- (Optional) Sprite or soda water, to serve
First, rig up a system that will allow you to weigh out the lollies and vodka. Jars are easy: put 'em on the scale and go to town. If you're using bags, like I did, put the bag in a tall mug and fold the edges down, like so:
Photo: A.A. Newton
Next, measure out your lollies; I used about 65g each of blue, red and green Sour Patch Kids (I truly loathe the orange and yellow ones and didn't care to find out what their vodka infusions taste like).
Once you've got your candy weighed out, add some vodka. The exact amount you use depends on what you're after: for a thicker liqueur, add up to one and a half times the lolly weight; for a thinner, more vodka-forward infusion, use up to four times the weight. Just reading the phrase "vodka-forward" gives me a hangover, so I went with 100g of vodka per 65g of candy.
Seal the bags via the water displacement method (I usually suck the air out through a straw, which I tried here and strongly caution against) and toss in a 60°C water bath for about three hours. Remove from the bath and allow to cool at room temperature until lukewarm to the touch, an hour or so at most.
Photo: A.A. Newton
Finally, strain each infusion into a storage container through a fine mesh sieve lined with a coffee filter, using a fresh filter for each flavour. Nibble on a Vodka Kid if you're feeling brave and chill until ready to use. Serve as you would any liqueur: straight up or as the star of a simple cocktail.
Photo: A.A. Newton. Whatever you do, don't look them directly in the eyes.
Tasting notes: as a shot, this stuff is, uh, piquant. I made the same face after my first sip of this as I did when I tried Malört for the first time -- but by the third sip, I was kinda into it. (Then again, I'm kinda into Malört, so your mileage may vary.)
I don't recommend this as a shot unless you're made of money, though, since it uses so much candy and so much vodka. Besides, it's actively delicious mixed with lemon juice (I used three parts liqueur to one part lemon), poured over ice, and topped with a splash of Sprite.
The Shining (1980) and Enough Calimocho to Fill an Elevator
The Shining (1980) via Warner Bros./Hawk Films
Fun fact: I once watched The Shining stony baloney (and all alone-y) on Christmas Day -- or I tried to, at least. I made it as far as the twins' first appearance in the game room before I realised my grave error; I'd seen it multiple times before, too, so it's not like I had no clue what was coming. There's a reason this movie is, by some measures at least, the gold standard of horror: it's hella scary.
If you're after pure accuracy, straight whisky is probably the way to go here -- but I am very demanding, so I required more. The iconic elevator of blood was the perfect inspiration. I wanted something that looked like blood and could be consumed freely over long periods of time, because The Shining is two and a half very stressful hours long. The answer, of course, was a lot of calimocho.
Photo: A.A. Newton
This delightfully simple cocktail doesn't require a recipe: just mix equal parts cheap red wine and Coke, pour over ice, and enjoy. (I recommend you use a fruitier, lighter-bodied red wine than the 19 Crimes dark red I used, which tasted just OK mixed with Coke.) If you want to get slightly fancier, track down a can of Dr Pepper instead of Coke: it's extra delicious.
The Witch (2016) and "the Black Phillip"
The Witch (2016) via A24/Parts and Labour
Call me an overly-anxious hipster, but The Witch is the scariest goddamn movie I've ever seen. On my way back from the theatre, I called my boyfriend and made him stay on the phone with me until I got to his house; I then stayed up until 3am obsessively reading reviews, one of which inspired me to order an academic text about the hellish lives of early colonists on Amazon. (The book is both dense and good, if you're curious.)
I know it's cool to hate on horror movies that emphasise tension and an overwhelming sense of dread over bigger scares, but complaining that The Witch isn't "scary enough" reeks of "missing the point" to me. This is a movie about weaponised, patriarchal fear of the feminine -- if that doesn't scare you, I'm jealous.
The Black Phillip
Photo: A.A. Newton. (OK, so it's more like the "Very Dark Brown Phillip." Don't @ me.)
Some movies beg for a bespoke creation, and The Witch is definitely that kind of movie. I chose Black Phillip, everyone's favourite murder-goat, as my muse. His drink had to be black as night (duh), buttery, hot and caffeinated -- you know, to better fuel frantic post-movie Googling. I settled on a hot buttered rum/Spanish coffee hybrid, because I like to live deliciously.
- 2 cups very strong black coffee
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- Dash of ground allspice
- Pinch of salt
- 1/4 cup spiced rum
Mix everything except the rum together in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to very low and simmer, whisking occasionally to combine, for about 10 minutes. Alternatively, mix everything except the rum in a microwave-safe vessel (I used, you guessed it, a plastic soup container), microwave for 2-3 minutes on high and blitz with an immersion blender until well combined.
Stir in the rum off-heat, pour into mugs, and serve hot.
Get Out (2017) and Milk Punch (With a Side of Fruit Loops)
Get Out (2017) via Universal Pictures/Blumhouse Productions
There aren't many movies I've seen three times in theatres, but Get Out is one of them. Everything about this movie is perfect: cast, score, script, editing, cinematography, set design, pacing, you name it. It's been out for less than a year, so I don't want to give too much away; just know that Get Out made a lot of racists extremely mad, which owns.
That said, the suggested cocktail does reference a scene near the end of the film. In this scene, a white character drinks a glass of milk through a straw and eats dry Fruit Loops -- delicately, one by one -- from a separate bowl. The scene is 30 seconds long, tops, but it practically lights up a marquee flashing "COMPLETE AND UTTER PSYCHOPATH" above their head. It's brilliant.
Frozen Milk Punch with Rum
Photo: A.A. Newton
This beverage has always sounded kinda gross to me, but Deb Perelman convinced me otherwise. Her recipe is short, simple, and frozen, so it's more like a boozy milkshake than a cup of booze-milk. I'm both slightly lactose intolerant and the only person in my house who drinks, so I made a lot less than the recipe calls for.
As written below, this will yield about 3 drinks, but it scales very easily.
- 1 cup full-cream milk
- 1/2 cup skim milk
- 1/2 cup rum, bourbon or even brandy
- 1/3 cup icing sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Dash of nutmeg, to garnish
Mix everything except the nutmeg together in a freezer-safe container (I used a plastic soup container) and freeze until slushy, 3-4 hours or overnight.
Pour into lowball glasses, garnish with a sprinkling of nutmeg and serve with a bowl of Fruit Loops.
I'm not much of a mixologist, so I'm pleasantly surprised at how tasty all of these turned out. Were I forced to rank them, I'd say that the Black Phillip barely edged out the milk punch for first place, with the Sour Patch cocktail coming in third and the calimocho fourth. If Halloween is also your favourite holiday, I'd like to hear what your plans are this year, especially if they involve scary movies and booze.
What's your favourite movie to watch around Halloween and what do you drink with it?