For this month’s Whiskey Cocktail Hour, I am taking you back eighty years during the Golden Age of Hollywood and at the peak of the Second World War. In May 1942, the stars aligned (literally and figuratively) on the Warner Brothers studio. The film company just acquired the rights to the play Everybody Comes to Ricks yet their screenplay was not even written. With an all-star cast including Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, and The Invisible Man himself, Claude Rains, it is a miracle the Casablanca ever came together in the end.
I first watched Casablanca my tenth-grade year late one night on Turner Classic Movies. I had seen multiple classic movies, but for some reason I could never catch this on the schedule. After being dumped through a text message, Casablanca seemed to be a consolation. I immediately fell in love with it, so much so I wrote my first review for my English class. I felt attuned to the character Rick as I had grown a little cynical. After that, my parents bought me my first copy of Casablanca and I repeatedly watched it until I memorized every line and could play it in my head.
However, I am not just a typical fan of the movie. My home bar is Casablanca themed. I am an avid collector of memorabilia, and I am looking for an upright piano to recreate Dooley Wilson’s piano. The piano only has seventy seconds of screen time and recently sold for $3.4 million. The second piano seen in a flashback to Paris sold in 2012 for $600,000. This scene provided inspiration for the cocktail’s name—La Belle Aurore.
Bogart recalls the Germans marching into Paris, with Bergman and Wilson drinking all the champagne in the bar, he says, “The Germans wore grey, you wore blue.” I wanted to bring together many elements from the movie to create one special cocktail for the 80th anniversary of Casablanca. I use both bourbon and gin in La Belle Aurore because Rick goes through a bottle of bourbon when he says to Sam, “Of all the gin joints in all the world, she walks into mine.” Blueberries for that something blue are muddled with thyme since the love them to Casablanca is As Time Goes By. The cocktail is then topped with champagne because champagne cocktails are the go-to drink for Captain Renault.
Although I found the film after heartbreak, Casablanca helped me find my love. If you want to watch Casablanca while enjoy the cocktail, it is streaming on HBO Max. However, you may have several copies of it at home like me, but I also encourage you to check your local library or support your small independent movie rental place. But as the saying goes, “here’s looking at you, Kid.”
La Belle Aurore
- 1oz Bourbon
- 1oz Gin
- ¾ ounces Fresh Lemon Juice (preferably Pink Lemons)
- ¾ ounces Simple Syrup (1:1 sugar:water)
- Fresh Blueberries
- Thyme (enough for muddling and garnish)
- Shaker Tins
- Hawthorne strainer
- Fine Mesh Strainer
- In the larger shaker tin, first muddle a handful of blueberries and a few sprigs of thyme until well mashed.
- Add all the other ingredients and ice. Top with a second shaker tin, make sure it is sealed securely, and shake vigorously until the tin is frosty.
- Strain with Hawthorne and fine mesh strainers over ice into a large wine glass.
- Add fresh whole blueberries and garnish with a sprig of thyme.
- Enjoy responsibly.
Courtney Kristjana is a leading whiskey taster in the country. She left a career in Gerontology after an article on Heather Greene inspired her to follow her passion for whiskey. She is studying to become a Master of Scotch and someday hopes she is nominated for the Keepers of the...