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Indie Theater Picks with Cocktail Pairings

Suzy Ray Alembic

Alembic bartender Suzy Ray 

Dinner and a movie might be the most hackneyed date idea since parking up on Twin Peaks for some necking and heavy petting, but a drink (or drinks) and a movie is a criminally underexplored combo that comes highly recommended by many discerning cinephiles. With the Roxie’s new beer-and-wine license and the opening of a full bar at The Alamo Draft House on the horizon, now is as good a time as any to start practicing your pairings. 

Suzy Ray, a tattooed motorcycle-riding Bay Area native who’s been slinging drinks at the popular cocktail spot Alembic for a little over three years, helped me pick out a few drinks for this weekend’s indie selects: 

The Hunter 

Not to be confused with the soon-to-be-released Willem Dafoe vehicle, this Iranian tale of revenge has attracted comparisons to Drive for its stark atmosphere and loner lead (director Rafi Pitts). A slick and pensive work as potently allegorical and emotionally taught as recent Oscar winner A Separation (also from Iran), The Hunter may never play in its native Iran, where films are heavily censored and filmmakers are routinely imprisoned and detained for pursuing their craft. 

Suzy recommends "The Crow."

Drinking is considered haram (banned) in highly Islamic Iran, so alcohol can sometimes be hard to come by. Accordingly, Suzy keeps it simple with this bitter mixture of whiskey, lemon and grenadine from the Savoy school. “Crows can be symbolic of political difficulties,” she says. The Hunter plays 3/30–4/5 at Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St @ Valencia, 415-863-1087.

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The Island President

SF filmmaker John Shenk’s straight-forward doc details the trials and tribulations of Mohamed Nasheed, the first democratic president of The Maldives, a grouping of islands below India faced with the very real threat of being uninhabitable due to rising tides caused by global warming. Since production on the film ended, Nasheed has been forced to resign and the islands returned to dictatorial rule, making this even more potent piece of history.

Suzy recommends "The Moscow Mule."

A cocktail classic built with vodka, lime juice and ginger beer, the mule is an old standby that’s been gaining popularity in bars again of late. The high notes of citrus from the lime definitely read “tropical,” while the ginger beer that underpins the drink brings with it a bit of roughness. Watery but substantial, it’s a rather literal but apt match for the tale of the imperiled isles. The Island President plays 3/30–4/5 at SFFS-New People Cinema, 1746 Post St. @ Webster, 415-525-8600.

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House of Pleasures

Bertrand Bonello’s lavish period piece about a French brothel’s disintegration at the turn of the century showcases a beautiful cast of troubled femmes both imprisoned and empowered by their choice of lifestyle. Despite the setting, there’s more than a little that’s contemporary about the film’s elliptical manipulation of time, bombastic rock interludes, and grim Situationist undertones. House of Pleasures features plenty of nude flesh, but chances are it’s the brains not the breasts that will enrapture you.

Suzy recommends “The Spanish Connection.”

Inspired the mix of champagne and real pain in House of Pleasures, Suzy creates a custom concoction, mixing Green Chartreuse, Brandy, French Vermouth and Cava champagne. Cava is actually a Spanish champagne made with the original French methods which she has subbed in to boost the “herbaceousness” of the drink. “It’s very French to be herb-forward,” she tells me. We play around with the name French Connection, but settle on Spanish Connection after the Cava. Like the film, the drink is decadent and delicious, but miles more complex than I would have expected. House of Pleasures plays 3/30–4/5 at SFFS-New People Cinema, 1746 Post St @ Webster, 415-525-8600.

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