A Nip of Noir: A Look at Eddie Muller's Noir Bar
June 12, 2023
Eddie Muller, TCM host and the Czar of Noir, has another trick up his sleeve: He’s a master mixologist.
Fans of TCM have long admired Muller‘s film expertise, especially in the world of noir. Muller has taken that well-known wisdom, combined it with his advanced bartending skills and the result is Eddie Muller’s Noir Bar. (Probably the first thing I learned after opening the book is that the bar tucked in his TCM Noir Alley set is fully functional!)
Eddie Muller’s Noir Bar opens with an introduction setting up the premise of the book, introducing readers to Muller’s extensive noir and bartending backgrounds. For years I’ve been familiar with Muller’s noir knowledge, but the depth of his cocktail proficiency amazed me. This was followed by sections on stocking your own home bar, utilizing proper tools (glasses and other necessities) and the basics of actually making a drink.
Now, I love walking into a fancy cocktail bar and guessing which drinks I’ll like—anything fruity and sweet—even though I can’t identify half the ingredients. That said, my at-home cocktail game consists of mixer + spirit. (My boyfriend and I leveled up a bit recently and added a bar cart to our apartment, but most of the liquors and all of the bitters are his.) I must say, Muller’s book inspired us to venture out, add to our collection and try more.
OK, let’s get to the main attraction. The basic premise of Eddie Muller’s Noir Bar is that he paired 50 noir films with a distinctive cocktail—but it’s not as simple as that! On the movie end, sometimes Muller chose a drink a character imbibed in the film, while other times the character, location or plot inspired the beverage choice. (Sometimes even the actor did.) On the cocktail side, some concoctions are long-established favorites, others are somewhat forgotten drinks created a century ago and others Muller crafted himself.
I really enjoyed perusing each entry and witnessing Muller’s process unfold as he connected each film and drink. There was no set formula for each entry, either. Muller jumped back and forth from focusing on a film’s backstory to the creatives involved to similar real-life tales that inspired either the movie or cocktail choice. One thing remained steadfast: He always explained the drink selection, sometimes more thoroughly than others, especially if it involved his handiwork to create.
Though I consider myself a noir fan, I was pleasantly surprised to learn so much from this book. Out of the 50 films included, one I had never heard of before—Ben Hecht’s Specter of the Rose (1946)—and several others I had never seen, including The Big Clock (1948), Deadline – U.S.A. (1952), I Wake Up Screaming (1941) and Three Strangers (1946). All of those are now automatically on my (extremely long) watchlist.
On the cocktail side, I definitely learned a lot. Heck, I was only familiar with about 10-15 of the cocktails detailed—and by that, I mean I’ve heard of them. I think I’ve only tasted about five of the drinks: Martini (counting my fruity ones here), Paloma, Mai Tai, Margarita (again, fruity) and Champagne Cocktail. A majority of the selections were brand new to me, and over half the recipes included an ingredient I didn’t recognize.
On that note, I also like that Muller dug deep to spotlight some of these cocktails that perhaps have gone out of style or use ingredients that are no longer made. For instance, he noted that The Last Word, paired with 1949’s D.O.A., was a popular drink during Prohibition that had long been forgotten until a bartender revived it this century. The drink Muller chose for The Set-Up (1949), the Deshler, was created in the early 1900s. And the Gin Sling, matched with The Shanghai Gesture (1941), stretches all the way back to the 1800s! Whether a hundred-year-old classic, a more recent blend or Muller’s own invention, the author took the time to describe each drink’s origin, including the bartender who created it, if known, and other pertinent details.
For the drinks he conceived, Muller meticulously described his reasoning and the steps he took to come up with the final product. I found his process, most of which I’m sure he couldn’t include for the sake of space, very interesting. I have a feeling it must have been fun coming up with some of these drinks, trial and error included! Obviously, he put a lot of work, passion and care into making these drink connections and creating new ones. You can tell that alone by the strategies and pro tips he added for crafting almost every cocktail.
The first cocktail we made from the book: The Blacklisted. I normally don't drink rye, but it was tasty! (Photo by Kim Luperi)
My only complaint is a small personal one: I would have liked to see more vodka drinks included, as that’s my go-to liquor. I spotted some rum cocktails, my second favorite liquor, and several gin drinks, which is a new interest of mine. (I never thought I liked gin until I discovered the Aviation, which I was really hoping to see in this book!) While I previously noted that I didn’t always recognize all the ingredients in each drink, I appreciate the fact that most of the recipes aren't too complicated and feature only about 4-5 elements; some drinks utilize more ingredients and some less, of course, but most seem do-able, especially since many components are repeated throughout the book, like Angostura bitters and lime juice.
All in all, Eddie Muller’s Noir Bar was a quick, entertaining read. I enjoyed learning more about mixology in the context of classic movies, particularly a genre that I love, and I recommend the book to any fans of cocktail culture or film noir.
Thank you to Running Press for providing me with a copy of this book for review.
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