• Laurie

A Movie, a Bet, and a Presbyterian


In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing. We lived at the junction of great trout rivers in western Montana, and our father was a Presbyterian minister and a fly fisherman who tied his own flies and taught others. He told us about Christ's disciples being fishermen, and we were left to assume, as my brother and I did, that all first-class fishermen on the Sea of Galilee were fly fishermen and that John, the favorite, was a dry-fly fisherman.

- Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It


For the last month or longer I’ve been wanting to write about the Presbyterian cocktail. The idea came to me in March. The Home Bar Awards monthly theme was the Big Screen. The idea being to come up with a cocktail based on your favorite movie or use an existing recipe. Even though from what I’ve seen they prefer original cocktail recipes. I’m a bit wary of contests with consumers mixed with bartending professionals. When I see contests like these it reminds me of an article from last June where David Wondrich was interviewed by Ethan Fixell from Food and Wine. Fixell asked Wondrich, “Is there anything negative that happened to cocktails since you started?” Wondrich responded “Well I see a lot of young bartenders inventing cocktails for the sake of inventing them. It’s the same problem you get in restaurants, where the chef is making dishes for fellow chefs. They’re making these cocktails for the other mixologists. They don’t taste delicious, they’re weird, and they’ve got too many ingredients. Bitter is the new sweet, and classic cocktails seem a little old fashioned to some of the new people….” Fixell went on to say “With more people making cocktails these days, there are going to be more misses.” Wondrich’s response “….95% of everything is crap.” Given David Wondrich’s extensive experience researching cocktails, recipes, and the industry I’m inclined to take his word for it. This may be why subconsciously I only thought about my entry. Although I'm more inclined to believe it had more to do with an emotional connection I wasn't ready to share. Now I am.

My favorite movie, A River Runs Through It, stems from a negotiation with my Dad back in late 1992. At the time I was a high school freshman. A new rated R movie had been released my friend and I wanted to see. The movie, Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The deal I negotiated with my Dad, he would take my friend and I to see Dracula. In return, I would have to go with him to see a movie he wanted to see. As an avid fly fisherman he spent every free moment he could fishing, even as a kid. At the time A River Runs Through It had just been released. I knew this is the movie he wanted to see. It was dubbed “the fly fishing movie”. The critics, and the late night comedians alike weren’t kind about the fly-fishing movie. So from a teenager’s perspective this was torture, all the same I agreed. I wanted to see Dracula.

There was also a side bet with this negotiation too. My Dad bet me I would like his movie over my movie. I was so sure Dracula was going to be awesome it seemed like an easy bet. After the movie that night my Dad asked me which movie I liked. Even though my Dad already knew. I couldn’t lie. I admitted it, A River Runs Through It was so much better than Dracula. Over the next 5 years from when the movie was released it would become my favorite movie. What I didn’t realize at the time but I imagine my Dad did, our relationship was changing. I was no longer the little girl who wanted to go fishing on the weekends with him. I was becoming my own person. Unfortunately it would also be the last movie we would see together. He passed away in late 1997.

Whenever I think about my favorite movie I can’t help but think of my Dad and Norman Maclean’s own father, a Scot, a fly fisherman, and a Presbyterian.

How the knowledge of the Presbyterian cocktail came into my sphere of knowledge eludes me. Although it seemed like a natural accompaniment to A River Runs Through It.


Always Imbibe Responsibly.

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cocktail fan
cocktail enthusiast
cocktail culture
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Seattle, Washington