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Jack Nicholson in The Shining, directed by Stanley KubrickCourtesy of YouTube

Bottoms up! Here are some of the best on-screen drinkers

From Don Draper to Jack Nicholson, the director of Drive, Nicolas Winding Refn, reveals his favourite well-oiled screen stars

As Nicolas Winding Refn’s new film for Hennessy X.O launches today, Dazed caught up with the neo-noir director of Drive to discover his favourite on-screen drinkers.

There’s no denying that some of the greatest scenes in cinema have been eased along by a drink or two/too many. From the all-time favourite seduction scene in The Graduate (1967) to the inebriating opening of Apocalypse Now (1976), and the bottomless boozing in The Big Lebowski (1998), alcohol has always served as a brilliant plot device. For the more finely groomed of film stars, it’s also a mainstay of ineffably cool and charismatic personas – particularly when Sean Connery as James Bond has his “Shaken, not stirred” order down to a T, or when Leonardo DiCaprio knows exactly the right angle to raise his glass, as the alluring Great Gatsby.

Given that film and liquor share an intimate relationship, it’s both fitting and ironic that for their latest Hennessy X.O campaign, the cognac house enlisted teetotal director Nicolas Winding Refn to create a short film. Granted he might not drink, but the master of high-contrast colour behind such films as Drive (2011) and Only God Forgives (2013) was well suited to recreating the intense, multi-hued palate that Hennessey X.O induces. Just before the campaign launched, we called Refn to find out his favourite on-screen drinkers. Beyond suggesting the perma-tipsy Captain Haddock in Tintin, here are the well-oiled protagonists he praised.


If anyone can make drinking look cool it’s him. In a world populated with slick movers and shakers, Don Draper is the suavest of suave (mad) men. “He was really groovy, how he used alcohol”, says Refn. Faithful to the Old Fashioned, the smooth operator personified retro masculinity, prompting a renaissance of classic cocktails on menus worldwide. Of course, as the series developed, his relationship to drinking and decadence became more complex than his favourite concoction – unfurling a revelatory journey of a tragic hero that Jon Hamm fully owned.


“Just all insanity, darkness and drama”, muses Refn on the scene in Stanley Kubrick's psychological thriller wherein Jack Nicholson’s deterioration into pure madness occurs over whisky on ice. Trapped in a hotel with his wife and son, Jack takes to the bar to unload his woes to the ghostly barman, Danny Llyod. Is it just cabin fever that makes him imagine Llyod and then chase after his wife with an axe? Who knows. But filming the same scene every day for six weeks, under Kubrick’s dedication to digging deeper into the dark side, could probably make anyone go batshit crazy.


Without any qualms proposing this 80s cheese-fest, Refn insists “We cannot forget Tom Cruise in Cocktail!” True, his bottle flipping skills, as the cocky bartender Barry Flanagan, inspired many to pick up a Boston Shaker, probably hoping to lure in the girls like Hollywood’s golden child. Killjoys might point out that Barry is probably the worst bartender ever, but when you’ve got killer rom-com quotes and a soundtrack to summer ’88 – with The Beach Boys’ “Kokomo” and Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” – who the hell cares?


Casablanca is pretty awesome. I mean Humphrey Bogart always looked good with a drink in his hand”, says Refn. In the American film noir classic, Bogart plays Rick Blaine, the broken-hearted expatriate owner of an upscale bar in Morocco. Nazis, Vichy cronies and French resistance partisans come and go, and then, one day, “of all the gin joints in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine”, says Blaine in the scene following his former love’s visiting the bar with her new husband. Cue copious glasses of bourbon and the warm sound of blues piano-playing.


With his deadly charm and imperturbable sophistication, Sean Connery always made drinking look cool. “If there’s one on-screen drinker, it’s got to be Sean Connery as James Bond”, says Refn. “I’ve never tried Martini but I like the way he says “Shaken, not stirred.” First uttered in Goldfinger (1964), the catchphrase lived on in virtually every other Bond film thereafter, save for You Only Live Twice (1967) and Casino Royale (2006) when a barman asks Daniel Craig if he wants his vodka martini shaken or stirred, to which he quips, “Do I look like I give a damn?”

View Refn's Hennessy X.O campaign film here