Shaken, Not Stirred: How to Make Drinks For Film

Written by Josias Jensen.

“I’ll have a vodka martini…”

Many memorable scenes in cinema feature drinks as an important prop. However, as some of you may already know, the actors rarely, if ever, drink the real deal. There are several reasons for this: it’s cheaper to make a replica, it is easier to access, and you don’t have to worry about your actors having a bit too much…

In this article I will show you step by step how to make inexpensive and photorealistic champagne and whisky substitutes.

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Black Tea is Your Friend

One ingredient that will help you make a lot of drink substitutes is inexpensive black tea or earl grey. Brew a cup or pot of black tea using several bags, making your brew much darker and more bitter than you would normally drink. Keep the bags in for at least 10 min to let the tea turn dark.

You will use this cup or pot of strong tea for colouring the whisky/champagne substitute. Find a small cup, jug, or anything else that is easy to pour from.  Set this aside so that it is ready to access later.

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Sparkle!

For the champagne substitute you will need to buy sparkling water or any other soda drink that has no colour.

If you need more than one glass, gently pour the sparkling water into a large glass pitcher or bowl making sure you don’t lose too much of the fizz.

Gradually pour small amounts of the black tea in the glass pitcher/bowl until it has just the right colour. Don’t rush it. If you end up putting too much in and the mixture gets too dark, you will have to add in more sparkling water to balance it out.

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If you need one or two glasses, you can pour the sparkling water directly in the glass and very gently pour in some of the black tea. You will only need a very small amount of black tea to colour a single glass of sparkling water.

If you want to make a white wine substitute the process is the exact same, but with water instead of sparkling water.

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On the Rocks, Please…

For the whisky substitute the process is similar. Instead of using sparkling water you will use water. To get the colour of whisky down you will need to use a bit more tea than for the champagne substitute. Gently mix it till it has just the right tint.

For both drinks, I would advise you to have a look at a photo of actual champagne or whisky to match it as closely as possible.

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Presentation is key

In order to make it truly believable, use the kind of glassware you would use specifically for serving whisky or champagne. Whisky in a normal glass looks very similar to many other drinks, but as soon as it is served in the right kind of glass, we believe it is whisky and not just apple juice or ice tea.

Dressing your drink the right way will add to the believability as well. For example, you would never fill a glass of whisky all the way to the top, but rather about one quarter or fifth of the glass.

You can also add a couple of ice cubes in your whisky substitute.

Black tea is a great and inexpensive ingredient that can be used in making many different drink substitutes. I encourage you to experiment with simple ingredients and getting the presentation right rather than spending lots of money on actual drinks.

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