Shaken & Stirred: Drinks of the Dead

by Michael Cecconi

When there is no more room in hell,

the dead will walk the earth.

And probably need a drink.

What scares you? What short circuits your rational self and strikes at that primal (sweaty, heart-racing, peeking around corners and in cabinets when you are home alone) section of the brain? What makes you cover your eyes in anticipation of something horrible happening? These fears are cultivated in our society. Inbred, intensified, varied because artists find new ways into our deeper, frightened selves. I often wonder if in our endless pursuit of new expressions of horror, we are better equipped for dealing with it when it does come around (I’m looking at you, Ebola). But more than that, I think we represent the terror of existence and all we can imagine in order to get a rise out of ourselves.

My biggest trigger is two words: fast zombies. I didn’t know this until Zack Snyder went out of his way to populate my nightmares with undead that could outrun most Olympic athletes. Ugh. The acting, anchored with the triple-threat Sarah Polley, lent his version of Dawn of the Dead  a certain gravitas lacking in Romero’s original. It’s in the first scenes, as our heroine drives away from her newly undead boyfriend, that we see him give it the beans, keep pace with her car, and only veer off when easier prey presents itself. As a bookish/bandish/choirish/unathletic youth I had a fear of the Presidential Physical Fitness Test and anything else that required me to run for my life. Increasing the speed of the bogeyman increases my fear in direct proportion.


The undead remind me of hipsters. Hipsters are blessedly slower than Zack’s zombies (try extreme speed on a fixie in San Francisco, or encased in skinny jeans). These hordes have set up shop in Williamsburg in New York and the Mission in San Francisco. Far from being a force for evil and chaos, they dress well, work hard, and their drinking habits make me happy. Hipsters have looked past the propaganda of too-sweet abominations, flavorless ad campaigns, and novelty notions of drinking (I’m looking at you Fireball, any vodka, and powdered alcohol). The holy trinity at which they worship are the Negroni, Last Word, and Fernet Branca. These three drinks are not for the faint of heart. Bitter, Herbaceous, and Minty would be their names if ever they were paired with Snow White. But these flavors, concentrated and fortified, provide such a wonderful experience, breaking through all the chaff of the day until we can’t help but take a moment’s notice of the beauty of what we are drinking.


There is a uniformity to the hipster hordes. I work as hard to get a hipster to drink something a little more of-this-century as I do to pry a vodka/soda from the hands of an unadventurous stock broker. My personal zombie epidemic involves hordes of interested, open-minded drinkers coming to my bar … I try to pass my plague along with beautiful cocktails.

But as long as hipsters stay as sharply dressed, gainfully employed, and well-drinking, then I fear the hipster apocalypse just a little less than the zombie one.

Full disclosure: I still haven’t watched the whole of Dawn of the Dead . I saw the first ten minutes in 2006 and couldn’t deal with the rest. Romero calls the first 15 minutes the best part of the remake, so take a page from the master and catch the first bit.


The Hipster Three:


  • Chilled martini glass
  • 1 oz gin
  • 1 oz Campari
  • 1 oz sweet vermouth
  • Orange zest garnish

Combine, add good ice, and stir 50-75 times. Strain into chilled martini glass, pinch the zest, rub the rim, twist the zest, and drop it in.

Last Word

  • Chilled martini glass
  • ¾ oz gin
  • ¾ oz fresh lime
  • ¾ oz maraschino liqueur
  • ¾ oz green chartreuse
  • Brandied cherry garnish

Combine, add good ice, shake and strain into chilled martini glass, garnish.

Fernet Branca

  • Any glass will do
  • 2 oz Fernet Branca

If you must have a shot, let it spend some time in your mouth. A lot of people worked a lot of hours to craft that hooch, so show some respect. And if you must drink Fernet (actually a class of bitters like Italian Amaros), try some of the new fernets out there from Tempus Fugit and Leopold Bros.

Check out the 2014 incarnation of SF Indiefest’s Another Hole in the Head for Awesome Theatre Presents: Zombie! The Musical! Live in Concert! and a horde of independent horror, sci-fi, and fantasy films. December 5-15, various venues.

MichaelCecconiMichael likes all things drink related.  Michael likes movies.  And, in an odd twist of fate, Michael loves words about movies.  These three facts combine to make a perfect storm of sensibility, ability, and inebriation needed to fulfill duties at EatDrinkFilms.  When not rhapsodizing about film, Michael tends the bar at Two Sisters Bar & Books in San Francisco.  He teaches mixology in San Francisco and New York.  And lately, he’s been trying to capture the magic of what he does in a bottle so he can spread his tasty libations across the land.  Please feel free to contact him at with all queries.

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