In 1994 Ben Affleck and Matt Damon finished writing a screenplay for a thriller that centered around the idea of a young “Southie” from Boston who is being recruited by the government because of his genius intelligence. After Miramax bought the rights to the film, president Rob Reiner encouraged Damon and Affleck to drop the thriller idea and focus instead on the relationship between the young man and his therapist, with an additional romantic twist thrown in. This became the film that we all know as Good Will Hunting that was nominated for nine Oscars and won two: Best Supporting Actor for Williams and Best Original Screenplay for Affleck and Damon. I can still remember watching the two of them up on stage at the Academy Awards that year. There are a number of bar scenes in the movie, the most analyzed being the one that occurs in the Bow and Arrow where Will puts a pompous Harvard student in his place and captures the heart of Skylar (Minnie Driver) in the process. This scene is certainly critical to the film because it reveals the extent of Will’s genius to the audience, while simultaneously establishing the instant attraction between him and Skylar. At the advice of my son Connor, who helps me so much in working through my ideas for these movie posts, I chose to look instead at the more understated bar scene that occurs between Will’s therapist, Sean Maguire, and his mentor, Gerard Lambeau, played by Robin Williams and Stellan Skarsgård, respectively.
There’s a history behind their encounter in the bar that becomes obvious immediately. These two knew one another at college, and while both showed great promise, only Lambeau went on to pursue and fulfill his intellectual dreams. Maguire was sidetracked by falling in love at first sight with the woman who was to become his wife and later die of cancer, leaving him incredibly sad and somewhat lost, but without regret. The major difference between these two characters lies in what they think will ultimately be best for Will. Lambeau thinks Will’s superior genius needs to be utilized, and that he has the chance to make a contribution to the world that will bring him great recognition. For Lambeau, intellectual fulfillment is paramount. He is focused on Will’s future. Maguire, on the other hand, wants to concentrate on helping Will to confront the trauma he suffered as a child so that he can make his own decision about his future, allowing it to be based on what he deems to be emotionally fulfilling, rather than just what will bring him renown. He is focused on Will’s past because he sees healing as the only path forward. And there’s a girl involved here, something that Maguire knows about all too well, and he wants Will’s decision to also allow room for love. This scene reflects what will eventually become Will’s internal struggle. When he chooses love in the end, we are confident that he has weighed all the factors that we watched play out between Lambeau and Maguire that day in the bar. And we are equally certain that he will be successful in a way that brings him the kind of fulfillment that matters most to him, and not to anyone else.
In making today’s cocktail, I decided to go with components that reflect Maguire and Lambeau, and that reflect the movie’s South Boston setting. Maguire is also a “Southie” so I chose Jameson Irish whiskey as my base and added Krogstad Aquavit, a spirit that’s a lot like gin, but with caraway as its main flavor, rather than juniper. Although it’s distilled in Portland Oregon, it’s heritage is Scandinavian. I added an espresso simple syrup to move in the direction of an Irish coffee cocktail, but balanced it with lemon juice and just a small amount of Sukkah Hill’s lemony Etrog liqueur. I’ve used it in a coffee cocktail before and it was fabulous. I finished the drink with just a splash of Perrier, since that’s what Lambeau orders in the bar, and Maguire has to explain to the bartender as “French for club soda.” The elements for this drink come together quite nicely and its recipe follows the formula for a basic sour. The name is, of course, one of the movie’s best lines. Maguire says it first to Will when he tells him about passing up World Series tickets because he “had to go see about a girl.” Will writes it back to him in a note at the end when he gives up a job opportunity so that he can follow Skylar to California. Cheers everyone. Happy Tuesday!
I Had To Go See About a Girl
2 oz Jameson Irish whiskey
½ oz Krogstad Aquavit
¼ oz Sukkah Hill Etrog liqueur
¾ oz lemon juice
¾ oz espresso syrup (equal parts espresso and sugar heated gently until dissolved)
1 dash DRAM black bitters
Shake all the ingredients (except the Perrier) over ice until very cold, Strain into a footed glass or an old-fashioned glass over one large cube. Top with a splash of the Perrier. Garnish with a lemon peel. Enjoy!