The Celluloid Pantry: Bitter Oranges, Sherry Substitutions, and The Awful Truth (1937)

The Celluloid Pantry: Bitter Oranges, Sherry Substitutions, and The Awful Truth (1937)

Nora Maynard
Feb 20, 2007

"I had three or four before I came, but they're wearing off—you know how that is."

In The Awful Truth (1937), nothing in the kitchen is quite what it seems, but everything's served up in good fun.

It all starts at a polite breakfast at home, where eggnog is ladled from a polished bowl and nutmeg is dispensed from a silver shaker. New York socialite, Jerry Warriner (Cary Grant, center) has purportedly returned from a business trip to Florida with a basket of oranges—a gift for his wife, Lucy (Irene Dunne, right). But Lucy can't help but notice that the sticker on the fruit says "California."

Witty banter, sight gags, and separation ensue, and Jerry and Lucy both find themselves about to get remarried to the wrong people. Realizing the awful truth—that she and Jerry are meant for each other, Lucy sets out to sabotage his engagement. In true screwball style, she shows up uninvited at an afternoon gathering at Jerry's would-be in-laws' wearing a fringed dress, posing as his trashy sister, Lola.

The first thing "Lola" does is ask for a drink: "I had three or four before I came," she tells the horrified Mrs. Vance, "but they're wearing off—you know how that is." When her hostess reluctantly offers her a sherry, Lucy accepts, but then whispers to the butler to bring her a tall ginger ale instead.

Making a great show of guzzling her "sherry," Lucy launches into a monologue: "Don't look at me like that," she says to Jerry, "You like a little drink yourself. We call him Jerry the Nipper. Likes to sneak it when nobody's looking. So cute about it too. l've seen him go an evening, apparently having nothing to drink...and all of a sudden, fall flat on his puss."

The Adonis cocktail was first concocted in New York in 1886 in celebration of the success of a Broadway show. Though, truthfully speaking, not exactly what Lucy was pretending to drink, the made-for-each-other pairing of orange and sherry, in combination with the cocktail's theatrical roots, makes the Adonis just right for this film:

(makes one cocktail)

1 ¾ oz. dry sherry
1 oz. sweet vermouth
dash orange bitters (regular bitters and a splash of orange juice may be substituted)

Pour the sherry and vermouth into a cocktail shaker filled with ice, and add a dash of orange bitters (or regular bitters and orange juice). Mix gently and strain into a glass. Garnish with a twist of orange.

- Nora

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