Summer is just around the corner, and long weekends are soon knocking on everyone’s door. With states reopening, and businesses about to come back into full swing, let’s take some time and meet up at a fictional bar to celebrate.

This week ‘Touchstone and Beyond’ looks back at a film that showed us what a bartender was willing to do for success, and how the price of success would cost him everything he cared about. Let’s shake it up for Tom Cruise’s second Touchstone Pictures film, Cocktail.

The Plot

Brian (Tom Cruise) is looking to make it big in business and moves to New York after his army service ends. Though he hustles from one interview to the next, Brian can’t get a job anywhere, until he meets Doug (Bryan Brown). Hired on the spot to bartend, Brian is an instant success. He is enamored with being so popular at night but struggling with his city college classes during the day.

Fame is instant for Brian and Doug. Their flair bartending style brings a relationship for Brian with a photographer named Coral (Gina Gershon) but fame can be fleeting. His friendship with Doug sours and Brian leaves for Jamaica to bartend at a resort. Over two years later, Brian is content on the sunny shores of Jamaica where he has used his talents to build up his reputation at the resort. He meets Jordan (Elisabeth Shue), a guest at the hotel, and a relationship blossoms. When Doug arrives and reunites with Brian, he introduces his very rich wife Kerry (Kelly Lynch) and informs Brian about his plan to open a trendy club back in New York.

Old habits die hard for Brian. He is goaded into a fling with a rich hotel guest by Doug, which ends his relationship with Jordan. She leaves for New York never saying goodbye, while Brian is trying to pick up the pieces of what to do next. Brian eventually leaves Jamaica too with big dreams of success, but they crumble. After searching up Jordan, Brian learns that she is pregnant with his child.

Doug is on the cusp of success but it’s an illusion. Brian learns that Doug is in debt, and despondent over the future. His suicide inspires Brian to try again to reunite with Jordan. After professing his love, Jordan takes him back and Brian seems to be on the right track. Several months down the road, Brian and Jordan are married. He has started his own bar named Flanagan’s Cocktails & Dreams and at the opening night of the bar, Brian is surprised once more to learn that Jordan is pregnant with twins.

Cinematic Compliments

Tom Cruise is at his best in the role of Brian Flanagan. He is likeable and charming which helps the viewers forget the negative character traits of Brian. He’s shallow and self-centered, but Tom Cruise paints a shiny glow over these negative attributes which allows the viewer to root for the protagonist.

Elisabeth Shue is truly excellent as Jordan. She brings an individualism to the role that puts her on an even level with Cruise’s Brian. Not just a throwaway character, Jordan makes Brian own up to his faults, and she has all the power that will influence Brian’s future. Tom Cruise and Elisabeth Shue are a perfect match and complement each other well on screen.

Cinematic Complaints

The suicide of Bryan Brown’s Doug character came out of nowhere and was unnecessarily bloody. Doug was melodramatic but the brutality of his suicide doesn’t match up with the characters arc. It felt unnecessary to kill Doug. It would have been better to see Brian walk away from Doug because he was tired of his antics, and not because he was dead.  

If the idea of watching a cocky bartender scheming for success doesn’t appeal to you then Cocktail is a film to skip.

Fun Film Facts

  • Fans of Beverly Hills 90210 will recognize James Eckhouse as one of the patrons at the Jamaica bar.
  • Though the movie takes place in New York, most of the film was shot in Toronto.
  • Recently, a camera operator from the film revealed that while shooting a helicopter scene for the film, Elisabeth Shue almost walked into the rotor blade of the helicopter. Cruise noticed the imminent peril and lunged at her, saving her life.
  • Andrew Shue has a brief role as a wedding guest.
  • The film is based on the book of the same name by author Heywood Gould.
  • Gould would also adapt the book by writing the screenplay for the film.
  • Heywood Gould is reportedly not happy with how the film turned out. Apparently, there are over forty different drafts of the screenplay.
  • Bryan Brown once talked about how the original script was the best that he ever read. It focused on the cult of celebrity and was a very dark picture. When Cruise signed on the tone of the script changed to turn the project into a lighter more upbeat film.
  • Bryan Brown also had nothing but positive remarks about working with Tom Cruise.
  • Charlie Sheen, Robin Williams, and Jim Carrey were all up for the part of Brian.
  • The studio originally thought about casting Paul Newman in the role of Doug. Studio executives thought they could recreate the magic established between Cruise and Newman on The Color of Money.
  • There is a bar named Cocktails & Dreams, after Brian’s bar on the Gold Coast in Australia.
  • Tom Hanks was in contention for the role of Brian but turned it down for Big.
  • Former Disney Studio head Jeffrey Katzenberg originally changed the name of the film to The Bartender but changed it back to Cocktail before the premiere.
  • Kelly Lynch claimed the film was heavily edited which resulted in much of her storyline being cut from the film.

The Golden Popcorn Bucket Rating

Cocktail gets a 2 Golden Popcorn Bucket rating. It’s a shallow film that’s fun to watch, and easily forgettable.

Coming Attractions

The bar hop continues next week when we visit another famous establishment that offers talented and unique bartenders, Coyote Ugly.

Production Credits

Directed by Roger Donaldson

Produced by Touchstone Pictures / Silver Screen Partners III


  • Tom Cruise as Brian
  • Bryan Brown as Doug
  • Elisabeth Shue as Jordan
  • Gina Gershon as Coral
  • Kelly Lynch as Kerry

Release Date: July 29, 1988

Budget: $20 million

Box Office Gross

Domestic: $78,222,753

Worldwide Total: $171,504,781