Once Upon a Time in Hollywood: Casa Vega Classic Margarita Recipe

Year Released: 2019
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Leonardo DiCaptrio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie
(R, 159 min.)
Comedy, Drama


Cliff Booth: All right, what's the matter, partner?
Rick Dalton: It's official old buddy, I'm a has been.

Not generally a fan of Tarantino, but Different Drummer has to admit she loved every decadent moment of this guilty pleasure. Part of it is the era it evokes, Hollywood, 1969, presented for us in full, flaming color.

But more than the era, it is the two co-stars who bring the film to life.  Just like their director, the two characters, Western actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his best bud stunt driver double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) are man-boys at heart.  (In Tarantino's film, Dalton and Cliff's friendship is based on the real-life camaraderie between Burt Reynolds and his stunt double Hal Needham.)

Dalton, who has made his name starring in television’s Bounty Law, and has subsequently tried and failed on the big screen, is now reduced to walk-on bad guy parts on another television Western.  And he is not happy about it, drowning his sorrows in multiple Margaritas and Whiskey Sours.


An odd mixture of self-love and loathing, Dalton is big hearted yet heartless at times, too.  And he peppers his laments with enough bad language to put even Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, or Samuel L Jackson to shame.

Cliff Booth stoically bares the brunt of that bigger than life personality, as he slyly reveals in an interview with Rick:

Interviewer: So, Rick, explain to the audience exactly what a stunt double does.
Rick Dalton: Actors are required to do a lot of dangerous stuff. Cliff here is meant to help carry the load.
Interviewer: Is that how you describe your job, Cliff?
Cliff Booth: What, carrying his load? Yeah, it's about right.

Even when Rick tries to help Cliff get more stunt work, his generosity is undercut by his cavalier attitude regarding his friend.

Rick Dalton: Hey, you could do anything you want to him. Throw him off a building, right? Light him on fire. Hit him with a Lincoln! Right? Get creative! 

Brad Pitt, who like everybody else in the film, seems to be having a roaring good time with his role, is especially good at playing the quiet man of mystery.  One would never guess that behind the sexy smile, the aviator glasses, and the Hawaiian shirt lurks a World War II veteran and former Green Beret who specializes in close quarters combat. 


Oh, and there are rumors he killed his wife and got away with it. Plus a double dose of “I could care less” attitude, epitomized in the terrific scene with Bruce Lee.

Cliff is decked out in a Tuxedo waiting on the lot for a chance to do some stunt backup work, when he encounters Bruce Lee giving a demonstration of his martial arts prowess.  The stuntman is not impressed, especially when the little man boasts that he could take out Cassius Clay (later known as Mohammed Ali).  And our stuntman, Cliff, has a wit and brains as well as braun, too, as he easily puts Lee in his place:   


Bruce Lee: My hands are registered as lethal weapons. We get into a fight, I accidentally kill you... I go to jail.

Cliff Booth: Anybody accidentally kills anybody in a fight, they go to jail. It's called manslaughter.

The inevitable fight between the two will yield some surprises.  All I’m saying is it results in a badly dented Buick, but you will have to see the film to find out whose hurled body is the cause.

Margo Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a super beauty whose career is just beginning. Tarantino again wonderfully captures her innocent intoxication with her burgeoning film career as we watch her slip in to see herself on screen. She asks the price of admission to the show, but then can’t help herself from querying what the cost would be for someone actually in the movie.  After they escort her in at no coast, she sinks into the seat to watch herself, relishing in the audience’s positive reactions to her role.  Of course, knowing how short-lived that career will be because of the infamous Charles Manson and his crew, those moments are all the more precious for us. 

Wrapping up all this nostalgia in a bow are all the iconic scenes of old Hollywood, created to the last detail on screen, with vintage cars cruising the Hollywood Blvd. packaged just like it was 50 years ago. 


You can go here for more details of Taratino’s recreation of the old landmarks of Tinseltown. It all comes together in almost 3 hours of screen time, which, oddly enough, did not seem to drag at all.

We have Cliff’s’ creepy trip to the old Spahn Ranch, where they used to film Bounty Law, now infested with a group of hippies who all love an absent leader, who they refer to as Charlie. A cameo there with Bruce Dern is terrific, too.  Then there is the tiny trailer Cliff calls home, tucked in a shabby hillside next to a drive in movie.  His feeding ritual for his loveable pit bull Brandy is only outdone by his meal preparation for himself, which at least one writer thinksis the best scene  in whole film.  Not to mention a powerful interchange between Rick Dalton and child actress Trudi (Julia Butters), as they wait for their scene together. 

Some have labeled this film a nostalgic indulgence that Tarantino has created mostly for himself.  He just lets us come along for the ride.  Perhaps that is so, but what a ride it is!

Must see for adults.

–Kathy Borich
4 Drums


Film-Doing Foodie

One of the best scenes is the final buddy scene between Pitt and DiCaprio.  It takes place in an iconic L.A. restaurant, The Casa Vega, which still exists today.

The Sherman Oaks-based Mexican restaurant hasn’t changed much since it opened in 1956. With red-leather booths and bar chairs and waiters and bartenders clad in vests and bow ties, the restaurant has maintained much of its mid-century charm.

Casa Vega has been a celebrity hangout for decades and is now a favorite of the Kardashians. In January, the restaurant introduced a new margarita in honor of the “Once” director simply called “The Taratino,” which was created by the man himself.  –Carlos De Loera

The owner’s daughter, Christy Vega, shares the Classic Margarita recipe with us.  While you can order the Tarantino version at the historic restaurant, it is apparently a closely guarded secret, so we will have to go with their Classic Recipe. Here is what Christy, whose dad apparently loved Margaritas so much that he had to be talked out of naming his daughter Margarita, says :

While the Lobster Quesadillas are a crowd favorite, most people know that the real treats are the margaritas. While there are several options available, we’re fans of the classic family recipe that founder Ray Vega put on the menu so many years ago. The simple specs feature high quality agave and just enough flavor to make them unique.

Casa Vega Classic Margarita

Tarantino Margarita.jpg


·      1 ½ ounce Anejo Tequila

·      1 ounce fresh lime juice

·      ¾ ounce Cointreau

·      Ice

·      Lime wedges

·      Kosher Salt

·      Carafes of cranberry juice, pineapple juice, orange juice

·      Fruit garnishes



1.    With a lime wedge, rim the mouth of the glass with lime juice and dip into a shallow dish of kosher salt. Fill glass will ice. 

2.    In a shaker, add ice, tequila, lime juice and Cointreau. Shake vigorously. Strain into salt-rimmed glass. Add a splash of a juice mixer and garnish with fruit.

Christy Vega.com