We’re delighted to have Paul Feig on the blog today. He’s a TV and film director, the man behind Bridesmaids and some of the funniest shows on TV. He’s also an Instagram cocktail sensation and he’s just released his own book on the subject called Cocktail Time!

What did you do during all those lockdowns? I was intending to learn the guitar, get fit and improve my Spanish. I didn’t do any of these but I did get a lot better at cocktails. Not as good as Paul Feig though who has just launched a book on the subject called Cocktail Time: The Ultimate Guide to Grown-Up Fun.

He’s a Hollywood actor, comedian, and filmmaker. The name might not be immediately familiar but you’ve definitely seen things he’s done such as directing Bridesmaids, and various episodes of some of the funniest shows to come out of America in the last 20 years like 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation, The Office and Arrested Development (don’t forget Freaks and Geeks!). It would be fair to say that he has a well-developed funny bone.

He’s also a dab hand with a shaker. In 2020 his Instagram Lives where he made a different cocktail every day for 100 days became a sensation. His book, which came out recently, is full of useful advice, funny stories, and some outrageous name-dropping. In short, Feig is just the sort of person we’d like to invite over for drinks. 

Welcome Mr. Feig, we’re delighted to have you on the blog!

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Paul Feig enjoying a Hot Toddy and sporting an amazing dinner jacket. Credit: Haarala Hamilton

Master of Malt: Why did you decide to write a cocktail book?

Paul Feig: I did an Instagram Live show during the Covid lockdown for 100 days in a row and people kept asking me if I would write down all the recipes and put them in a book. I wrote them out but then started writing fun stories associated with each drink, which then expanded into writing up lots of advice on how to stock your bar and how to throw a cocktail party. It ballooned into a sort of memoir/life mission statement on everything I love about being a grownup. So, it ended up being a very personal book. But with 125 cocktail recipes!

MoM: What’s your favourite bottle in your home bar?

PF: Well, other than the bottles of my very own Artingstall’s Brilliant London Dry Gin, which I created and make with Minhas Distilleries (I’m always selling!  Sorry), I have a special love for the Galliano bottle on my bar. I’ve always been obsessed with that bottle and the yellowish-golden liquor within it since I was a kid. One of my good friends in Michigan, when I was growing up, had a bottle of it in her kitchen and I thought it was the classiest, coolest thing I had ever seen. It looked like a rocket. So, when I finally bought a bottle for my bar, it became quite a special moment for me. And now I can make Harvey Wallbangers to boot!

MoM: Where’s the best bar in the world?

PF: For me, it’s Duke’s Bar in London. I take people there all the time, telling them it’s my favourite bar in the world, and they’re always surprised when they enter it.  Because it doesn’t look like a bar at all. It looks more like somebody’s grandma’s living room. But that’s what’s so great about it. It’s completely unassuming but it’s where you can get the world’s best Martini, served by the world’s best barman, Alessandro Palazzi. He wheels a wooden cart up to your table and prepares the world’s coldest, most delicious (and strongest) Martini to your specifications (but don’t mess with the house recipe if you know what’s good for you) and charms you the entire time. It is an experience you’ll never forget.

Cocktail Time!

MoM: What’s your favourite cocktail?

PF: A Martini, hands down. I love lots of cocktails but will always go back to a Martini. I love its simplicity, its elegance, its glamour, and its taste. My order is always a gin Martini (the only real kind – Vodka Martinis are imposters) up with a twist, very dry, very cold, and stirred not shaken. A Martini is all about putting the spotlight on the ingredients, mainly the gin. I formulated my Artingstall’s Gin specifically for Martinis, although it works great in all other drinks.  (It’s great as a vodka substitute.) A Martini is only as good as its gin and there’s so many different kinds of gin that no Martini is ever alike if you’re experimenting with various brands.  Martinis don’t try to hide their weaknesses behind the rest of the ingredients like other cocktails. They’re all about strength – unashamedly pushing the gin out onto centre stage like a proud stage parent who knows their child is a future star. And if the Martini is well made, then the audience is never disappointed.

MoM: What’s the biggest mistake people make when making cocktails?

PF: I think the biggest mistake people make is to not make cocktails. It’s amazing how many folks are intimidated by the idea of mixology, no matter how easy the drink may be to make. As long as you get the proportions of the recipe right and get the drink nice and cold before serving, then you’re going to be fine. While bartenders can be hugely talented, they’re not mystical shamans. They’re just professionals who know how to make a lot of different drinks and can do them from memory. For people at home, it’s perfectly okay to have your cocktail book on the bar and to refer to it as you make your drinks, the same way you would if you were cooking and using a cookbook. So, if you’re at all intimidated or worried about mixing a cocktail, follow the old Nike advice and just do it!

MoM: What’s your top cocktail tip?

PF: Chill your glasses, especially your Martini and cocktail glasses. There’s nothing worse than pouring a cold drink into a warm glass. I always keep four cocktail glasses in my freezer just in case people drop by or I suddenly have the urge to mix up a libation. If you don’t have a freezer handy or if you need to get some glasses cold quickly, then fill each one with ice and put cold water in to get the entire surface of the glass equally cold. Do this before you even start to gather your ingredients for the drink so that the glasses will have maximum time to chill.  Even if there’s not enough time to get them frosty, the fact that they’re as cold as the freshly mixed drink going into them means they’re going to taste great. That said, there’s truly nothing like handing a person a drink in a cold frosted glass, so keep those glasses in the freezer. Make room for them if you have to. It’ll be worth kicking that old freezer-burned meatloaf out of there.

A Claridge cocktail Credit: Haarala_Hamilton

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MoM: Do you have a favourite glass?

PF: I think the Martini glass is the perfect work of art. I’ve got two I bought at the Claridge’s gift shop that are absolutely gorgeous with beautiful etching. But I also love serving cocktails in Nick and Nora glasses, which are the more rounded version of a Martini glass seen in the old Thin Man movies (hence the name Nick and Nora, since the characters Nick and Nora Charles were the stars of those highly entertaining old murder mysteries). Also, stemmed thistle glasses are great for serving drinks in. The first Martini I ever had was at the Savoy Hotel in a frozen thistle glass, and a few years ago I found a set of ten at an art and antiques fair in Palm Springs. They’re so much fun to serve all kinds of cocktails in and really make an impression on my guests. And I was just recently given a couple of vintage cocktail glasses from the old Knickerbocker Hotel with stems moulded in the shape of a man’s head wearing a top hat. They are truly spectacular.

MoM: You clearly put as much thought into what you wear as what you drink. Where do you get your wonderful clothes from? 

PF: I’ve amassed my suit collection over the years from many different designers. I own a lot of Ralph Lauren because he draws inspiration from so many different eras and makes it all work effortlessly. I also have a lot of suits made to measure by the great Naples-based tailors of Isaia, owned by my good friend Gianluca Isaia. And I’m also very loyal to the bespoke Savile Row tailoring house of Anderson & Sheppard. I like to change up my looks from day to day, which is why I love these three main sources – Ralph Lauren for classic American style, Isaia for fun Neapolitan sprezzatura, and Anderson & Sheppard for timeless British tailoring. Toss in a bit of Tom Ford and a few other pieces from the likes of Etro, New & Lingwood, Cifonelli, and Brooks Brothers and you’ve got my closet in a nutshell.

MoM: Which actor that you’ve worked with has been the most fun?

PF: They’re all fun. What are you trying to do? Get me in trouble??

Cocktail Time: The Ultimate Guide to Grown-Up Fun by Paul Feig is available from Waterstones and all good bookshops.