Paul Feig reflects on his Quarantine Cocktail Time videos, reveals he's doing a cocktail book
Paul Feig already has a reputation for being a debonair gentleman with a goofy heart.
The director of films like Bridesmaids and A Simple Favor, he's known for wearing three-piece suits on set and keeping shooting hours to a healthy limit to allow for cocktail hour and gatherings outside of work. So it was no surprise that he carried that ethos over into quarantine.
When Hollywood shut down and lockdowns went into effect across the world in early March, Feig decided to create a little diversion for himself and his Instagram followers each day with a throwback to the art of mixology. Every day for 100 days, he posted a video dubbed Quarantine Cocktail Time to his Instagram page, where he showed viewers how to make a new cocktail, often throwing in a goofy dance or some well-placed dad jokes. His wife Laurie and dog Buster joined in on the fun, and it evolved into a burst of booze-filled joy with nicknames for his bar tools, life advice, and most importantly, a dedicated charitable component. Each episode, Feig chose a different charity to highlight, asking viewers to donate and support causes ranging from COVID-19 relief funds to Black Lives Matter.
After 100 episodes, Feig has hung up his cocktail shaker. But he promises it's not for long — he'll check in with episodes regularly, and tells EW he's even working on a cocktail book full of the recipes he featured on the show that he hopes will be another way to raise money for charity. We called up the dapper director to look back at his 100 episodes and talk all things cocktail, including why Kylie Minogue is the ideal cocktail shaker soundtrack. So take that glass out of the freezer, pour yourself a stiff one, and drink up.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So quarantine starts and people are making cocktails. Where did you first get the idea to do the Quarantine Cocktail show and did you ever expect it to go this long?
PAUL FEIG: [I thought I would] use the time to write and get work done and all that, but I wanted to try to do something to help. Since I'm not a medical professional and there's not a lot I can do in that way, I'm a comedy guy and an entertainer, so why don't I just try to use this time to entertain people and take their minds off stuff for a little bit each day? I like making cocktails and there's a bunch of cocktails I've always wanted to learn how to make. So I can do that, I can raise money for a different charity every day, and just be a general idiot and try to make people laugh. So I just started doing it and pulled my poor wife Laurie into it. I thought if I can make it to 100, that'd be great to do a full run, and then after that, we can take a little break and then do it maybe a little more sporadically. Unless we go into full lockdown again, and I would go back to doing it every day.
You started with the Feigtini, your version of the Quarantini, and took off from there. How did you choose which drinks to feature?
I collect cocktail books. I love them. Over the years, they were just fun things to read. It's relaxing for me. Always reading, you're like, "Oh I should make that; I should try that; I wonder how that is." So, ironically, it wasn't that hard to find 100 drinks. The Mr. Boston Official Bartender's Guide alone, which is sort of every bartender's Bible, there's so many drinks in there. But then I started just falling in love with all the drinks that had weird liquors that I'd never heard of. I think I single-handedly helped Drizly stay in business because every day I was like, "Oh I gotta order Curaçao, now I gotta get Creme de Violette."
You and I share a deep love of gin. You've recently even come out with your own gin, Artingstall's Gin, which you plugged on the show. Was it a struggle not to just do 100 gin cocktails?
I'm a gin fanatic. We've been putting this gin together for two years now. We were all lined up to go into a lot of restaurants and bars and stores, right when this all hit. Because of that, we pulled everything back. When this happened, I had this great guilt like I don't want this to look like I'm just starting a program to sell my gin. But all my favorite cocktails have gin, so I was always like, should I make cocktails with gin? That's why in the first half of the shows, I'm always like, "Oh sorry" and then it just became like, "Oh well, what the heck, why not?"
Similarly, how did you choose all the charities?
It started out with charities I had worked with or given to, but the charities I tend to give to more are women's causes. When this started up, I was like I should really be doing things for COVID response. So I started really doing a deep dive every day into all the charities, but also I'm always very hung up on making sure that these charities are vetted. Some charities spend so much money on fundraising and so much money on administration costs that a lot of your money is not going to the cause. Once the George Floyd tragedy happened, then I really wanted to pivot into more social causes and civil rights causes. You feel helpless sometimes; you're just posting things on social media and all that. But it felt like I did a little bit more where I could actually proselytize about a different organization and try to raise funds for them slightly more actively than just posting about it. It was a really nice outlet for me to, in the tiniest way possible, try to help out.
A lot of people have talked about how our current moment is a time for people to return to things they may have forgotten or never tried before. Do you think this is the ideal moment for the art of the cocktail?
In the hardest of situations, you do need some outlets and you have to have moments to take care of yourself or to try to make yourself feel better and make the people around you feel better. Cocktails are such a great thing in that way. With everybody being locked up, it becomes a little more about drinking in your house, which becomes very easy to drink out of like a SOLO cup. There's a great ritual about making a cocktail the proper way because if you're gonna make something in a shaker and shake it up and do all this stuff, then you're not gonna feel like pouring it into like a plastic tumbler you got at 7-11. This should go in a nice glass because I made it. There's something nice about cocktails — it takes the edge off obviously and the nice thing also is, now that we're all stuck at home, you don't have to drive home. That's a plus right there.
You have adorable nicknames for all your bar tools. Did you just invent them on the fly?
After 50 shows in, you start going, "I need more stuff to do." You start to go a little nuts. I think it's this combination of cabin fever and then also just really dumb dad comedy.
How do you find the perfect song to accompany your cocktail shaking?
I always want to do songs that are really upbeat and fun. Dance songs are always the best. There's a certain rhythm to shaking, and you start to find it. As we go through the shows, I would be shaking and you would hear me say, "Oh, this is the perfect shaking song," because what you want to do is be able to shake right in beat. It's like working out to the right song that keeps you in step. There's this middle range: it can't be too fast, you don't want to shake cocktails to speed metal or anything, but you also don't want to shake it to a ballad. Kylie Minogue always seems to have a good beat for shaking a cocktail.
You have an incredibly robust at-home bar, from various liquors to all the tools. What would be your advice for beginners trying to build up their own bars?
I'm actually writing up, hopefully for charity, a book based on all the cocktails on my show. I'm just right now writing the chapter about how to set up a bar. You need the basic equipment of a shaker and a good jigger, a measuring thing. Get some nice glasses — you want to get a martini glass, which is a cocktail glass in general; you want to get a good Tom Collins glass; you want to get a good old fashioned glass. If you got those three, you're in pretty good shape. Then you want the basics of gin, vodka, vermouth. You want bourbon and whiskey. But you look up recipes and you go, "Oh gosh, I need that or I need this. It's very easy to expand unless you just like these three drinks. But the more you start to dive in, it is a slippery slope. It's like getting one tattoo and suddenly you're covered in tattoos.
I was going to ask if you would write a cocktail book, but it sounds like the answer is yes?
Yeah. We have 100 plus recipes. I invented like four or five cocktails during the time. It felt nice to have a little time capsule of this — to get all those recipes out there, to be able to list all those charities and also the songs that we did and give advice and some of my dumb stories. Here's the thing: I am not a cocktail expert by any stretch of the imagination. My expertise is so limited. Anything that people love, there are people who are expert aficionados who try to intimidate the outsiders with a lot of jargon and information. I wanted to take that out of it because I love cocktails and I hate when fun things become intimidating and become like a private club. I want everybody to enjoy this. I want to bring back cocktail culture. I want to bring back the fun and glamour of all this in a way that's accessible to everybody.
Did you have any favorite drink discoveries, or conversely, things you thought really were terrible?
Honestly, Laurie was always the one who has a discerning palate. I'm sort of famous on the show for really liking anything. Our biggest disaster was this thing called the Hot Pants. It's tequila with peppermint schnapps, and it's absolutely awful. That was one I couldn't even go, "Well, it's not so bad." It became so much fun to start inventing my own drinks because I started to get the knowledge, like, "Oh, this goes with this. This doesn't go with this, but this together actually can go somewhere." I actually just invented a new drink last night that I'm really excited about. I was thinking of calling it a Bon-Bon, but it's one and a half ounces of fresh espresso; one and a half ounces of dark creme de cacao, and then two ounces of heavy cream. Shake it up really hard. Pour it into a glass and then sprinkle cinnamon on top. It's the greatest dessert drink.
Now that you're making your own, would you want to do cocktails themed to your filmography?
I think now I will. When I did A Simple Favor, we played in that world a lot with all the martinis and stuff like that. Now, something I want to definitely do is come up with these cocktails. I enjoy this as much as I enjoy making movies.