Have you got a favourite nightcap?
I’ve been a single malt whisky guy for most of my life, but also love to pour a nice cognac or armagnac in a beautiful snifter. Half the fun of drinking is the presentation and so having your nightcap (or any drink) in the nicest glass possible just makes the experience all the better. For a single malt, I love an old fashioned glass with the heaviest bottom possible. Since a pour of whisky is pretty light, you want to feel the weight of what it will actually deliver to you once you take a sip. So, dress up your nightcap before you enjoy.
What film most inspires your love of cocktails?
Any of the Thin Man films with William Powell and Myrna Loy. Those old movies from the 1930s show drinking at its most fashionable and fun. The glassware is always great, the drink trays in people’s apartments always have a seltzer bottle they use to squirt fizzy water into their scotch-filled highball glasses and the scenes in the fancy supper clubs where everyone is dressed in formalwear sipping on sensibly-sized martinis (back then, martinis were only a few ounces, not the giant Slurpee-sized ones that get served in most places these days) just make you wish you had a time machine that allowed you to go spend an evening with Nick and Nora and Asta the dog.
What cocktail kit should every home bar have?
If you want the bare minimum, you need a cocktail shaker (a cobbler has a strainer already built into the lid), a jigger for measuring, a long cocktail stirrer for non-shaken drinks and a bottle opener. If you have those, you can make most drinks. If you then want to step things up to the next level, you can add a mixing glass (just prettier and more impressive than stirring a drink in your metal shaker), a strainer for pouring from your mixing glass, a handheld juice squeezer for adding lemon and lime juice to your drinks, and a small paring knife and cutting board for cutting the lemons and limes. If you really want to complete things, get a muddler (for mashing up ingredients in the bottom of your shaker), an ice bucket and scoop (because you don’t want to use your hands to put ice into your friends’ drinks) and some bar towels. And then, of course, you need glasses. I say get four martini glasses, four highball glasses, four old fashioned glasses and four white wine glasses and you are good for any boozy occasion that may occur.
Who’s your favourite person to have a drink with and why?
My wife Laurie. We love to go to nice bars and restaurants and enjoy cocktails. She’s more of a lightweight than me but that’s okay because drinks out at nice bars are expensive. She calls herself a cheap date and I have no problem with that.
Where are your favourite places to drink?
In London, I love Dukes Bar at Dukes Hotel. It’s my favourite bar in the world and one of my closest friends is the head bartender there, Alessandro Palazzi. He’ll make you the world’s best (and strongest) martini tableside and talk you through his whole process as he does it. The bar in the back of The Connaught is also wonderful and filled with drink-making pageantry. In New York city, my favourite bars are Bemelmans in the Carlyle Hotel (where you not only get great drinks but you’re surrounded by beautiful hand-painted walls and serenaded by the piano and vocal stylings of Loston Harris, Billy Stritch, Jim Caruso and Earl Rose), and the Ralph Lauren Polo Bar, which is the centre of all things good in NYC. The bar is spectacular, the drinks are out of this world, the food is amazing and the staff are absolutely special and make you feel like the most important person in the world. As for Los Angeles, I’m quite fond of the bar at the Smokehouse, which is one of the oldest restaurants in the valley. It’s all dark wood and red leather (the kind of place that used to exist everywhere but now is mostly extinct, sadly) and they make amazing martinis that even come with an extra sidecar in an ice-filled bowl so that you’re pretty much getting two martinis for the price of one.
Finally, what would be your death-row drink?
Well, if I was on death row I don’t know if I would deserve a drink. But let’s say I’ve been falsely accused and am about to be unjustly put to death. If that was the case, then please bring me the world’s largest Dukes martini possible, a side of olives and a new lawyer.