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How to throw the ultimate holiday cocktail party, according to director Paul Feig

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

You may know Paul Feig from his day job. He's a director and a writer. He's behind the cult classic TV show "Freaks and Geeks" and the 2011 comedy "Bridesmaids."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BRIDESMAIDS")

KRISTEN WIIG: (As Annie)... relaxed, and I'm ready to party.

KELLY: For our purposes, these next few minutes, Feig would like us to know him by another title, drunk funcle (ph)...

PAUL FEIG: (Laughter).

KELLY: ...Emphasis on the fun part. His new book is called "Cocktail Time!" and he says it is a love letter to the aesthetics and culture around cocktails, which felt to me like as good a starting point as any for our annual ALL THINGS CONSIDERED holiday cocktail chat. Paul Feig, the warmest of welcomes - thanks for doing this.

FEIG: Mary Louise, thank you so much. I'm honored to be in the bar with you, the NPR bar.

KELLY: The NPR bar - as I was reading your book, I, on more than one page, felt like I had just been invited and stepped into this very swank, very fun cocktail party. And I think the reason is there are a lot of books with recipes for cocktails out there, but yours, you get into that - how it's not just the drinks. It's about who you're with and what you're wearing and the cut of the glass. So just take us all into this party. Set the scene for me.

FEIG: Yeah. You know, I mean, to me, you know, cocktails are fun, and cocktails to me represent grown-up life and grown-up fun. And, you know, even when I was a kid, I didn't really want to be a kid. I would watch "Bewitched" and see Darrin come home and mix a martini...

(SOUNDBITE OF STEVE LAWRENCE SONG, "BEWITCHED")

FEIG: ...And go, that looks like fun to me more than, you know, having (laughter) candy or soda or something.

(SOUNDBITE OF STEVE LAWRENCE SONG, "BEWITCHED")

FEIG: Look, you can enjoy cocktails and just have mocktails. Like, don't make a mocktail into a scarlet letter for the person. What's in the glass isn't as important as the glass (laughter). It's really about the lifestyle you're bringing to it. It is about the glassware, the lighting. It's everything about creating a moment that is a little grown-up reward at the end of your day or, if you're going to, you know, throw a cocktail party, to make it a classy, fun event, but always the emphasis on fun. I just think we just need to have more fun as adults.

KELLY: I read, just to make this personal, that you - ironically for someone who's written a book about cocktails - you were raised by parents who didn't drink, who saw bars as these bad places that you looked down on.

FEIG: Yeah, I was brought up as a Christian Scientist, so clearly I'm a lapsed one (laughter). Yeah, there was no alcohol in the house. My parents would - you almost had to look away when you drove past a bar. But the thing is, bars are such a different thing, especially in the Midwest, where I'm from. I'm from Detroit, Mich., and bars are kind of places of shame. They're like bunkers (laughter), have no windows. They're usually stand-alone places with, you know, kind of scary names like Joe's (ph) and Rocco's (ph) and all that stuff. And it wasn't until I went to London and was walking down the street and saw a bunch of people, like, at 5 o'clock out on the street, and I was like, oh, well, has there been, like, an evacuation? It's like, no, it's the pub.

KELLY: It's the pub.

FEIG: Yeah. You know, and the big windows are in the pub. Even there's kids in there, you know, having a soda with their parents while they have a pint. And I go, like, that's such a nice, non-puritanical, mature way to kind of look at alcohol.

KELLY: Speaking of the whole cocktail experience...

FEIG: Yeah.

KELLY: ...Including what music might be playing as you take that glorious first sip, do you have a favorite or a holiday go-to that we should put on as you and I get mixing here?

FEIG: Well, I - my favorite cocktail song is by Xavier Cugat, and it's his version of "One Mint Julep."

(SOUNDBITE OF XAVIER CUGAT'S, "ONE MINT JULEP")

KELLY: I am going to invite you into the NPR kitchen...

FEIG: Ooh, very exciting.

KELLY: ...And we're going to make one. You ready?

FEIG: I'm ready. I'm just - let me - I'm putting on my tuxedo.

KELLY: I will meet you on the other side.

FEIG: Excellent.

KELLY: OK (laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF XAVIER CUGAT'S, "ONE MINT JULEP")

FEIG: All right. So, yes, we're going to make the Churchill Manhattan. Step 1 is you have to get yourself an ounce and a half of scotch.

KELLY: Here we go.

(SOUNDBITE OF SCOTCH POURING)

FEIG: Excellent. Now what you want to do is a half ounce of sweet vermouth...

KELLY: Got it.

(SOUNDBITE OF CORKSCREW TURNING)

FEIG: ...Into our mixing glass.

KELLY: OK.

(SOUNDBITE OF VERMOUTH POURING)

FEIG: Now we're going to put in a half ounce of Cointreau.

KELLY: I am doing orange liqueur, but I'm doing Grand Marnier. Will that work?

FEIG: Oh, yes. Actually, that's great. Grand Marnier has a little bit of extra spice, I find.

KELLY: Ooh, OK.

(SOUNDBITE OF CORK BEING REMOVED)

KELLY: That sounds good.

FEIG: Yeah.

KELLY: And we're doing a half ounce of this one too.

FEIG: Half ounce of this - exactly. You're making what I would call a Cadillac.

(LAUGHTER)

KELLY: A Cadillac Churchill.

FEIG: Exactly.

(LAUGHTER)

FEIG: And now you want a half ounce of lime juice, of fresh lime juice.

(SOUNDBITE OF LIME JUICE POURING)

KELLY: So I have a confession to make, Paul.

FEIG: Yes?

KELLY: In the name of journalism, I practiced this one to make sure I might like it before I had you make it for me.

(LAUGHTER)

KELLY: And I upgraded the orange liquor to Grand Marnier. I upgraded to a single malt scotch. I was liking it already, but then I realized I had no limes, and I did a lemon instead.

FEIG: Oh.

KELLY: I was - it was kind of good.

FEIG: You liked it? Oh, but you know what? Here's the great thing about mixology and cocktails is you can put your own spin on stuff.

(SOUNDBITE OF XAVIER CUGAT'S, "ONE MINT JULEP")

FEIG: OK. Now let's stir it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ICE STIRRING)

FEIG: Nice. That's going to be a nice cold one. So now get your strainer.

KELLY: Got it.

FEIG: And now you're just going to pour this beautiful Churchill Manhattan.

KELLY: It's a beautiful kind of honeyed color. Here goes. Cheers.

FEIG: Cheers.

Oh, that's a good drink.

KELLY: That's beautiful, actually.

FEIG: Isn't it nice?

KELLY: Yeah.

FEIG: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF XAVIER CUGAT'S, "ONE MINT JULEP")

KELLY: Why is this a Churchill Manhattan?

FEIG: It was invented for him at the Savoy Hotel...

KELLY: Ah.

FEIG: ...Back in his day.

KELLY: Whatever you think of Winston Churchill and his politics, he knew a good cocktail.

FEIG: Exactly. I'm always going to give him credit for that.

KELLY: Well, here's to Winston.

FEIG: Here, here.

(SOUNDBITE OF XAVIER CUGAT'S, "ONE MINT JULEP")

FEIG: Now, Mary Louise, I'm going to take you to the polar opposite side of cocktail land.

(LAUGHTER)

KELLY: Before we tell people anything about this drink, I want to just (laughter) lay on them the very first line of your recipe, which is...

FEIG: (Laughter).

KELLY: ...And I quote, "I'm not going to lie, this drink is awful."

FEIG: (Laughter) Yes, it is. It's called a hot pants. But here's the thing. Here's why I put it in the book - because in the '70s and the disco - the height of the disco era, this was a very popular drink in discotheques.

(SOUNDBITE OF BEE GEES' SONG, "STAYIN' ALIVE")

FEIG: Now the Bee Gees are playing. The disco ball is spinning.

KELLY: (Laughter).

FEIG: The lights are flashing.

(SOUNDBITE OF BEE GEES' SONG, "STAYIN' ALIVE")

FEIG: Here we go. We're going to do an ounce and a half of tequila.

(SOUNDBITE OF CORK BEING REMOVED)

KELLY: Ounce and a half.

(SOUNDBITE OF TEQUILA POURING)

FEIG: Now we put in a half ounce of grapefruit juice.

(SOUNDBITE OF GRAPEFRUIT JUICE POURING)

FEIG: All right, so now, you know, not so bad.

KELLY: Very respectable - tequila and a citrus juice - I'm in.

FEIG: Well, now, here comes...

KELLY: (Laughter).

FEIG: ...Peppermint schnapps.

KELLY: (Laughter) I can't...

FEIG: You heard me right.

KELLY: Which you would really not see that one coming.

FEIG: A full half ounce of peppermint schnapps.

(SOUNDBITE OF PEPPERMINT SCHNAPPS POURING)

KELLY: I think I'm only agreeing to do this because the peppermint schnapps kind of has the seasonal, holiday tinge to it. So it's feeling acceptable on that level if no other.

FEIG: There you go. And you're going to put one teaspoon of powdered sugar into this lovely drink.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPOON TAPPING)

FEIG: The next worst part of all this is you're going to take your glass...

KELLY: Mmm hmm.

FEIG: ...And you're going to take some margarita salt...

KELLY: OK. And then we're dipping it in the salt (laughter).

FEIG: ...And now you're going to take your shaker and you're going to gently shake.

(SOUNDBITE OF ICE SHAKING)

FEIG: Give it a good mix.

(SOUNDBITE OF ICE SHAKING)

FEIG: Pour the whole thing into the glass, ice and all.

(SOUNDBITE OF DRINK POURING)

KELLY: You have a toast in here - sip and enjoy; you never know, you might like it.

FEIG: This could be somebody's favorite drink, so I shouldn't be pooh-poohing it. But here we go.

(SOUNDBITE OF BEE GEES' SONG, "STAYIN' ALIVE")

KELLY: Yeah, you know, it's pretty bad.

(LAUGHTER)

FEIG: It's unbelievably bad.

(SOUNDBITE OF BEE GEES' SONG, "STAYIN' ALIVE")

KELLY: Paul Feig - this was so much fun.

FEIG: Thank you so much, Mary Louise. I had the greatest time making you a nice drink and a terrible drink (laughter).

KELLY: May the rest of your holidays improve over this truly terrible cocktail.

FEIG: And to you, too.

(SOUNDBITE OF BEE GEES' SONG, "STAYIN' ALIVE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kai McNamee
Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.