Stanley Tucci Made Ina Garten Her Very First Martini

The Internet’s hot uncle chats food and cocktails.

American actor and filmmaker Stanley Tucci, unofficial ambassador for martinis
Caroline Wurtzel/Bustle; A. Nevader, David Levenson/Getty Images; Tanqueray

I sit down at the bar next to Stanley Tucci and order an extra dirty martini. He opts for the Tanqueray No. 10 martini, a decidedly more simple recipe — one that he’s partial to. “Alright, I’m going to have to try yours,” he says to me. After asking the bartender for a straw, he takes a sip of my drink and immediately makes a face of disgust. “That’s briny!”

I’m on the 41st floor of a building in downtown Manhattan to talk martinis with the Internet’s hot uncle, a man who has become an unofficial ambassador for the drink. Of course, you also know him as an actor and Italian travel guide extraordinaire — but he’s not mad about this other mark he’s had on the zeitgeist (which has been further solidified through his partnership with gin brand Tanqueray). “Obviously, now I’m known for making martinis. I was before, but only within a very small community,” he tells me. “Now the world knows. I love making them and I love the ceremony of it.”

The ceremony Tucci creates when he makes martinis — or anything one can imbibe or ingest, really — is one his 1.6 million Instagram followers are familiar with. His feed is filled with videos in which he walks viewers through something he’s cooking. In each one, he’s really talking to his wife, Felicity. But you still get an intimate feel from the clips; Tucci’s charm cannot escape him.

Here, Tucci shares his go-to cocktail recipe, the best food he ever ate in Italy, and what he really thinks about the espresso martini trend.

Can you talk about the allure of the martini?

Martinis are a thing. And I’m not necessarily talking about the alcohol — it’s all about the ceremony and aesthetic of it all. I was watching an old movie yesterday with Walter Hudson and David Niven, and they were on a beautiful old cruise ship, the Queen Mary, and Walter Hudson goes to the bar and says, “I’ll have a dry martini.” This is 1930-something. And it makes you go, “Yeah.” And the bartender serves it in a little Nick & Nora glass and it’s just so elegant, simple, and beautiful. It transports you into another place.

What’s your ultimate martini recipe?

Well, it’s basically this [he points to his Tanqueray No. 10, which contains dry vermouth, a twist of pink grapefruit, and gin]. But you can interchange the grapefruit with lemon or an olive, sometimes a cucumber. A cucumber and lemon pairing is nice.

How else do you play around with the classic martini?

Sometimes I’ll make a Vesper martini. That contains gin, vodka, and fortified wine. It was part of a James Bond thing. Do you remember, was it Casino Royale? His wife’s name was Vesper.

What types of foods do you like to pair with a martini?

For me, I really like canapes, appetizers — but also really simple stuff. If you just did a grilled mozzarella sandwich with a martini... it’s so good. Hard-boiled eggs and a martini. I know that sounds funny. Oysters, clams on the half shell. I had Oysters Rockefeller that I just did on Ina Garten’s new show. I don’t know when it’ll come out, but I made a martini for her and she made Oysters Rockefeller — my God, it was so good. She’s so interesting, and she’d never had a martini before.

So you showed her how it’s done.

I certainly did.

After watching your show, I have to know: What’s the best dish you’ve ever had in all of Italy? I know that’s an impossible question.

It actually is impossible. But I’ll give you the three best number ones. So the spaghetti from alla Nerano, which is from the Amalfi coast. I had it at a place called Lo Scoglio. That was incredible. The pasta carbonara at a place in Rome that is no longer there, unfortunately. And then probably, pasta alla Norma, which is eggplant and tomato and just a little ricotta salata. They’re so simple, all of them.

What foods would you never pair with a martini?

For the most part, I feel my palate always tells me to have things with more protein. I don’t know why. You don’t want something too stodgy, right? Too “flaggy,” like the British say, which is gross. I think it’s good to have something that’s of substance but that isn’t huge. You could have a steak and a martini. That’s not so bad.

What’s the one thing that’ll either perfect or ruin a martini?

Well the quality of the ingredients, number one. Number two, the person who makes it. If they don’t know how to make it, it’s not going to work.

What are your thoughts on the espresso martini trend?

It’s fun but it’s not what I would drink all the time. I would have a martini and some food, and then I’d have an espresso.

What’s your favorite atmosphere to drink a martini in?

Well, if it’s a good martini, anywhere. But a nice, quiet, elegant bar. Like a cool jazz club.

And then if you’re drinking one at home, are you at the dinner table? Are you watching something or listening to anything? What’s the vibe?

I put music on when I cook. And before that, I usually make cocktails and then cook. But if we’re having people over, the music’s on, the table’s set, and the hors d’oeuvres are laid out.

The hard-boiled eggs.

No, not hard-boiled eggs. [Laughs.] That’s just for me.

What music are you playing?

Usually some kind of jazz or Paolo Nutini, who we love. He’s amazing.

What’s your earliest memory of drinking a martini?

My very first one was probably around Christmas time. I remember the first time I had a scotch whiskey — scotch and soda — with my dad at Christmas. I did have an uncle who used to drink martinis, so it was probably with him. I have a vague recollection around Christmas time, having a martini with my uncle at our house when he came. He’s still around, he’s 100 years old. But then my clearest memory would be Cafe Luxembourg in New York, back when I moved to New York in the early ’80s. And it’s still there.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.