Anthony Bourdain knows a thing or two about a good drink. He’s eaten and imbibed his way around the world, taking hungry viewers with him, most recently on Parts Unknown. An obsession with craftsmanship led to Bourdain's partnership with The Balvenie (a single-malt Scotch) and the American Craft Council. In addition to hosting The Balvenie's web series Raw Craft, he also hosted the 2017 Rare Craft Fellowship Awards. We caught up with Bourdain to talk more about how, with a well-crafted spirit, less can be better, and why food trends aren't actually all that bad.
So how does a man who has tried it all like his drinks? As it turns out, pretty simple. At home, Bourdain says he sticks to the occasional glass of Scotch, and keeps red wine and beer “kicking around” in case he hosts company.
Outside of his home, things stay similarly uncomplicated. He enjoys a good Scotch or Bourbon, served on its own. “Somebody went to a lot of trouble to make this stuff,” he says. He loves Burgundy wine for its unpredictability, calling its complexity almost “unknowable.” With beer, he’s less discerning: “My favorite beer is cold beer, served quickly with minimum fuss.“
As far as cocktails go, Bourdain mostly stays away, with one exception: Negronis. His preferred way to start out a meal at an Italian restaurant, he describes it as the “perfect mixed drink,” made from “three liquors that I don’t particularly like, but together they create something really magical.”
When it comes to what he doesn’t drink, the list is fairly short, something that certainly comes in handy when most of his job consists of traveling the world and sampling food and booze. “Wherever people can rot stuff, they’re going to figure out a way to get a buzz,” he says, describing some of the more intense moonshines he’s sampled over the years as being “rocket fuel right from the rocket.”
And while he’ll sample something offered to him in an “old Pepsi bottle, particles floating in it,” there is one thing he will say no to: tequila shots. Well, at least if he’s already been drinking.
“If I’ve been drinking…any other beverage, and at 11 o’clock at night, someone approaches me with the idea that we should do some tequila shots, this is always an important moment,” he explains. He’s found that moment is where the evening can go two ways. If he agrees to the shots, even if they’re being offered by a “friend.. who may be smiling,” regardless, “No good will come of this.”
With a purist’s approach to drinking, it would be an easy assumption that Bourdain has no time for the food trends that elevate previously little-known or obscure foods to cult status overnight. But, while he acknowledges trends can “look silly,” it’s ultimately a good thing that people’s palates are opened up to different flavors from other countries and cultures.
He even extends his begrudging endorsement of trends to perhaps the biggest fad drink of the moment, rosé. “Cliches are cliches for a reason,” he acknowledges, after describing an incident where he was a tad embarrassed to be buying several bottles of it while out in the Hamptons.
“I was like, hiding my head in shame. ‘Alright, I know, I know, give me some Hamptons juice,’” he recalls with a laugh. But he also says that, especially because he loves it with red meat in the hot summer months, it would be silly to avoid rosé just for its trendiness.
“Why deny yourself a good thing? It’s summer, give in.”