Paul Feig on martinis, mixology and how Bridesmaids saved his career


Paul Feig is a self-professed cocktail man. And he has absolutely no desire to keep that a secret. Feig’s previously-concealed passion for mixology has been a constant throughout his life, from when he first tried a martini at The Savoy in London, to years later when searching for respite from a failing movie career. In fact, the story of Feig’s life in Hollywood is one that can be told through margaritas, manhattans and, most importantly, martinis — and it’s not over yet. 

Feig’s latest venture is Cocktail Time! — a 295-page book documenting all things (you guessed it) cocktails, including 125 recipes, advice on the perfect glass, as well as a funny anecdote here and there. The aim, Feig explains, was to create “the ultimate guide to grown-up fun”. 

“[This book] was my pandemic project,” says Feig. “There was nothing I could do — [I’m not] a medical professional — so I wanted to entertain people and raise money for first responders and Covid charities. I also wanted to learn how to make cocktails. 

“I knew how to make martinis and negronis but I always wanted to get into more complicated and serious cocktail making and decided to learn on camera. I taught myself how to be a cocktail person over the course of that summer. People started asking for the recipes, and with that I started writing down funny stories which were associated with each cocktail. It just turned into my whole philosophy on drinking and growing up — and it ballooned into this book.” 

Feig’s passion for cocktails is perhaps a little surprising given he grew up in a teetotal household. Born in Michigan to religious parents, alcohol wasn’t something that surrounded him as a child but, like many of us, his teenage years proved eye-opening. He explains, “I had a drama teacher who loved to take us out and buy us beer so I was immersed in it that way. I enjoyed the culture around it. I couldn’t wait to be an adult and cocktail culture represents that for me.”

‘Cocktail culture’, as Feig succinctly puts it, comprises everything about a sophisticated drinking experience, from the cocktail glasses and the music at the bar to the outfits and the lifestyle. “I love looking at pictures from the 1950s where people would throw cocktail parties in their New York apartments,” says Feig. “They’d wear black-tie just to sit on their couches. 

“I think when the 1960s came in, cocktail culture became uncool, as the likes of Frank Sinatra, The Rat Pack and Dean Martin were representing something else. It was looked upon as old and stodgy. I thought maybe it was time to try and bring back cocktail culture.”

Feig is talking to me via Zoom from Atlanta, where he’s shooting his latest action comedy. The wall behind him is pinned with the headshots of prospective actors but, sorry, no spoilers here. When not on location, Feig divides his time between LA, New York and London (“I’m tri-coastal,” he quips). The latter is where he and his wife, Laurie, have lived permanently for the past four years, partly because the capital has been used as shooting locations for his latest projects Last Christmas and The School of Good and Evil, but also because it’s one of his favourite cities. And, it just happens to be home to his favourite cocktail bar: Dukes. 

paul feig artingstall's gin

Image: Haarala Hamilton

“[When I first visited London] I discovered The Savoy. That’s where I had my first gin martini and fell in love with it but it was at Dukes that I really got my appreciation for the whole lifestyle around it,” explains Feig. Alessandro Palazzi, the manager of Dukes Bar, is one of Feig’s closest friends — and Cocktail Time! was partly dedicated to him. 

“Alessandro was the first person I let try my gin (Feig launched his own gin brand, Artingstall’s, in 2021) in the UK because he’s a gin expert and it was the most nerve-wracking moment of my life,” says Feig. “He’s very honest but he loved it, so much so he put it on the Dukes Bar menu.”

The prospect of having a delicious cocktail in the evening, Feig admits, is often what gets him through 16-hour days on set. “I like working ‘French Hours’. A normal day of shooting is a 12-hour day with a one-hour lunch in the middle of the day but French Hours means you work a 10-hour day with no lunch but food is passed around the set constantly,” explains Feig. “It’s a very civilised way [to film] because you don’t have to kill yourself, everybody has a good night’s sleep and can spend time with their family. And it allows me to have my cocktail and dinner at the end of the night.”

Although he has mainly made a name for himself as a film director, Feig started his career as a comedian and actor. “The acting bug caught me when I was about five years old. I was in a Christmas pageant and I was the lead elf. I had the most ridiculous costume [and] I came out on stage and tore the house down. Everyone was laughing at me [and with me]. It set this thing in my head and I never got over that,” he recalls. “I wanted to be the guy who writes, directs and stars in his own movies, like Albert Brooks.” 

After graduating from the University of Southern California, Feig’s early career was documented by a series of failing TV shows which were all cancelled after a year. It wasn’t until he landed a regular gig as science teacher Eugene Pool on the sitcom Sabrina, the Teenage Witch in 1996 that things started to take a turn. 

“It was a bad year. I essentially bankrupted my wife and I. I couldn’t sell this movie at all.”

Paul Feig

“At the end of 1997, I spent all the money I had saved, $35,000, from that show to create my first feature film, Life Sold Separately. It never came out. I starred in it, wrote it — everything. When I was in post-production for it, I got a call from the crew saying they were going to write me out of the show because they didn’t know how to write for my character anymore. It was a bad year. I essentially bankrupted my wife and I. I couldn’t sell this movie at all.”

A couple of years later, Feig wrote Freaks And Geeks — a series he still regards as a high point in his career. “It was a huge game changer for me. It was based on my life, I wrote it and it got nominated for two Emmys. That was definitely a highlight. 

“In the 10 years after that I became a TV director. I made a few movies too but they were all really unsuccessful so I was doing much more on TV. I got to work on Arrested Development, The Office and 30 Rock. I was lucky enough to be a part of these illustrious shows. That kept my cool cred going because my movie career was getting killed, but then I did Bridesmaids — everything changed after that.” 


Bridesmaids (2011), starring Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig. Image: Universal Pictures

Bridesmaids, as I’m sure you don’t need to be told, was both a critical and commercial hit, grossing more than $288 million worldwide. But it made more than just money; it sparked a wider discussion about women in comedy. The film was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture and received several other accolades, including Academy Award nominations in the Best Supporting Actress category for Melissa McCarthy and Best Original Screenplay. 

Even this success story didn’t come easily though. By the time Bridesmaids finally hit cinemas in 2011, it had been five years since Feig was first told about it — the project “disappeared” for years before he got the call to direct it. “In 2010, I was at a low point, I was directing internet commercials for Macy’s. I was thinking ‘what am I doing with my career?’ Then I got a call out of the blue saying ‘that wedding movie’ is going to happen. 

“It was a game changer for me because I was really in movie jail. All my deals went away after my last movie didn’t do well. I refer to Bridesmaids as strike three because I’d had two very unsuccessful movies so if this one didn’t work, I was toast.”

No stranger to career lows, Feig counts his blessings with the films that have gone on to be successful. “I’m lucky enough to have two projects that people keep talking about: Freaks and Geeks and Bridesmaids. There are a couple of others: Heat, The Spy, Last Christmas, A Simple Favor, which we’re about to make a sequel to. Even Ghostbusters, which went through a lot of political cr*p, really caught on and has an audience. 

“I just want to entertain an audience, that’s my only goal. All my movies are about underdogs who are trying to find their place in the world. I love working with women, so I try to find real three-dimensional roles for all these talented actresses I know.”

The women Feig is referring to span everyone from Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively to Melissa McCarthy and Rebel Wilson. So what are these big Hollywood stars really like? “I’ve been very lucky. I’ve worked with very few people that I wouldn’t work with again. 

“I really vet everybody I work with to check they’re nice people. I will find out if they’re mean or a handful and I avoid working with them. What we do involves sometimes being together 24 hours a day; you’re in the trenches and the pressure is so high. I just want us to have fun, be a family and get through the challenges.”

The strength of these on-set bonds become apparent in Cocktail Time! — which features input from some of Feig’s most trusted collaborators. “Oscar nominee Michelle Yeoh has a cocktail named after her; a spicy margarita recipe called The Five Yeoh-Larm Fire. She’s been in two of my movies and I love her. We both like spicy margaritas so we added jalapenos, sriracha, Tabasco and cayenne pepper on the rim.”

Henry Golding, who Feig calls “the nicest man in the world”, created a Honey Plum Gin and Tonic. The Office fans will be pleased to know that Angela Kinsey and Jenna Fischer both have their own cocktails: The Kinsey Gin Fizz and The Jennalee, respectively. Feig adds: “Charlize Theron, who was in my latest movie The School for Good and Evil, has her own Gibson in here where she freezes the onions. Kerry Washington, also in that film, wanted to do a mocktail so we’ve got The Very Cherry Kerry, which has cherry kombucha, lime juice and honey.” 

So, what can we expect from Feig in 2023? “We haven’t announced the name yet but I will be working on a big action comedy. It’s in the same vein as The Spy/Heat. It’s really fun but also character driven. And then during fall, we’re starting The Simple Favor 2.” It will no doubt be a busy year — best enjoyed with a martini in hand. 

Visit to purchase Cocktail Time!

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