Food & Drink

Phil Rosenthal Talks Snake Wine, Tequila and How to Talk to Strangers

Phil Rosenthal is not a big drinker. If you’ve ever watched his Netflix show Somebody Feed Phil or his past PBS show I’ll Have What Phil’s Having, then you are quite aware of his semi-low tolerance and just how delightfully giddy he gets after one too many (which is about two). But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t partake in a tipple or two wherever he goes as he joyfully eats his way around the world. In anticipation of the second season of Somebody Feed Phil, which premieres on Netflix July 6, we sat down with Rosenthal (who you also might know as the creator and writer of Everybody Loves Raymond) to pick his brilliant brain about drinking around the world, drinking in writers’ rooms and talking to strangers like it’s the most natural thing in the world.

On his go-to drinks:

“I like to have a drink with dinner. Actually, now as I get older, the red wine keeps me up at night so I’m more of a cocktail guy or straight tequila or mezcal. I’ve gotten into mezcal. I think all that stuff’s delicious.”

On drinking spirits straight:

“If the scotch is good, if the tequila’s good, if the mezcal is good, what’s better than it straight? Right? Or great vodka? I did a documentary in Russia that led directly to me having this show, because they saw me in that and they said we like the idea of you going places and I said, so does my wife. I go to Moscow and there are what I think are water pitchers on the table. But they’re filled with vodka. And I mean every single night. And they go through multiple. And you realize, life is hard there. They need that drink. But the food, all these pickled things—it’s ice cold, it tastes fantastic, and it goes super well with vodka. It’s amazing to me and I had what I thought was the first delicious vodka that I’d had straight. And it’s called Russian Standard Platinum and they just started having it here. It tasted more delicious there. You know how you never know if it’s because you’re there or if they did something else? No idea. But I’d recommend that experience.”

On drinking scotch with Raymond writers:

“When we were doing Raymond, we all joined the scotch society. There’s a single malt scotch society where you pay an annual fee and they’ll send you a bottle every couple of months that’s their cask at a distillery in Scotland. And it’s uncut. So you have to cut it the way you want it. To drink it straight is crazy, but it was fun. They don’t even tell you which distillery—there are numbers on it and people write to each other guessing. And they have a tasting in L.A. And we used to do this. We were drunks. But we really loved it. We celebrated every taping—after it was done, we’d meet in my office and we’d have a little tipple. It was great.”

Netflix

On his favorite cocktail right now:

“Listen to this drink: It’s a single malt scotch mixed with a Japanese whisky, mixed with earl grey tea and a tiny bit of syrup. This is one of the best drinks I ever had. That’s at a new restaurant called The Hearth & Hound from April Bloomfield. And, full disclosure, I’m an investor in that restaurant. I go for the food first, like I said I’m not a drinker, but this drink stood out to me as being absolutely fantastic.”

On snake wine:

“I saw a bottle in a Thai restaurant in Los Angeles called Jitlada. They had the bottle with the two snakes in it as if they were fighting. They were preserved in this liquor, like a staged diorama. We thought it was amazing. They said, ‘Do you want to taste it?’ We said, ‘Absolutely not. But we like to look at it.’”

On his family’s drinking habits:

“My father does not drink at all. I can count on one hand the number of times he’s tasted a glass of wine. That’s it. And it took a trip to Italy to a winery to get him to do it because the man who made the wine was next to him and said, ‘Try this,’ and he had to. He doesn’t drink at all. My mom likes a glass of wine at dinner but she’s no lush. My wife on the other hand, Irish girl, comes with the territory I think, she taught me a thing or two. She went to Dublin with me [for the show]. We traced her family roots and the beer is so great. I had the Guinness at the top of the Guinness factory, which is the best glass of beer I’ve ever had in my life.”

Netflix

On the right way to make an egg cream (a drink that Rosenthal has taught people to make on multiple episodes of his shows):

“It’s the world’s simplest recipe. It’s the only thing I know how to make. It’s my mission to teach the world. You pour milk about a quarter of the [way up the] glass, equal part chocolate syrup, and then you pour in the seltzer and as you’re doing it you stir, and as you stir a chemical reaction happens and a head of foam like a beer comes up and it’s this magical chocolate soda and it’s called an egg cream because some genius thought that sounds rich and good. There’s no egg in it, there’s no cream in it. But it’s this Brooklyn, New York, wonderful delicacy.

[Note: He approved of our idea to spike it with rum.]

On talking to strangers, wherever he goes:

“They did a study that said the people who reach out and say, ‘Hi,’ are generally happier people just because they make that effort. Because what you get back, nine times out of ten, is a smile, another ‘Hi,’ maybe even a conversation. I’ll pass a table as I’m walking in a restaurant, I’ll see some food and I’ll say, ‘Is that good?’ Most of the time, I’d say every time, if they’ve heard me, they’ll say, ‘Yeah,’ or ‘It’s okay,’ you get an opinion—this helps me in ordering. It helps my life. And you’ve made this tiny little connection. Those connections are why we’re on the planet. Those connections—all we do as human beings on the Earth is try to connect with other people. That’s it. That’s why we’re here. So, I’m doing my best. I’m trying. It’s not that I’m so brave. Really, the moment you do it, you realize there’s nothing to be afraid of. Fear is what keeps us from reaching out. Wouldn’t the world be a tiny bit nicer if more people did it? That’s all.”