Stanley Tucci on Home Cooking, Cocktail Hour and Working at The Connaught Bar

Words by Christina Dean

Before 2020, most people would have associated Stanley Tucci with roles in films like The Devil Wears Prada, The Hunger Games, and Julie & Julia

Now, thanks to a single Negroni, which set the internet alight during lockdown, he’s just as well known for his cookbook memoir Taste, his award-winning foodie-focused travel series Searching for Italy and the dishes we see him cook on social media. 

Though Tucci’s connections to food and drink run deep – he comes from an Italian family (who we’ve seen love to cook) and his directorial debut, Big Night, was set in a restaurant run by two Italian brothers on the Jersey Shore – he’s enjoying something of a second career in the food and drink industry. His latest venture is a collab cocktail with Tanqueray No. TEN and The Connaught Bar which celebrates the artistry and craft that goes into cocktail making.

We caught up with Tucci to find out more about his style of home cooking, his cocktail-making skills and his love for The Connaught Bar.

How important has food and drink been in your family?

Food and drink has always centred around many family occasions. Watching my parents enjoy each other’s company as we passed round delicious homemade Italian food across the table, and now this is the same with my own family. From our daily meals where we sit and discuss our day and spend quality time with simple home-cooked meals made from whatever is available in the fridge, to occasions where we entertain guests with a large Thanksgiving meal with cocktail hour to boot. It’s a time for loved ones to gather and catch up! It’s almost therapeutic.

Food and drink has become something of a second career for you, do you think it was always destined to be a part of your professional life?

I really have my wife to thank for this! I made a Negroni video a few years ago at her suggestion and she asked me to put it on Instagram. I didn’t even know I had an Instagram at the time! So we posted it, and it just took off from there. My life suddenly became all about food and drink. People are amused by it and I enjoy making them as well. I love to make drinks and of course, cook. I am by no means a professional, but I think that’s why people enjoy them as it’s like ‘Ahh he’s just like us’.

Does visiting restaurants and bars feel different now that you’re involved in the industry and spent more time behind the scenes?

In a sense, yes. I have always had a lot of respect for bartenders, chefs, the wait staff and everyone in between working in a bar or restaurant that works hard to make the experience for guests. My son is a chef himself and I’ve always understood the amount of care and thought that goes into curating a menu. Working with my friend Ago Perrone at The Connaught Bar for Tanqueray No.TEN has also shown me the innovation and meticulous creativity required to create a bespoke cocktail that is not only delicious, but artfully made as well.

What’s your favourite depiction of food on screen?

Babette’s Feast. I remember watching this film in a tiny theatre in New York with a very expressive crowd and it really moved me. People in the theatre were making audible sounds as the meal was being made on screen, it was almost a visceral moment and an incredible transformative experience.

Where do you find inspiration for the dishes you cook? Do you prefer working to recipes or are you more freestyle?

I am inspired by places I visit, recipes that I’ve seen my mother make while growing up and of course, I put my own spin on it from time to time. Like most home cooks! I have the basic know-how of making dishes I am familiar with and make them according to a ‘recipe’ I already know by heart. Quite often, I throw together a meal based on what I have in the fridge, so in that sense, I am freestyle as well.

Where does your love of cocktails come from?

My family. My dad’s family loved the artistry of bartending and cocktails, food, dressing up for cocktail hour and all of that stuff. My dad was born in 1930 and growing up in that era, people are always well-dressed every day, all the time, even at home. I also love movies from the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s – the style and romantic nature of it. Of course, by the time I grew up, it was the ’70s and cocktails were not as popular, but my love for it stuck. My passion for cocktails definitely came from the style, nostalgic moments, and how it connects to my family.

Why did you want to collaborate with Tanqueray No. TEN and The Connaught Bar?

I have always appreciated Tanqueray No.TEN in my at-home cocktails for its refreshingly citrusy notes. Working closely with both the brand and Ago several times since then to create beautiful drinks, including a ‘guest shift’ at The Connaught Bar has piqued my interest in the artistry of cocktails. Ago is a friend of mine, and I love tapping into his skillset to create bespoke cocktails. The TENacious, a cross between a Negroni and a Martini, is our brainchild – borne out of my doodlings and his expertise. Of course, the top notch service one receives at The Connaught Bar completes the cocktail artistry experience.

How does Ago Perrone rate your mixology skills?

He understands I make cocktails at home and not for a living! He taught me a couple of things. I stir my martinis, and he taught me to hold the spoon and place it behind the ice for a quiet stir.

Aside from The Connaught Bar, what are some of your other favourite London spots and why?

I have a few in mind. River Cafe, Riva, Sabor and St. JOHN for restaurants. There’s always quality food and great atmosphere. For bars, I like going to Dukes Bar where Ian Fleming used to frequent for a Martini. Gin, of course. Stirred, not shaken.

What’s something you love that you can only get in London?

Peaceful walks down the river near where I live. In New York, you frequently forget that you’re living on an island and here, you have a constant reminder of nature with the river and greenery.

The TENacious cocktail is available at The Connaught Bar now