The outspoken chef, author, world traveler and affably opinionated TV host recently teamed up with The Balvenie to select and promote its Rare Craft Collection. Here, the star of CNN’s Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown discusses whiskey, handmade goods and maintaining cool cred.
The Balvenie is your first brand collaboration. Did you ever fear you would lose some of that edgy cool cred you’re known for by partnering with a brand like this?
There’s an element of vanity to every decision you make, but I’m not embarrassed to stand next to something I like to drink and recommend.
How did you select the five people in the Rare Craft Collection?
I think my personal likes, dislikes, prejudices and passions are evident in some of the choices. I responded to them. It’s aspirational. I wish I could do some of the things they do. I admire someone who chooses to make beautiful watches. In America. It’s counterintuitive. Blacksmithing? Who needs that? No one. But we do, apparently. I admire people who can make, and choose to make, beautiful things with their hands.
How long have you been a fan of the brand, and do you have a specific release you like?
About a decade. I like the Caribbean Cask.
Do you regularly drink Scotch?
I don’t. I have friends who are into the really peaty, smokier stuff, which I’m not a fan of. I’m not a whiskey nerd. It’s a special-event drink for me. If I want to go out and get hammered, it’s not on a good Scotch or whiskey.
So what is your “I want to go out and get hammered” go-to?
I’m a beer drinker.
Are you a hops guy, more of a lager…?
If it takes more than three seconds to describe the beer I’m drinking, you’ve really defeated the purpose. I feel the same about wine. I don’t need to know what side of the hill it’s grown on. The older I get, the more rough and rustic I’m enjoying my wines. I’m moving away from Bordeaux and toward unpredictable Burgundies, which [are] always a spin of the wheel and half the fun. Or Côtes du Rhône. Or no-name Italian.
What is a great Scotch and comfort food pairing for winter?
Wild game, venison or a good, nicely funky grouse. Or woodcock, pheasant. Any stronger game prepared in the traditional way.
What’s a favorite winter cocktail?
Bourbon or rye?
Who was someone you had drinks with who surprised you?
I sat down with Iggy Pop and had a healthy lunch and a crisp white wine and a challenging and insightful, penetrating, reflective discussion. That was both thrilling and exciting.
Will your forthcoming New York City food hall, based on Singapore street-food halls, have a hawker cocktail component?
We’ll have a gigantic oyster bar with a wine and cocktail component, for sure. There will be Korean barbecue and all that comes with that, like Korean karaoke. There will be cocktails involved with that. There’s a lot of room for perhaps an organic wine shop. I’m very excited about some of the biodynamic wines, some young wines I was drinking that last time I was in Paris.
What’s your opinion on the current mixology trend—cool or a little pretentious?
I would prefer for my drink to arrive quickly and at the same time as the person I’m drinking with, because drinking should be a social activity. That said, I do appreciate that people are taking cocktails seriously. I appreciate the care and attention and respect they’re paying to classic cocktails and the history.