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Q&A: Eric André

Fans of comedian and actor Eric André are aware of his penchant for pranks. “With pranks, there’s no higher-stakes comedy,” André says. “Nothing makes me laugh out loud more than prank shows.” His long-running show for Adult Swim, The Eric André Show, a pseudo talk show that rapidly weaves between being charmingly chaotic and hilariously horrifying, drops season six this summer. He also stars in a new show for ABC that aims to be a Shark Tank for pranksters, dubbed appropriately The Prank Panel. But less well known about André is his passion for cocktails and spirits as a dedicated home bartender and rum aficionado. We sat down for a chat with André about the drinks he likes to mix at home, what his own bar would look like and serve, and which spirit makes him climb up on his high horse.

Imbibe: Most folks probably don’t realize that you’re quite the bon vivant; when did you get interested in cocktails and spirits?

Eric André: I started bon vivanting in quarantine. My girlfriend at the time was an amazing cook, and I could cook okay, but there was nothing I could do that she couldn’t do better. So I started looking at cocktail books instead and really getting into cocktails. I realized that a lot of bars actually make crappy cocktails, once I started making them at home. And then I started making really good cocktails. A lot of bars don’t use fresh juice—like fresh lime juice is so crucial, and a pretty simple adjustment to make.

The first book I got was Jim Meehan’s book [Meehan’s Bartender Manual], and the Death & Co book. Then I worked my way through the Smuggler’s Cove book. I really love rum—I’m a big rum guy. But my favorite books are Oskar Kinberg’s Cocktail Cookbook and Gaby Mlynarczyk’s Clean + Dirty Drinking. I started growing herbs and limes and lemons in my front and backyard and using them for my cocktails. You’ve got to check out Oskar Kinberg’s book—he’s very botanically inspired. He uses rhubarb, and shiso, and nettle, and cucumber, and parsley, and tonka bean, and pea shoots, and pine—just infusing lots of stuff.

tomato margarita
50/50 Tomato Margarita | Photo by Jazzton Rodriguez
What have you been making for yourself at home?

I’m following these people on Instagram called Very Good Drinks [partners Demi Close and Jazzton Rodriguez, who operate a mobile test kitchen]. They’re kinda like Oskar Kinberg where they are very creative while using minimal ingredients. They have a whole “Wacky Daiquiri” series where they make all frozen Daiquiris. They made this Daiquiri with a kumquat purée, rich syrup, lime, and rum, in a blender with pebble ice. They also had this Margarita alternative that was 1 ounce mezcal, 1 ounce manzanilla sherry, so it’s a lower ABV, and then for a syrup they macerate a bunch of tomatoes in sugar overnight and strain through cheesecloth, so it’s like a tomato consommé syrup. It all gets mixed with lime and salt and pepper, and it’s so good. I’ve been getting my recipes from them lately.

Obviously a lot of celebrities become ambassadors for different spirit brands, or launch their own; what would your spirit be?

Mine would be rum. It would probably be an agricole because I’m Haitian—my dad was from Haiti. But I might do a mix of rums. I like what Ten to One is doing where they are blending rums from different countries and making these rich rum flavors. But I think rum is just misunderstood and fell out of popularity for a while, and then got bastardized. And bars don’t often stock good-quality rum. I think people need a rum education—I wish the average bar cared as much about rum as they do about whiskey. It’s an uphill battle. When people ask me what my favorite spirit is and I say rum, they’re like, “What? Rum? Why?” And then I have to get on my high horse and give a whole Ted Talk, which is a pain in the ass when you’re just trying to drink.

“I really want to make a rum bar, but I don’t think I could get away with just rum. I’d call it Jungle Desert.”

Would you ever open your own bar?

I would, and I would focus on Caribbean and Latin American spirits—like a lot of rum, cachaça, tequila, mezcal, pisco. I loved Ivy Mix’s book on Latin American spirits. There’s also a great bar in Chicago that only does Latin and Caribbean spirits, Estereo, and they’re so good. I really want to make a rum bar, but I don’t think I could get away with just rum. I’d call it Jungle Desert. I want it to be a tiki bar but without any of the corniness of tiki. Because it can feel kinda dorky—like Dungeons & Dragons adjacent. I’d want a non-corny Rainforest Café—a very decorative jungle/desert theme. When I visited Oaxaca, I was impressed with how the landscape can drastically change from desert to mountains to jungle.

Along the lines of a last meal, what would your last drink be?

I’d have something really rich and sugary, like a Piña Colada, with Coco López and fresh pineapple. Oskar Kinberg does this drink that’s like a fig leaf milkshake. In a blender you put like 8 ounces of milk, 2 ounces of white rum, a banana, an entire fig leaf, and sugar. And you just blend that with ice. It’s so good. But I can’t drink more than one because it’s so rich.

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