Don’t Offer Mr. Big a Cosmo: Chris Noth Has a New Drink
We caught up with actor Chris Noth to talk about his new tequila brand and life in New York after “Sex and the City.”
Sarah Jessica Parker may have decamped to Westchester for a loveless marriage with Thomas Haden Church on HBO’s show Divorce, shedding Carrie Bradshaw in the process like an old Prada dress. But Chris Noth—A.K.A. Mr. Big—is still right at home in Manhattan. In fact, he insists on it.
Like a scene cut from a Sex and the City movie, Noth meets me inside the Cutting Room, the music club he owns in midtown Manhattan, for drinks. In an over-the-top move worthy of Mr. Big, he opened it just for us. But suffice it to say, we do not drink Cosmos. In fact, he makes it immediately clear that Mr. Big and Chris Noth are not one and the same. “I do not drink Cosmos,” he tells me emphatically. “I maybe had one in my life.”
Today, he’s having a glass of Ambhar Añejo Tequila, with a single ice cube. He readily admits that, up until recently, “To me, tequila was just kind of synonymous with Margaritas. You didn’t taste the tequila like a brandy or a good whiskey.”
Now part owner of Ambhar, after meeting the founder and CEO Jaime Celorio through a mutual acquaintance, he’s developed an interest in the spirit. While he’s careful to avoid comparing himself to George Clooney, who also famously backs a tequila, Noth and his well-known face are no doubt a great asset to the five-year-old Ambhar, which is currently available in a number of states, including Texas, Florida, New Jersey and Colorado. (It’s also served in the Mexico Pavilion at Epcot and at all the bars in the stadium where the Dallas Cowboys play, in Arlington, Texas.)
“This was a new experience for me,” he explains. “This to me is as rich and distinctive as any whiskey or bourbon or Scotch that is bragged about in the industry, but it’s tequila. When I’m in L.A., if I’m at home in the back to have a drink with friends and have a cigar, the spirit I’m drinking has to count. I’m not just downing it. It’s got to have enough weight to it and essence to it that I can take the time to sip it all night fucking long if I want. And if I get loaded, it’s going to take a long time. And that’s going to be a good loaded.”
I associate Noth—and Mr. Big—with oversize Manhattans and impressive glasses of whiskey, and he assures me I’m not far off. “I do enjoy whiskey. I enjoy an Old-Fashioned. I like a Manhattan, but I don’t like Maker’s Mark. I don’t like any of the sweet stuff,” he tells me and then goes on to chart the evolution of his drinking. “I was just doing vodka for a long time. Now, I’m starting to lose my taste for [it].”
I suspect that part of the reason for this is that his drinks were often not made to his liking. “I like a Martini, but easy on all the vermouth,” he says. “Just a whiff. It has to be really shaken cold.” And don’t get him started on small cocktail glasses or short pours. “A good bartender will fill it right to the rim. You know what I mean? With a twist. Sometimes when you don’t have a good bartender it’s very frustrating. It’s like, ‘Hey, what are you doing?’ It’s worse in Canada where they measure it out. So I have to go, ‘Give me a triple.’”
Noth, who has played a series of intensely powerful characters, a detective on Law & Order, and then, of course, a business executive on Sex and the City and most recently, a disgraced politician on The Good Wife, is much more relaxed in real life—almost playful. His eyes light up as he regales me with stories old New York and some of its most colorful residents, including Jerry Orbach his former partner on Law & Order and his close friend and mentor. “Jerry was a great drinker,” he told me recalling that he kept a bottle of vodka in his dressing room. “He could hold his liquor. I never saw Jerry drunk. Ever.”
Moving on from Orbach, Noth seamlessly segues into stories about Elaine Kaufman and her eponymous Upper East Side restaurant. “I was at Elaine’s a lot, which was great cause there was always something happening at Elaine’s,” he tells me while channeling the late restaurateur.
“At first, she was not very impressed with me because I used to just go to try to drink,” he admits. (Kaufman, according to him, hated folks who didn’t eat, too.) Not only didn’t he have a lot of money early on, but “the food was fucking terrible. Terrible.” However, the drinks were great and Noth still keeps in touch with a few of Kaufman’s bartenders.
While he never enjoyed eating at her restaurant, he couldn’t stay away. “It was exciting,” he says. “You never knew what you were going to find when you went there: Whether it was a politician or a model or an actor or an actress or a fighter. A lot of detectives hung out there.”
And Kaufman grew to be his fan. “She loved me after Sex and the City,” he said. And “I loved her.”
Despite the benefits that came with Mr. Big, Noth would love nothing more to shed the role. Carrying his lifeless corpse around for the last 15 years, since the series ended has taken its toll. “I can’t escape that fucking show,” he says with a hearty laugh.
But as we talk about his break-out role, he admits that he actually hates how the show changed his beloved New York. He first came here as a teenager from Madison, Wisconsin, when his mother got a job as a CBS news correspondent in the 1960s.
“The show articulated a certain idea of the city, which then people who came to the city wanted instead of the city,” Noth tells me. “And it turned into that. Magnolia fucking Bakery and all that crap.”
“Listen, people are so sick of me grumbling about what’s happened to Manhattan, but it’s just true,” he continues. “Manhattan was a broth of different varieties of neighborhoods that all had their own essential flavor and politics. You practically needed a passport to get into certain sections. And it is now one thing.”
While I don’t disagree with him about how Manhattan has changed and how the show may have played a role, I do point out that without Sex and the City there might not have been the rebirth of the cocktail. The show helped make Martinis, Manhattans and, yes, Cosmos sexy and cool and in the process brought legitimacy and prestige to the bartending profession. “I always had a lot of scenes where I had a drink in my hand,” he says, nodding in agreement.
With that, we finish our glasses of tequila, and Noth heads out into the city he loves.