Why You Should Buy the Food Network's Guy Fieri a Drink
The celebrity chef opens up about his love for Italian amaro and his hatred of bad ice and cheap glassware.
What’s your signature drink? “My favorite drink is the one somebody is buying for me. That’s really the truth.”
Ha! Are there any ones in particular that you like? “Fernet-Branca is my favorite. I love Jack Daniel’s. And I love great tequila. And I enjoy a good vodka soda. I like it all. But Fernet-Branca… In my opinion it is the great digestivo. It really is. I could enjoy a Fernet right now. I can enjoy it warm. I can enjoy it cold. I keep it in my fridge. I have one in every freezer. Not everybody, loves Fernet, which makes it even more exciting.”
Do you like the mint version? “No. We were going right down the road of friendship and you went into oncoming traffic. I can’t stand the Branca Menta. And people will buy me Fernet as a gift all the time and they’ll buy me the Menta [by mistake]. I was just down in Mexico. I just opened restaurants in Mexico. My business partner put a bottle in the freezer with a bow on it and it was the Menta. It just didn’t work.”
Who introduced you to Fernet? “I was introduced to Fernet 20 years ago, before it became a thing. I remember when you couldn’t find it anywhere. We’d have to go to San Francisco and buy it in specialty liquor stores. I don’t know where it was. I think it was in Italy. It actually was longer than 20 years ago, it was in Italy when I was in college. And I like really off flavors. I’m a big black licorice fan. Anything…”
Smokey Scotch? “You know what? It has to be super out there. If I do any of the pretenders, I can’t play. But if it’s funky I’ll find it. So, funky flavors. Like really good tequila. I love tequila. I always thought I was allergic to tequila.”
Why? “Well, when I was in college, every time I would drink tequila I would break out in handcuffs. You didn’t see that coming?”
No, I didn’t see that coming. “Back to tequila. Most people don’t like tequila and the reason is because they’ve drank shitty tequila. I am a blanco guy. I like just clean, pure, straight up great tequila.”
How about Jägermeister? “So, Jäger is training wheels for Fernet. It’s sweet Fernet. It’s the German’s version.”
What are your biggest drinking pet peeves? “The biggest failure in drinks: shitty glassware. And the biggest failure of all drinks is shitty ice. Ice is the cornerstone of a great drinks. There’s nothing greater than drinking a really good bourbon or having a really nice drink with just a nice, fat cube. The rest of the cubes melt too fast and dilute the fucking drink.”
Can you talk about how you got in the fine wine business? “Seven years ago, I bought this property that has these really great grapes on it—this phenomenal pinot. We were selling all the grapes to William Selyem. I tell my wife we’re going to start making wine. She loves wine. I love wine. We all love wine. And wine is so misunderstood. Wine is not a price tag. Wine is an art.”
And price often has nothing to do with whether or not you’ll like it. “It’s the truth. It’s the same thing with food. So, when we started talking about this, I said you know what? There will be a lot of things that will come and go in my life but I really want to give my sons something. I want to give them a legacy. Everybody expected when I told them I was going to make wine that it would be ‘Guy Fieri wine’ with flames up the bottle and all this kind of shit. And I said I don’t even want my name on it. If nobody knows it’s mine, I’d be happier. So, I named it Hunt & Ryde. Hunter and Ryder are my two boys. We do a really dynamite zinfandel. We do a zin from three different vineyards. We do a phenomenal estate pinot. We don’t do a bunch of wine.”
Any white wines? “We did a little viognier. We did a little bubbles this year—100 cases. What I’m trying to explain to everybody, is that I just want to do it right. My whole interest in making the wine was having something to pass on to my sons. I told [my winemaker] I don’t care if we make any money. And fortunately, people really enjoy it and we’ve started to serve it in my restaurants around the country.”
And you already have a built-in demand. “Everybody said to me and they still say it, you never made it the Guy Fieri wine. You know you’d sell 10,000 times the amount of wine. But it’s not about that. I’m a big Evel Knievel fan. The corks for the first vintage had my Evel Knievel tattoo on them. I debossed the label. So, we made the label backwards. So, when you feel it, it feels like leather. I just wanted shit that my kids, when they finally get the winery, to go fuck the old man was crazy.”
Interview has been condensed and edited.