Ina Garten and Melissa McCarthy’s Cocktail Special Is an Instant Serotonin Boost
Come for the inside scoops about McCarthy’s goth phase and why Garten once got a pilot’s license—and stay for the moment Jeffrey finally joins the chat.
It’s been almost a year to the day since Ina Garten made the big cosmo.
Last April, the Barefoot Contessa shared a cocktail tutorial with her freshly quarantining fans. She mixed together some of her favorite cocktail ingredients—including “good vodka” and “very freshly squeezed” lime juice—in a giant pitcher before transferring the mixture into what might be the world’s largest tumbler. The orange twist on top? She then poured it all into a super-sized martini glass.
The mixture of delight and anguish that traced across Garten’s face after her first sip—along with comments like, “You never know who’s gonna stop by; wait a minute, nobody’s stopping by”—made for a painfully relatable, instantly viral video.
Now comes Cocktails and Tall Tales—a half-hour Discovery+ special that finds Garten sitting down to chat with longtime admirer Melissa McCarthy for the first time. The two mix themselves some whiskey sours before talking about their lives, careers, and romantic partnerships with Ben Falcone and the beloved mononym known as “Jeffrey.”
The reason for all this? ...Well, do you really need one at this point?
As Garten notes at the special’s outset, she’s a big fan of McCarthy’s—and the comedian, in turn, loves her cookbooks. And so, the special finds the two sharing their mutual appreciation on Zoom, with Garten seated in her East Hampton home and McCarthy overseas in Australia as she films the Hulu series Nine Perfect Strangers.
Garten came prepared with a new giant glass for the occasion, although nothing seems likely to top that mammoth martini mug from last year.
Ardent fans of the pair might find McCarthy and Garten’s conversation less than revelatory; many of the anecdotes they discuss have been shared here or there in previous interviews. That said, more casual fans, or anyone who simply wants to soak in some serotonin-boosting brunch vibes, will likely enjoy the chat. The two cover, among other things, their shared backgrounds in fashion (a detail about her life that Garten has not publicly revealed before) as well as McCarthy’s goth phase and Garten’s decision to get a pilot license during college.
For those who’ve not heard about Garten’s aviation expertise, a quick explanation: “There was an airport across the street from where we lived, and my roommate in college was an aerospace engineer; I thought she was the coolest person I knew,” Garten said. But in the 1970s, women had just barely begun to gain entry to commercial aviation—so she went across the street to ask if anyone could teach her to fly.
“They said they would never teach a girl how to fly an airplane,” Garten continued. “... And I insisted. So they found some guy from some neighboring town who would drive over and teach me how to fly.”
How easy is that?
After a while, McCarthy and Garten welcome their husbands to join the call. This, as Barefoot Contessa fans know, is when things get really cute. As the group answered fan questions from Instagram, Garten and Jeffrey—married for 52 years and counting—teased one another with a familiar, gentle banter. (Question: Does Jeffrey cook? Answer: “Jeffrey makes really good coffee, and when I wake up in the morning, I really appreciate it.”)
One could quibble with certain aspects of this special and its execution. In some ways, it feels like a relic of last year, when celebrities making and enjoying large quantities of alcohol became a popular meme for our collective mental fry. The production is undeniably low-fi, but still insists on such conventions as having all the cocktail ingredients pre-poured to save audiences the sight of anyone fumbling with citrus. One almost wishes those elements were there, breaking down the polished veneer just a bit more.
Then again, this is a 30-minute special featuring two beloved personalities at a time when isolation has melted our brains and made us all shut-ins. It’s joyous and gentle and it can teach you how to make a whiskey sour. What kind of fool would nitpick such an instant serotonin boost? And for those of us who simply do not have the energy to make our own cocktails just yet, there’s always the age-old refrain: “Store-bought is fine.”