Phil Rosenthal has made it a habit to bring an extra suitcase when he travels the world for his Netflix series Somebody Feed Phil. This additional storage is not for random knick-knacks, but rather for local food items that he wants to share with his family and friends back home.
“I built a bar in my house,” he says, “so that I can have people over and make them drinks.”
The producer/travel host even had a short stint working as a bartender at Richoux of London, in the downstairs food hall of New York City’s Citicorp Center.
“I was in my 20s and needed the money,” he says. “So I applied for the job. I’d never worked as a bartender before, but I lied — thinking that I’d have enough time to learn after putting in my resume. They called me for a shift that evening.”
For eight months, a young Rosenthal learned in the line of duty, with a Mr. Boston Bartender Guide hidden away and at the ready.
“I remember my very first customer, a pretty lady who asked me for a Pink Squirrel,” he remembers. “I couldn’t find it in the book, so I asked her forgiveness and if she could tell me how to make it. She just smiled and said, ‘I’ll just take a gin and tonic.’ It was probably the nicest thing that anyone has ever done for me.”
Over the years, Rosenthal has improved his skills and feels able to handle “uncomplicated” cocktails while serving his guests. The specialty drink at his house is usually one learned on the last trip he took. So it’s not a huge surprise that on a return flight from Brazil, after filming season four’s premiere episode, the host’s spare suitcase was filled with cachaça. The rum-like alcohol distilled from fermented sugarcane is the main attraction for the country’s national cocktail and Phil’s new sipper of choice: the caipirinha.
“Do you remember Hawaiian Punch?” asks Rosenthal over the phone. “That is what caipirinha is. It goes down like a delicious fruit drink, and then you get ‘punched’ by the alcohol. I absolutely loved them, and had my fair share during my time in Brazil.”
For Rosenthal, making caipirinhas for his friends is a way to share his memories of Rio with those closest to him.
“They aren’t difficult to make at all,” he says. “Or if you don’t feel like working just find the nearest authentic Brazilian restaurant — they’ll know what they’re doing.”
Should you decide that you want to take your own stab at the caipirinha, here is a classic recipe for you right here — with some help from chief bartender Danielle Espindola from New York’s hit Brazilian eatery Berimbau.
- Cachaça (2 ounces)
- Sugar (2 spoons)
- Take the lime, cut in half, and then in quarters. Remove the white part in the center of the fruit to reduced bitterness. The amount of the lime depends on the size of the fruit, but the average is half a lime, meaning two quarters.
- Take a rocks glass, and place the two lime quarters inside, adding two small spoons of white sugar, and gently muddle the mix. Be careful not to muddle too hard, because you don’t want to bruise the fruit.
- Finally, add two ounces of cachaça and ice to the top. Shake it for about 30 seconds and pour back into the glass. If needed, top it off with more ice at the end.
Somebody Feed Phil is now available on Netflix.