Stanley Tucci made Ina Garten her first martini

I sat down at the bar next to Stanley Tucci and ordered an extra dirty martini. He chose the Tanqueray No. 10 martini, a decidedly simpler recipe and one he prefers. "Well, I gotta try yours," he said to me. After asking the bartender for a straw, he took a sip of my drink and immediately made a disgusted face. "That's salt water!"

I'm on the 41st floor of a building in midtown Manhattan, drinking martinis with the internet hot guy who has become the drink's unofficial ambassador. Of course, you also know him as a great actor and Italian travel guide, but he's not mad at yet another icon of his own on the zeitgeist (this one gained through his partnership with gin brand Tanqueray further consolidated). "Obviously, now I'm known for making martinis. I've been there before, but just in a very small community," he told me. "Now the whole world knows about it. I love making them and the ritual of it."

The ritual Tucci creates when making a martini (or anything to drink or ingest) is familiar to his 1.6 million Instagram followers. His feed is filled with videos of him explaining to viewers what he's cooking. In every photo, he's actually talking to his wife, Felicity. But you can still feel the intimacy in these sequences; Tucci's charm cannot escape him.

Here, Tucci shares his go-to cocktail recipe, the best food he's had in Italy, and what he really thinks about the espresso martini trend.

Can you talk about the appeal of the martini?

Martinis are a thing. I’m not necessarily talking about the alcohol – it’s all about ritual and aesthetics. Yesterday I was watching an old movie with Walter Hudson and David Niven, who were on a beautiful old cruise ship, the Queen Mary, Walter Hudson ) went to a bar and said, "I'll have a dry martini." This was around 1930. It makes you say, "Yes." The bartender served the drink in Nick & Nora shot glasses, which was so elegant, simple, and beautiful. It takes you to another place.

What's your ultimate martini recipe?

Well, basically (he points to his Tanqueray No. 10, which contains dry vermouth, pink grapefruit and gin). But you can interchange grapefruit with lemon or olive (and sometimes cucumber). Cucumber and lemon go well together.

How else can you pair it with a classic martini?

Sometimes I make a Vespers martini. It contains gin, vodka and fortified liquor. This is part James Bond. Do you remember, Casino Royale ? His wife's name was Vesper.

What type of food do you like to pair with a martini?

For me, I really like snacks, appetizers, but also simple things. If you just made a grilled mozzarella sandwich and a martini... that would be great. Boiled eggs and martinis. I know this sounds funny. Oysters, clams on half shell. I had Oysters Rockefeller, which I just made on Ina Garten’s new show. I don’t know when it’s going to come out, but I made her a martini and she made Oysters Rockefeller—oh my god, it was amazing. She was so funny and she had never had a martini before.

So you show her how it's done.

Of course I did.

After watching your show, I'm wondering: What's the best dish you've ever had in Italy? I know this is an impossible question.

This is actually impossible. But I'll give you the three best ones. So pasta from alla Nerano, from the Amalfi Coast. I ate at a place called Lo Scoglio. This is incredible. Unfortunately, there is no more pasta somewhere in Rome. And then maybe pasta alla Norma, which is eggplant and tomato with a little bit of ricotta. They're simple, all of them.

What foods never go with a martini?

For the most part, I feel like my palate is always telling me to eat foods with more protein. I do not know why. You don’t want something too stuffy, right? So "decadent" as the British say, it's disgusting. I think it's good to have something substantial, but not a huge amount. You can have a steak and a martini. That's not bad.

What’s the one thing that can make or ruin a martini?

The quality of raw materials comes first. Second, the person who created it. If they don't know how to make it, it won't work.

What are your thoughts on the espresso martini trend?

It's fun, but I wouldn't drink it all the time. I would have a martini with some food and then an espresso.

What’s your favorite atmosphere to drink a martini in?

Well, just a good martini, anywhere. But it's a nice, quiet, classy bar. It's like a cool jazz club.

If you have a drink at home, are you at the dinner table? Are you watching or listening to anything? How is the atmosphere?

I play music while I cook. Before that, I usually make cocktails and then cook. But if we invite people over, the music starts, the table is set, and the hors d’oeuvres are laid out.

Hard boiled eggs.

No, not boiled eggs. [ laugh. ] That's just for me.

What music are you playing?

Usually some kind of jazz or our favorite Paolo Nutini. He's awesome.

What is your earliest memory of drinking a martini?

My first time was probably around Christmas. I remember the first time I drank Scotch - Scotch soda - with my dad at Christmas. I did have an uncle who used to drink martinis, so it was probably with him. I vaguely remember having a martini at our house when my uncle came over around Christmas time. He is still alive, he is 100 years old. But my clearest memory is of Café Luxembourg in New York, when I moved there in the early 1980s. It's still there.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.