Interview: Paul Feig on Artingstall’s London Dry Gin

When a search for the perfect martini turns into making your own gin

The way Paul Feig—of Artingstall’s London Dry Gin brand—talks about cocktails sounds like a pitch for a classic movie, which makes sense considering he’s also a prolific director. Feig is known in the industry for valuing downtime, making sure all casts and crews on his projects spend no more than 10 hours shooting, leaving time for drinks, dinner and a full night of sleep. It was during his own downtime that Feig began a quest to find the perfect martini, trying them at bars all over the world—from Duke’s Bar in London, to Bar Hemingway in Paris, Bemelmans Bar in NYC and beyond. The further he dug into the world, the more interested in gin he became, until deciding to make his own.

For Artingstall’s London Dry Gin—an aromatic and smooth gin—Feig teamed up with Minhas Craft Brewery and distillery, a family-owned company in Monroe, Wisconsin. “This company, they are amazing,” Feig tells us. “It’s a brother and sister. Their father is an engineer from India. He moved to Calgary in Canada. He opened a liquor store there. His children Manjit and Ravinder grew up working in the store.” After the first meeting with Ravinder and Manjit Minhas—discussing the qualities in the gins they like and the kind of product they hoped to collaborate on—the research phase followed. “Then they made eight different baskets of botanicals and brewed up versions within the parameters we talk about,” Feig explains. “Each had big differences between them.”

Rather than just adding his name to the project, Feig has been involved every step of the way, trying every iteration. “I have never been more drunk in my life than the day I had to finalize Artingstall’s,” he says. “We worked with eight different micro-variations. With a hint more grapefruit or orris root. I was so nervous, too. I knew I had to live with this for the rest of my life. You pour these glasses and you are taking tiny sips. Comparing eight times back and forth. Those little sips are turning into two martinis in your brain.”

It passed every test. I was so excited about it

They tried the favorite versions neat, on the rocks, as a martini and in a negroni. Finally they decided on the recipe for Artingstall’s London Dry Gin, which won Best Gin and Double Gold at the WSWA 2019 Spirits Tasting Competition. Along with a restrained amount of juniper, the gin has a carefully calibrated balance of botanicals including orris root, cassia, elderberries and citrus. “It passed every test. I was so excited about it,” he says, admitting that by the end, he was ready to take a break. “I was passed out on my desk with happiness, too. Oh man, I gave for my art!”

When it came to designing the bottle, the team looked for inspiration from something with classic and vintage styling that would look good on a bar cart. “Ravinder and I landed on the idea of something that looks like a crystal decanter. I found an old cut-glass decanter, in a thrift shop, that I loved. I sent it to Ravinder,” Feig says. “From that, we fine-tuned our own design for the engraving and shape.” Altogether, Feig wanted Artingstall’s to look like a gin that’s been around for 150 years. So the black, textured label with gold foil border reveals the brand name in bold, all-caps gold letters. “It’s why I picked my mother’s maiden name: Artingstall. Because it’s an old English name that rolls off the tongue—at least, it rolls off of the tongue better than Feig!” he laughs.

Feig hopes his love of martinis and cocktail culture is instilled in every bottle of Artingstall’s, which has just launched in Canada and is currently available at a few LA stores, including Du Vin. More US distribution is coming soon. Feig also has a nightly Quarantine Cocktail Time series on his Instagram for which he’s made everything from a French 75 to the Waikiki Beachcomber.

Images courtesy of Artingstall’s