When Food Network host and cookbook author Ina Garten posted a video of herself making a big-ass cosmo on Instagram April 1, she became a beacon for the homebound masses longing to enjoy happy hour again with friends.
It all started as an April Fool's joke — she already had the "huge martini glasses in the basement" and friends had gifted her "that huge cocktail shaker — if that sends a message to you, I’m not sure," Garten tells EW, laughing. But she worried no one would actually be in the mood for an April Fool's joke this year. "So I just thought, well I'll just do a fun video about making cosmos, having no idea what would happen. It was on every news feed. Stephen Colbert wanted to have cocktails with me. PBS NewsHour wanted to talk about it. It was crazy!" she says. "But I think it just struck a nerve — everybody's home, they're kind of anxious, and here I am just having a hoot making cosmos in a silly glass.”
Silly…and large. And a nod to sunnier times ahead.
“There’s something about a cosmo that’s just got a freshness about it because of the fresh lime juice, and everybody does a twist on it,” she says. Case in point: hers is a variation on Duke's Cosmopolitan, from London’s Dukes Hotel bar, swapping out the lemon juice. “The original one is just a classic. Restaurants [often] use some weird ingredient, so if you make them at home, they're always delicious.”
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That Insta-cosmo is just one of the many dishes Garten — whose Barefoot Contessa: Cook Like a Pro returns May 16 to Food Network — has made and shared nearly every weekday on the social media platform since she started "hunkering down at home" with husband Jeffrey (it all started with an Overnight Belgian Waffle on March 15). As is her homemade applesauce, another batch of which she was cooking during this interview and had to quickly pause to remove from the oven. She says it became evident after another post she made that people were looking for some help right now in the kitchen. "I know there are a lot of people that don't cook all the time and all of a sudden they're trying to figure out what to buy and how to get food and how to cook it, and I just posted randomly a picture of my pantry and asked, 'What's in your pantry?' And the response was just astonishing," she explains. "I ended up answering a lot of people's questions.... It also gave me a really incredible purpose and order every day, to wake up in the morning and go, 'Okay, what am I going to cook today?'"
The current situation also has Garten thinking beyond her day-to-day. While a new season of her culinary series premieres Saturday (and she was filming future episodes before stay-at-home orders started), and her twelfth cookbook, Modern Comfort Food, releases Oct. 6, cooking during quarantine has her re-thinking her own practices and tips. "I'm so obsessed with using fresh ingredients and not cooking a lot with them, just letting them shine. But this has really taught me how to cook differently, and I keep saying it's gonna affect how I write recipes from now on. Like, I literally only have chicken stock, vodka, vanilla ice cream, and ice in my freezer. Ever," she says, laughing. "But this has really taught me that you can make really good food and freeze it — if you know how to do it right and if you know what kinds of things freeze.... So that's definitely already informing my next book after this one."
Like her cosmopolitan, you could say she's shaking things up.
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