Actor Greta Lee on Korean Drinking

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(image: Cameron Bertron)

Before you saw her acting on Inside Amy Schumer, Girls, New Girl, High Maintenance or Sisters, you might have seen Greta Lee serving Scholium Project wines at New York City’s Momofuku Ssäm Bar. “I was slinging so many pork buns for so many years,” she says. That’s when she learned to love “left-of-center” natural wines like the ones Scholium makes, “which really rocked my world.”

Born and raised in Los Angeles’ Koreatown, she is no longer pouring ribbons at Momofuku but is filling her own glass with an array of things depending on her mood, her location and the time of day. Basically, she’s a fan of alcohol. “I’m appreciative of New York, especially for helping me hone my skills at drinking it,” she says jokingly (sort of).

Soon you can catch Lee in Money Monster alongside Julia Roberts and George Clooney (out May 13), the indie film Fits and Starts and Hulu’s first-ever one-hour drama series, Chance. Read on to find out more about what Lee likes to drink and why.

In the Morning

I am really into the breakfast cocktail. We’re talking weekend, New York City brunch scenario—that whole mess. I remember the first time I had a Blood and Sand was eight years ago at Freemans. I had just moved to New York and was still wide-eyed, living my Sex and the City fantasy, slash, was a total asshole, throwing money away at Freemans, as I’m sure many of us did. 

Blood and Sand

In the Afternoon

It’s glamorous to live that Euro-pretend lifestyle and have wine with lunch. I’ve recently gotten into—this is going to make me sound like such a loser—funky whites made by carbonic maceration. I’ve barely scratched the surface of these weird wines, but I love the nasty funk of those oxidized bottle-fermented whites.

In the Evening

The Penicillin—it’s lemon juice, simple syrup, rye, ginger, and there’s a Scotch floater—is my jam. I’ve have Penicillins all over the world. It seems like a pretty simple drink, but if it’s made wrong, it can taste like a Band-Aid. Something about that sweet but boozy citrus mix… If it comes together in the wrong way, the flavor is straight up dirty Band-Aid that’s been floating around in a swimming pool for a long time.

On Cocktail Street Cred (and Ruining It)

From around 2007 to 2010, I was doing the restaurant industry thing, totally at the expense of my acting career. I can’t just do something in a chill way; I totally drank the Kool-Aid and got aggressively into learning about microgreens. Don Lee eventually took over the cocktail program at Ssam Bar, and it was from him that I learned so much about whiskey and sake and mixing drinks and all that noise. Later on, I was in London doing a play. It was my first job post-food industry, and I was so stoked to do some drinking out there. London has pubs and then they’ve got clubs, which was new to me; wherever the cast was, I was so jazzed to see that they were making Penicillins. I talked the drink up and kind of showed off my knowledge and ordered a round of ten—and they’re expensive drinks!—and they were so bad. Total Band-Aid. It ruined my street red for the run of the show.

Penicillin

On Korean Drinking

In my house, we grew up with a lot of stuff that’s now coming into focus to the masses. Things like makgeolli, a white soda that’s technically fermented rice wine. (None of my friends can pronounce it, so since it comes in a green bottle, they call it ‘the broccoli soda.’) My dad has been drinking it forever! As kids, we had no idea what it was—nor did we care—but once I discovered my love for and skill at drinking alcohol, I decided to re-learn all of these Korean drinks. Another popular Korean drink is a beer and a shot of soju. In Western culture, it’s déclassé to pound your cocktail, but the Koreans? No one takes sips! Everything is a shot, and it’s almost rude if you don’t shoot the soju. I’ve seen 95-pound Korean girls take them down one after one. They’re monsters!

On Leftovers

Before our wedding a year ago, my husband and I drove out to New Jersey to buy vats of alcohol on the cheap. Now, we still have three-liter bottles of Hendricks sitting around our apartment. All the brown stuff was completely gone at the end of the wedding, but we have a lot of the vodka and gin left. So, at home, it’s been a lot of simple gin and tonics, vodka tonics, and lots of citrus wheels.

On Acting Drunk

I’m never actually drinking on camera, and in High Maintenance, all of the weed was synthetic stuff that looks real but isn’t. There was this one drunk cooking sketch that I did with Amy Schumer called ‘Sauced.’ We thought “Let’s just get into a little bit,” because we’re obviously super Method on that show. So we drank a little bit of white wine that was lying around, but we realized that was unnecessary. It just made us sleepy and we didn’t need it to execute the piece. What people don’t know about Amy is that she’s a for-real trained actress.

On Not Acting at All

You know how people who smoke cigarettes get an excuse to just, like, leave? Any time they want to leave work, they just do it, because they’re like, ‘Oh, I need a smoke break.’ What I’ve noticed with smokers is, yes, they’re addicted to nicotine, but they’ve also got this great excuse to stop whatever they’re doing and just breathe or look up at the sky or whatever it is they’re doing while they’re smoking. And I definitely appreciate that quality of enjoying a happy hour or an after-dinner drink or whatever it may be. You’re taking time out. It’s important.

Series & Type: Model Drinker
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