The megastar discusses her work on The Open Mic Project, and what she learned growing up in a pub.
It’s been a big few weeks for Rita Ora. You'd think the release of her new single, "Proud" would be enough on its own, since it combines her own experience growing up as a refugee from Kosovo with inspiration from stories told through The Open Mic Project, a collaboration with Absolut that let fans around the world share stories of acceptance. But somehow, between that, a trip to the Grammys, and another new hit, she found time to stop by the Food & Wine Test Kitchen to share her signature cocktail, The Rita Blossom, and talk about what food means to her—including a lesson on pulling the perfect pint.
Food, after all, is up there with music in terms of cross-cultural communication. After leaving Kosovo at just 1-year-old with her Albanian parents, Ora grew up in London, where her father owned a pub. Pub food like fish and chips and sausage and mash were always around, she told Food & Wine, but her cultural experience with food growing up went deeper than any specific dish.
“I was always relating to food as a gesture of kindness," she says, "In Albania, it's all very family-based, people always put something on the table when you go over to their house, there's always something to snack on and drink and all that.” For the uninitiated, she describes the Albanian cuisine that made up much of that sharing as, "kind of Greek-y, but more heavy," featuring pastry elements like pite, strong flavors and spices, and yogurt. But she also remembers her grandma would make mac and cheese, only with “the smallest macaronis I have ever seen,” which she’d dip in cheese. (Though her on-tour comfort food, it turns out, is Falafel).
Similarly, her well-documented love of Tabasco has a long-running family connection. "My father loves hot food," she says, "We used to do pickled chiles and things like that, and my dad used to just eat them raw." And while growing up, she was baffled by the practice, she one day found she suddenly loved all things spicy, and is currently exploring a box of 150 different hot sauces a friend got her for Christmas, including a super hot one called 'Kick It Up Your Ass.'
Having grown up in a pub, it makes sense Ora has her own signature Grammys drink, but the first drink she learned is a bit simpler—though difficult to master. "In the U.K. beer is a big thing for us," she says, and "if you don’t get the foam right, your consumer is gonna be very upset." So, she demonstrates precisely the angle and timing you need, tilting the glass. "You put the [tap] in kind of deep," then slowly straighten the glass, pulling the tap up with the beer. Then once you reach the top, let the foam spread around, straighten the glass, and you're ready to drink a perfect, Rita Ora's-family approved pint.