Joel McHale’s Strange Margarita Hack…Actually Kind of Works

The comedian’s secret ingredient also does well in a Bloody Mary

Joel McHale thinks one condiment can upgrade your margarita.

By Kirk Miller

“I know it sounds strange.”

Joel McHale, beloved actor, comedian and drinks aficionado, is careful about touting his secret margarita hack. Well, not so secret — he told a few media members (including yours truly) about it this week during a Zoom-led cocktail class he held alongside Chef Esther Choi, where the two were touting new releases from the drinks brand Q Mixers.

Those new canned mixes: The Spectacular Bloody Mary Mix and Spectacular Margarita Mix. Meanwhile, McHale’s unusual ingredient addition? Barbecue sauce. Which, admittedly, makes sense for a Bloody Mary. But for a margarita? Really?

Look, we’re not against mixing up the recipe for a margarita, which can be kind of a boring drink (or even a bad one) if not made with care. We’ve highlighted recipes before that involve unusual recipe additions and substitutions like alfalfa honey, Pop Rocks, smoked blueberries, powdered Kashmiri chiles, lavender syrup and even a smoked banana pepper reduction. And, uh, avocados (thanks, Tom Brady).

So why not add an ingredient that’s smoky, sweet and tangy all at once?

“Go ahead and judge me. You think ‘disgusting,’ but you never thought about having, say, cayenne pepper in a drink until about 13 years ago,” McHale says. “In a Bloody Mary, barbecue sauce gives you a smokiness and a bit more kick than just using Bloody Mary mix. And think how often you have a margarita with barbecue. Now you’re adding a little hint of that spice and smokiness and even some color into the drink.”

Rimming the glass with Tajín also brings out an extra kick. Instead of just being overly sweet, your margarita is now a bit savory, rich and smoky.

McHale is cagey on the BBQ drink hack’s origins (“my grandfather brought this recipe from Ireland”), but he most likely developed it with Jordan Silbert, the founder of Q Mixers. McHale is a spokesperson for the brand, utilizing the title “Chief Happy Hour Officer.” You can read more about that collaborative process in our Q&A here

With Memorial Day coming up and hopefully plenty of margarita and barbecue offerings in the works, we present this barbecue sauce take on a margarita below.

Barbecue sauce adds tang, smoke, sweetness and color to your marg.
Q Mixers

Joel McHale’s Honey, I Need A Margarita

Moisten the rim of your glass with a lime wedge and add a Tajin rim (“It’s very difficult to rim a glass after you’ve filled it,” McHale reminds us). Add the barbecue sauce, tequila and lime juice to the glass and stir vigorously to dissolve. Add ice and pour in the Q Spectacular Margarita Mix and gently stir.

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