You might know actor, writer, and comedian Joel McHale from his role on the hit series “Community.” Or perhaps you remember him from his days hosting E!’s “The Soup,” a satirical take on celebrity news. But McHale has recently taken on a new role. And for drinks lovers, it may be the most exciting one yet.
Recently named chief happy hour officer (CHO) of Q Mixers, McHale now gets to flex his mixology muscles while showing home bartending newbies how easy it can be to make a delicious cocktail when you have great ingredients.
Via Zoom, McHale revealed to the VinePair team his ultimate hangover cure, which “Community” co-star he shared his worst ever drink with, and the key to his signature G&T. Plus, he explains what, exactly, being a CHO entails.
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1. Tell us about your role as chief happy hour officer.
When I got the offer to be at Q Mixers, they called it chief happy hour officer, which I thought was really funny. And then, after getting to know Jordan [Silbert], the president, and getting to know the product, I use the product and I love it because so many drinks are ruined by ice cubes that destroy the bubbles. Jordan took care of that. And then the spectacular flavor. I know it sounds like it could be a frivolous thing with everything going on, but a quality drink is highly important. It’s one of those little things you get to enjoy, and I think Q Mixers makes drinks way better.
2. Why is a good mixer so important?
So, Jordan had a bad drink like 10 years ago and was like, “Well, screw this, I’m throwing away my career and I’m going to make the perfect mixer.” And he did it, which was pretty amazing.
With the way that craft cocktails have come on in the last 15 years, it makes sense that someone was like, “Hey, maybe this tonic shouldn’t taste like a crappy sugar soda and should really taste like the quinine and how it’s supposed to be.” And the small cans and the small bottles make it spectacularly bubbly, which, again, people think is not a big deal. But then when they try it, they’re like, “Oh, I would pay $5 more for this.”
3. What’s your signature drink?
Just, like, warm half and half at about 1 in the morning; like, 16 ounces of it. I know it sounds weird… No, I’m a Gin and Tonic man. And so I used to go with Hendrick’s gin and then the Q Mixers tonic — sometimes, the light tonic — and then not too much lime, because I like the taste of the tonic and the gin coming through; the juniper. I would say that was my signature. I don’t scream it out to my family. I don’t go, “This is the chief happy hour officer’s signature Gin and Tonic!” And they’re like, “Yes, you’re at dinner with us alone in the house. Why are you yelling?”
4. If you’ve had too many G&Ts, how do you cure your hangover the next day?
Again, half and half. No, my rule is, no matter what I have, I have to be able to — in a timely fashion — exercise and accomplish everything that I had set out to do the day before. Because then it makes me feel like, “See? You didn’t over- serve yourself. You did everything that you said you were going to do — just slightly fuzzy.” Exercising really helps get it out.
5. What advice would you give to somebody who sucks at making drinks?
Just stick to the recipes. And then you can start improvising later, because I think people overdo it on either the booze or the mixer or the lime or the garnish. Just like baking, it seems simple, but it’s really not. And then you have to find your own way, and you should definitely do this in high school. I’m kidding! Only when you’re 21.
I always watched the bartenders do it. I’d go, “How did they do it? Why is this better than the one I’m making?” And then if you do it enough times — if you make like, seven or eight Gin and Tonics in a night — you’ll get good at it in about… a few years. And then your liver will fall out.
6. How have your drinking habits changed over the years? Were you always making eight G&Ts and exercising in the morning?
I usually combine them both. No, the pandemic really upped my game, I would say. I don’t know anybody that was like, “I really cut down on my drinking during the pandemic.” There was a time when I liked a Mojito. That was years ago, but I’ve gotten away from the sugary drinks. No offense to Mojitos, but there was a time — a dark time in the ‘90s — when people were ordering Long Island Iced Teas and Sex on the Beaches. And thank God, we’ve moved past that time.
But how have [my drinking habits] changed? I would say they’ve ebbed and flowed, and when I had kids, I was like, “I think I’m going to drink every night.” No, but it used to be like: party; take five days off. Now, it’s just kind of a steady trickle of alcohol. I don’t want to really overdo it because then you’re like, “What am I doing?” But exercise has always been important with being in Hollywood and being a complete narcissist.
7. What’s your desert island drink?
I don’t know. Let’s just go with Everclear, because you could start fires. And of course, tonic. There would have to be tonic as well.
8. What’s the worst thing on your bar cart right now?
[Joel runs to his bar cart and comes back holding a dusty bottle]. OK, this was an experiment that is now like, 15 years old. This is a 32 percent alcohol beer. And at the time, they were like, “This is very rare. You’re lucky. We’ll sell you three.” And I was like, “OK.” I think I paid like $110. I gave Danny Pudi from “Community” one of them, and we opened them together. The taste was like a syrup that had been left out in the sun next to a gasoline can, and I was like, “If this is what all alcohol tasted like, I don’t think I would drink.”
9. What was your first legal drink when you turned 21?
I was with my parents and their friends. It was the month of my turning 21. I always remember this because I had already been out for my birthday, which was fine. But in that moment, I ordered Kahlua and cream. I know I have joked about half and half…
So then, my dad’s friend just goes, “Spoken like a true 21-year-old.” I was like, “I will never order this drink [again] in my life.” I might as well have just went, “Can I get a banana split with a shot of vodka over it?” It’s so sugary and so rich and creamy. I was a true 21-year-old.