Joel McHale Preps Your Holiday Cocktails And Talks Crime Scene Kitchen - Exclusive Interview

Joel McHale is always down for a good time, and sometimes, a good time calls for some good drinks. As the Chief Happy Hour Officer for premium beverage brand Q Mixers, he knows how to put together a decent cocktail, and is always looking for a reason to celebrate – be it the holiday season, a new filming project, or any given happy hour. So it goes without saying that McHale is gearing up to celebrate any mixologist, bartender, or dare we say Chief Happy Hour Officer's favorite holiday, National Happy Hour Day. The all-day commemoration of kicking back takes place on Saturday, November 12.

In an exclusive interview with Mashed, McHale talked all about his big plans for the day and the new signature cocktail he'll be sipping, and offered up his hot take on earlier happy hours. Since happy hour isn't the only reason we're all making drinks these days, McHale shared some of his favorite holiday eats and drinks, and his tips for making the most of your home bar during the season. He also dished some fun details from some of his latest TV projects.

Joel McHale is celebrating happy hour with fizzy drinks and finger foods

As Q Mixers' Chief Happy Hour Officer, this upcoming national happy hour day must be very important to you. How are you celebrating?

I'm going to go to a happy hour. That seems like a pretty obvious choice. As you probably have heard, I'm lobbying to make happy hours start an hour earlier. With daylight savings, that thing's messing with us all the time, so why not start it earlier?

You've got a signature drink to celebrate as well?

It's the signature Joel McHale Four o'clock Fizz. I guess it could be a Three o'clock Fizz, too. Grab your favorite rum, you get some apple cider, get your Q Mixers ginger beer, [and garnish with lemon and apple]. The ginger beer is super strong, fairly gingery, and then as you may or may not know, it's hyper carbonated, so it stays carbonated when you mix it with ice and lemon and cider and rum.

Something that's very important for a great happy hour is also having great snacks to keep you going. What are some of your favorite go to happy hour snacks?

I like a wing. I'll take a wing any day of the week, and I like a spicy wing. Then I get super fancy, and if I'm in Seattle, I'll have oysters — also a great source of protein ... And french fries. Dang. Regular old french fries are ... one of the reasons why I know there's a God. My problem is that the appetizers become dinner, and then I'm too full.

Quick hot take on wings. Are you a ranch or a blue cheese guy?

Ranch ...  I like blue cheese. It's fine, but sometimes, I feel like it's a hat on a hat because the ranch is milder, and the blue cheese can be like [what] a blue cheese stuffed olive is ... a meal into itself. You can survive in the woods on those for weeks on just one jar.

What Joel McHale is eating and drinking during the holidays

Your 4PM Fizz has very festive vibes, which is great as we're getting into the holiday season. Do you have any other go-to holiday cocktails that you love this time of year?

I like a mulled wine when it gets really cold, which is a cooked wine with spices. That's one of the wonderful things ... I love red wine, and I do love a gin and tonic. If you make it with good ingredients, it's really good. If you make it with crappy ingredients, it is not even worth drinking.

Speaking of the holiday season, besides turkey and stuffing and all the basics, are there any other unique holiday food traditions in your house?

My wife's family, thank God, they started a tradition of eating crab on Christmas, Dungeness crab. Very Seattle. They used to get it at a time when ... Crab was cheap in Seattle for forever. ... It's so good. Dungeness crab is the best crab on the planet. Don't tell that to the stone crab fans. My dad likes yams. I don't, but he loves them, and he can have those for every holiday.

We usually had salmon as a family because Seattle. Salmon was very cheap, and we would have a lot of that, or my mom's flank steak, which was marinated in soy sauce, ginger, green onion, olive oil, salt and pepper for a couple days. That was damn good.

Do you do any of the cooking at the holidays?

I do most of the cooking. This Thanksgiving, because I'm not going to be there until the day before, I'm not going to do nearly as much. I'm having a friend make some of it so we can get ahead of it. Usually, I cook it. On Christmas and Christmas Eve, I will absolutely cook. I love cooking beef. I do a lot of that.

The key to a great steak is a whole lot of salt, according to Joel McHale

You must be a pretty good cook then.

I'm an amazing cook.

Holidays aside, what would you say is your best dish that you make?

My brown butter steak. I take a bone-in ribeye, and it's pretty thick. It's an inch and a half to two inches thick, so it is a huge piece of meat. I take three sticks of butter and I put that in a pan and let it burn until it gets brown and there are those black spots of burnt butter. You take that steak, and you pack it with salt and pepper like it's a career. 

My mom was like, "This is way too much salt and pepper. You're putting way too much on." I was like, "Trust me." You stick it in that brown butter, and you do not move it for about four minutes. You're not going raging hot. It's not jumping out of the pan, but it's still pretty hot. You turn it over for another four minutes and then you finish it in the oven. You let it rest for about 10 minutes. You will scream, "There is a God," when you eat it.

We live in food heaven now. America has stepped up, and the rest of the planet has stepped up. If you want something good, it's so much easier to get now ... When we think about the quality of beef, we're very lucky.

Cocktail tips and tricks from a Chief Happy Hour Officer

What are some of your best tips for pairing cocktails with all of these hearty holiday foods that we're going to be eating this time of year?

If you're eating a steak, red wine is pretty good with that, or a Negroni is pretty good, even though it's a little sweet, but it's a big huge drink. A steak and a martini is pretty great.

To incorporate Q Mixers, a Moscow mule goes with everything. So many of these drinks in the past and today become sugar bombs, and all you're tasting is sugar, and that wipes out everything else. There's ways to make them [with] ingredients that aren't as sugar heavy. You can really taste ginger, and you can taste the lemon, you can taste all that stuff. You're supposed to taste the alcohol, unless it's like a mojito. You taste it, but you taste that mint a lot. That's an exception [made] for sugar.

What is the most underrated cocktail ingredient or mixer that you think people should be using more of or appreciating more?

Geez, this is going to get very Q Mixery, but the tonic is so good. People forget what [tonic] is. People always assume it's another soda pop, which it's not ... and it gets fluffed off, because you can go to any bar and get that same drink and the spectrum of quality is all over the map. A good one is good, and a bad one is so s***ty that it's not worth it ever. It's not worth drinking.

Maybe an umbrella? That's underused. We need more umbrellas. We need more umbrellas covering our drinks.

I had a friend, when he was in college, his favorite drink was Rainier Beer and hot sauce. I was like, "John, you're crazy." Who would've thought, 30 years later, having super spicy drinks and spicy beer and all that and tons of ginger? No one ever dreamed of that, and now, here we are.

Do you like Rainier beer and hot sauce now?

I had it way back then, but I am not the biggest fan of adding hot sauce to lager. I'd like a taco with hot sauces on it and the lager. That would be perfectly fine.

Joel McHale talks bad food and good times on the Crime Scene Kitchen set

Over the course of two seasons of "Crime Scene Kitchen," what are some of the best or worst dishes that you've tried during the show?

The worst dish I can say was an apple pie that was soup, and it was raw eggs. It was raw eggs floating. They were beaten, the eggs, but we were drinking raw eggs. You never know with a raw egg, but it's not what you expect when you cut into your mom's apple pie. The crust falls apart and deflates, and then it's sloshing around. I felt so bad for the guys.

I feel bad for you guys having to taste it.

That was probably the worst. I had a princess cake, which I'd never had before. If you look up what it looks like, they look like works of art. I thought, "Nothing that looks like this could be tasty." It was so tasty. That was one of my favorites.

You get out there with Curtis Stone and Yolanda Gampp ... They're geniuses and scientists of the craft, and I am a comedian who tells smart jokes for a living. I have been educated by them. I love eating. I've gained ... for both seasons, I've gained nine or 10 pounds and then lost it again. I know they're going to premiere the second season. If we get a third season and then I see the date of when we start, that means I have to start timing the dieting, because I know I'm going to eat so much dessert.

For those who have watched Stone, he can get pretty intense and competitive in, say, the "Iron Chef" kitchen. But what is he like in the Crime Scene Kitchen when the cameras aren't rolling?

He's a goofball. You hear about so many chefs that are a**holes. He could not be more the opposite. Don't tell him I'm complimenting him, but chefs can be pretty intense. They're the kings and queens of their small kingdoms, and they can be pretty brutal. He is not. I've seen him in his kitchen. I've seen the way his workers love him. 

What are we doing with our lives? I was like, "We really nailed that Chateaubriand, and now five people are crying, three people have quit, and I'm hated." What kind of a life is that? It's like, "Congrats." He's super kind. His employees love him. They adore him. His knowledge is bananas. I've talked to other chefs that are like, "He scares us how much he knows." He's so smart.

Joel McHale on The Bear and mean chefs

What was that experience like for you, filming such a jerk of a chef on "The Bear?"

It was easy for me since I'm naturally a jerk and I have to fight against it all the time. I love acting, and it was super fun people. People are like, "You're so mean." Yeah, but I keep joking that I'm the hero of the whole show. I'm the hero of the show and I sucked at it. I'm joking, obviously. It was really fun. Chris Storer, who created and directed all the episodes, it's so great that he has a hit, because the world will be a better place with his work in it.

When people are like, "You play a jerk a lot," I'm like, "Yeah, I guess that's true, but whatever. I like it." I can't believe people pay me to act. I still get tickled with "Wow, I cannot believe I get to do this thing I wanted to do as a kid."

That was quite an intense performance, though. It makes me wonder, though — how many fine dining kitchens are really like that?

A lot. There was that guy in England who ... I forget his name, super famous, he's come back a little bit, but he was next to some sous chef in his own kitchen. The sous chef was wearing a T-shirt and he was like, "You don't have a scar? You don't have any scars?" He took a knife and he cut him. He f***ing assaulted him, which you can't do. Crazy person.

When you have that kind of inspiration to draw from –

It is because they get into these ... They think they're the kings of their kingdoms, and they think they're more powerful than they are. It's also [because] they were psychologically disturbed beforehand, and it got worse when their behavior was unchecked. Good times.

Luckily, Curtis Stone's nothing like that. The two of you guys get to be goofballs behind the scenes.

Yeah, he's great, and people love him. Yolanda is another scientist. They call her the Beyoncé of cake, and that is very true. She is so talented.

The juiciest moments on Celebrity Beef, according to Joel McHale

Since the last time that you and I spoke, the first season of "Celebrity Beef" has aired. It looked like a lot of good fun, but it also seems like some things got a little bit heated in some of the episodes. What were some of the most memorable moments for you?

Misty Powell and Jeff Lewis were the most heated. They were definitely ... Jeff Lewis plays rough. I was like, "Wow." That was by far the most intense.

Were you expecting him to come out swinging like that?

No, I did not. I was like, "Whoa, this is crazy." Todd Bridges was really interesting because he started talking about being in jail with the Night Stalker, that he had been pulled over for having a gun in his car or something like that. This is back in the early '80s or mid-'80s ... they put him in the same holding cell as the Night Stalker, Richard Ramirez. I was like, "Geez Louise, don't think they would do that now." That was the story he started telling. Holy crap.

Can you recall who were the best or worst cooks you encountered? I know you weren't paying too much attention to that.

They were... boy, I can't even remember. I know there wasn't anyone [that made me go] "This is disgusting." They set them up for success. They weren't going to throw them out there and be like, "You just poisoned the host and your friends." They didn't mess with anybody like that ... Cheryl Hines' cake, she worked really hard on it, but it was very dry and full of candy. That wasn't necessarily my cup of tea, but she's the sweetest person on the planet.

Joel McHale eats healthier than you might think

If you could have any chef cook you dinner, who would it be and why?

Curtis Stone.

You're not just saying that to suck up to him right now?

I'm calling him out. He needs to cook dinner for me.

What do you want him to make?

He gets to determine the menu, but I would want him to do Seafood. Let's have a go at seafood. They just handed me my lunch in between ... It's not as good as Curtis Stone.

You've called yourself a food snob in the past. What are you eating on busy set days?

Chicken and vegetables – and I'm not kidding — and hot sauce. That's really how exciting I get, because when I go for a big meal or for a fancy meal, I'm selective. It's not  a thing I do every day in any way. When I do it, I go for it. Most of the other times, I'm eating pretty conservatively, so I can keep my figure trim ... I did have a croissant today. Woo-woo. Look at me. I was splurging.

Check out the latest from Joel McHale on his Instagram, snd get the Chief Happy Hour Officer's best cocktail tips and recipes by checking out Q Mixers.

This interview has been edited for clarity.