“Swizzle your beef sticks a little slower,” the director says to Alie Ward and Georgia Hardstark as they stir their jerky-infused tequila Bloody Marys — a drink they've dubbed the Beefy Tomato. It's an odd direction, but every move the women make while demonstrating the drink recipe is supposed to be at half-speed. The crew is getting the final shots needed for this episode of Classy Ladies, Ward and Hardstark's latest web series for Cooking Channel. The cocktail was inspired by a trip to People's Sausage Co. earlier this week. There, they got a lesson in jerky making, then figured out a way to put that flavor into drink form.
This is the process on Classy Ladies for best friends and spirit mavens Ward and Hardstark. The pair visits a Los Angeles mom-and-pop food purveyor — a French chocolatier, an artisan marshmallow maker, a creamery — learns the craft, then translates those flavors into inspired cocktails. It's similar to the factory field trips Mister Rogers used to take us all on, but with alcohol.
On the show, Ward and Hardstark are gussied up in vintage dresses. They've got the Betty Draper look going, even though they say they were scouring thrift stores way before it was cool. They're also certainly not housewife types. They're more like the Zooey Deschanels of the food TV world, with less goofy singing and more f-bombs. “There's an irony to how perfectly well-dressed we are, because what we're doing is not perfect.” Ward says.
Perpetual field trips and cocktail-guzzling with your BFF: Sounds like a dream job. Basically, it is, they say.
“It does hit us, a lot,” Hardstark says, in reference to how lucky they feel to be creating a career out of drink-making and joke-telling. “Even when we're in bad moods, or something's stressing us out, it's stress from the best possible source.”
“It's a matter of wanting to do the opportunity we have justice,” Ward adds.
Ward and Hardstark thought this life was a pipe dream — something that would never go beyond the secret Gchats they had while working their desk jobs. Initially, they were more interested in creating a show about travel. “[Our idea] was a show called Cunts and Countries. Or Bitches Abroad.” Ward says, giggling uncontrollably. “Or Trippin' Balls, which was basically just taking a lot of hallucinogens and going to sports games,” Hardstark says.
“But the idea was just to have fun together,” she adds.
The pair got their start by accident, when a Food Network exec stumbled upon their viral hit McNuggetini and offered them the chance to create cocktails for the website. They asked for six recipes, but the women submitted 20. The Food Network then doubled its order to 12.
That break led to two seasons of the web series Drinks With Alie and Georgia, as well as stints on various Food Network and Cooking Channel programs. Now with Classy Ladies, Ward and Hardstark have incorporated a level of culinary education into it, but the show is still really about having fun. It's how they distinguish themselves from the elitism that's sometimes associated with the food world. “There's a playfulness that's missing from some food culture,” says Ward, “and I think the fact that there's something silly and theatrical about what we do that cuts any sense of perfection.”
“It's almost like if Miss Yvonne from Pee-wee's Playhouse had a cocktail show.” Hardstark says.
The show is whatever they want it be, as the network gives them almost total creative control. In addition to creating the cocktail recipes, Ward and Hardstark write the scripts, pick out all the dresses and gracefully weave in what they call “12-year-old-boy humor.” Within reason, of course. “We really wanted to make a bubblegum drink called 'Blow Your Wad,' but they wouldn't let us,” Ward says.
Hard as they work, Ward and Hardstark are content not to take themselves too seriously, despite the trend toward earnestness in the cocktail community. “We have a reverence for the cocktail scene, but we're not intimidated by it,” Ward says, “so it lets us be creative without worrying about being so precious.”
She adds, “You should never have a furrowed brow when you're drinking a cocktail.”
Classy Ladies can be viewed on Cooking Channel's website.
Stay tuned for the Beefy Tomato recipe in an upcoming post.
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