Tripping Out With Alie and Georgia premieres June 21 at 10:30pm ET on Cooking Channel.
It could be among the most unusual first steps toward celebrity ever — grab your best pal and a video camera, make a McDonald’s run to fetch a chocolate shake and Chicken McNuggets (you’ll need the barbecue sauce, too), add a liberal splash of vanilla vodka and your quirky senses of humor and serve it all up on YouTube.
Within weeks, The New York Times, TIME, CNN, the Associated Press and a host of food-centric web sites had all hunted down the McNuggetini’s irresistible founders Georgia Hardstark and Alie Ward, a pair of Los Angeles-based writers with a penchant for vintage fashion, tasty cocktails and a whopping dose of fun.
“The New York Times covered us right at the beginning, and their angle was, ‘Can these two girls make a career out of this?’ says Hardstark, who’d been paying the bills as food blogger/receptionist. “It kind of felt like a challenge. So we were like, ‘Yeah! Let’s do that! Let’s make a career out of it!’ We have this saying that we want to win at McNuggetini. We want to turn this thing that we did as an inside joke and a testament to our weird senses of humor and we want to win at it. We have documents of to-do lists called ‘Winning at McNuggetini.’”
Soon enough, Food Network approached the newly minted mixologists to create cocktails that were as fun the McNuggetini and its equally inventive counterparts, the Ham Daiquiri and the Bloody Bacon & Cheese, but, you know, palatable.
“A lot of success is getting an opportunity and then doing as good of a job as you can at that opportunity to get another one,’” says Ward, a former Los Angeles Times lifestyle reporter. “I feel like that’s something Georgia and I have been doing since the video went viral in October of 2009. We said, ‘Food wants six drinks so let’s give them 20 and see if they like that.’”
Hardstark and Ward mixed beverages and their signature comic touch in 24 episodes of the net’s web series Drinks With Alie and Georgia, which led to gigs on Cooking Channel’s Unique Sweets and another web series, Classy Ladies. Last summer, the duo got word that they’d scored their own show.
Executive produced by the ladies’ idol Giada De Laurentiis, Tripping Out With Alie and Georgia features the besties having excellent adventures in unique food and culture spots across the country, and then heading home to L.A. to recreate the experience for friends and family via food and libations.
“Two years ago, if Giada would have replied to one of our tweets we would have lost it, and now she’s backing our dream television show,” Ward marvels. “It feels very surreal. For two women to be able to be travel hosts and fly in tiny planes and go dogsledding and do tightrope walking and drink beer in Texas, it was something that we as team really wanted to accomplish. Even though we’re bleeped sometimes, I feel like there’s a place for this in the world!”
Channel Guide Magazine: How much of a say did the two of you have in the places you go in Tripping Out and the adventures that you have while you’re there?
Alie Ward: We got to have a lot of say. We got to go visit Giada at home and we sat around and just kind of brainstormed where in the world we wanted to go. “This food blogger talked about this pastry shop in Marfa, Texas and I really want to go!” Or “I heard about this great coffee place in Miami.” …We had a lot of fun researching and even crowdsourcing with our followers on Tumblr and Facebook — “Has anyone been to this location and are there any secret spots we should visit?”
Georgia Hardstark: What’s really cool about our producers is that they understand that the more we are excited about going somewhere, the better the show is going to be. If we’re genuinely excited to go to Marfa and see what the hell is going on there!
That’s exactly the episode I wanted to ask about — how you ended up in Marfa and, most important, did you see the lights?
Gerogia: Yes! They were crazy. And we love supernatural stuff, so it was really exciting.
Alie: We were playing around with going to Austin or Athens or somewhere in the South that was really artsy, and I had been reading some food blogs and someone was passing through Marfa and had really interesting pictures. It’s a one-stoplight town with art installations kind of out in the wilderness. And it just looks remote and also kind of really emerging. So we started looking into it and I started asking some friends on Facebook and Twitter and found out that there was a roller derby team there with a lot of really progressive people that had moved there from bigger cities. It was definitely the remote adventure we were looking for!
Whose idea was it to take a stab at synchronized swimming?
Georgia: Alie actually called it Synchronized Semi-Drowning because that’s more like it. We went to Miami for that. It’s so much harder than we thought it would be.
Alie: It is not easy to look good in a rubber swim cap and nose plugs. It is not easy. We were flailing around. But we wanted to do something that was kind of classic and timeless and we ended up shooting that in a hundred year old spring fed pool made of limestone in Coral Gables. We really get to know the city and some of the history of the city — by literally diving in in that case. Not as synchronized diving in as it should have been, but we gave it our best shot.
The two of you have invented an almost alarming number of cocktails — and out some really inventive stuff. Is it your opinion that almost anything ingestible can be made into a serviceable cocktail if you just believe?
Georgia [laughing]: We know what we’re doing and we know cocktails really well, but I’m still always surprised. We’ll be, like, we just need a really great cocktail in a few minutes, based on these crazy guidelines that the show we were doing wanted and the stuff we had in our kitchen. And I think it’s almost supernatural that we’re just really good at it — and it’s really fun for us.
Alie: The first three drinks that we put up on YouTube were stunt drinks just for fun. Total jokes. But since then, it’s been really fun for us to figure out, like, how can we incorporate tahini into a dessert drink? Or how can we infuse tequila with flavors for a really great Bloody Mary — like beef jerky?And it does become easier the more you do it. We have more than 100 original recipes that we’ve written and we’ve traveled all over the world having some of the best cocktails, so you start to develop a really good palate for what you need for a drink that’s really adventurous and really exciting but still tastes really good and is really well balanced.
Although when we do our drink testing we usually have a third party or a couple of other people taste it with us because we have different palates and sometimes we disagree on do we like it with three-fourths of an ounce of lemon juice or a half. Sometimes we need an impartial vote. I had a guy that I was dating and we stopped dating and he was lamenting that he really still wanted to do drink testing. I was like, “I’m sorry, dude.” That’s why he’s an ex.
Your faithful fans are used to seeing you in immensely covetable vintage dresses. Does that stay the course throughout Tripping Out, or when you’re in Marfa, do you dress as the, uh, Marfa-ans do.
Georgia: We love the dresses, and you get treated very kindly by strangers when you dress like their grandma did. So it’s really fun to do — and we get away with a lot more. But there’s times when we were in Alaska and freezing, or we were camping at Joshua Tree where we were like, “You know what? We’re wearing jeans for this episode. I cannot deal with a vintage dress right now.”
Alie: Yes, discerning viewers will find a few scenes where you’re like, “Alie and Georgia in denim!?’ But sometimes you’re in a dogsled and you’re going to need to be wearing pants.
Alie, you’re taking a stab at tightrope walking in the premiere episode. Dress? And if so — bloomers, or what?
Alie: That was the very first shot of the season! The very first thing we rolled on in the whole season! And I was so glad we got that out of the way, because it was terrifying! I mean it was thrilling — thrilling! — but it was terrifying. And yes, we both had bloomers. One of our amazing production coordinators went across the street to H&M and bought us both some bloomers.
Georgia: We don’t need to sell our show by showing our underwear. No matter how accidental it is.
So viewers know where to get their bloomers, but if they want to dress like you from head to toe, they should …
Alie: … go to their grandma’s closet. That’s No. 1! You’d be surprised at what kind of gems she’s got in there!
Georgia and I actually do all of our own wardrobe shopping. And we don’t do any alterations on anything — we only buy things that fit. And then we keep trying to fit them as the season goes on. Which is hard.
Georgia: I feel like a lot of our Instagirls are going to be mad at me if I say our favorite favorite shop in Los Angeles. It’s kind of a secret. Should I say it, Alie?
Say it! Say it!
Georgia: Shareen. There’s a shop called Shareen that’s the most fun vintage dress shop! No boys allowed. It’s like a daytime hangout with your best friends. Alie and I have a lot of fun shopping together, because we like to coordinate and of course we know what scenes we want to shop for. It actually gets really complicated, and we speak in a code that I don’t think anyone else would understand. Like each dress has a name — like Hotdog. Every dress has a name. I can’t imagine a time when we wouldn’t shop for ourselves because it’s just a huge part of the production.
Alie: I approach shopping totally like a dude with a shopping list, where I have a note pad with a grid on it with like. I’m like, “OK, we need a lemon yellow dress. And we need something that goes with the landscape of Miami.” So I approach it very pragmatically. But Georgia’s just like, “DRESSES!”
So now that your media empire is expanding even further, do you have to take extra care of your friendship because now you can’t get rid of each other even if you want to?
Alie: The one thing that we’ve learned spending a couple of years traveling with Unique Sweets and now Tripping Out is we can tell now when someone is cranky because they are tired or hungry instead of just pissed off at you. So we’ve learned to take that lesson and go “Oh Georgia’s just hungry!” Or “Alie’s just sleepy.” But we’ve also learned not to share a hotel room. Because we’re not dating and we’re not twin sisters and if Georgia wants to watch a crime show and I want to watch a documentary about insects, it’s just better that we have our own hotel room.
Georgia: Yeah, we tried [sharing a room] because we were trying to save money for the production and we said, “You know what? What’s going to save money for the production is if one of us doesn’t quit.”
But it’s not just for the show. This friendship has done more for my life than any friendship I’ve ever had, and the thought of losing it because we’ve spent too much time together and didn’t respect each other enough just seems like such a waste. I think we understand the value of our friendship beyond a TV show. So we both try to be the best friend we can possibly be to the other.
Alie: Aw! Thanks, George!
Tripping Out With Alie and Georgia airs Friday nights at 10:30pm ET/7:30pm PT on Cooking Channel beginning June 21.
Tripping Out With Alie & Georgia image: Cooking Channel
Alie Ward and Georgia Hardstark image: allieandgeorgia.com/Photo credit: Shane Redsar