It doesn’t take more than spending a few minutes with Catherine Stiles to think to yourself: Can we be best friends? Not only does being tight with her mean access to some of the greatest barbecue in the country at her husband’s Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew, but it also comes with a lifetime membership to some of the best Texas-style backyard hangouts you can find, featuring heart-warming country music, unrivaled comfort food and Catherine’s signature build-your-own Bloody Mary bar. But this mother of two is way more than just an amazing hostess: after founding her own brand of Bloody Mary Mix — aptly called Barbecue Wife Bloody Mary Mix — Catherine has quickly become one of Austin’s hottest entrepreneurs to watch. Keep reading for her tips and tricks to hosting the perfect fall party, and to read about how she plays “cheerleader for the ‘sport’ of barbecue.” Because according to Catherine, “Yeas, it is a sport in Texas.”
*photography by Buff Strickland
What a gorgeous spread! What are you ladies celebrating today?
With the onset of Fall brings everything we love to celebrate. Friends, cooler temps, football, and outdoor dining over good food and great company. On this day I’ve invited a group of ladies who I like to call my “Ladies Who Barbecue Brunch.” It’s all about taking time to celebrate the good things in life.
Making people smile is truly one of my favorite joys in life! I love to create atmospheres that bring people together in a comfortable and casual way. Never too stuffy. I want people to feel at home, comfortable, and loved when they are in my home.
You’ve chosen to focus your business on one of our all-time favorite drinks. Why bloody mary?
I’m a huge fan of Bloody Marys and I’ve always had a mix that I’ve made at home for friends and family. The “Barbecue Wife Bloody Mary Mix” was inspired by the barbecue community that my husband Shane and I have really enjoyed being a part of. Our Bloody Mary is a slow sipping classic cocktail that should be enjoyed with friends. So, I created one that was unique to the barbecue community that we love. I took a bit of the Stiles Switch Barbecue Sauce and infused it into my mix to make a unique and savory, sipping cocktail you won’t find anywhere else.
It’s a labor intensive process to make each batch, as there are four recipes really made and then combined. I make my own Worcestershire sauce, I then combine it with the BBQ sauce that is infused in the mix, then tomato base, and the handmade spices (Smoked Sea Salt and Smoked Black Pepper) that really give it a nice smokey Texas Barbecue feel. Then I take those and combine them to blend into a mix that you will not find anywhere else.
What is your approach when planning a party?
Having two little ones doesn’t leave me a ton of time to plan, so I’m usually flying by the seat of my pants. I’m pretty resourceful and creative-minded so I’m always up for the challenge. When it all comes together, you can tell by the smiles all around that it was worth the effort. (Or maybe that’s just the vodka I bought!)
Fill in the blank: The perfect Bloody Mary bar includes ____ .
- A great mix (I’m biased — Barbecue Wife Bloody Mary Mix is my choice).
- Premium Vodkas only (We are lucky to have some great local Austin brands to choose from as well. I also like infusing serrano peppers in vodka, which is super simple to do).
- A great glass rimmer (I like to rim mine in a smoked sea salt or a great barbecue rib rub which gives it an extra pop of flavor).
- Celery sticks
- Fresh lime or lemon wedges
- Jalapeno Stuffed Olives
- Pickled Okra
- Pickles (the more pickled veggies, the better!)
- Cheese cubes
What does it really mean to be a “Barbecue Wife?”
The community that surrounds Barbecue, the craft, the love is really amazing. They embrace the time that it takes to make something great. I always tell people the best way I can describe Barbecue in Texas is much like football in Texas. Everyone has their favorite team they root for, but they all celebrate the sport in the same way.
How do you fix your Bloody Mary?
I prefer mine spicy and pretty simple. I’m not into those overly done, stuff-as-much-as-you-can-into-a-glass drinks. My favorite is a classic: olives, extra lime wedges, and of course a rib or some smoked sausage on the side. Never ever use cheap vodka either… there is just no time or place for cheap vodka!
What else is on the menu today?
- Bloody Mary
- Smoked Beef Rib Eggs Benedict
- Fresh Cucumber & Tomato Salad
- Lemon Vinaigrette Cole Slaw
- Dill Potato Salad
Women are always a tad afraid of tackling BBQ dishes solo. What tips can you provide someone looking to make meat dishes for the first time?
Here are my tips for great barbecue. Ask your local Pitmaster for help! I’m a great cook, but the time and dedication it takes to be great at smoking meat is on a whole other level. I always ask the experts. The fun thing about barbecue and the barbecue community is that they love to share! Go online or if you are lucky enough to live in Austin, Texas go into your favorite barbecue spot and chat with your favorite Pitmaster. Lance Kirkpatrick is the lead Pitmaster at Stiles Switch BBQ and I love to ask him questions and he loves to teach. He lights up when he gets in front of a crowd of barbecue enthusiasts that want to learn. So, my advice would be to do just that. Surround yourself with people who know more than you and are willing to share. You might make a new friend or two along the way. Or, just do what I do and order the Smoked Meat and serve with your own twist!
Barbecue is just fun, so that’s what this menu is all about. We took a traditional barbecue fare and translated that by adding my own twist.
pictured here: Catherine’s Smoked Beef Rib eggs Benedict made using Stiles Switch BBQ’s smoked beef ribs.
Click here to get the recipe for Catherine’s Lemon Vinaigrette Cole Slaw!
Catherine served her dishes up family style to encourage more passing, sharing and interacting.
OK. Tell us about your amazing backyard.
When we purchased this home a little over two years ago, and figured out very quickly that if we couldn’t leave our space, we would put our efforts into creating a space that nobody wants to leave. We have a great pool and outdoor living area, but we also wanted to create a functional yard space that we could host backyard parties in. We have two very young daughters (ages 3 & 2), so it was important to have a nice space where they could enjoy running around in as well. It’s especially unique in the evenings, as we installed custom string lighting to really make a fun atmosphere at night.