We Tried the Viral Starburst Coffee Machine Margarita Hack

In short, don’t make cocktails with a coffee maker and try this recipe instead.

Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist
Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist

It is an occupational hazard of being a professional drinks person that your friends will send you unhinged viral cocktail content and ask you to weigh in. Perhaps you’ve seen one of these how-to videos that yield suspiciously delicious-looking drinks using improbable techniques and wondered, above all else: why?

Or maybe you were among the dozen or so people who sent me an Instagram reel that uses a coffee machine to infuse mini-Starburst candy into tequila, resulting in a pitcher of “skinny” margaritas and begged me to comment on its validity. The video has over 9 million views and the caption describes the drink as “SO GOOD.” When I watched it for the first time, my emotions went from horror to disgust to, eventually, fascination. Could the heat of a coffee machine be used to augment the flavors of a spirit in ways previously unattainable? I had to find out.

The video starts with @adley putting about a half a package of unwrapped mini Starbursts in the top of a coffee machine and filling the reservoir with blanco tequila. The carafe is filled with ice and wedges of orange and lime. She then shoves (rather brutally) six whole jalapeños into a hot toaster to blister their skin. A glass is prepared with a rim of sugar and a few slices of the jalapeño are muddled into it. We are then shown the tequila filtering through the candy into the carafe. The resulting orange liquid is then poured into the prepared glass and then with great fanfare, and she excitedly drinks as if it is the most delicious thing in the world.

I am a lover of “bad” drinks. I love to dust off old recipes that people have decided are not worthy and see what can be made of them. Midori Sour? Sign me up. Olive Garden Margarita? I’ll take two. I also love to subject myself to questionable experiences in the name of a good bit.

After faithfully replicating this video in excruciating detail, I can now say that this is a bad drink that I hate with a sincere passion. Adley is my new nemesis. I am forever changed—for the worse. Under no circumstances should you replicate any part of this video. Here’s why:

The Starburst will not meaningfully infuse into your tequila.

The big assumption here is that there are people out there who actually want Starburst-infused tequila, but hey, there is a time and a place. If you like candy and like tequila, how could the two things be bad together, right? Wrong. When the hot tequila passes over the Starbursts, very little of what is delicious about the candy is captured in the liquid. My knowledge of the physical sciences is insufficient to explain this, but the tequila only picks up the candy’s coloring and uncanny chemical-ey taste. Everything ostensibly “good” about Starburst is left in the filter. Which brings me to my next point.

Your coffee machine will clog.

Though not irreparably, your machine will clog pretty early on in the process when the candy turns into a gooey sludge. I had to pick up the filter and squeeze it to get all the liquid out. It’s not a “hack” if you have to put in extra work in order to achieve the desired result. That said, I did not permanently damage my coffee machine—only my dignity. To clean the machine, I ran it once with plain water and after that the coffee it made did not taste at all like tequila or Starburst. Plus, using the carafe as a cocktail pitcher is a neat trick in a pinch.

This drink is not “skinny.”

Actually, no drink is “skinny.” Not only is branding drinks as such a fatphobic moralization of physical pleasure, this drink is literally made out of sugar and alcohol. The only way this drink will help you lose weight is by killing your appetite altogether.

Shoving jalapeños in a toaster is (probably) a fire hazard.

There are certain lines I will not cross. It seemed like testing the physical capacity of a toaster oven by shoving fruit in it was a great way to start a fire, so I used my air fryer instead. I now have a new favorite method for roasting jalapeños, by the way.

This drink is gross.

This cannot be emphasized enough. If the drink was in any way appealing, I might be able to forgive the aforementioned issues, but it is not. I’m actually struggling to articulate what is so bad about it. Usually I can sniff out structural flaws in a beverage pretty easily. When tasting this drink, I lost my capacity for analytical thought. All I could perceive was my deep lizard brain sounding alarm bells for me to pour every last drop of this drink down the drain.

Make this drink instead.

There is a much simpler way to fuse Starburst and tequila—simply put them together in the same container overnight and call it a day. Once you have that, you’re working with something that slightly resembles a liqueur rather than a spirit, so if you want a quick drink, all you’d need to do is add a bit of acidity and you have yourself a balanced cocktail.

I put together this riff on a classic Martinique’s national cocktail, the Ti’ Punch, which is akin to citrus-inflected Old Fashioned made with the island’s distinctive Rhum Agricole. (The Ti’ is short for petit, by the way.) The classic recipe is sweetened with a hint of cane syrup, but here it’s not needed since the infused tequila brings plenty of sugar. Sip this in your fire-free apartment while admiring your still-intact coffee maker, with the firm knowledge that there is always a better way.

RIP My Digni-Ti’ Punch Recipe

Yield: 1 drink

• 2 ounces Starburst-infused tequila (see below)
• 1 slice of lime
• 2 slices roasted jalapeño
• Garnish: orange wedge (and what remains of your dignity)

1. Slice a disc off the side of a lime so that you have a small amount of juicy pulp. Squeeze the disk into an old fashioned glass.
2. Add jalapeño slices and infused tequila and fill the glass with ice. Stir briskly for about 20 seconds using a bar spoon (or swizzle stick if you have one).
3. Top glass with more crushed ice and garnish with the orange wedge and serve with a straw.

Starburst-infused tequila

Yield: Just under 2 cups

• 12 ounces blanco tequila (or reposado if you prefer)
• ½ cup unwrapped mini starburst

1. Combine Starbursts and tequila in a small bowl and leave covered on the counter for at least 12 hours, stirring every few hours.
2. Strain through a fine meshed strainer into a clean container.
3. Will keep in the refrigerator for up to one month.

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John deBary is a drinks expert and writer. His first cocktail book, Drink What You Want, is available now, and his next book, Saved by the Bellini, is expected in early 2023. He is also the co-founder and president of the Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation, which is dedicated to improving the lives of hospitality industry professionals through advocacy, grant making, and impact investing.