In recognition of this past Saturday’s Record Store Day festivities, this week’s special edition of Tasting Notes has us uniting recently acquired vinyl treasures with our love for all things beer and liquor in a review of the newly released Booze and Vinyl: A Spirited Guide to Great Music & Mixed Drinks by André and Tenaya Darlington.
Written and compiled to act as “the ultimate listening party guide”, Booze and Vinyl was born from André and Tenaya Darlington’s memories of time spent “[flipping] records on their father’s Thorens turntable, surrounded by jovial guests and the warm glow of the amp.” The siblings – now food and drinks journalists – have recreated those feelings and experiences in this book by using eye-catching colors, striking photography, and gorgeous graphic design to showcase 70 iconic albums from the 1930’s through 2000’s alongside delicious cocktail recipes that properly convey the mood of the music.
The chapters of Booze and Vinyl are broken down into four genres/moods: “Rock”, “Dance”, “Chill” and “Seduce”. Each album then goes on to serve as its own mini-chapter with informative areas such as “Liner Notes”, trivia-laden background info on each artist/album (did you know Led Zeppelin’s IV “was recorded in a Victorian mansion where the band took breaks to roam the grounds with cups of tea in hand”?), and the “When to Spin” and “Before You Drop the Needle” sections that help you plan the perfect get-together.
Each album is then matched with two cocktail recipes, cleverly dubbed Side A and Side B. These cocktail pairings range from the more-than-obvious – such as Gin and Juice with Snoop Doggy Dogg’s Doggystyle or a Brass Monkey with the Beastie Boys’ License to Ill – to the imaginative yet wildly appropriate – think a lavender-colored Fallen Angel with Prince’s Purple Rain or a Long Happiness to pair with Björk’s “Violently Happy” from Debut. Whether it was a band member’s favorite drink, references or originated in the band’s hometown, or just speaks to the overall soul of the band/album/song, it is quite clear that each cocktail pairing was laboriously thought out to ensure that it would enhance the drinker’s experience while enjoying the featured album.
Once you get beyond the beautifully arranged album and cocktail pairings that make up the bulk of the book, you begin to notice some subtly placed how-to and instructional sections meant to help you hone your skills as a host and at-home bartender. The authors throw in a handful of food recipes to enhance a few of the featured albums and corresponding cocktails – like Punk Rock Tea Party Sandwiches that you can put together while listening to Blondie’s Parallel Lines. Readers can also find a separate index that helps them easily track down two and three ingredient drinks, tips on “How to Host a Boozy Listening Party”, advice on “How to Host a Whiskey Tasting”, and a short final chapter that helps novice bartenders better understand things like working with eggs in cocktails, making simple syrup, and creating large batches of cocktails for a crowd. To put it simply, if a reader is left confused or has a question about a recipe in Booze and Vinyl, the book is set up so that he or she can find the needed answers somewhere in those pages. Every consideration has been made and there is no googling required.
All of that is well and good, but you do not really know much about a book of this sort until you put it to the test. Since everyone in this office tends to be in the mood for “Rock”, we thumbed over to that chapter, broke out our copy of Appetite for Destruction by Guns N’ Roses, mixed up some Rattle Skulls and held an impromptu listening party to do just that (recipe below is quoted directly from Booze and Vinyl):
A popular colonial drink that packs a wallop, this cocktail comes straight at you from revolutionary times to help woo that sweet child. Why chase your beer with a shot when you can just have them together? That’s the early-American logic of this drink that is hard to refute. Try it over ice or without — the taste is similar to a Cuba Libre (rum and Coke).
- 12 ounces porter (Our choice was Night Swim Porter from Coppertail Brewing Co.)
- 1 1/2 ounces rum or brandy (We went with some Dogfish Head Brown Honey Rum)
- 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
- 1/2 ounce brown sugar syrup (1:1 sugar to water)
Add ingredients to a chilled beer mug and stir.
The often shunned combination of beer and liquor nicely parallels the reckless reputation that Guns N’ Roses earned in the late ’80s, but the Rattle Skull comes together to produce a cohesive, nuanced experience that has stood the test of time . . . just like Appetite for Destruction. The added lime juice brings out Night Swim Porter’s citrusy hops while the Brown Honey Rum accentuates the beer’s more malty and roasty notes. Just as the recipe mentioned, the Rattle Skull comes across as a more balanced and dynamic Cuba Libre. This cocktail makes for the perfect drink to enjoy as you scream the lyrics to “My Michelle” (Track 7) or groove along to “You’re Crazy” (Track 10).
With that incredibly fun experience under our belts, we can now confidently declare that Booze and Vinyl is a cocktail guide that goes well beyond any previous experiences you may have had with cocktail recipe books. It takes the sometimes intimidating art of bartending and makes it incredibly accessible by relating it to something we all love: music. If a recipe proves challenging, the music – because you know it will be playing in the background – is always there to either draw out that calming, centering breath or pump you up with the confidence needed to totally crush one hell of a cocktail party. This unique attribute makes Booze and Vinyl much more than just another coffee table book. It can be read cover to cover or used as a quick reference guide for bartenders of varying experience levels. Beyond that, this book arms its reader with a wealth of cocktail/listening party ideas that can be employed during a casual Friday night in with friends or in planning full-blown theme parties. Just pick a genre or artist, stock the bar and fridge, fire up the turntable, and you are set. Above all, this book mirrors the joy that music provides by putting a smile on your face, conjuring up memories of the past, and offering you the fuel to make some new ones. It doesn’t get much better than that. Prost!