As many of my friends will know, my wife and I have become infamous for our adventures in cocktails. Be that hitting the bars of pretty much any city we visit to try cocktails, to the immense booze collection we have at home to make our own, we’ve tried a whole host of them and have many more on our list.
And, of course, it was my birthday yesterday. So any excuse to get out the cocktail shaker, some ingredients, and, most importantly here, a soundtrack for drinking the good and bad of cocktails.
This was a difficult subject for song suggestions, as it turned out – and wasn’t helped by a number of people apparently forgetting what makes a cocktail (a spirit on it’s own, or with a mixer, is not a cocktail). Still, there were 93 suggestions, four of which had been used before. There were 73 unique songs suggested, by 39 people. Thanks, as ever, to all of you.
A quick explanation for new readers (hi there!): my Tuesday Ten series has been running since March 2007, and each month features at least ten new songs you should hear – and in between those monthly posts, I feature songs on a variety of subjects, with some of the songs featured coming from suggestion threads on Facebook.
Feel free to get involved with these – the more the merrier, and the breadth of suggestions that I get continues to astound. Otherwise, as usual, if you’ve got something you want me to hear, something I should be writing about, or even a gig I should be attending, e-mail me, or drop me a line on Facebook (details below).
With one exception, all cocktails featured or referenced in song here are in Diffords Guide.
/Escape (The Piña Colada Song)
/Partners In Crime
/Cocktail: Piña Colada
One of those bizarre one-hit wonders that doesn’t just become a hit, it becomes indelibly associated with the subject for evermore – although with the sales and streams of this song, I suspect Rupert Holmes isn’t complaining too much. Anyway, this vaguely tropical, soft-rock song from the late seventies sees the protagonist hitting the singles pages to escape a failing relationship, only for his partner to be the one that is the best match, and they rebond over…Piña Coladas. Perhaps a cocktail that’s a little out of fashion these days, but then, made with rum, coconut and pineapple, really it’s a cocktail to be enjoyed when lounging on a tropical beach. One day…
/Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes
From a similar time (the late-seventies), Jimmy Buffett’s mellowed-out celebration of a quieter life in the sun, sipping margaritas and getting away from it all, seems to have aged better than the previous song, that’s for sure. Here, Buffett’s character is strumming his guitar on his porch, musing on whether he’s been “brung low” or not, and waiting for the cocktail blender to provide him another frozen margarita. The song has brought him great success beyond music, though, with a large chain of restaurants, hotels and casinos carrying the same name…
/Licensed to Ill
/Cocktail: Brass Monkey
A rather less mellow cocktail is referenced by the Beasties on their debut album. Here, over an old-school, stark 808 beat pattern, the young Beasties celebrate their apparent drink of choice (vodka, dark rum, orange juice and sugar syrup – ouch), that they take with them on tour, drink at home, and pretty much anywhere else they can do so. They get offered Champagne, Martinis, hard liquor, and refuse them all for a cocktail that likely packs quite a punch…
/Cocktail: Brandy Alexander
Another song to directly reference (and at least partly celebrate) a specific cocktail is this track from Canadian singer Feist, who appears to be in two minds. She has a man in mind, one that she’s clearly sweet on, but like her favoured cocktail, both seem to cause trouble when they are together. I can certainly see her point around the cocktail – the Brandy Alexander, being cream-based, is one of those cocktails that is so, so drinkable, and one could easily become four…and then the floor.
Long after his pop success, Joe Jackson retreated into exploring other styles, particularly jazz-influenced music, and this comes from one of those later albums. The distinct feel here is of an artist celebrating drinking and enjoying life in New Orleans. We had a similar experience as we spent a few days in the city on our honeymoon, finding cool bars, new and old favourite drinks, and we still have a desire to return five years on. As for the Martini? Well, it’s very much one of my drinks of choice – asking for a Martini the way I like it (vodka, very, very, very dry, with a twist) is my usual way of seeing how good a new (to me) cocktail bar is. If they can’t do the classics, see, how good are they?
That said, in the right frame of mind, I do like a Dirty Martini…
/White Russian Galaxy
/Cocktail: White Russian
The Crimea are one of those indie-bands from the past that I vaguely remember the name of, but I’m not sure I remember any of those songs, and while this was an appropriate suggestion, this song isn’t ringing any bells either.
The White Russian, though, is one of those cocktails that I adore (as you might have noticed by now, I have a sweet tooth, and love creamy cocktails in particular). Despite it’s simplicity, though (vodka, kahlua, cream or milk), it’s remarkable how many bars don’t do it properly. Like serving it with skimmed milk (!!), or overdoing the cream/milk element, the former makes it horribly watery, and I’ve sent them back made like that before. My tip – always use double cream, or full fat milk. It will taste so much better.
/Cocktail: Black Velvet
According to the Wiki about it, this “song is a paean to Elvis Presley — whose portrait was often painted on black velvet, and who used a hair dye named Black Velvet“, and whose sultry, bluesy verses rolls into the kind of catchy chorus that I can still recall three decades since release. I’m perhaps less keen on the titular cocktail, mind – one of Guinness topped up with champagne – that to my mind sounds absolutely revolting. One day, I’ll perhaps try it and confirm…
/One Mint Julep
/Cocktail: Mint Julep
Apparently one of the first drinking songs, originally recorded by this band (Ray Charles later covered it). Here, just one Mint Julep is enough for the protagonist to cross the line with a woman, get caught by their father, and then suddenly his life has been changed for good…
I recall my wife drinking quite a few Mint Juleps in New Orleans, the city the drink is most associated with. I could see why, too, it’s just the refreshing, sipping drink for the simmering humidity of that city…
/Cocktail: Tequila Sunrise
I truly hate myself for featuring the Eagles (like The Dude, I fuckin’ hate the Eagles, man), but it turned out that songs actually about or referencing actual cocktails were in shorter supply than I thought they might. The song is a dreary whine about drinking away the pain of rejection (and indeed deceiving oneself) – so as self-absorbed as the band always were – and is nowhere near as colourful or sunkissed as this West Coast cocktail. That said, I’ve long shied from tequila-based drinks, although if I was in the California sunshine again in my future, a good one of these might be on my list to try.
/Earth vs the Wildhearts
/Cocktail: Caffeine Bomb
The only cocktail I’m featuring here that is not an “official” cocktail – in the sense that it appears in cocktail books or menus. Ginger from The Wildhearts named the cocktail he’d concocted to clear the mother of all hangovers after a drinking binge with Ray Zell, and the Caffeine Bomb name is absolutely appropriate – a shit-ton of Jack Daniels, high-strength coffee and sugar. Appropriately enough, the song blasts past at a hell of a pace, as if Ginger was buzzing on such a drink before he recorded it, and as glorious as the song is, the cocktail sounds fucking revolting.