Music for mixologists

In ‘Punk Rock & Cocktails,’ Jesse Hubbard creates a soundtrack for slinging drinks at home

Linda Lee Baird
Jesse Hubbard

When I think of a night out at a punk show (remember those?), I imagine most of the crowd drinking cans of cheap beer, probably PBR. Craft cocktails are not part of the mix. (Let’s be honest, if the band is doing its job, the floor would be covered in shattered stemware by the end of the night). So when I heard local mixologist Jesse Hubbard was coming out with a cocktail recipe book titled Punk Rock & Cocktails, I wondered how the two went together.

Like any good bartender, Hubbard had a story for that. A punk rock fan since he first heard the Offspring album Smash as a 13-year-old, music has been inspiring Hubbard’s cocktail concoctions for years. “This was something I’d been doing for a while, creating cocktails based on bands I liked,” he said. “I tried to tie the [cocktail] ingredients into an experience I had with this record.” 

A bartender since 2008, Hubbard has had plenty of opportunities to create new cocktails and hear customers’ feedback. His first music-inspired drinks were “pretty well received,” which encouraged him to keep going with the concept. The first drink he developed for the book was called “Noon as Dark as Midnight,” named for a song by Memphis-based band Lucero. Hubbard describes it as a “rich, robust Manhattan riff.”

Punk Rock & Cocktails pairs 20 drink recipes with 20 albums that inspired them. Hubbard takes an expansive definition of punk, including bluesy Lucero, poppy Less Than Jake and Celtic-infused Dropkick Murphys, alongside definitive punk bands like Minor Threat. And while it’s not the same as getting thrown around in a mosh pit, Hubbard believes that the kitchen can be a setting for another type of collective experience. “I envision getting together with your friends, listening to music, and making these cocktails together," he said.

Just like watching the opening band you’ve never heard of while waiting for the headliner, Hubbard hopes his readers will be receptive to trying new things. “I did not want to make this something that was filled with really simple beauty cocktails. I wanted them to be a little bit more difficult,” he said. While some of the terminology may be unfamiliar to novice bartenders, Hubbard provides straightforward instruction for the recipes, hoping that friends will learn these skills together.     

In this communal spirit, Hubbard includes ingredients from some of his local industry friends in the book. You’ll find recipes calling for Backroom Coffee and Echo Spirits, to name a few. 

Many of the stories behind the cocktails in the book also feature Hubbard’s friends. He recalled getting a concussion at a Bouncing Souls show after taking a knee to the head in the mosh pit; luckily, his friend bought him a shot of Jack Daniels to ease the pain. “Naturally, the [Bouncing Souls] cocktail has Jack Daniels in it,” he said with a laugh.

Now that’s punk rock.

The release party for Punk Rock & Cocktails is Thursday, March 25, at Echo Spirits Distilling in Grandview. Learn more and pre-order at saintrussellproductions.com.