The title Booze and Vinyl almost sounds like the unwritten subtitle for Paste—and pretty much the only way we’ve gotten through the last two years of political madness, so we’re naturally excited about the new book by the brother and sister team of Andre and Tenaya Darlington, which pairs 70 seminal albums from the 1950s through the 2000s with A- and B-side cocktails.
The records run the gamut, from indie cult darlings like Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea to artists like The Rolling Stones, James Brown, the Beach Boys, Lady Gaga, A Tribe Called Quest, and The Pogues. Some of the recipes follow a few expected paths—the Brass Monkey paired with the Beasties’ 1986 album License to Ill, but they also strike a playful tone, like the Jack and Coke (and Coors) for the Stones’ Sticky Fingers—instructions: sip from all three in turn until finished. Some also dive into the historical legacy around some of the world’s biggest music scenes. The pairing for Blondie’s Parallel Lines lifted the recipe right off the menu of Max’s Kansas City in New York, where Debbie Harry and her band frequented in the late ‘70s. The Bjork-inspired cocktail, the Swan, alludes to that (in)famous dress the musician wore, a pre-Prohibition recipe lifted from the Waldorf Hotel, a mix of gin, dry vermouth, absinthe, fresh lime, simple syrup, and Angostura bitters. Each album in the book also has a themed listening party—rock, dance, chill, seduce—and the drinks fit the vibe and the artist, like Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life gets a dirty martini (side A), followed by a Corpse Reviver.
We caught up with co-author Andre Darlington to learn more about how the book came together, and which album is his go-to and how hard it was to find the perfect cocktail for Radiohead.
Paste: Liquor and music make a perfectly natural pairing, but how did the idea of the book come to you?
Andre Darlington: There were a lot of cocktail-making slash listening sessions while writing our first book, The New Cocktail Hour, and we’d come to realize there was not just an affinity between the retro-nature of cocktails with LPs—their history, their ingredients—but also in the analogue experience itself. When you open that LP, album art falls out. You’re immediately part of a community not necessarily bounded by time or geography. And a great cocktail is like that as well. You often know who first made it, and where, and you can still taste it and have that one-on-one interaction. There was something there we wanted to explore more.
Paste: You and your co-author Tenaya are siblings. Did you grow up in a household that listened to a lot of music and embraced the cocktail culture?
AD: Our father was a classical violinist and a Thorens turntable with a Dynaco receiver and amp he had assembled himself, was the centerpiece of the house. We grew up flipping records for dinner, for parties, and on weekends relaxing.
Paste: How hard was it to narrow things down to 70 records?
AD: Terrible. We agonized to get to a list of records that were still relevant, still in great demand, good for listening all the way through, showed real diversity, and had stories with cocktail connections. Editing the list down was agony. We’d happily write a follow-up book with some of our personal favorites!
Paste: I know picking your favorite decade from what you cover in the book is kind of like asking a parent to pick their favorite child. But is there one year, or even one album/booze pairing, that ranks as your personal favorite?
AD: We did a lot of research to learn what the artists might have been drinking while working on an album. We looked for their tastes and inspiration. We hit a bullseye when we found the original drink menu for Max’s Kansas City in New York at the time when Blondie and the other Lower East Side bands were hanging around there. Turns out, there was a Blondie cocktail on the menu—which we know these days as a Golden Cadillac. It is so rewarding to drink that drink while listening to Parallel Lines knowing the band and the kids in that scene was doing the exact same thing. That cocktail feels so perfectly tied with that album for that reason. Plus, it’s delicious!
Paste: I imagine diving into this project sent you down many worm holes. What surprised you most when doing your research for the book?
AD: That the great albums were so often accidents and achingly hard experiences. Take Isaac Hayes Hot Buttered Soul—the label had just broken up and needed content for its catalogue. That’s why it even exists. Crazy to think. Or take the disaster surrounding the release of Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Or that Sinatra could barely make In the Wee Small Hours because Ava Gardner had just dumped him and he was leaving the studio to go outside to cry. AC/DC had just lost Bon Scott. Every album seems in some way to come out of a really difficult, improbable situation.
Paste: Any albums that didn’t make the cut that might appear in Volume II (publisher willing)?
AD: We hate to mention them, because then you can’t but help miss them and get angry they’re not included! But Tom Petty is at the top of that list. Pixies, Liz Phair, Depeche Mode, Tracy Chapman. How is Dolly not in, or Hendrix? Or Elton John? The seminal hit makers and game changers go on and on. Stereolab? Spoon?
Paste: I love that the album selections cover all genres, and the way you broke ‘em down into quasi-genres (Rock, Dance, Chill, Seduce) almost works like a blueprint for throwing your own dance/drinking party. But it’s funny to see Radiohead’s OK Computer living in the Seduce section—that’s some dystopian seduction right there. At first, that album almost feels too complicated to sync with a drink. But the Whizz Bang, named after the high-velocity shells used during World War I, seems spot-on. What was the album that proved to be the most challenging in terms of selecting a drink?
AD: That one really stumped us, actually, and was one of the hardest pairings to come up with. I think we’re hearkening back to our college days on that one, when Radiohead was everywhere—even the bedroom. Finding the Whizz Bang was a breakthrough find and it ends up being a great fit. Similarly difficult was Beck, but then we thought of that album as a wonderful, alien jukebox, we drank Tequila Negronis to it a few times and that drink, like the album, just says “wild, hip, sexy, and smart.”