Smells Like Teen Spirits: Three Grunge-Inspired Cocktails

What does Pearl Jam’s “Even Flow” look like in cocktail form? We challenged Brother Cleve, Derek Brown and Sother Teague to make three drinks inspired by their favorite grunge song.

As far back as the 1930s, when the Seapea Fizz was named for composer Cole Porter, music has been a source of inspiration in both the creation and naming of new drinks.

Ask most bartenders—many of whom double as musicians—and they’ll tell you that the link is rather unsurprising; as Nancy Whang of LCD Soundsystem told PUNCH in 2013, the two spheres “attract a certain personality type that isn’t fit for normal, everyday life,” adding that both disciplines are, to a certain extent, “intense and all-consuming.”

To further explore the overlap between the worlds of music and drinks, we’re challenging bartenders to translate a song of their choice from a certain era into cocktail form. Up first, three drinks inspired by grunge from the likes of Brother Cleve, formerly of cocktail lounge band The Combustibles; Derek Brown of D.C’s the Drink Company; and Sother Teague of New York’s Amor y Amargo and Coup.

Brother Cleve’s LOSER, a bold drink built on whiskey and Jägermeister. [Recipe]

Brother Cleve | LOSER

“Of all the bands that defined the grunge years in the Pacific Northwest, TAD was, and remains, an all-time fave of mine. Led by the mighty Tad Doyle, a massive man with massive guitar tones (and a throat full of Drano and soot barking out lyrical bad attitudes), this is a band that truly deserves a cocktail, even if they themselves would rather perhaps drink motor oil laced with a tincture of laudanum.

“In creating this libation, I thought of Tad Doyle, his roots [in] Ireland and the Northwest. Fortunately, the fine folks at Oregon’s Ransom distillery partnered with David Wondrich to concoct a lost style of making Irish pot still whiskey utilizing oatmeal in the mash along with the usual suspects: malted and unmalted barley. The end result is big, bold, uncompromising and somewhat rude. Add some beef broth for beef-cake-y-ness, espresso liqueur in another nod to the area, Jägermeister, because, why not, and a bit of Bittermens Hellfire, and you’ve got a veritable homage. And, for a bit of sweetening, well, a band that recorded a song called ‘Jack Pepsi’ probably doesn’t want a different cola in their drink. I’m just guessing, of course.”

Derek Brown’s Violet Eyes incorporates Singani, egg white and violet-infused honey. [Recipe]

Derek Brown | Violet Eyes 

“Violet Eyes is inspired by the Meat Puppets’ song of the same name. Though the Meat Puppets were never the household name that other popular grunge acts such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Sound Garden were, their music is still well-known: Nirvana covered the Meat Puppets’ ‘Lake of Fire’ for their platinum-selling MTV Unplugged in New York.

“I might have taken the easy route here and chosen the literal over the conceptual [by] using violet honey, [which] melds well with the floral characteristics of Singani … and burning a rose bud, which is taken directory from a lyric in the song: Plastic master, smoke drifts from a rose.

“I suppose the one conceptual aspect is that the song itself feels very layered and bit more polished than some of the Meat Puppets’ other, more raw-sounding songs. The cocktail is also very layered and takes a spirit that can feel a little raw at times … and renders it as elegant.”

Sother Teague translates Pearl Jam’s “Even Flow” into a Scotch-based drink with Becherovka. [Recipe]

Sother Teague | Powerful Baritone

“I chose the song ‘Even Flow’ from Pearl Jam. It’s about the plight of a homeless man who likely also suffers from mental illness. Classic chicken-and-egg story of which came first, the homelessness or the illness.

“My drink harkens back to my youth. When I would go to punk rock shows as a young man, we’d always drink Cutty Sark. Among my friends, we still refer to it as “the punk rock Scotch,” so it seemed fitting to use in a grunge-related cocktail. This [drink] is a riff on the Sammy Ross neoclassic Penicillin. Bold Scotch plus floral Strega and … Becherovka, all tempered by the juiciness of Montenegro.

“In ‘Even Flow,’ the man chases away his thoughts like butterflies; the atomized Scotch atop the drink is representative of something critical to the whole, but is somewhat unobtainable. [And] the name is a simple descriptor of Eddie Vedder’s unmistakable voice.”

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