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Stir It Up: Three Reggae-Inspired Cocktails

We challenged bartenders Brian Miller, Jim Kearns and Shannon Mustipher to make three drinks inspired by their favorite reggae 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 genre into cocktail form. Here, three drinks inspired by reggae from Jim Kearns of The Happiest Hour and Slowly Shirley; Shannon Mustipher of Glady’s; and Brian Miller, New York’s own tiki pirate.

Shannon Mustipher | Kingston Soundsystem

My favorite reggae song is ‘Skylarking’ by Horace Andy, one of the genre’s most influential artists, whose music dominated Dub in the ’70s and went on to inspire Dance Hall. The song [has a] catchy beat and the lyrics [have a] laid back, slightly mischievous tone (skylarking is slang for pranking around) but underneath it all, it’s just about chilling and having a good time.

“In keeping with the bird motif in the song’s title, I decided to base my recipe on the Jungle Bird, one of my favorite tiki cocktails to riff on… [In this drink] the aged rum supplies bitter cocoa notes as well as dark fruit, while the unaged overproof—in this case Rum Fire—adds body and character. It is one of the funkiest rums ever; take the cap off and you can smell it from across the room.

“The end result [is] a ‘trickster’ of a drink that blends unlikely elements, looks more innocent than it turns out to be in the end and, hopefully, is a great accessory to an afternoon—or evening—of hanging and pranking around.”

Tropical Cocktail Recipe

Jim Kearns’ Monkey Man (left) and Brian Miller’s Duppy Conqueror (right).

Jim Kearns | Monkey Man

The idea [for this drink] came from the fact that I have always tasted a strong banana note on Tennessee whiskey, and I thought it might be a fun bridge [into] to the realm of tiki, a genre in which American whiskey is not the most frequently used spirit. The cocktail came quickly, with [Brian] Miller suggesting the vanilla, the El Dorado 15 and the name.

“I’ve been a huge fan of both songs with the title ‘Monkey Man’ [one by Toots and the Maytals and the other by the Rolling Stones] for a long time, but the one for which I have the fondest memories is the version by Toots and the Maytals. A friend’s ska band, back home in Phoenix, used to play an excellent version of it over 20 years ago, so I have a strong nostalgic attachment to it.

“The Toots and the Maytals version is the one that the drink most closely references, with its tropical flavors of banana, cinnamon and vanilla, pulling similar notes to the forefront from the whiskey.”

Brian Miller | Duppy Conqueror

My happy place is on a beach in the Caribbean at sunset listening to reggae. And this is [named for] one of my favorite Bob Marley tunes—a sipper with loads of Jamaican rum to set my mind adrift.

“There’s a story where Bob Marley and Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry were talking and Bob mentioned how his success had plagued him with scroungers and hangers-on—referring to them as ‘duppy.’ To which Perry replied, ‘We’ll sort this out, we’re duppy conquerors.’ Sitting in a bar, poring over a drink is where we sort it all out. And this drink definitely helps.”

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Tagged: cocktails, music, recipes