Bartenders across the city are working on unique cocktail pairings right now — trying to encapsulate the feeling of a single track from a local band in liquid form. The 12 bartenders for Mixtapes & Mixology — an event thrown by The Recommended Daily and The Paris of the Plains Cocktail Festival — have been randomly assigned their band (and musical inspiration) for the cocktail playlist that will be featured on July 9, from 7 to 10 p.m., at the Kill Devil Club (31 E 14th Street).
“I start with what I want the drink to be and what I want the guest to take away from it and then work backwards,” Voltaire’s Ryan Miller says.
Miller, who will be picking a song from MBird’s catalogue, has been on stage himself. Chupacabra, the two-man band he started in middle school, has made spot appearances around Kansas City in years past with musical back-up called “the muy borrachos.” Miller intends to sit down with a notepad and just let Megan Birdsall’s songs play to find a lyric or mood as the base of the drink.
“You start by familiarizing yourself with the themes and feelings and you figure out a way to get that translated into a beverage,” Miller says. “I could hear different things in a song and pull different emotions just where I am in my life. You could give me and other bartenders the same three ingredients and we would all make something different because of who we are and our experiences.”
North of the river, Justus Drugstore’s Zac Snyder is trying to figure out how his own experiences will influence the cocktail he’s mixing in a few weeks.
“I was thinking if I was on the other side of the fence, how cool it would be if someone was inspired by a piece of art that I made to make another piece of art in a completely different medium,” Snyder says.
Snyder, who majored in bass performance at Washburn University, played in ska bands and jazz combos across Western Kansas. He even toured with the house band on a cruise ship for a while after graduation.
“People listen to happier music in summer, I’m listening to a lot of bluegrass right now,” Snyder says. “Cocktails, as well as music, are so heavily influenced by our surroundings.”
Snyder has been paired with the Kansas City Bear Fighters — a band with lighthearted lyrics and one of the only local acts regularly featuring a ukelele. As he prepares to work his way through their music, Snyder wants to think about the emotional weight of each track.
“If it’s something dark and morose, I might make a cocktail that’s smooth and heavy and sexy and mysterious,” Snyder says. “If it’s a fun and happy song, the cocktail might be lighter and brighter or have some goofy element.”
But whether he’s playing bass or holding a shaker, Snyder believes the audience deserves a good show.
“People can drink at home. They come out to a bar because they want a new experience. It’s not enough to make good cocktails, just like it’s not just your job to play good songs,” Snyder says. “They paid money to come see you. You make them dance and have a good time. Whether you’re on stage or behind the bar, that’s the contract.”
Mixtapes & Mixology tickets ($25) are on sale now. The tickets include light appetizers, a taste of all 12 cocktails and a live performance by Loaded Goat on the stage of the Kill Devil Club.[Photo illustrations by Brandon Cummins]