When you think of the perfect cocktail experience, you might think it has everything to do with the balance of flavours, great spirits and innovative ingredients, but Sean Hoard, bartender at Portland’s Teardrop Lounge and co-owner of cocktail ingredient company The Commissary, says great music can also be a deciding factor in a customer’s experience at a bar. And when it comes to what album Hoard keeps on heavy rotation, it’s one that brings him back to the early days of his bartending career.
If you’re making the perfect playlist for a cocktail party at home, who do you include on that list?
Sean Hoard: It depends on who’s at the party, and what time of night it is, whether it’s early or late. Right now I have been listening to a lot of rap because there are a couple of amazing records that came out this year, like the new Vince Staples record is really good. We’ve been listening to this guy, Kamasi Washington; he’s like the band leader for Kendrick Lamar’s studio band and he put out this super long jazz record, and we’ve been listening to that. It’s called The Epic; it’s really pretty. I’ll be honest with you, the older I get, the more fun it is to play a record; the physical interaction of turning a record over, or having a friend pick the next one. It’s so much more participatory than either having an algorithm pick the music you’re listening to, or a playlist created for a moment separate from the one you’re in. Not to sound too cheesy. If you put a record on and it makes you think of something, that’s such an organic experience. It’s so much more fun because it becomes part of what you’re doing at the party, and not just what’s happening around you.
Is there one album that, no matter how much time passes, stands out as being a classic for you?
The Hold Steady’s Boys and Girls in America, and really any of their stuff. But that’s what I was listening to when I started bartending, and was staying out until 6 am and was very young, and drank way too much and ate way too much pizza. It was really fun. It’s a line from a Kerouac book, too, and I was at that age where I was reading Kerouac. I remember a buddy of mine flew out to New York and we took a month and a half and drove across the country.
Sean Hoard will be teaching Farm to Cocktail Shaker: Creating your own Cocktail Ingredients with The Commissary at Feast Portland on Saturday, September 19.