“Oh yeah, I always had a restorative hour after working a shift,” says Erick Castro. “An hour before closing, you are still going full speed behind a bar. It’s not like you can flip a switch after that and go right to sleep. Everyone needs a period to de-escalate, and I did that with music or a book.”
Castro is a force of nature. To know him is to love him, from his exuberant personality to his signature mustache. He was sporting one long before it was cool again.
A 20-year veteran of the industry, Castro’s had a substantial impact on the beverage world as well. From traveling as a brand ambassador to opening spots from San Francisco to NYC, he’s now calling sunny San Diego home. These days, he can most often be found in his studio, hosting his award-winning podcast series.
Castro’s playlist for 6ourbon 7ime is thoughtful, and at times, delightfully unexpected––much like the man himself.
“I wanted a very chill vibe,” he says, of the mix. “I wanted to be constrained not by a genre but only by a mood. And, that mood is the one I would find myself in after a particularly harrowing night behind the bar. You get home and you want to relax. One of my favorite tracks on the playlist is Flying by the Beatles. I like this song because it’s an instrumental jam. Even the most hardcore Beatles fans sometimes haven’t heard this one.”
For Castro, a great unwind playlist skews a little Indie. He put some Primitive Radio Gods on there, as well as Dusty Springfield. He’s got a particular fondness for covers performed by unexpected artists.
“I put on Lay Lady Lay by the Isley Brothers, for example,” he says. “It’s a song you immediately associate with Bob Dylan, but in the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, artists really covered each other all the time. This is a great example. Then, I take it back to the ‘90s with a song called Feenin’ by Jodeci.”
Like a lot of people, Castro cannot name a favorite song. That could shift from day-to-day, but music is always a connection to something deeper and to his own dreams on the horizon. He finds himself making playlists, often for bars he hasn’t opened yet.
“I will sit around,” he says, “and come up with a playlist that would work in a specific bar. Let’s say I’m thinking of a 1960s, Steampunk Goth bar? Well … I’ve got a 10-hour playlist ready for that. I guess you could say, I really miss the Mixed Tape era,” he adds, laughing. “In a way, though, moving to a playlist is liberating. You’re not confined to a time limit. However, if I make someone a playlist, I insist it can never be put on shuffle. The songs are in an order for a reason.”
And the one thing you might be very surprised to find on his?
“Billie Eilish,” he says, warmly. “I think she and her brother make incredible music. Ocean Eyes is the song I put on this playlist. I was in the U.K. before the pandemic, and I listened to it for a week on that trip. It’s crazy good.”
Title Photo by Eliott Montero
Cocktail Photo by Arlene Ibarra