“Nothing like escaping this world into another,” says Joe Witkowski, who began in hospitality as a door guy in Wisconsin; now a known name for craft cocktails down south, in New Orleans, Louisiana. He loves the mental cool down with a good sci-fi novel after a grueling shift.
Those shifts are slowly coming back, and Witkowski isn’t complaining.
“I am back at work full time,” he says, “and it does help get me the socialization that I need as an extrovert. I love being able to put a smile on people’s faces. Creatively, I have been writing haiku poetry for about ten years as all my Facebook status updates. It forces me to be very succinct in my communication, and I love that.”
Early on during the pandemic, Witkowski began putting on wigs and hosting cooking shows from his home kitchen, posting them to Facebook.
“It was fun to just have a character and do something I love to share with friends,” he laughs. “Now I use that energy at work and get to really enjoy that ‘on stage’ moment.”
For 6ourbon 7ime, he created a playlist that has two functions. The first, is to make you want to dance. The second?
“It slides to a more introspective part of me that I always carry, but don’t often show to the entire world,” he admits. “I wanted to be vulnerable and show that I am not always the face you see smiling behind the bar. I have doubts and insecurities that whisper in the background after too long a day. I wanted to celebrate that. That you can be both, and it is fantastic to be able to be true to yourself in both parts.”
With that warm and heartfelt sentiment, he starts with a very vibe-y, alternative pop song called Everything Black by DJs Unlike Pluto and Mike Taylor, and it’s actually Witkowski’s favorite track of the entire playlist.
“It speaks to my aesthetic and my belief in myself as a Black Queer bartender,” he says. “It is really important to me to be able to be myself and be proud of that while I’m working.
His love of up-tempo carries us next into Dancing On My Own, with Buzz Junkie accompanying Robyn on this remix, and it’s fantastic. Now would be a good time to go make yourself a Spill the Tea.
The drink marries Legent bourbon, lemon, honey syrup, and peach green tea. It’s topped with ginger beer.
“A bit sweet, a bit of a bite, and a nice clean mouthfeel,” he says. “Something you can drink while you really enjoy an afternoon with your circle.”
If your circle includes some friends born in the 1980s, Track 7 by the Chromatics is really going to hit home, with an edgy, dreamy cover of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.
Fun Trivia Moment: That song was made famous by Cyndi Lauper in the 1980s, but it was originally written and recorded by Robert Hazard & The Heroes. Robert Hazard is the man who discovered The Sex Pistols and The Clash.
Witkowski’s desire to dig a bit deeper into an emotional side with this playlist shines in Track 11, with Billie Eilish’s When the Party’s Over, followed by the lyrics in Running Up That Hill by Kate Bush.
We’ve all felt like we were running up a hill for the last year while standing perfectly still and alone. Music is an incredible way to connect with all of the emotions tangled into that surreal existence. And this deeply thoughtful collection might be the perfect soundtrack for these new moments, as we break free again and return to some semblance of normalcy.
Title and cocktail photo by Josh Vine