Elissa’s Mixtape: David Bowie is…

David Bowie is… the inspiration for this month’s cocktail recipe and playlist. But as I started to outline my thoughts for this post, I quickly realized that describing David Bowie — a legend that I admire above all others — isn’t as effortless as I thought it would be. Still today, he remains many things to many people and was himself many things and many people. Mastercrafter of sound and vision… certainly. Rebel role model for artists, musicians and weirdos everywhere… you betcha. A hyper-color chameleon who not only embraced change throughout his life, but constantly challenged the status quo and inspired others to do the same.

Starman. Showman. Provocateur. He presented on stage as entirely alien, but his fans idolize him — more than anything — for his overwhelming humanity and kindness. Superficially, David Bowie is swagger and glitter and decadence. Spiritually, he’s imagination and celebration and freedom.

This month, I was fortunate to travel back to NYC to experience the David Bowie is… temporary exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. A career-spanning collection, this traveling exhibit holds a treasure-trove of Bowie’s most personal belongings: hand-written lyrics and liner notes, paintings and drawings, costumes and musical instruments.

An immersive audio-visual experience, the tour includes headphones that trigger interviews and music to play as you enter specific sections of the exhibit. The effect on me? Overwhelmingly emotional. The unique curation also offers cultural events and milestones that occurred alongside Bowie’s achievements, offering context for the world that surrounded him to anchor his music and art in both space and time.

David Bowie

David Bowie is… a Space Oddity

For example, when he released Space Oddity in 1969 — his bleak, bizarre and utterly brilliant take on the future of the space race — the number one song of the year was Sugar, Sugar by The Archies. And don’t get me wrong, Sugar, Sugar is a great track… but tonally and musically, these songs are on opposite ends of the spectrum. This small example illustrates how Bowie consistently predicted and evaded popular trends, remained askew from the mainstream and subsequently reshaped the world in his image.

Fun fact! Bowie was known for his very unique eyes, which are often mistaken as two different colors. Not so — the distinctive look was the result a schoolyard skirmish with a friend (over you guessed it, a girl) when he was 15 years old. The punch to his eye scratched his pupil, causing anisocoria — a rare condition in which the muscle of the iris becomes paralyzed, leaving the pupil in a permanently open position. As a result, Bowie’s left eye appeared darker than the left due to the blackness of his dilated pupil.

David Bowie

David Bowie may be gone from this earth, but his spirit lives on in every single person who dares to stay different in an increasingly homogenized world. To that end, a cocktail inspired by Bowie must capture his essence: colorful and beautiful, with just a bit of bite. This recipe from Kitchen Swagger hits the mark:

The Wham Bam Thank You Ma’am
(officially the Blackberry Bourbon Smash)

2 ounces bourbon
1/2 ounce lime juice, or 2 lime wedges, squeezed
6-7 mint leaves, muddled
2-3 blackberries, muddled
3/4 ounce simple syrup (1 tablespoon of sugar will do)
1 ounce club soda
cup of crushed ice

And of course, no honorary cocktail recipe would be complete without an accompanying playlist. Ever the innovator, Bowie actually released a sequel to Space Oddity in 1980 called Ashes to Ashes. They create the perfect bookends for this synth-heavy, dark vibe, new-wave-inspired list. I hope you find it the perfect mix for swaying under the moonlight. The serious moonlight.

David Bowie is… forever now.

Space Oddity – David Bowie
Green Light – Lorde
Home – Brian Eno & David Byrne
The Chauffeur – Duran Duran
Let’s Dance – David Bowie
Wild Wild Life – The Talking Heads
Apocalypse – Cigarettes After Sex
Drive – The Cars
Lemon – U2
Just Like Heaven – The Cure
Absolute Beginners – David Bowie
Bring on the Dancing Horses – Echo and the Bunnymen
Under Your Spell – Desire
Tougher Than the Rest – Bruce Springsteen
Visions of Gideon – Sufjan Stevens
The Loved One – INXS
I Feel You – Depeche Mode
Complicated Game – XTC
Ashes to Ashes – David Bowie

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