Dive Bar Jukebox with Derek Stilmann
"I feel like a winner when I make a mix tape."
Welcome to Dive Bar Jukebox, where bartenders, writers, chefs, musicians, and a cast of cool characters answer the question: If we were hanging out together at a bar and I put ten credits on the jukebox, what songs would you punch in and why? The answers reveal thoughts on their favorite dive bars along with a hand-picked, annotated playlist for your weekend listening pleasure.
Please welcome today’s special guest…
Born and raised in Miami, Florida, former Eagle Scout Derek Stilmann has spent more than 14 years within the hospitality business, working at bars like Broken Shaker, Pawn Broker, The Sylvester, and The Champagne Bar. And in December 2022 he opened his own place, Bar Kaiju.
Located on the mezzanine level of the Citadel, a food hall in Miami’s Little River neighborhood, it’s a compact bar with monster-sized ambition. As the name reveals, Bar Kaiju, is a pop-culture-soaked tribute to mythical beasts all over the world. “We often create these monsters to symbolize indescribable moments, lessons, cultures, terrors, and dreams,” says Stilmann. “Our menu is meant to connect you with old tales and new ones, allowing you to travel the world through these monsters and their tales.”
The bar is bathed in a red glow (when Kaiju team collaborated on a pop-up at Grand Army in Brooklyn, they even replaced the bar’s lights with red bulbs) and the creative, monster-inspired drinks are featured in a vibrant, illustrated menu that’s a mash-up of zine culture and anime. Each drink is inspired by, and named after, a monster. You may encounter spirited beasts like the Tuk’Akame (a spicy, umami-rich Michelada named after the human-sized “moon spider”), the Chupacabra (their take on a Cuba Libre brought to life by a creature that “sucks blood from livestock"), and Sinsimito (a Mexican-inspired highball in tribute to the 5-foot “gorilla with human features with no joints”).
The Sinsinito AKA The Savage displays Stilmann’s passion for fermentation and is made with Patron Silver tequila, a housemade tepache made from pineapple peels and brown sugar, an amaro blend, and a spiced corn foam.
Despite Stilmann admitting that he’s not much of a dive-bar guy and doesn’t have the time to go deep on curating playlists, I had a blast meeting him and the Bar Kaiju team when they popped up in Brooklyn and I wanted to continue the conversation. At least until I can visit his bar in person.
Talking Dives with Derek Stilmann
What is your favorite dive bar and why do you love it?