Dive Bar Jukebox with DJ Mojo
"You don't need no ticket, we just get on board."
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.
This is a super-sized dispatch, and will likely be truncated in your Inbox, so be sure to click the “View Entire Message” link to expand.
Today’s Dive Bar Jukebox is free to all readers thanks to the generous support of Faccia Brutto Spirits.
Before launching Faccia Brutto Spirits in March 2020, founder and distiller Patrick Miller spent 14 years working at restaurants around the world, wrapping up his culinary career as chef at Brooklyn’s Rucola. The influence of growing up in an Italian family can be felt in the Italian-inspired amari and liqueurs he produces in his Crown Heights distillery—from Aperitivo and Fernet Pinata to the Sicilian-inspired Amaro Gorini and Carciofo.
Their latest release, Faccia Brutto Centerbe Giallo Riserva, is a limited-edition version of their popular Centerbe that has been aged in used American oak wine barrels for one year (using a single-stage Solera system to maintain consistency year to year). It’s made with the same 20 botanicals and herbs as Centerbe, including coriander, lemon balm, anise hyssop, nettles, tarragon, parsley, and bay leaves. After the extended time in the barrels, the golden-hued herbal liqueur rests in stainless-steel tanks for an additional six months, after which saffron and lemon leaf are added.
On its own you’ll experience the aroma of mellow oak, flowers, and citrus. On the palate it delivers sharp, slightly honeyed herbaceous notes rounded out with vanilla and spice. Faccia Brutto Centerbe Giallo Riserva is perfect in a highball with soda garnished with a thick lemon peel or try it in a Martini or Gimlet. It also has a fondness for agave spirits (try it in Grand Army’s Lady Bug Juice—recipe below)
Limited to just 66 cases, you’ll want to pick up a bottle of Faccia Brutto Centerbe Giallo Riserva while you can—for yourself or to share with your favorite bittersweet friend or loved one—at select retailers like Astor Wines & Spirits and Leon and Son Wines & Spirits, or try it at bars and restaurants such as Grand Army, The Richardson, Altro Paradiso, Lodi, and Estela.
Now, please join me in welcoming today’s special guest…
The 6’4”, 74-year-old, wisdom-spouting music aficionado, Vietnam War veteran, and NYC nightlife legend known as DJ Mojo has regular gigs at bars around Brooklyn, but my favorite place to catch him is on Saturday nights at the San Pedro Inn at Red Hook.
“San Pedro is my home away from home. I really love this place, and the people that I work with. With the proliferation of different and new places in Brooklyn in general—and in Red Hook in particular—we need more places like San Pedro. That kind of all encompassing, all welcoming, let’s give it a try nature is something most places don’t have.
Everybody is looking to carve out their own niche and sit there, but to me that’s like a grown chicken trying to get back in the egg. And on the other hand, when the chicken comes out of the egg, it doesn’t spit on the broken pieces of eggshell. It says, thank you for protecting me while I developed. And San Pedro is like an incubator, not for just music and good food or for the dive bar ethos. It’s an incubator of the commonality of humanity. I know that sounds really wild and almost pretentious, but I really mean it. This is a place we come to to learn about each other. That’s why a place like this exists.”
Born and raised in Brooklyn, DJ Mojo grew up in Crown Heights and later in Brooklyn Heights, where he currently lives. After serving four combat tours in Vietnam with the First Marine Division, First Recon Battalion from 1967-1971 (“I spent 54 months of duty with 48 of those in combat. I survived, but I wouldn’t wish my luck on the Riddler.”), he spent time cooking in kitchens in California, Texas, and Illinois, where he worked at Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago.
“One thing my mother and father’s rigorous work ethic taught me was if you’re going to dispense at least 40 hours a week of your life you on something, it might as well be doing something you like,” says Mojo. “At the very least it’s stupid to spend that much time doing something you hate.”
Jesse Rifkin’s new book, This Must Be the Place, chronicles New York City’s live-music and club scene from the ‘60s folk movement to the rise of Brooklyn indie bands in the early 2000s, and features DJ Mojo, who was a fixture of the late ‘70s and ‘80s New York City club scene, starting out as a doorman before becoming a DJ, working at Hurrah, Berlin, Pyramid, Danceteria, Area, and Mud Club.
“I came up in night life around ‘76 / ‘77, and in those days people trusted the DJ. Nobody went up and said ‘play this, play that,’” says Mojo. “If I know you and I know you’re not gonna ask something stupid, I don’t mind. And if I know you and you’re gonna tip me well, I don’t mind. I have a motto: If you want some action, show me a Jackson. If you can get away with giving me five then you know it means I like you.”
Now that I know I have to up my DJ tip game at San Pedro I’m excited to share this special, super-sized edition of Dive Bar Jukebox with DJ Mojo, featuring an extended interview—including stories about sitting for two Jean-Michel Basquiat paintings, and a certain Beastie Boys song he’d rather forget—and a stream-of-consciousness playlist featuring Aretha Franklin, Gil-Scott Heron, David Bowie, and more. I hope you dig it.
This weekend you can catch DJ Mojo in Bushwick: tonight (Friday, September 29) at The Rookery (425 Troutman Street on Saturday, September 30 at Rubulad (389 Melrose Street, Brooklyn, NY 11237). He’ll be back in the Saturday night groove at San Pedro next Saturday.
As DJ Mojo would say, Peace and Love…
Talking with DJ Mojo
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