As disco drinks are enjoying their time under the mirrorball, Strangers in Paradise’s Damian Williams has chosen 10 disco tracks, paired with Julian de Féral’s pick of 10 cocktails to bring some dancefloor energy to your bar
#1 - Gloria Gaynor - Never Gonna Say Goodbye (1975)
The track: The first big disco hit to cross over into the mainstream. Number 2 in the UK charts, and the first number 1 in the inaugural Billboard Disco/Dance chart in the US. Gloria Gaynor is still THE Queen of Disco.
The drink: Pair with The Universe, the first big hit to win the United States Bartender’s Guild annual cocktail competition featuring the most disco of liqueurs that had crossed over to the States from Japan in 1978. (Midori, vodka, lime, pistachio liqueur shaken with pineapple juice and strained into a Champagne flute.)
#2 - Donna Summer - I Feel Love (Patrick Cowley MegaMix) (1977)
The track: Giorgio Moroder’s 1977 original mix was one of the biggest disco hits of the year, but Patrick Cowley’s 1978 bootleg took it to another level, turning it into a driving, shifting, psychedelic, 15-minute mental breakdown.
The drink: An ice-cold and trippy synth hit should be paired with a similar drink, something you might drink in the … summer (sorry): a Frozen Strawberry Daiquiri; the earliest example of which is found in the 1952 book Electric Blender. (Light rum, lime, and sugar blended with fresh strawberries and poured into a Champagne saucer.)
#3 - Sylvester - You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) (1978)
The track: San Francisco drag queen Sylvester was a bonafide disco god. This was the single that propelled him into superstardom and became one of the biggest Pride anthems around the world. Tragically, both he and producer Patrick Cowley would die from Aids in the next 10 years.
The drink: From an unashamedly joyful song to an unabashedly fun drink with an iconic pairing at its core: the Banana Banshee. (Banana liqueur, crème de cacao and half and half blended with fresh banana and served in a hurricane glass.)
#4 - Bumblebee Unlimited - I Wanna Be Your Lady Bug (1978)
The track: A duet between a lecherous bumblebee and flirtatious lady bug could easily be novelty bargain-bin trash, but a driving 4/4 beat and an iconic piano line make this a dance floor banger that has stood the test of time.
The drink: So much more than just a novelty, the Stinger is a deceptively simple drink that may have not find itself regularly heading up cocktail menus, but after over 50 years it was frequently on the lips (and in the mouths) of revellers in the late 70s. As David Wondrich puts it: ‘a short drink with a long reach, a subtle blending of ardent nectars, a boon to friendship, a dispeller of care.’ (Cognac and crème de menthe typically shaken and strained into a coupe, I enjoy this drink shaken with a clutch of fresh mint and served frappe.)
#5 - Jackie Moore - This Time Baby (1979)
The track: A slow-burning intro gives way to a pounding meaty baseline and Jackie Moore’s sensual vocal. Originally from Miami, Moore recorded this in Philadelphia, with the Steel City's trademark sweeping strings featuring prominently on this record.
The drink: An untypical smooth and subtle drink popular in the disco era to match Moore’s rich and velvety voice: the vintage classic; the Brandy Alexander. (Cognac and crème de cacao shaken with half and half and strained into a coupe, garnish with a grate of nutmeg or dark chocolate.)
#6 - Wings - Goodnight Tonight (1979)
The track: By 1979, disco was the dominant musical sound in the world, and everybody wanted a piece of it. Forays into disco by mainstream rock groups were almost universally cringe-worthy, and met with derision by fans of both. Paul McCartney’s skilful bass-playing and melancholy harmonies with wife Linda mean this is one of the few exceptions.
The drink: An English legend spiked with a touch of liquid disco: the Japanese G&T, a popular bar call in the States when Wings released this track. (Gin, tonic, a splash of Midori served in a highball with cubed ice.)
#7 - Christopher Cross - Ride Like The Wind (Joey Negro Extended Disco Mix) (1979)
The track: Oscar- and Grammy-winning songwriter Christopher Cross is more famous for his smooth yacht rock sound, but this track is more about the dancefloor than the marina. Joey Negro’s 2016 edit extends and toughens up the sound.
The drink: I’d like to imagine Cross whipping up luxurious Pina Coladas on his shiny yacht against the backdrop of a neon sunset… (Light rum, Coco Lopez and pineapple juice blended with half and half and served in a hurricane glass. Why not stick a neon cherry on that thing?)
#8 - Diana Ross - The Boss (1979)
The track: Motown darling Diana Ross was rebranded as a disco diva with the huge hit Love Hangover in 1976. She followed it up with string of disco records, but this is my favourite. Play at work when you need to show who is the boss!
The drink: Ross is boss, and I’d like to think she would drink an assertive drink that has managed to constantly revive itself through the ages… the Long Island Iced Tea; one of the few drinks here actually invented and popularised in the disco era. (Light rum, gin, vodka, tequila, triple sec, sugar syrup, lemon and lime juice shaken and crowned with cola in an ice filled highball, although I would add a well-trained bartender might save themselves some time when it is 10-deep at the discotheque by losing the sugar and lime and still manage to have rustled up a balanced and refreshing drink.)
#9 - Pino D’Angiò - Ma Quale Idea (1981)
The track: We couldn’t talk about either disco or cocktails without mentioning Italians. Italo-disco is a huge genre in its own right, that probably warrants its own top 10, but this early 80s smash is a stand-out gem. The catchy baseline was sampled by Madison Avenue for their 1999 single Don’t Call Me Baby.
The drink: Neither can we talk about Italians without mentioning their natural talent at whipping up some pretty iconic liqueurs, the luridly coloured Galliano topping the charts and turning a simple Screwdriver into something deliciously complex whilst still being somewhat tongue in cheek. Let’s drink some Harvey Wallbangers! (Vodka and orange juice served in an ice filled highball with a generous Galliano float.)
#10 - Rocker’s Revenge - Walking on Sunshine (1983)
The track: By the early 1980s the disco sound had matured into a harder-edged, more electronic sound, showcased in this underground New York hit. Producer Arthur Baker would go on to earn a place in London cocktail history by opening Harlem Soul Food with Jonathan Downey in Notting Hill.
The drink: From the Rolling Stones to the Eagles, many rockers have expounded the delights of Bobby Lozoff’s 1969 classic, the Tequila Sunrise. I would like to imagine Arthur Baker wouldn’t have objected to me knocking a few back when Harlem was still open… (Tequila and orange juice served in an ice filled highball with a drizzle of grenadine for that sunrise effect.)