Washington, D.C.-based bar owner Derek Brown is a master of atmosphere. Since launching the rotating bar pop-up series PUB a few years ago, he’s dressed up bars with themes honoring everything from cherry blossoms to Super Mario Bros, each complete with custom cocktails and music playlists. But one of PUB’s most playful pop-ups happens every October for Halloween.
Last year, PUB Dread featured a haunted forest, dollhouse and crypt, and for this year’s pop-up (which runs through November 4), Brown teamed up with event and marketing company Brightest Young Things to create a bar component for the True Crime festival Death Becomes Us. “We really loved their passion for the subject,” says Brown. Three historic true crime stories are explored through this year’s design: the Black Dahlia murder, the Salem Witch Trials and the story of serial killer Elizabeth Bathory.
The cocktails play into the theme, with drinks like Maple Mass Hysteria referencing Salem with its combo of bourbon, spiced maple, nocino, acid phosphate and sparkling water, and the Pearfect Crime with cognac, dry curaçao, maraschino liqueur, pear and Angostura bitters.
To create a perfectly grim soundtrack, Brown looked to HBO’s True Detective for inspiration and sprinkled some other favorites into the mix. There’s a little blues, some hip-hop and the occasional hard rock tune, but most of the list centers around blues rock. PJ Harvey or Dax Riggs feature prominently, as does Nick Cave. “I love Nick Cave, so his critically acclaimed Murder Ballads became the centerpiece,” Brown says. “The songs are literal stories of crimes of passion. This is the ailment for cheesy Monster Mash playlists. We go deep.”
Listen to the playlist below and follow us on Spotify as we add more seasonal playlists moving forward. For best results, Brown suggests hitting the shuffle button when listening to the Death Becomes Us playlist.
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