One local entrepreneur wants to combine his love of film, music and New York with the opening of his first bar, Moloko, named after the made-up milk-based drink served in the Stanley Kubrick movie “A Clockwork Orange.”
Although Charlie Valentine is paying tribute to the film — which is based off the linguistically marvelous Anthony Burgess novel of the same name — the bar isn’t completely an homage to it. At only 500 sq. ft., it’s more like the old hole-in-the-wall punk rock bars on the Lower East Side in New York where Valentine used to spend much of his time, attracted to the casual ambience and the music playing out of jukeboxes.
“I was always intrigued by the drink in ‘A Clockwork Orange,'” he says. “I felt like the concept of that drink, absolutely fictitious, is that it’s mysterious, it’s cool, full of adventure. And also, that space where the scene takes place in, it’s a beautiful space. Our bar won’t be like it, though. We took inspiration from it, but the feel and design of Moloko is going to be more mid-century, simple and chic.”
He and business partner Miguel Jimenez — owner of Nomad Bar, the Lost Well and St. Roch’s — are hoping to open Moloko by month’s end along an increasingly more lively stretch of East Twelfth Street where bars like the King Bee Lounge already dwell.
Although the corner of East Twelfth and Chicon used to be known for drug deals and other shady occurrences, Moloko will become the fifth bar there, transforming the area into another gentrified, entertainment-focused swath of East Austin. It’s the only part of town where Valentine would look for a space, he says, because the east side reminds him of Brooklyn: “all about counter culture, young entrepreneurs, very trend-setting,” he says. “It’s the perfect neighborhood for my bar.”
Moloko is going to have a namesake milk punch with secret ingredients, Valentine says, as well as craft beer and other cocktails that he and a bartender from Weather Up are currently mocking up. He also wants to offer a good wine selection, which isn’t a common offering at other dive bars.
And unlike many other local watering holes, Moloko won’t have much live music because of the small size of the space. That’s OK to him, though: Valentine says “the focal point for me, at all the bars in New York that I went to, was a jukebox, so there definitely will be one of those. It’s going to have a mix of punk rock, soul, blues, rock ‘n’ roll, classic rock. Maybe even some Mozart and Beethoven,” as another nod to “A Clockwork Orange.”
He’s hoping the bar becomes a place for musicians living or working on the east side to hang out. And with plans to offer a “punk rock drag queen karaoke night,” he wants to attract LGBT folks, too.
“I want a diverse crowd,” he says.
Although Valentine has worked at places where craft cocktails are top of mind and menu, like Peche, Barlata and the now-shuttered Haddingtons, the drinks are less important to him than the atmosphere and overall vibe of Moloko.
“The focus for me is more on the ambience and the people. And the bartenders; we’re there to facilitate all of that,” he says. “But everyone continues to ask me about the drinks. What drinks we’re going to have. I tell them, ‘Sure, we’ll have those, but it’s not about the drinks.’ It’s a trend in Austin to focus on the products of a place, but I think that ignores the reason we’re really there: for the experiences and the people. It’s not about what’s behind the bar but beyond it.”
Moloko will open at 1812 E. Twelfth St. For more information, visit molokobaratx.com/.