Interview: Blaine Cook (The Accüsed AD/Toe Tag) Serves Up a New Cocktail Book

Last time Decibel heard from Seattle splatterrock legend, Blaine “Lord Zippy” Cook, former vocalist of some of the city’s most influential punk and metal bands—from the Fartz to the Accüsed—he was manning the grill at his newly opened burger joint, Zippy’s Giant Burgers and fronting his post-Accüsed band, Toe Tag. A decade (and one ongoing pandemic) later, we find the nonstop bundle of furious energy embarking on a whole new endeavor from his West Seattle home (while still keeping the splatterrock flowing with both the Accüsed AD and Toe Tag).

For the past 18 months, Cook has been making videos behind his kitsch-laden “Wicker Bar” demonstrating his mixology skills and occasionally doing cooking videos from his kitchen. What started as a pandemic project, ultimately resulted in a 100+ episodes of cocktail-making insanity and a brand new self-published cocktail recipe book/graphic novel, Cocktails and Mixed Drinks From the Wicker Bar. Each of the 25 recipes in the book is accompanied by an original illustration solicited from the Accüsed AD fans and friends. It’s safe to say, there’s no other cocktail book out there like this one, and it can be had for a mere $15 postpaid in the U.S. through Cook’s website here.

Decibel checked back in with Cook via email to get all the details about the book and his latest musical endeavors (including an upcoming reissue of two early Toe Tag EP’s via First Blood Family Records).

You’ve been part of the Seattle music scene for 40 years, you have your own Seattle burger joint (Zippy’s Giant Burgers), but when did you become a cocktail aficionado, and what got you into them?
I definitely won’t go so far as to label myself an aficionado. We like to drink a tasty cocktail and glass of wine at home on occasion. I started looking into what are known as Prohibition-era cocktails, drinks that were around in the 1930s. I was doing some digging around on the Internet and I found some recipes that were interesting. It dawned on me that we had pretty good stash of vintage cocktail books hidden away on our bookshelf—Waldorf Astoria book from 1934, Harry Craddock’s Savoy Cocktail book from 1930, just to name a few. I learned that these were kind of some of the standard books of the day. I also learned that some of the books I had snagged at thrift stores and garage sales were quite valuable. I started building my bar up with ingredients of the time: Calvados (apple brandy), Chartreuse (herbal liqueur), Benedictine (herbal liqueur), Apricot brandy, and so on. We just started going through the books and trying out different recipes. Much to our surprise, most of the drinks were not only pretty stiff, but pretty tasty, as well

What inspired you to start doing the Youtube videos? Was that a pandemic project?
The lockdown was a good reason to branch off and do something different. In the mid ’90s my wife and I did a public access TV show called The Wizard’s Wacky World, where I showed off some of my toy collection and some old stuff. Public access was the forerunner to Youtube.

[During the pandemic], we started off doing Facebook live videos—both cocktails and cooking. My wife works from home, and I do all the shopping and cooking for the two of us. I’m not a chefy guy or a foodie, but we do like to eat good food, and I can improvise or follow a recipe. The Facebook live videos started to be kind of a hassle, and they also started to kind of crack down on content. Once I learned the basics, Youtube is pretty easy to navigate. In the beginning we just filmed in the kitchen, but then with the assistance of a little cannabis sativa, I built a “set” down in our basement.

Are the cocktails in the videos your own creations, and how many original recipes do you have?
I have a couple dozen that are my own creations. In Cocktails and Mixed Drinks From the Wicker Bar there’s only two drinks in there that are my creations: the Red Skull and the Bloody Rita. We really like to do the old standards. Part of our cocktail journey is that we usually only make the same cocktail once or twice, with the exception of like a Margarita or Bloody Mary.

What are some of your favorite ingredients to use in cocktails?
Apricot brandy, Crème de Meure (blackberry liqueur), French and Italian Vermouth, gin and a variety of rums.

What’s your favorite “classic” cocktail?
There’s so many to choose from: the Blinker (rye whiskey, grapefruit juice and grenadine), the Millionaire (rum, apricot brandy, sloe gin and grenadine), and a properly done Gin and Tonic with muddled lime.

Tell me about your new cocktail book and how that came about.
People kept commenting that I should put out a book. Having been involved in so much DIY action over the years—in music and opening a restaurant—putting out a book wasn’t that big of deal. In the latter part of 2019, we released an LP under the Accüsed AD banner, The Ghoul in the Mirror, on Blackhouse Records. With the release we also put together what was basically a graphic novel of fan art. Some of the art was based on the lyrical content of the songs, while some was kind of horror themed. I did the same with the cocktail book. I tried to pick out mostly classic drinks that fit into that horror theme, like the Shrunken Head, Frankenjack, Voodoo, Zombie, Corpse Reviver, and so on. I just went about contacting some of the same artists who worked on the Ghoul in the Mirror book. I managed to get 25 artists from all over to contribute. I kind of liken the project to putting out a compilation record, or making a good old mix tape—so many different styles.

For Accused fans who may not live in Seattle, can you give a brief explanation of how your bands Toe Tag and Accüsed AD are different, since they share several members?
Toe Tag is the band that we’ve been doing since we split with the Accüsed some 15 years ago or so. The original Toe Tag line up being myself on vocals, Alex “Maggot Brain” Sibbald on guitar, Steve Nelson on drums and our friend Steve McVeigh on the bass. We’d been writing and playing this material out live for many years, when fans started asking us to play some of the Accüsed standards. At first, we played those songs out live under the Martha’s Revenge banner. In early 2017 we were approaching the 30th anniversary of the release of the More Fun Than an Open Casket Funeral! LP [inducted into the Decibel Hall of Fame here]. We thought it would be fun to play that record all the way through. We did a little touring, and we would play a short Toe Tag set then move onto the Accüsed material We carried that on by putting [Ghoul in the Mirror] out under the Accüsed AD banner. To further complicate things, we recruited the late Steve “Thee Slayer Hippie” Hanford to join us in playing the Accüsed songs and Chris Gohde [ex-My Sister’s Machine] to play the Toe Tag songs. Chris had played with Alex and [ex-Accüsed guitarist] Tom Niemeyer in Hellcat in the early ’90s. Boiling it down to its bare essence, both bands are the same guys, but the songs are just played in a different tunings.

Are there people who are fans of your cocktail videos who are clueless about your musical past?
I wish I could get that deep into the social media algorithm to break into 10,000 + views and a million subscribers. For the most part, anyone watching the videos is a fan of the music.