“Nightcap Riot: Mombucha”: Culture and Live Cultures Make for One Heck of a Night Out
When “I can’t feel my face,” refers to the walk from the subway instead of Drake’s oeuvre, you know the deep freeze of mid-January has descended. It’s hard to find entertainment that justifies donning a puffy coat and wrapping up like a woolen burrito. But no one can Netflix and chill forever. If you’re like me and you’ve logged at least ten hours of couch time binging “Making a Murderer” this month, it’s time to get out of the house.
Luckily, a group of nightlife veterans are eliminating the guesswork and serving up the perfect night out, right here in Greenpoint. “Nightcap Riot: Mombucha” is one part concert, one part immersive theater, one part kombucha brewing tutorial, with a dash of comedy, and plenty of kombucha-infused cocktails. The resulting two and a half hours go down smoothly. It’s fresh, different and way more interesting than spending winter downing pints at the same old bar.
Nightcap Riot is hosted at Magick City on Box Street, the brewing headquarters for Greenpoint-based kombucha vendor, Mombucha. The space looks a bit like like what would happen if Willy Wonka designed a kombucha factory, with its opaque glass-and-metal storefront, neat triangular doorways, and cocktails appearing ready-mixed from behind a velvet curtain. It’s intimate (Nightcap Riot only sells fifty $50 tickets for each show), and there’s plenty of time to mingle with fellow partygoers between acts. My boyfriend and I happened to chat up Rich Awn, the founder of Mombucha, as he was slinging drinks. He told us that Magick City is a registered nonprofit, which enables him to host events and impart kombucha brewing wisdom to the masses.
And Awn is more than happy to give away his secrets. His brewing tutorial at Nightcap Riot started with shot-sized samples of the fermented tea and ended with each attendee pocketing a packet of live cultures to kickstart their own home-brewed kombucha outfit. In between, Awn showed off the giant SCOBY, or “Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast,” he draws on to ferment each batch and regaled us with tales of the woman who put the “mom” in Mombucha, Awn’s own mother, who began home-brewing at the encouragement of a friend. She relentlessly administered the tea to Awn and his siblings, and as a result, they went decades without getting sick. Such is the purported power of this funky stuff, and you can score yourself a bottle on Awn’s website.
The second act of Nightcap Riot was “Destiny and the Little Man,” a short play adapted from George Bernard Shaw’s “The Man of Destiny.” The story centers on letters stolen from Napoleon Bonaparte during his conquest of Italy in 1796, and it was great. The acting was fresh and spontaneous, and the staging was inventive. After Awn’s kombucha brewing tutorial, we were shepherded around a large wooden table, which the actors used as a stage, climbing atop chairs and climbing over bodies to bring the story to life inches from our faces. Napoleon’s saga was sprinkled with humor, too. The part of Napoleon was decided by guitar battle, and the winner explained he really wanted to play the emperor “because there were pretty girls in the audience.” Fun and surprising, “Destiny and the Little Man” was definitely one of my favorite parts of the night.
But the pièce de résistance was Nightcap Riot’s concert portion, which changes nightly, but which was JC Brooks & The K.i.D. on the night I attended. Brooks is probably best known as the lead singer of JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound (their sweet music video for the song “Rouse Yourself,” starring Aubrey Plaza and Jake Johnson, is worth a watch). Paired with Jeremy Tromburg on keyboard, Brooks applied his signature soulful croon to a setlist of covers and original songs. It had the feel of an intimate cabaret, with Brooks chatting up the audience and sharing stories of his recent split from his ex.
By the time the crowd dwindled and my boyfriend and I ventured to the coat racks, we felt well armed to face the cold. Our bellies were filled with kombucha cocktails and snacks, our pockets filled with mysterious packets of live cultures, and our minds filled with the art we’d enjoyed and people we’d met. When we got home, we even found our email inboxes filled with hand-drawn kombucha brewing instructions, courtesy of Awn’s mom.
Nightcap Riot is unlike any play, concert, or mixology event happening in Brooklyn right now. I haven’t worked up the courage to break out the live cultures yet, and my roommate would probably kick me out before agreeing to home-brew kombucha in our kitchen, but the fact that I spent my Saturday night learning how is pretty neat. With the added bonus of great performances and good company, Nightcap Riot is a holistic night out I’d highly recommend.