The most memorable music remixes are surprising, enthralling and entirely original. For proof, skip the club and look no further than Remix Audio Bar, a small space that’s putting a huge twist on the concept of a traditional coffee shop.
Just up the stairs from La Lecheria’s Marcy Street location in the space that previously housed the ice cream shop’s overflow seating area, Remix is an exercise in community-building: a chic, modern "third space" open late, designed to give creative folks a place to learn, invent and even collaborate.
It’s also a reflection of its creators, DJ Justin Ray, 40, and event producer and music promoter Julie Grace, 38, better known on the local music scene as 13Pieces and Joolz, respectively. Long patrons of the local coffee shop scene, they decided to open their own spot that would fuse their love of music with a creative atmosphere and an assortment of high-quality drinks, both with and without caffeine. Here, you can sample from a wide-ranging drinks menu while listening to your pick of three streams of music being created by a live DJ, vintage turntable or modern Spotify playlist — all through wireless headphones — or simply going headphone free and taking in a calmer coffee shop vibe.
And true to its concept, customers are encouraged to skip their usual latte or cappuccino and experiment — or remix — to discover something new.
Take the coffee menu. You’ll find a few classics listed there, but Ray says it really comes down to this: Start with espresso or drip, made from Los Angeles-based Cafecito Organico beans (Remix is the first spot in New Mexico to offer it), and let your creativity soar.
“I view it as not limited as to the drinks that have been made, but to create something that you would like to drink using the knowledge you already have,” said Ray. “There’s two methods, but thousands of ways to prepare those methods, and we’ve named a few methods so it’s easy for people to understand — the cappuccino, the latte, the breve — so they’ll have a landing point. But the idea is to experiment and to really understand the coffee.”
When they first opened in December, Ray and Grace offered coffee drinks made with beans from a lineup of several local roasters, encouraging customers to try their hometown favorites side by side. But that process taught them, too, and they eventually settled on Cafecito Organico, which offers a flavor profile that’s “strong enough to stand milk and gentle enough to please a drinker who’s not trying to get overpowered by strong coffee,” Ray said. “It rides that middle line; it’s a proper mix.”
Added Grace, who grew up in a family of Folgers drinkers and tends toward noncoffee beverages herself: “Cafecito was the first coffee I felt I could drink that was super palatable without milk or cream. This is the first coffee as a noncoffee drinker that I could enjoy.”
Noncoffee drinkers, though, will find plenty to like at Remix. There’s GT’s kombucha on tap, and teas come straight from The Teahouse, including ceremonial-grade matcha and house-blended chai. (Tip: Ask for one of Ray’s favorites, the off-menu pistachio matcha frappe.)
Tea lattes ($4.50) include the Miami Bass, a sweet and frothy blend of mango herbal tea, steamed milk and a shot of vanilla; and the Pretty in Pink, which brings together toasted almond cinnamon apple tea, steamed milk and honey.
Then there’s the lineup of drinks made using blends from Santa Fe’s Mushroom Mama ($5.50 for these caffeine-free beverages, but you can add a shot of espresso for $1.50 more). A Taste of Chocolate, served in tall, modern glassware, elegantly combines the “Chocolate Chaga” blend of raw cacao, chaga, cordyceps, maitake, red reishi and shitake mushrooms with Califia toasted coconut almond milk, B’s raw New Mexico honey and Caveman Coffee Co. MCT coconut oil. The result is hot cocoa-lite — a warm, soothing mix that doesn’t weigh you down with sugar and dairy or blast you with a caffeine jolt.
“It’s basically the healthiest hot chocolate you’ll ever have,” Grace said. “You can barely taste the mushrooms in it, but they’re all anti-inflammatory, medicinal; a lot of herbalists use those for the immune system and inflammation.”
Remix also offers customizable craft sodas and craft waters. The latter’s like inventing your own LaCroix by choosing from some 30 flavor essences that can be mixed into the sparkling water — think jalapeño-mango or peach-hazelnut. The owners invited 10 customers in for a recent mixing party to experiment with creating their own flavors.
“It was a cool thing to watch what happened, which is when people start creating their own craft drinks, a whole new type of community starts unfolding,” Ray said.
The newest invention: small-batch, individually created and customized cold brew coffee. The 12-ounce servings ($8.50) are made to order in advance (the process takes about 18 hours). Paper tags with details like the customer’s name, the brewer and the ingredients are tied around small mason jars, and the coffee is stored until you swing by to pick it up. On a recent morning, one jar was infused with peach concentrate to bring out the brew’s notes of stone fruit and honey.
“There’s an orientation of educating people here about coffee,” head barista Gong Szeto said. “We did a whole roundup and taste test to see how our product stands up against a mass-market approach, and it’s unbelievably different. When people figure out that the little details really do matter, they totally get it.”
While Remix is a coffee shop with a focus on high-quality beans and an emphasis on creative noncoffee drinks, Grace and Ray said that’s just a part of their mission.
“We didn’t originally get into this to be a coffee shop,” Grace said. “We wanted this to be a community-building place that has the best coffee in town. Community was first, and creating a networking hub for artists, and a space where people can do art and meet other people who want to build community through their art, where people are brought together by the love for the drinks that we serve.”
That sense of community-building ties into the music as well. Customers can pull on a pair of Silent Sound System headphones and listen to, say, the DJ spinning tunes in one corner of the room, or change frequencies to hear what another guest is playing on Ray’s vintage turntable in another corner. Change frequencies a third time, and they might hear a Spotify playlist curated by a fellow customer on one of the iPads set up along a high bar against the wall. DJs can also plug and play with vinyl or USB and use the setup to livestream, Grace said.
“Or if you’re a person who doesn’t care and just wants a cup of coffee, you can be in this ultra-deluxe place with DJs and everything going on, and still just have a cup of coffee and not be bothered,” Ray said.
Ray and Grace said Remix is an expression of their personalities, experiences and vision for both community-building and possibilities for the future of Santa Fe.
“This is showing people a way to do it,” Ray said. “This is one way, with coffee and music, but if you have another avenue and you have that same desire, use this as a way to teach yourself how to do it, because Santa Fe needs more things like this to keep people in town, to make life a little more enjoyable here. This is a pattern to use.”
The married couple has long had an affection for this spot on Marcy Street — Ray ran the Sage coffee bar downstairs for a few years and Grace worked nearby — so opening Remix here has special meaning for them. In addition to coffee and music lovers, day workers and night owls (they’re open until 11:30 p.m., a rarity for any downtown spot), the shop also draws a fair share of tourists. Their most frequent question, Ray said: Why isn’t there something like this in every major city?
“That’s the coolest thing for me, that this is a very cool thing and the tourists recognize that,” Ray said. “They came here to see New Mexico, but what they got was … Rome times 20 — because it’s a classic city that’s going way beyond normal things to do in town. Think of something you haven’t thought of before at Remix — that’s what it’s here for.”