The Five Questions: Thomas Merolla, Mixologist Supreme for Botran Rum
July 16, 2011
Kelly Vavra at the agency Treskoi PR helped me become familiar with the hand-crafted elegance that says Botran Rum. I work with many PR agencies, but only a few people I work with have her follow-up skills, this caught my attention.
Kelly, thank you.
The kind folks at Botran Rum send me a couple of mini-bottles of their rums the other day for my mixing delight. Ever since I participated with Ed Hamilton in the 2010 Ministry of Rum competition, I’ve been hooked on rum as my primary cocktail go/to both in winter and in the heat of the summer. It’s funny, because every time I smell rum, I can picture the first taste I ever had of it about thirty or so years ago. I was down in the British Virgin Islands on my family’s former yacht. We had moored rather precariously offJost Van Dyke– specifically a beach side sliver of a pub named Daphne’s Soggy Dollar Bar. Why was it named the Soggy Dollar Bar? Well, first of all, there is no dock, so you either take your rowboat to the shore or a motor launch if your yacht is large enough. If you try to get on-shore without getting your butt wet, *and your dollars soggy* you’re going to fail nine times out of ten! The tide rolls in from left to right so boats lost their anchors in the poor holding ground (mostly sand, very little rock) creating all sorts of problems, especially if your boat is above fifty feet and moving towards another multi-million dollar yacht, quite out of control. The final reason is that no matter what you do to stay dry, your money is going to get soggy!
Therefore we discovered why the Soggy Dollar Bar is named as such.
Each time I smell rum, especially the drink known as a Ti Punch, which coincidentally was the first rum drink I ever enjoyed back in the 1970’s- then the drink named a Painkiller, then of course the oft- mangled Bushwacker (but, that’s another story) and of course the infamous Island Style drinks that my step-brother introduced me to, (3/4 liquor to 1 ice cube/ then a splash of oj) I am transported to the islands and memorable times.
The gentle washing sound of soft waves against pristine sand taking the edge off for another lousy day in paradise. Calming to say the least.
Thomas Merolla has attained a studied career in mixology. He is the man behind the cocktails at Botran. This certainly could be a cat-bird seat for the normal person, Thomas seems to get the concept of the bartender possessing skill, speed and savvy. I was always taught from years of being a cook, our business is called the Hospitality Business for a reason.
Thomas gets it.
WRR: 1. Who taught you about cocktails? When did you make your first mixed drink and what was in it?
I have had many mentors during 16 year career… It all began at The Delano Hotel, Miami Beach in 1995 with my main teacher, Andy Antonopoulous, who taught me how to pour and properly handle a bar at maximum efficiency.
With regard to cocktails, I have been fortunate enough to have worked with some of those most innovative people in the industry – they’ve each made a profound impact on me and the different style cocktails I make. A combination of learning and listening, and being a big foodie with a good palate and knack at flavor pairings, have helped me hone my skills along the way.
The first drink I made was in The Rose Bar at The Delano Hotel — it was a Cosmopolitan, which was so popular back then… Our house recipe at the time was citrus vodka gently blended with Cointreau and a hint of lime juice, finished off with a dash of cranberry juice. We served it in a Martini glass with a lemon twist.
WRR: 2. Do you cook? What is your favorite after work meal?
Yes, I have been cooking since I was a teenager in Long Island, NY. My favorite meal after work is usually something healthy, light and quick to make, such as seasoned fish grilled with a savory salad on the side.
WRR: 3. If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would that be? What would you be doing, eating, drinking?
I would be relaxing and taking in the scenery in a beautiful vineyard in Tuscany, Italy, sipping some Divine Chianti and snacking on cheese, Italian cured meat, and fresh bread toasted with ripe vined tomatoes, drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil with some fresh picked basil.
WRR: 4. Do you own a smart phone? Do you use Social Media? Would you kindly share your Twitter or Facebook with my readers?
Yes I am a I phone person, and can’t imagine operating without it. I also use Facebook as a social media tool under my name Thomas Merolla.
Thomas Merolla – http://www.facebook.com/#!/thomas.merolla
WRR: 5. Is there any drink that you prepare that brings a tear to your eye when you taste it and why?
There are many when made and balanced correctly… One that stands out was a cocktail I came up with at a Mexican Restaurant while eating guacamole.
Reposado Tequila blended with ripe pineapple and spiced with jalapeno, fresh picked cilantro, fully matured avocado, fresh pressed lime and balanced with agave. Served in a coup glass and garnished with pink peppercorns and cilantro.
The tear is conjured out of affection, but also because of the spicy kick!
Thank you Thomas for sharing your passion for good story-telling with Wild River Review’s Wild Table. I’ll be in New Orleans all week at the Tales of the Cocktail: July 20-25th.
Warren Bobrow is a mixologist, chef, and writer known as the Cocktail Whisperer. In 2010, Bobrow founded “Wild Table” for Wild River Review and serves as the master mixologist for several brands of liquor, including the Busted Barrel rum produced by New Jersey’s first licensed distillery since Prohibition.
Bobrow has published three books on mixology and written articles for Saveur magazine, Voda magazine, Whole Foods-Dark Rye, Distiller, Beverage Media, DrinkupNY and other periodicals. He writes the “On Whiskey” column for Okra Magazine at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum and has written restaurant reviews for New Jersey Monthly.
His first book Apothecary Cocktails, was published in September 2013; and immediately went into a second printing. In 2014, he published Whiskey Cocktails. He was born and raised in Morristown, NJ, on a Biodynamic farm.
Warren Bobrow in this Edition
COCKTAIL WHISPERER, Editor
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The Cocktail Whisperer asks Anthony Bourdain Four Questions about Scotch
The Five Questions: Andrew Bell, American Sommelier
The Five Questions Catherine Reynolds
The Five Questions: Lincoln Henderson (Master Distiller)
The Five Questions: Natalie West (Foppiano Wines)
The Five Questions: Randall Grahm
The Five Questions: Sustainable Sushi
A Glass of Bourbon, Branch, and History
Midnight in the Bronx: Visit to Hunt’s Point Wholesale Fish Exchange
A Modern Day Absinthe Alchemist
A Summer Cocktail Party for Artie Shaw
Tales of the Cocktail: New Orleans, Louisiana