" Para Todo Mal, Mezcal y Para Todo Bien Tambien "

Melbourne Agave Society

“Every bartender always ends up having a speciality. I don’t think you choose it, I believe it chooses you. Tequila chose me and we’ve had a long relationship and still going strong.”

A few years back I ran in to a very strong character. A loud-mouth australian with a laugh to wake half the block he is in. You ought a love this guy for his at times extremely innovative energy and very big heart. It just so happened that on new years eve 2006 we were working together for the first time. Working together with Merlin Jerebine is an experience. He is the only bartender i have ever worked with that does nothing but talk to guests all night, and still ends up with more sale than your good self busting your ass all night, an incredible skill. That night was the start of a good friendship and many hours of working together. Merlin has since moved back to Melbourne, but keeps popping up in Copenhagen every summer for a few Tequilas and some quality time in the beautiful but short Danish summer. Last time he was here we spoke about Melbourne Agave Society, and lately i have seen a lot of action on the internet, so i took the liberty to have a chat with Merlin about MAS.

Merlin: The Melbourne Agave Society is a monthly club that meets on the third Monday of every month, to present a different Mexican spirit. It is about educating people and bartenders in different agave spirits available on the market.

We just had our monthly get together. Herradura was presented this month and it is definitely growing, at the moment I am making sure that there is a different tequila to present every month. I have a few ideas how to shake things up next year but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

The fundamental idea of MAS is to change the general idea that Tequila is a shot to drink when you want to get wankered and to change the old line of “I don’t drink Tequila I had a bad experience on it once”. It is always Tequila that gets blamed, not the dozen beers that were consumed before the shot of Tequila. I want to create new, fun and awesome memories involving Tequila.

Since I arrived in Melbourne every month I was going to The Melbourne Rum Club, it was a great way to meet up with other bartenders around town, and was always a good fun evening. Towards the end of one of them I made a joke about starting a Tequila club, well I talked about it and looked at doing it, but it took another 8 months for me to put my money where my mouth is.

I guess I really got my start in Green and Red, which until very recently was situated in Bethnal Green. One of my favorite bars to work in. I was living in London semi-unemployed at the time, I’d jumped across to Dublin to visit some friends for christmas and while I was there I got a phone call from Myles Davis, the Bar Manager at the time. He was in need of staff for new years eve. So I flew back did a rock star shift that turned into full-time employment for the next year and what was to start my education on Tequila.

Blondie: But you interest in Tequila didn’t start there, as i understand it goes way back and it is actually quite the romantic tale.

M) I actually didn’t start with tequila I started on Mezcal. My dad loves the stuff so as I was growing up there was always a bottle with this worm in it, Monte Alban, hanging around the house. Many great memories of sitting around camp fires as Dad and his mates would drink and play guitars and sing, so starting there I had a very positive attitude towards the Mexican spirits. As I grew older Dad would let me take a sip every now and then and I always had the funniest nights out camping with a few sips of Mezcal in my belly. From there, as I was able to drink in bars, I started by asking for Mezcal but finding out very quickly that it was virtually unavailable but every bar had Tequila. Lip, sip, suck all the way. Every party I went to I’d take a bottle of Tequila or Mezcal when I could get hold of one, and we’d jump fences looking for the lemon tree in someones back yard. So I guess I’ve always been in love with Tequila.

B) From one thing to another, how do you see the tequila industry in Australia developing?

M) In the last year there has been a massive trend towards Tequila. More quality Tequilas are available on the market, and in Melbourne there are Tequila bars and Mexican Cantinas opening up all over the place. I predict that in the next 12 months Mezcal will start to become very trendy and more will become available. The other thing that is happening is customers are becoming more educated about alcohol, so they are willing to pay a little extra to sip on premium spirits.

B) Speaking of premium spirits, what are you sipping at the moment?

M) Anyone who knows me will know that whenever I get the chance I’ll be found with a bottle of Los Abuelos Blanco, but at the moment what I’m really enjoying is Ocho 2010 Los Corrales. I love what Tomas Estes and Felipe Camarena has created. I really love the idea of single state vintage Tequilas, it is absolute genius. Keep up the awesome work guys!

B) Last but not least, considering we are both bartenders, what are you stirring up for your good self?

M) As summer comes flying into Melbourne I’m loving the Tequila highball’s, Diablo and Paloma are definitely up there as two of my favourites. I did a Diablo the other day with Tequila Tromba, a squeeze of lime topped with Fever Tree ginger beer and a Le Jay double cassis float, it was out of control. With the Paloma we don’t get Squirt or Ting over here so this ends up being a slightly sweeter version, so I choose something a little more peppery, at the moment its Ocho Blanco, salt rim on a highball big serving of Ocho 3/4 fill with grapefruit juice (white when it’s available), soda top and a squeeze of lime. These are 2 drinks that will make many an appearance around the table in the backyard as yet another glorious summer comes along.
Saludos!
(click image for moe info about Melbourne Agave Society)

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