Midnight Mixologists: Tommy Merolla’s Toplist

Thomas Merolla has been mixing cocktails that transport his patrons beyond an average bar experience, and is currently developing his innovative ideas as the Mixologist and Creative Director at B Bar at the Betsy Hotel in Miami. Check out Tommy Merolla’s favorite spots to grab a cocktail in Miami, after the jump.

B Bar at the BetsyLiving RoomThe Florida RoomSra. MartinezSoleàHakkasanSunset LoungeClarke’sMercaditoCafeina Lounge

See more Midnight Mixologists toplists here.

Midnight Mixologists: John Lermayer’s Toplist

This cocktail connoisseur has spent more time in a bar than your average wino. John Lermayer is now more than a decade deep into an illustrious career that’s seen him presiding over some of the hottest bars in America’s steamiest city, Miami. He currently graces the counter of The Florida Room at the Delano Hotel, tending, mixing, and pouring for an endless stream of VIPs. This dapper, manly mixologist—who Canton names the best bartender of 2010—also has lucrative side gigs, like consulting and designing for bars. Check out John Lermayer’s favorite spots to grab a cocktail in Miami.

The Florida RoomThe Living Room at the WMercadito MidtownSunset LoungeHakkasan Meat MarketSushi Samba DromoSra. Martinez The Forge

See more Midnight Mixologists toplists here.

Getting the Lay of the Land with New Miami Art Museum Director Thom Collins

Thom Collins is some sport. Naturally you’d expect the new director of the Miami Art Museum to be the sporting type, especially knowing he’s here to steer the museum’s monumental move to the wondrous Herzog & de Meuron headquarters in 2013. But I can’t picture one of his predecessors being sporting enough to risk a madcap afternoon with yours truly, let alone doing so with such grace and good humor.

It all began one very wet Wednesday a couple weeks back. Tropical Storm Nicole was out in the Atlantic blowing us the kinda sloppy kisses that could lead to something ugly, and the city had cast a collective wary eye in her direction. But of course no mere storm can shut down a town like Miami, and aside from an uptick in traffic accidents and the usual flooded neighborhoods, it was a day like any other day, only wetter. Hell, if anything, folks were more annoyed that Nicole never strengthened enough so they could ditch work and throw one of those infamous hurricane parties we all enjoy so much.

Nevertheless, Nicole was a deadly storm (just ask Kingston, Jamaica), and though Miamians aren’t the least bit impressed by winds clocking less than 50mph, the bitch could easily have turned face and wreaked a whole lotta havoc. So I was a little uncertain whether my appointment with Collins would go off as scheduled. I was even less certain that the recent transplant would still be game for the sit-down. Turns out my worries were for naught. Collins not only made it into work that dogged day, but he too was lamenting the fact that Nicole hadn’t delivered on her devastating promise.

“I was all set for my first hurricane party,” he told me the minute we met. “I’d stocked up on enough essentials to last for days!” And from the gleam in his eyes I was sure Thom Collins was the kinda cat that Miami would welcome with proverbial open arms.

Collins — who’s helmed institutions in Baltimore, Cincy and, most recently, Purchase (the Neuberger Museum of Art) — was then just three weeks into being a Miamian, yet he was already carrying himself like a native. And after we’d adjourned to his office for an interview, it was clear he’d come here to be just that. His questions were on point and of genuine interest, and our chat went swimmingly (no pun). In the end though, it was still just a couple of smart (ass) guys sitting around an office talking. The next day I decided to scrap the keen Q&A and call Collins on his desire to meet some of Miami’s art players. On Friday afternoon I found out it was no bluff.

Butter Gallery owner Paco de La Torre served as our guide. Yeah, I know people. But Paco’s one of the people who knows the people I don’t. Plus, he’s a cool cat — one of the coolest. And his gallery happens to have one of the best rosters in town. So when I told him I’d offered to take Collins around, Paco pledged to pave the way in his tricked-out ’66 Lincoln. And even a fool like me isn’t foolish enough to turn down an offer like that.

We snatched up Collins at Michael’s Genuine, where he’d been lunching with Miami Modern Luxury‘s Richard Martin, who’d apparently told Collins I had “more energy than God.” I don’t know God, but I’ll take the compliment. After Paco and I had the necessary fortifications (aka cocktails), we took Collins where even God won’t go.

First stop: Primary Flight‘s soon-to-open Dash Building HQ. PF co-chief Typoe was on hand to walk us through the what not, and it seems the international street art cabal that he and Blackbooks (actually the guy’s name) co-founded has finally found a place their collective can call home base. The build-out is just about done, and it’s a bet that by the time Basel rolls around in December, everybody and their kid sister will have been there with bell-bottoms on.

From there we made our way to Spinello Gallery, home to everyone from Typoe to head-losing Lee Materazzi. Chief Anthony was waylaid, so the three of us ducked into Locust Projects where Valerie Hegarty’s “Break-Through Miami” gave us the kinda “reverse archeology” which transcends our town’s mere 100+ years of existence. DotFiftyOne co-head Isaac Pereleman happened to be hanging out, so after a flurry of intros we decided to add his space to our equation.

Actually, since DotFiftyOne is one of the District’s originals (it opened in 2003), we’d planned on stopping by the space anyway. But Bernice Steinbaum goes back even further, so her gallery had to come first. And while the great lady wasn’t on hand to greet us, her chick-first legacy was, from Tatiana Parcero’s vivid “Memoirs of the Future” to Billie Grace Lynn’s creepy-cool kinetic rabbit.

Over to Dot we were all most struck by Michiyoshi Deguchi’s overgrown paperweights and Raquel Schwartz’s cassette tape drapes in partner Alfredo Gusman’s groovy green upstairs office. But when we descended the original 1935 wood-crafted staircase and adjourned to Dot’s in-house art boutique, I found something even more to my digging: a collection of boxed dioramas by Colombian artist Jairo Marin, which looked like something Cornell might have pulled off had he a deep affinity for pop culture. His work left me so struck that I nabbed a copy of his book Behind the Glass to bring home as a souvenir.

Down at Butter Gallery, Paco and I stepped outta the way and let neo-classicist Rick Falcon walk Collins through his unequivocally compelling “Living to Die; Dying to Live,” which I believe goes to great depths few visualists — Miami or otherwise — ever dare to go. Collins concurred, calling Falcon a “serious artist” and allotting him the kinda time that you don’t give to someone whose work you don’t dig. It was truly gratifying to see the new MAM director appreciate one of Miami’s most-promising art stars, and it was yet another glimpse into why Collins is the kinda guy we need running our town’s signature institution.

That gratification was compounded when we made a stop at Butter Gallery artist Tawnie Silva’s studio, and Collins took in the obscenely fun inflatables and poetically poignant carny banners in the madcap manner they were meant. Thom even took the time to sit with Tawnie through a video of his last show, “You Like Everything About Me, Except Me”, a move that showed respect on too many levels to contemplate.

We wrapped up the whirlwind afternoon at Mercadito Midtown, where we were joined by Waltman Ortega Gallery co-head Aliona Ortega, and where Collins expressedly expressed his joy at being given the lay of the land. I, in turn, commended the man on being such a good sport throughout our three-hour tour. I mean, few folks dare hit the town like I do; even fewer dare do so in my company. That Thom Collins dared both means we’ve got a real Miamian on our hands — already tried and absolutely true.

Our Man in Miami: A Night on the Town with Irvine Welsh & Public Enemy

“My God. Did that really happen last night? If I didn’t have pics I’d swear it was just an extended jetlag and writing fatigue hallucination.” That’s from my pal Irvine Welsh, who texted me as soon as he woke up last Sunday morning. It seems a particular portion of our Saturday night was a little far-fetched even for a man whose mind is behind some of the most out-there novels in the history of literature. Then again, catching Public Enemy in a locked-down burlesque joint on a sultry late summer evening is almost too surreal to be believed by anyone.

Irvine had flown into town on Friday and given me a ring, and we’d agreed to meet the next night. At the time, I had no idea where we’d go, but I figured something swingin’ would come up. Little did I know that it’d be something that swung in straight from another world.

Like all wild nights, it began with some splendid fortification. In this case, it was at the ever-hopping Mercadito, which opened in Midtown Miami back in May and hasn’t had a mild night since. As always, our host was the indefatigable Brian Hicks, a Chi-town native who seems predestined to table-hop. As a manager, Brian makes Mercadito move as smoothly as the Miami River. As a man, he’s the consummate gentleman. and he never fails to make patrons feel more than welcome.

Mercadito, which means “Little Market” in Spanish, knows how to feed folks too, with perfectly-portioned delicacies sourced as fresh and as fine as it comes. The cocktails are also crazy cool, and we opted for some pineapple concoction that tasted like a treat from Dionysius himself. Perhaps that’s why the rest of the night came off as some sort of ecstatic madness – we’d drunk from a god’s flask, and now we had to pay for it.

And how. The drive up to La Fee Verte was pleasant enough. As we crossed the 79th Street Causeway, Irvine filled me in on his August in Edinburgh at the legendary Fringe Festival, and I tried to counter with recollections of my summer in the thick of it all. We talked about books (he’s here to finish up a novel called The Scag Boys), flicks (he’s in L.A. next week to see about the filming of his book Filth), and women; or more precisely, his one and my lack of just one (Irvine’s longtime accomplice happens to be one of the most remarkable women alive).

We entered La Fee Verte expecting no less than sheer sexy from the get go, and we weren’t disappointed one bit. The art, the furnishings, the colors, the lights – all harked back to a time when burlesque was big business. Here, a man has to pinch himself to remember he’s actually in the 21st century.

But all the trappings in the world wouldn’t mean a thing if the entertainment didn’t also hit the mark, and here the joint outdoes itself. Aurora Natrix, Milena Hale, and my own personal favorite, Nicole Soden, shook and shimmied their way into our hearts as if they’d been designed to be broken. Call me a masochist, but there’s something about a tease that leaves me reeling; something delicious indeed. And these three knockouts knocked the proverbial wind out of me.

Then it happened. The lights dimmed, the room went silent, and a voice came out of the ether: “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Chuck D and Flavor Flav of Public Enemy!”

The crowd, such as it was, went nuts. And Irvine and I looked at each other with a note of utter surprise. We kind of expected Chuck D to be there – Flavor Flav, on the other hand, was always in doubt. That the two would then ascend to a go-go dancer’s poled platform and launch into some of the most riotous hip hop ever to blast from a boombox never once entered our minds. Sure, we counted on hearing the hits, but from a stripper’s perch? Not in a million years.

Things got even kookier when Chuck and Flavor started serenading the birthday boy, who’d obviously coughed up a good chunk of change both to lockdown the joint and to lure what’s left of Public Enemy. And from the way these hip hop heavyweights bantered about, the largest part of that chunk must’ve been going straight into their pockets. But who am I to criticize? The cat made it possible for me and Irvine to see two of rap’s most historical figures from within arm’s reach. And at the end of it all, we both felt as if we’d seen something few people ever would see – let alone believe.