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Mixology at The Merk

The cocktail as an art form…now we’re talking. That’s the kind of great stuff coming out of The Merk in the Keating Hotel these days. Trevor Thorpe has officially taken residence as the new Mixologist, and our first lesson is that mixology is truly a lost art. Trevor shared that the true age of the cocktail died during prohibition and was forever lost to the factory age with thousands of bottles of hooch being turned out by the minute. Well, welcome home baby. Brilliant drinks are here for everyone!

A much-to-young-to-be-that-good maestro, Trevor was a 2007 Bombay Sapphire “Most Inspired Bartender” winner taking 1st place in Las Vegas and 2nd in the nation. That’s quite an accomplishment for a guy who was a mere 26 at the time. GQ Magazine even ran a short feature on him in the same year, and now he’s here in San Diego to satiate the most discerning of cocktail hounds.

It’s immediately evident from looking at the bar (a magnificent under-lit Carnelian Gemstone) that something special is going on here. Bar glasses are lined up filled with fresh rosemary, basil, mint, lavender and the like. Don’t think we’ve ever been to a bar that had such an offering of produce. Trevor also makes his own grenadine, ginger syrup and other staples in his bar/bat-cave at home. There is truly high level of commitment to his creations.

A native San Diegan, Trevor established himself in many fine cities cultivating his craft including San Francisco, Las Vegas, and LA to name a few. While he will pour the usual suspects for all takers, he adds his own unique style to all he touches. Part of this is due to the fresh ingredients used and the mixers craftily created. Sugary, syrupy cocktails won’t work as he brings on the best possible fresh ingredients. Trevor feels that mixology is akin to alchemy – making something new from something else. Think of it as the comparison between a line cook and a chef.

Not only stylish with his procedures Trevor is extremely knowledgeable. To hear him talk about the history of mixing drinks was fun, thought provoking and interesting. Don’t be fooled by the apparent head-to-toe tattoos, this guy knows his stuff. Recommended reading includes the “Craft of the Cocktail” by Dale Degroff who has resurrected the profession and passion starting in the 60’s.

The “French 75” is a fave and he skillfully prepared a sample for us. The beverage was a light, effervescent dazzler featuring Bombay Sapphire gin, fresh lemon and champagne. You could drink these all day by the pool or on the golf course, they were just so refreshing. Come to think of it…these are a killer breakfast cocktail. ”You can’t drink all day if you don’t start in the morning” as quoted by a not-to-be-named local media mogul.

Next up, a Fragola Salada (45% alcohol) with fresh basil lime juice, ginger syrup, strawberry puree, Hendricks Gin and Aperol (like Compari but rhubarb based). Sounds like a recipe for a sweet and savory entrée, yet these components swirled and blended into another refreshing creation. Simply delicious.

Saving the best for last, Trevor treated us to a “Keating Cresta” (a cresta is any cocktail served with sugar on the rim). Ingredients included dried cherry dust, lavender honey, Jim Beam Red Stag cherry infused bourbon, Navan Madagascar vanilla cognac (by Gran Marnier), Jacques Cardin jasmine flavored cognac, Luxardo cherry liqueur and lemon juice (whew). How all of those items managed to meld into a clean, ultra refreshing drink is beyond us. Mixology at its best!

Trevor Thorpe can usually be spotted most Thursdays through Saturdays focused behind the bar working his magic. Asking him if he ever felt the need for showmanship (ala Tom Cruise in the movie “Cocktail”) he gave us a smirk and said he would if he “wasn’t so damned awkward”.

Our recommendation is to head over The Merk and introduce yourself to Trevor. Then let the wonder of his knowledge, bravado and unbelievable creations embrace you in a swirl of fun, distinct beverages. You should also stay and dine at The Merk for some great food as well. Enjoy!

The good – Brilliant drinks and a tantalizing execution

The bad – You just don’t wanna stop sipping the cocktails, maybe he has a hangover remedy?

Details »
  • City: San Diego
  • Phone: 619-814-6375
  • Name: The Merk Bistro Italiano
  • Address: 820 Fifth Ave