Meet Your Mixologist: Teddy Collins of Vesper American Brasserie
"I’ve been the life of the party ever since I was 15."
It seems like Teddy Collins was born to be a mixologist. For starters, his name sounds like a modern play on a classic cocktail. The Rhode Island native has been dipping his hands behind the bar since the ripe age of 18 – which means technically, this rebel was a bartender before he could legally taste his own creative recipes. “I’ve been the life of the party ever since I was 15,” shares Collins. “My friend recorded parties on his camera and left the video in the VCR, only to have my parents find the tape,” he says of his younger days, some of which were consequently spent in the principal’s office.
Now 25, and a resident of Miami for the past five years, a grown-up Collins helms the bar at Vesper American Brasserie at Shelborne Miami Beach. The iconic South Beach hotel underwent a major multi-million dollar facelift last fall, and Vesper is one of the new added venues, which continues to attract the traffic of many thirsty imbibers – both loyal locals and curious out-of-towners.
An avid traveler of Europe and the Caribbean islands, Collins likes to think his visits are shared throughout his blends. He loves working with fresh fruits and produce, including ginger root, honeydew melon, pineapple, cucumber, strawberries, blackberries and jalapeños, and loves to get creative.
Back at Vesper, Collins’ bar selections might not contain illegal pours of the Green Fairy, but they are adventurous, covering quite a stretch of the imagination. And, though it might take a seasoned James Bond fanatic to pick up on Vesper’s namesake, after a few hours spent with Collins’ specialty sips, guests will most likely mesh quite well with their drinking experience. And, that’s because Collins is mixing up more than just an obvious Vesper martini. All of the featured selections at the SoBe joint are named after James Bond’s girlfriends. Whiskey lovers will appreciate the Pussy Galore, a tangy, sweet whirlwind of Maker’s Mark, sour cherry jam, apple juice, lemon juice and a rare hint of rhubarb bitters. Daring drinkers can also boldly down the Octopussy, a fizzy, fruity pour with Circoc Red Berry Vodka, lime juice, blackberry puree and topped with Prosecco.
Still, Collins has plenty of fun shaking up drinks outside Vesper’s seven signature offerings. He recognizes what Miami cocktail enthusiasts want, and what ingredients are trending, then he adds his personal touch. “Everyone in South Beach loves lychee martinis,” says Collins. So, for example, “I’ll use Absolut Miami, a splash of lychee juice and some orange juice,” he says. That sounds like Miami in a mouthful. We’ll have what he’s having.