Meet Your Mixologist: Tomas Delos Reyes

By Amanda Mactas

Tomas Delos Reyes began his career as a bartender in San Francisco. Since his move to the Big Apple, Delos Reyes has tended bar at prestigious spots such as The Boom Boom Room, Public and Double 7. Working hand in hand with Enzo Lim at Filipino hot spot Maharlika, he now manages the bar at Maharlika spinoff Jeepney. We catch up with the noted mixologist about the new bar menu, how he incorporates Filipino flavors into cocktails and more.

How does the cocktail program at Jeepney differ from Maharlika?
First of all, we are starting with only a beer and wine license, which gives us a limited selection of what to work with, but a fun challenge nonetheless. Since we’re focusing on the gastropub feel for Filipino Food, emphasis will be paid on making the EDSA (red sangria) the most exotic combination you’ve ever tasted in a sangria and having beer cocktails that are nostalgic, yet contemplative. We’re out to have a good time just like you would when you’re singing your favorite song at a karaoke joint.

How do you incorporate Filipino flavors into your cocktails?
The core of the cocktail program is to compliment the bold flavors Jeepney brings to the table. Using specific ingredients found in Filipino dishes, such as the bitter melon found in the Ayala cocktail, make a huge step [forward] in the “fresh” movement. If you think about how most cocktails require bitters to balance out a cocktail, we’re using the actual bitter melon to not only add complexity but stay true to the idea of a bitter element needed in cocktails. In other words, we’re completing each Ayala in the freshest way possible.

Do you find it more or less difficult to create cocktails specifically for a certain cuisine?
It’s less difficult mainly because we are a restaurant group that also eats out for pleasure, and with that we were able to contemplate on what was needed to balance out those bold flavors you would find in Southeast Asian cuisine, mainly food of the Philippines.

How does the bar scene in NYC differ from that in San Francisco?
[Laughs] You’re asking someone who’s lived here in NYC for a long time but born and raised in San Francisco. I am loyal to my roots but would say that because NYC relies so much on the nightlife and foodie scene as part of such professions as marketing and public relations, your taste in food and drink can also reflect your sense of work style and stratosphere. I feel that thanks to Maharlika, with its representation of Filipino moderno, Jeepney acts as a deeper bridge into Filipino cuisine and more so a journey into a concept and feel of familiarities of the native and American Filipino through reference and a little tongue in cheek.

What is your favorite ingredient to work with these days?
At the moment it’s bitter melon. Mainly because I think that it’s ironic that cocktail culture has relied on the use of bitters to balance out a cocktail when we as Filipinos have been using bitter melon to add that bitter element to balance Pinakbet, a dish with a pork base!

What is your drink of choice?
It’s definitely the Ayala. It takes a few ingredients found in some of the great cocktails of today and twists it in the direction of the Philippines. To top it off, it’s a white wine cocktail!

Where do you find your inspiration for making cocktails?
I find inspiration for making cocktails with the idea of taking each guest on a trip [using] ingredients you’d find in your most favorite dishes from around the world. I’ve experienced many of them in my personal travels and find joy in sharing these worldly flavors while telling a story with each sip.