Tales from the Tiki Bar

Memphian-by-choice Mary Oglesby talks spirits, shrubs and her very own tiki bar

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Photography by Chip Chockley

Mary Oglesby has been in Memphis only four years, but she’s left her mark on the bar scene.

She launched the eye-catching bar program at Loflin Yard. From there, she began consulting and advising for several bars and restaurants in and around Memphis. Currently, Mary works for Tattersall Distilling as a sales representative and co-owns the growing spirit business Reveled Spirits.

From making premium mixers, known as shrubs, to creating custom cocktails for individuals and businesses, Reveled Spirits is making heads turn with their tasty drinks and catchy branding.

Mary invited us over to her house where we got to talk shop in her very own tiki bar.

Edible Memphis: First things first. What is your favorite cocktail?

Mary Oglesby: My go-to cocktail is either a mai tai or a daiquiri. I like daiquiris because they are easy, but mai tais are my favorite.

Ok, now tell us about this tiki bar…

My boyfriend, Geoff, found it on Facebook Marketplace in Ripley, Tennessee. We had to have it, so we rented a truck and picked it up that same day.

What do you love most about being behind the bar?

This is my office—everything I need is here. It’s “bringing the party,” meaning that I’ve always preferred hosting to attending. I’ve been bartending since I was 19. It’s something I do. It’s not my profession, but I get to do it on my own terms. It’s “making” too—just doing what I love.

How did you end up in Memphis?

It started with a two-week Greyhound trip across the Southeast to figure out where I wanted my next home to be. I’m from Kansas City, Missouri, originally, but I lived in Milwaukee for several years before moving to Memphis. I stopped in places where I at least knew a few people and the cost of living was comparable to Milwaukee. Memphis isn’t closed-minded and has great opportunities for new ideas and experimenting, and it wasn’t saturated with cocktail craft establishments.

Memphis makes its own trends.

How have you seen our cocktail scene change?

When I first moved here, there were a couple of places focusing on high-quality spirits and using them in an interesting way, but there weren’t a whole lot. Not to say that there was anything lacking, necessarily, but there was one specific element of liquor service that wasn’t as prevalent in the city. It was interesting because I had seen this pattern in Kansas City and Milwaukee before. The development of the cocktail scene was beginning to happen in Memphis. It’s exciting because I can kind of see where it’s going, but the result will always slightly be different in each city. What’s the end result going to be?

Now, people in Memphis know they can go to a bar or restaurant and get a good cocktail. Now, they expect it on the menu. That wasn’t necessarily the case when I moved here. A nice cocktail no longer has to be an event.

Where do you see us going?

I see Memphis going more in the direction of whimsical– the kind of cocktail experience where you don’t have to take yourself too seriously. I feel like Memphis has always been that way. Everything they do is done extremely well, but without taking themselves too seriously.

Tell us about your job and your side hustle.

I am a sales representative for Tattersall, a bartender-owned-and-operated distillery in Minneapolis. I got to know them when I was a spirit specialist. I cover all of Tennessee and Kentucky for them. In fact, I’m gone 10 to 12 days a month pushing their product. Tattersall is made with the bartender in mind. There are no artificial flavors, and we currently offer more than 20 different products.

I also co-run Reveled Spirits with my business partner, McKenzie Nelson. We just moved into a shared making space called OtherFoods [Kitchen] in Annesdale-Snowden. OtherFoods is perfect for a small outfit like us. We currently use the space to make our shrubs, Blood Mary and margarita mixes.

Not everyone is familiar with shrubs. Tell us more.

Shrubs are a vinegar-based fruit drink mixer. Vinegar is key to preservation, and from there we add sugar, fruit, spices, etc. Shrubs can be mixed with all kinds of spirits and work well with club soda. We wanted to do something new that people could easily use and make at home.

What do you always have in your fridge to make drinks?

I always have limes and lemons. Like way more limes and lemons than you should probably ever have in a fridge.

You can go look in your fridge right now, and I have more limes than you.

We always have a ton of Topo Chico, too, because if you have club soda, then you have a drink. All you really need is club soda and ice. It has gotten to the point where McKenzie, my business partner, texts me before coming over to make sure we have those two essential things before we start experimenting with recipes.

What ingredients can you not live without?

Besides limes and lemons, I would say sugar, bitters (cherry bark vanilla out of Milwaukee, to be exact), rum and gin. I could honestly do without any other spirits as long as I had gin and rum.

I love to play this game with friends I call “I bet you didn’t know you loved gin.” I win every time.

Favorite kitchen tool(s) or gadget(s)?

Citrus juicer—I just named it Preston. I also use a weighted shaker tin set. It’s like having a really nice knife set. I also use a fine strainer when we are making shrubs.

Ever watch cooking shows on TV? Read cookbooks?

I like Chopped, but to be honest, I can’t live without The Flavor Bible, a comprehensive, alphabetical directory of every possible concoction and complementary combination.

Where do you find inspiration?

I get literally all of my inspiration from the Cordova International Farmer’s Market. Like, I go up and down all of the aisles there. When I was working on cocktail menus here around town, that’s where I would go. I would look in The Flavor Bible and decide what “feeling” I wanted from different drinks, and then I would go there and see what would fit in.

A “feeling”?

It’s the same as when you eat food. Do you want this food item to be hearty and heavy or light and refreshing? Do you want something warm and cozy? Do you want this cocktail to taste like dessert? Do you want something bitter and smoky? Do you want this to be something that will cool you off?

Where can we find your products?

Our Bloody Mary mix can be found at Lucky Cat for brunch! Right now, you can buy our shrubs and mixers at Joe’s Liquors and Buster’s. We have a limited edition Cranberry Vanilla shrub that is very easy to mix with any spirit you prefer. It’s also really eye-catching. We just released to retail so we are looking to be featured in more stores. You can also buy online and you can find recipes on our website. We range from simple to complex drinks. We also constantly update our social media with weekly cocktail recipes.

Can you share a recipe with us?

I’d be glad to. This is for my Pineapple Spiced Luau.

Pineapple Spiced Luau

  • 1 ounce Tattersall blackstrap rum or a white rhum agricole
  • 1 ounce Hamilton Jamaican pot still rum
  • 1 ounce Reveled Spirits spiced pineapple shrub
  • 1 ounce orgeat
  • ½ ounce lime juice
  • 3 dashes orange bitters
  • 2 pinches ground cardamom
  • 1 egg white

Shake all ingredients for 10 seconds without ice. Add ice and shake for 15 seconds. Strain into collins glass over ice. Garnish with lime wheel, orange peel and ground cardamom.

Jeff Hulett is married with two daughters and lives in Midtown. He plays lots of music and tells lots of dad jokes. @dad_onarrival

Chip Chockley, an attorney by day, has been a professional photographer since 2008. Things that make him happy include tacos, mai tais and his wife and kids. @chipchockley