Photos by Arlene Ibarra
This summer, when a virtual tsunami of tiki bars sweeps through San Diego, Ashley Marsh will be riding the crest... with bottles of Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum in her hands.
As ambassador for a brand that honors tattoo artist Sailor Jerry, as 20th-century legend Norman Collins nicknamed himself, Marsh does cool stuff.
"It's a pretty awesome job, I'm not going to lie," says the East-Coaster-turned-San-Diegan. "I get to travel to amazing locations and teach people about Norman Collins and the 92-proof rum that bears his name."
Collins set up shop in Honolulu's Chinatown in the 1930s, and for decades thereafter catered to sailors and other tough types with body-inkings that, for their time, were memorably in-your-face. Had she lived during his reign, Marsh might have been a customer.
"I like rum and tattoos," she says, revealing tastes that likely helped her become Sailor Jerry brand ambassador for high-line distiller William Grant & Sons. "I've been in the liquor industry for 13 years and I've done everything you can do. Being the brand ambassador is the most sought-after job, and I got it."
The job will keep her busy as new tiki bars open in Little Italy and Pacific Beach in coming months.
"Tiki is all about Hawaii, and Sailor Jerry is made for the craze," Marsh says. "It's a bold rum, made the old-school way as a nod to the sailor tradition of spicing rum."
Among many Sailor Jerry cocktails is one called The Tiki, which blends the liquor with fruit juices, a splash of sour milk mix and Curacao. Like Collins' tattoos, it's a pretty in-your-face drink. As Marsh puts it, "The overall feeling of Sailor Jerry is that we try to be a little more bad-ass, a little more outside the lines. Our rum represents the lifestyle inspired by Norman Collins."