Ask any bartender in town where he got a tattoo and the answer is probably Miguel Mora.
“Now it’s one of those things where it’s like you don’t have a Miguel tattoo, then you’re not a real bartender,” Mora said. “That’s how everyone jokes about it.”
Often dressed in a black shirt, black hat, black jeans and black shoes, Mora is an artist in many disciplines. His tattooed hands hint at one while he talks animatedly about the other.
He divides his time between his two passions, ink and cocktails. After a brief hiatus, he is making a strong comeback in the beverage world, creating the cocktail menu for Call Her Martina, a highly anticipated new bar and restaurant soon to open in Scottsdale.
“I’m excited, I can’t wait to show everyone what I’ve been working on,” Mora said. “We’ve got a lot of really fun stuff, fun presentations, like it’s gonna be brand new for everyone, you know, we’re gonna stray from the norm.”
Parallel careers in tattoo parlors and cocktail bars
Mora’s first love was tattooing, which he started doing in high school, before he was legally old enough to have one himself.
“It was that Miami Ink show, I saw that on TV and I saw these guys tattooing and I was like, ‘This is crazy, I want to do this,'” he said. . “So I looked online and ordered a tattoo kit and started practicing.”
On his 18th birthday, Mora’s sister took him to get his first tattoo. There he asked the artist how people get started and they explained that young artists do an apprenticeship to learn the craft. It turned out that this shop was looking for apprentices.
“My sister said to me, ‘He’s going to do it. I’m going to get his works.’ So she went to my room, got all my drawings while I was getting tattooed and came back and kind of gave me a thumbs up. helped me get into it,” Mora said.
He studied at AlleyKat Tattoo on Glendale and 48th avenues, which launched a career that took him to Chicago, California and Las Vegas.
Tattoo shops are very busy during tax season, but slow before the holidays, he explained. So over the years, Mora has taken on bartending gigs to make up for slow tattoo seasons.
In 2011, he set out to learn more about the art of bartending at Barrio Queen, where Phoenix cocktail expert Colton Brock showed him the ropes.
From there, he landed his first job as a senior bartender at the now-closed Distrito in Scottsdale, where he worked closely with chefs to learn how to match flavors and create syrups for drinks that would complement foods.
Over the years, he jumped from bar to bar across the valley, progressing to bar manager and eventually training other bartenders.
Then, in 2020, the pandemic hit and the bars closed. All of Mora’s bar work instantly disappeared.
His other passion, however, remained an option. Tattoo shops were classified as parlors, so they were able to stay open. Mora ditched the bartender and doubled down on her career as a tattoo artist at Innovative Ink in Phoenix.
A new idea inspired an old passion
While Mora has focused on tattooing throughout the pandemic, he has kept his ties to the bar industry through friends and clients. Maintaining those relationships is something he holds “in very high regard,” he said.
“It’s one of those things where if you’re in the industry, you get rocketed to the top of the list, like, I’ll get you in ASAP,” Mora said. “And then it sort of organically turned into this thing like, ‘Oh, you want to get a tattoo? You have to go see Miguel first.'”
These ongoing relationships helped bring Mora back into the world of bartending after the initial pandemic shutdowns.
Abel Arriaga of Mezcal Carreno introduced him to a family with a new idea for a bar. Elisa Moreno, her siblings and her father wanted Call Her Martina to be a cocktail-focused restaurant and bar that incorporated Mexican culture and flavors throughout the menu.
While interested, after taking a long break from mixing drinks, Mora wanted to make sure he still had a knack for bartending. He hosted a pop-up event around the holidays called In the Lane for which he made all the syrups, made all his own infusions, and then made cocktails for the event.
One hit was a coconut milk eggnog made with vanilla liqueur and topped with toasted marshmallow and rosemary. The three drinks he made for the menu almost sold out, he said.
After that, his confidence in a skill he hadn’t tested in almost two years was restored. He was ready to face a new project.
What is Call Her Martina?
“I think you give this cocktail bar its own personality, which I think is great,” he said of Call Her. Martina, a new bar and restaurant opening soon in Old Town Scottsdale.
“It definitely feels like a place you would have stumbled upon if you were in Mexico. It definitely takes you away from where you are. You don’t feel like you’re on the water when you walk in .”
The space itself is decorated with hand-painted Mexican tiles, a large central tree, neon signs, black wrought iron, and foliage.
“A lot of our stuff is from Mexico. Like all the decorations and some kitchen equipment is actually from Mexico,” Mora said.
Chefs and kitchen staff will also travel north for the restaurant, with head chef Yesenia Rios coming from Tijuana. The food is still in the works, but Mora said the concept will focus on drinks, and for that he’s ready.
What’s on the cocktail menu?
Mora has created the entire cocktail menu around simple and refreshing flavors. Each drink, he said, will have three to four ingredients to allow each element to shine.
Syrups and alcohol infusions will be homemade, and the menu won’t focus on one spirit or flavor, Mora said, because he doesn’t want to limit the possibilities. Although the spirits come mainly from Central and South America, and include Charanda Uruapan, a Mexican rum, mezcal and gin.
The menu will include eight signature cocktails and four classics, such as margaritas and palomas. Each of the signature cocktails tells a story about one of the owners’ journeys, Mora said.
One cocktail Mora is excited about is called When She Went to Tulum, a refreshing coconut-infused mezcal cocktail. He worked with the siblings, testing different ingredients and flavors to recreate a drink they had enjoyed on the beach in Mexico.
Another cocktail he is looking forward to serving is a drink he created at home for a friend, before landing on the restaurant’s official menu. Called the Paraiso, which means paradise in Spanish, it is made with Charanda Uruapan and passion fruit and served in a tumbler-style glass.
Mora created the drink menu for Call Her Martina, but he doesn’t work there as a bartender. He plans to help form the team and help the restaurant find its footing. After that, he moves on to the next project, whether it’s cocktail ingredients or ink remains to be seen.
The bar is expected to open in March. Follow social media for updates.
Details: 7135 E. Camelback Road, #165, Scottsdale. callhermartina.com.
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