Sailor Jerry – Interview with Brand Ambassador ‘Gravy’

It’s all Gravy, baby

The Louisianan humid heatwave was sending me in to a thirst frenzy and the thought of a raunchy rum packing a punch was a fate worse than teasing. Meeting with ice cool Sailor Jerry Brand Ambassador Daniel ‘Gravy’ Thomas for a tipple and a Tales talk was on the cards and I was feeling nautical. Being a full time Brand Ambassador and permanently on the road takes its toll on you but you would never know it with Gravys’ ace face and great pace.

When the horses mouth pours you an 80 proof Sailor Jerry topped with icy ginger, you appreciate life. The smooth rum job and Mr iced iced gravy let me forget my temperature for 30 minutes, I could pretty much put my feet up. It’s just a terrible shame that he couldn’t do the same whilst I questioned him about all things Sailor Jerry, Norman Collins, Tattoos and Harley Davidson.

You know that moment when you meet somebody and you just think to yourself, ‘it is unlikely that I will ever meet anybody in life who ticks so many of my rum boxes,’ I had found him and I even let him leave his mark on me… The poor man never stood a chance.

A Boatload of Questions

Oi oi Sailor, great to have you with us. Sailor Jerry is a personal favourite of mine but even I didn’t know the extent of the coolness behind the brand. The man who inspired your brand, Normal Collins, sounds a little like me, had the wandering bug, enjoyed tattoos and was a bit of a creative artist. He eventually settled in Hawaii, where he built his legacy. Can you give us a cheeky debrief on how this legend inspired the Sailor Jerry booze brand?

Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins was a Navy vet who built his rep inking soldiers and sailors in WWII-era Honolulu where he established his legendary tattoo parlour, and himself, as the undisputed father of American old-school tattooing. Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum embodies the independent spirit and unapologetic attitude of the rum’s namesake who was noted for saying “my work speaks for itself.”

A true American icon, Norman Collins, continues to inspire Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum. We strive to honour his many passions and have partnered with some of the most talented tattoo artists in the world including Oliver Peck, JonBoy and Megan Massacre for special projects and events. We have collaborated with the USO to throw welcome bashes for sailors and their supporters during Fleet Week New York. We also look for like-minded partners that offer the same true-blue, American craftsmanship and passion that Collins embodied and have just signed on for a multi-year partnership with another iconic American company –  Harley-Davidson.

Sailor Jerry has to be one of the coolest boozers going. However, just when I thought you were at ‘peak cool’ you have gone and knocked me out of the park all over again. A collaboration with Harley-Davidson? Seriously, slay, I don’t deserve your words. Can you tell us a little more about this incredible collab?

Harley-Davidson Motor Company is another iconic American brand and one that fits perfectly with Norman Collins’ passion points. He was actually known for riding his Harley around Honolulu!

This 360, multi-year partnership will come to life in bars, restaurants, Harley-Davidson dealerships and joint celebrations around the country. Fans of the brands can expect a series of shared events and moments leading up to Harley-Davidson’s 115th Anniversary in 2018.

To kick-off the partnership, we unveiled a series of twenty-two customized Harley-Davidson motorcycles designed by high profile artists and visionaries. The bikes are now touring the U.S. and can be found in liquor stores around the country and they can actually be won by entering the sweepstakes on

Fleet Week in New York is a yearly celebration of maritime services and the men and women braving the waves but guess what? We missed this year’s event. However, following on from your collaboration this year, do you think you may pop by next year when our feet are firmly on NYC soil?

Our partnership with Fleet Week New York and the USO isn’t going anywhere. This great, American tradition is a perfect way to honour the legacy of Norman Collins and what he meant to the incoming sailors during his tattooing days in Honolulu. Sailors would line up for hours outside of his tattoo shop on Hotel Street during their shore leave for a chance to get one of his iconic flash art tattoos.

For the past two years, we’ve continued that tradition at Fleet Week New York. This year, we partnered with Kiehl’s Since 1851 to host our Sailor Jerry Home Base Pop up where servicemen and women could stop by and receive a Norman Collins tattoo and receive 20% off of their Kiehl’s purchases. We also brought on the Alabama Shakes to provide a free concert at our Sailor Jerry Welcome Party. We served up some delicious food and Sailor Jerry rum cocktails, of course!

In the spirit of Tales of the Cocktail, It’s all for me grog. So tell me, other than just consuming it with a straw, what Sailor Jerry cocktail would you recommend to our readers? Both in the UK and more primarily Scotland. We enjoy a drink there.

Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum pairs great with ginger – whether that be ginger beer or ginger ale, the warm notes of cinnamon and nutmeg mixed with vanilla go great with the slightly spicy mixer. Top it with a squeeze of lime and you have a delicious but no-nonsense drink.

Daniel ‘Gravy’ Thomas, boy, you got the cool name down. We need you to spill the beans on what it means to be a brand ambassador of Sailor Jerry and also, what’s the story behind your funky nickname?

Being a Brand Ambassador for Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum is honestly just an extension of my daily life and surroundings. The Sailor Jerry community is filled with artistic, free thinking misfits who are doing positive things for their community and it’s great to be able to work with them!

I grew up in the Philadelphia music scene in the late 90’s, when and where the Sailor Jerry brand first came to life through the clothing line Sailor Jerry LTD which featured Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins art on denim, hats, vests and so on. I worked for Gyro (now Quaker City Mercantile), which was the agency that created Sailor Jerry LTD, by day, and at night I hit stages performing poetry and screaming in punk bands, so I’ve always celebrated independent thought. I later learned that Norman Collins also enjoyed poetry and often ranted his thoughts on his radio show called the Old Ironsides in Hawaii.

Sailor Jerry LTD eventually became the spiced rum we know today and was purchased by William Grant & Sons. My role as a Brand Ambassador is to advocate, educate and enhance the history of the brand, and lucky for me, two things I’m very passionate about are tattooing and rum, so I get to go all in! I make sure people understand what I call the #92prooftruth which includes the life and legacy of Norman Collins, his work, and the rum that bears his name. So, don’t be scared to hop on the Gravy Train when you see me coming!

As for the nickname (which is tattooed on my forearm on the banner of a Sailor Jerry American Eagle) it came from a truly awesome story from back when I was touring and working in promotions for bands. To make a long story short, after a rock n’ roll concert I was with a group of band members being in a restaurant with a rowdy entourage, enjoying food and drinks. Little did I know that the gravy on my open face turkey sandwich that I was eating kept missing my mouth and was compiling on my goatee beard and just drying up. Of course, no one in my crew told me this, yet they told everyone else in the restaurant. Fast forward to when a group of ladies from the show came into the restaurant. They were taking interest in our entourage, so my record executive boss told me to go up and give them passes. When I approached the ladies, gravy goatee and all, I felt like one of them was taking interest in me (or maybe it was my liquid courage speaking), nonetheless I go in for a hug and kiss on the cheek. She stops me by pointing her finger on my forehead, sliding it down my face to my goatee, twirling it in my beard and showing me the gravy on her finger. She then sucks it off her finger, and says “no thanks, but it’s all GRAVY, BABY!”

So, my whole crew was like “Yes, that’s it. Your name is Gravy, your job is to keep all things “smooth”!” I’ll take that… and have every day since.

Just like a tattoo

Tales of the Cocktail has a habit of sooking (sucking) all the engines out of your steam and shortly followed by our Sailor Jerry interview was the William Grant & Sons ‘Love Supreme’ party.

Not only were Sailor Jerry and UK Brand Ambassador Emali Stenhouse and co keeping up appearances with supreme bar flair, but there was also a very relevant tattoo booth. With Sailor Jerrys influence based on forward ink thinker Norman Collins, we thought it was only fair to grab this opportunity by the balls’ums. Gravy was kind enough to hook us up for our tattoo that night with Downtown Tattoo.

I already have a little cocktail tattoo on my wrist from when I was 18 and processed ideas with the help of shots, shots, shots, shots and shots. However, who would of known that tattoo would be a sign of things to come. Downtown Tattoo and Sailor Jerry contributed to my ink with a swooping swallow. So technically my right hand ‘swallows a cocktail.’ Accidental stunning pun right there…

Could this be the perfect time for Sailor Jerry? With society becoming more diverse and culturally accepting each day, we definitely need more Sailor Jerry topped up with gravy in our lives.

Miss V Claimer

So I always compile a little disclaimer here to let you know about my opinions and my freebies. This is to ensure you lot that what I say is what I think and that no brand I have collaborated with has had a say-so in my thoughts. I don’t think there could be further dedication to the ‘opinions are my own’ vibe than a tattoo…

We conducted our Sailor Jerry interview in conjunction with our media presence at Tales of the Cocktail. Our media passes allowed us seminar and tasting room access along with PR contacts in order to set up interviews. As always, my opinions are mine and cannot be tampered with. We would like to thank both Tales of the Cocktail and Sailor Jerry for their cooperation.



The Chief.