Behind the Bar

Five Questions for the Bartender: Miles Thomas

The Tavern Law tender tells us the worst thing he’s ever experienced in a bar…besides someone shooting him, that is.

September 4, 2009

Best known as the bartender who took a bullet to the arm defending Serafina (we certainly hope he made employee of the month that June), Miles Thomas has also toiled alongside Top Chef star Ashley Merriman at Belltown’s Branzino. These days you’ll find him behind the stick at Tavern Law, the new “speakeasy” from the Spur boys.

But Thomas is also an entrepreneur, the man behind Scrappy’s Bitters, a line of old-fashioned bitters available all around town. Ask for them at your favorite cocktail lounge today.

Here, five questions with Miles Thomas.

What is the most underrated spirit?

For me there are two. The first is Armagnac—brandy was being made in Armagnac about two centuries before anyone even thought about making brandy in Cognac. It is similar to Cognac but with some distinctive differences: the first is in the distillation. Armagnac is produced in an alemic still and cognac is made a pot still. And they are aged in different oaks—Armagnac is black oak and Cognac is limousine oak.

The second spirit is Damiana, which is a south American flower liquer flavored with Damiana flower. It has a sweet floral flavor with a unique spice, I use it the way I would St Germain.

What’s your favorite Seattle bar (other than Tavern Law)?

The obvious choice would be Zig Zag, it has an amazing selection and great bartenders who have all been very supportive of me and what I do. I have never seen them give any one a hard time for ordering a Cosmo or Lemon Drop. They are friendly and never pretentious.

Maybe it’s cheating since I used to work there, but I would also say Serafina. They are an awesome group and my business partner Chris Bollenbacher—best keep secret in Seattle—works there. He teaches classes and creates amazing liqueurs. Check him out.

What drink do you order at that bar?

I am not really a cocktail drinker, usually I drink some sort of amaro or Jameson on the rocks.

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen someone do in a bar?

Besides someone shooting me? Some friends brought a girl in that I wouldn’t serve but thought she would be alright with just water. Later, I caught her with the Angostura bitters bottle trying to drink out of it…Wait, I also saw a girl grab the back of some guy’s bar stool and throw him on the floor. I wanted to be mad, but she was cute and he was a dick.

Name three reasons you live in Seattle.

The summers, the water, the mountains, trees, and my friends…not in that order.

Um, that’s five things Miles, but we’ll take ‘em.

Find Five Questions with all the best bartenders—from Boudreau to Bartolonihere.

[Photo Ronald Holden for ]

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