If you can master Knee High Stocking Co.’s text message-only reservation system and locate the nondescript door on Olive Way, the nattily attired Gregg Holcomb will probably be making your drink. And it will probably be complex and very good. While speakeasy-style bars have proliferated to the point of irony, the staff’s ribald sense of humor keeps this Prohibition-styled hideaway far from pretentious territory.
Before joining Knee High, Holcomb worked at Chez Gaudy (now home to La Bête) with Casey Robison. Before that, downtown at Sazerac. His first-ever bartending gig was at a little neighborhood joint in San Diego called TGI Friday’s. Hey, “As far as learning a system and learning to handle the fast pace, you have to get your feet wet somewhere,” he says.
Knee High’s semi-covert nature means Holcomb serves far more cocktail aficionados than Tipsy McFratterson-style binge drinkers. “I can make the best cocktail in the world but if somebody just really wants to get drunk they’re not going to appreciate it,” he says. And if someone requests, say, a vodka soda, he asks if he might instead whip up something “with a beginning, middle, and end.” If those efforts aren’t met with success, “I’ll whisk it away and make you that vodka soda.”
Here, five questions for Gregg Holcomb.
What is the most underrated spirit?
Blended Scotch. I was going to say gin just because it is so versatile, but I have really enjoyed exploring the nuances of blended scotch in cocktails. This winter I was mixing a “Christmas in Scotland” that uses Famous Grouse, sweet vermouth, Cherry Heering, and allspice dram.
What’s your favorite Seattle bar, besides Knee High?
Favorite place to eat, and what you like about it?
Rancho Bravo. I was raised in San Diego and it is as close as I can get to the Mexican food I grew up with. Dashiell (my 3-year-old son) and I lunch there regularly.
What’s the worst thing you’ve seen someone do in a bar?
Three months ago, guy answers his phone at the bar. He has trouble hearing because the music is on. I am mixing drinks and watch him cover his ear to try and listen. He says, “what? what? I can’t hear you; I am in a bar.” Turns to me. “Dude. Hey, dude! Can you turn the music down?” Wow. Worst thing ever. And I have seen some things . . .
What drink is everyone is ordering right now?
People are still drinking warm stuff. Right now it’s the Buffalo Cider, Buffalo Trace bourbon with our housemade hot cider.
Hit up the slideshow above to see Gregg make a drink with the still-in-progress title of God’s Cocktail.