Rocco’s is a new-ish pizza joint at on Second in Belltown, but it’s the cocktails that keep coming up in conversation with drinkers (both industry and otherwise). They’re the work of bar manager Leroy Thomas, whom I met at one of Vinum’s monthly bartender competitions. After moving up from Olympia to take the gig, Thomas has quietly built an impressive beer list and spirits collection, isn’t afraid to work avocado or arugula into his house creations, and has a particular facility for coming up with awesome drink names. Oh, and he says that happy hour is surprisingly quiet, even though it runs from 12 to 7. Just pointing that out in the interest of public service.
Here, five questions for Leroy Thomas.
1. What is the most underrated spirit?
Everything is getting its time in the limelight nowadays—a different spirit seems to be "trending" all the time. Personally, I have a soft spot for applejack—a flask full of applejack is a crowdpleaser. I have found a large amount of patrons are apprehensive when it comes to gin. One of my regulars says, "Gin will make you sin." That is something I am willing to live with.
2. What's your favorite Seattle bar (besides Rocco's)?
I know it has been said before, but you have to love Zig Zag—professionalism with a friendly smile. 1022 South in Tacoma has amazing drinks and great people. Just don't start a wrestling match with Chris in your kitchen. Highline is my guilty pleasure, blocks from my house, pinball, metal shows, and ... Buffy the Vampire Slayer brunch!
3. What drink do you order in that bar?
At Zig Zag, I love the Bell Curve, sometimes I quaff a St. Mark's Miracle, often finishing off with a shot of something tasty. 1022 South has one of my all-time favorite drinks, Harkonnen, that drink is the little death! And, of course, the option of having someone make me whatever they have up their sleeve is always a surprise and a pleasure.
4. Best part of living in Seattle?
Where to start? I love finding little hidden-away parks, and the greenery in and around Seattle is amazing. I'm looking forward to a summer of picking berries and naps in the sunshine. In addition, the food and drink options are phenomenal. I have to mention that the people of Seattle are very friendly. I appreciate all the helpful, inspiring people I have encountered and befriended in the few months I have had the pleasure of living here.
5. Tell us about your worst shift ever.
Worst shift...not sure if I have one specific shift. There are and will always be those nights that leave you in daze, where you sit for a bit and process what just happened. Another constant is someone that comes in and raises a ruckus. I feel to some extent it is par for course. There was one night, like any other night, scene: A couple eating dinner, towards the end of dinner the man becomes quite agitated. He went on a short and stern tirade, followed by an epic exit where he tore up a bunch of papers out front. She calmly cried, finished her coffee and paid the bill and left, walking past the strewn paper work. Curiosity got the better of me, as it usually does. I waited a bit, then went and collected the papers and pieced them together—it was a card that read 'I love you so much, and am happy to be part of your life, looking forward to another amazing twenty years with you!' Not the worst shift, but one that I will never forget.