Tommy Stearns started out as a cook at PF Chang's in Bellevue. He loved playing with flavors, but felt a pull toward the front of house. He started bussing and worked his way up to serving. One day he was asked to cover for a bartender out sick. Call it chance, or divine will, but from then on Stearns knew his place was behind the bar. Through neighborhood dives and the "vodka Red Bull game" of nightclubs, into craft cocktails and the bar manager gig at Suite 410, he has never looked back. Turns out he also has some opinions on booze.
You can only order one drink at Suite 410. What is that drink?
Really you should order whatever you feel like. We’ll make anything. I open a really good beer. But the Scaramouche—brown, bitter and stirred—it’s our biggest seller. We do a barrel-aged version as well. Bourbon, Gran Classico and Amaro. It’s really smooth, similar to a Manhattan, Boulevardier-esque. That's a good one because people start there and then we play around quite a bit.
What is your go-to beverage when you go out?
Either a really nice rum and a Miller High Life or a daiquiri. I love rum. A lot of times during the winter I'll probably just drink a nice "desserty" rum neat. But in the summer you can’t really beat a daiquiri.
Any maligned ingredients you think get a bad rap?
I think cacao is really underrated. It gets a bad rap because of cacao that is kind of medicine-y and not that great. During the winter, a little bit of Crème de Cacao can really be fun. There’s a brand called Tempus Fugit, and their whole deal is they revive old recipes that have fallen by the wayside. They have an amazing cacao.
What's the craziest thing you've seen at a bar?
That's one of the best things about being a bartender. You get fresh, crazy stories every week. Not too long ago I saw a guy call a girl the wrong name for two hours, and they still left together. She played along the whole night. We also do a lot of fun and weird stuff at the bar. We threw a Star Wars party for May the Fourth. The other bartender and I both dressed up as Princess Leia.
What would you be doing if you weren't bartending?
Probably working on a boat. I grew up sailing. One of my favorite things about Seattle is how it’s so close to the water.