Going 10 Rounds With Top Bartender Myles Burroughs
The beverage director of the Seattle-based Derschang Group tackles our speed round of questions.
What do you like to drink after a shift? “After shift has such a varied connotation at this point in my career. But if it’s earlier in the evening, I’ll usually opt for a glass of wine or a beer as I probably haven’t eaten anything in eight hours or so. If it’s after a bar shift, I’ll often opt for a light/refreshing cocktail like a Daiquiri or a Paloma that I can enjoy without too much consideration. In Summer, it’s Txakolina wine pretty much exclusively.”
What is the all-time best dive bar jukebox song? “I’d lose my job if I didn’t include a song from the ‘old’ Sub Pop Records catalog and I’m from Seattle, so I guess I’d say either “Lounge Act” by Nirvana or something produced by Quincy Jones. In all seriousness, I am terrible at picking one anything and there are so many different types of dive bars in the world. I would be stoked for anything by Patsy Cline, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Led Zeppelin, Joni Mitchell, George Benson, Barrington Levy, Grace Jones...”
After all these years bartending and creating drinks, do you still enjoy going out to bars? “I absolutely do. Though you’d be hard pressed to find me at a bar I’m not working at on a Friday or Saturday night at this point. I really enjoy the conviviality of our profession, bars with the right ambiance, the right style and/or vibe often just feel nice to be in…whether I’m imbibing or not. Also, a vast majority of my friend group is involved in food and beverage and I’d have a hard time seeing them if I didn’t poke my head in from time to time.”
Name the first good drink you ever drank and where you had it. “I celebrated my 21st birthday at Linda’s Tavern more times than I should admit. (Sorry Linda.) While I can’t say I had anything transformative or life affirming on those occasions, there are few drinking moments as memorable as my first Rainier Beer and well whiskey ordered at an honest to God dive bar in Seattle. But it’s hard to remember when or where my first good drink was, as I was indoctrinated through the late ’90s and early ’00s, which wasn’t exactly fertile ground for great cocktails in the Pacific Northwest…I’d have to give the nod to Zig Zag, though I can promise you I don’t remember either the drink or leaving the bar that night.”
What book on cocktails or spirits is your go-to resource? “I’m currently obsessed with Death & Co’s Cocktail Codex and have so many notes in Dave Arnold’s Liquid Intelligence one might think I was actually a good student. Amy Stewarts’s Drunken Botanist and The Joy of Mixology by Gary Regan, anything from David Wondrich or Dale DeGroff. Off the subject a bit but another passion of mine in beverage is natural wine and the writing of Alice Feiring (The Battle for Wine and Love and Naked Wine) is a must read.”
What’s your favorite cocktail and food pairing? “Depends on the day, but it’s hard to go wrong with a Dry Gin Martini (hold the orange bitters, olive and a lemon twist) with moules-frites for lunch on a sunny patio or a solid Michelada and chilaquiles for brunch. (I’m a strong proponent of day drinking in my advancing age.) Though not a cocktail, strong runner up consideration to chilled vodka and caviar.”
What drink are you most proud of creating? “I’m reticent to cite a specific drink as at this point a truly ‘original’ cocktail is somewhat of a unicorn and we’re all mostly playing in the Mr. Potato Head sandbox of cocktail creation. Ingredient wise, however, I make a fantastic dry hopped ginger beer that is one of my favorite creations, delicious either on its own or as a cocktail ingredient and an absolute life saver for the occasional ‘dry’ month. The thing I’m most proud of in regards to cocktails in my career is the recent development of nitrogen-infused tap cocktails. Using a process very similar to making nitro cold brew, we are forcing nitrogen into solution with classically stirred cocktails and dispensing them through a stout faucet as you would a Guinness or other nitro beer. The results have been a bit of a revelation for me and I’m super excited to continue to evolve the process to effect both the development of flavors through immediate aeration and augmenting the textural component of cocktails.”
Is there one person (dead or alive) you’d like to make a cocktail for? “There’s a well-noted love affair between authors and their bartenders, I have a short list I would love to make a drink for…In no particular order Upton Sinclair, Hunter S. Thompson, Ralph Ellison and Kurt Vonnegut. And I would be remiss not to include my Great Grandmother who owned a tavern in Missouri and whom I never had the chance to meet.”
What’s your favorite shot-and-a-beer combination? “Mezcal and a juicy sour beer; a Miller High Life pony and a bonded bourbon (preferably Old Grand-Dad or Henry McKenna 10 Year Old); or Green Chartreuse and root beer.”
What is the one tool that you always make sure to pack when you’re traveling for business? “Underberg Bitters, we will undoubtedly eat too much. CBD pills, we will undoubtedly drink too much. Business cards and the interminable will to actually follow up with those who I exchange cards with. You absolutely never know when or where you will meet new friends and future associates.”
Myles Burroughs is the beverage director of the Seattle-based Derschang Group, which runs Linda’s Tavern, Oddfellows, Smith, King’s Hardware and Queen City.
Interview has been condensed and edited.