The Bourbon Buff

Jamien Tomlinson of Local Icon Hospitality
Jamien Tomlinson of Local Icon Hospitality

Behind the Bar with Jamien Tomlinson

Jamien Tomlinson of Local Icon Hospitality brings a fresh face to Raleigh’s cocktail scene. Catch him at Little City Brewing, Architect, The Green Light and other Local Icon locations.

How did you find your way to bartending?

It was a pretty easy road. I always had this huge interest in bourbon, and my two best friends, Kyle, Levi, and I all worked at the same craft cocktail bar. I was a cocktail server at the time, and Levi was the bar manager. I begged him for months to give me a chance. Out of desperation, they threw me behind the stick. The rest has been history.

You’re from Kentucky. What made you come to Raleigh?

I really like Raleigh. I met [owner of Local Icon Hospitality] Jon Seelbinder and was doing a little consulting on a menu for him over at Virgil’s. I mentioned I was ready for something new and I’ve been the beverage director for all locations since.

What’s it like growing up in a place with historical distilling roots?

I’d be lying if I told you it wasn’t awesome. We’ve got a lot of rich history, a lot of bourbon money and a hell of a lot of talented folks. It’s the perfect storm. Heaven is a place in Kentucky.

What exactly is your role at Local Icon?

That depends on the day. I wear many hats. Right now, I’m the beverage director for Architect, The Green Light, Little City Brewing Company, Virgil’s and Level Up. My main jobs are to make sure our cost of goods look great, our bartenders are performing and I’m writing menus to bring fresh ideas to our group.

What inspires your cocktails? 

This is a fun question. I used to pull a lot of it out of memories. My first cocktail I created because I wanted something to remind me of these awesome brown sugar cookies that my grandma used to make me as a child. Now, I just have fun with it and try to bring as many fun and exciting flavors as I can.

What are you like behind the bar?

Knowledgeable, borderline arrogant but really relaxed.

What do customers need to know?

When I ask you how you’re doing, “Old Fashioned” shouldn’t be a proper greeting. 

Is here such thing as a “Bartender’s Handshake”? What is it?

Ah, the old shot of Fernet. Fernet is a bitter, evanescent, Italian amaro. It tastes a little like toothpaste, but once you get the hang of it, it’s like riding a bike. Order one in a bar, and I bet the bartender will ask you where you work.

What kinds of concepts/cocktails do you foresee becoming the next big thing?

Things will get just a bit simpler. Syrups will be a bit more complicated but we will see fewer ingredients.

What has bartending taught you?

In the great words of Doug Coughlin from the movie “Cocktail:” “Anything else is always something better.”

Bartenders can seem like a transient culture of people constantly searching for something more and living against the conventional grain. Do you agree?

I agree with this, but I feel like that’s anyone in this world. We as humans are always searching for the next big thing. Bartenders aren’t any different. 

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