[BKAB] Mohawk Bend’s Thomas Sigsby
Los Feliz and its surrounding neighborhoods are home to some of Los Angeles’s best bars and restaurants, but how well do you know the bartenders who help keep the party going? This month we sat down with Thomas Sigsby, liquid commander at Mohawk Bend in Echo Park to discuss his career and favorite drink.
Where are you from?
Boston. I’m from the South Shore, about 20 minutes out from the city.
What brought you to Los Angeles?
I’ve been here 12 years, was in Chicago for a couple years prior. I know this will sound funny, since I’m in this industry, but [in] Chicago [it] is very easy to get by not doing much and drinking is aplenty, so I came here to curb that and not be a heavy drinker.
You decided to come somewhere you’d have to drive everywhere?
Yeah, that definitely helps. I had a lot of friends from college out here making names for themselves and doing well. That really dissolved for me the myth of L.A. as this kind of vacuous place. They all genuinely liked it, so that was a good motivator.
How long have you been bartending?
On and off about half my life. I’m 36 now and took a long break when I moved here and started up again with Mohawk when we opened six and a half years ago.
How’d you get into bartending?
Truth be told, just the restaurant industry. I started early as a Domino’s pizza topper, then a TGI Friday’s dishwasher. Always the bartenders were the coolest guys. I had a football coach who was such a cool dude in my 17-year-old eyes and on Fridays he’d do all this flare bartending. The industry’s changed since then; it’s now more about craft. Everything we do here is California craft liquor, beer and wine.
What does a “liquid commander” do?
Well, I don’t work the floor. I do day to day ordering, but also putting together programming. Like our “Novem-barrel” program where we tap beers we’ve been cellaring. It’s that and keeping our program fresh; every four months or so we rotate out at least half of the house cocktails. We try to keep them seasonally appropriate. That’s done with the whole bar staff; we try to make sure that we’re on the same page, so it’s not just what fits my [flavor] profile. Also, balancing the beer program is a big one since we’ve got 70 taps. We want to keep our rep as a beer Mecca.
What’s one of the most unusual, funny or interesting things you’ve seen on the job?
One of my favorites was a cheating fiancé. He was discovered by one of his fiancée’s friends who didn’t say anything, but called her. I got to see the whole thing unfold in front of me and it was great.
So he was there with his mistress?
Yeah, whoever his new sidepiece was. Being in an old movie theater, I found it fitting, like pass the popcorn. [Editor’s note: Mohawk Bend is housed in the former location of the Vaudeville Theater.]
What’s one of your favorite drinks, how do you make it and what do you like about it?
Being the Boston homer that I am, there’s a classic Boston cocktail called a Ward 8. With that one, I use a California bourbon called Dogood and Fruitlab ginger liqueur from Greenbar downtown. If you want to add some holiday cheer to it, I’d add a dash of orange bitters. It’s balanced; it’s spirit forward without that being the only flavor. I will happily drink a Martini or Manhattan all day, but I like something that takes you on a little ride.
1 ½ oz Bourbon
1 oz Orange Juice
½ oz Lemon Juice
½ oz Grenadine
½ Ginger Liqueur
1 dash Orange Bitters
Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.