Clad in a sarong, warpaint, a cast of necklaces, bandana and a pair of tie-dyed Vans, Brian Miller looks like he lives for tiki. And that’s because he does.
A self-described “pirate,” his career path has landed him at the most respected cocktail institutions in New York City, including Pouring Ribbons, Pegu Club and Death & Co. But it’s his popular Tiki Mondays pop-up parties that solidified Miller as one of the leading tiki ambassadors. Along the way, Miller has put new spins on old favorites, including the Winchester, his take on the Zombie, which was described by tiki authority Jeff “Beachbum” Berry as, “the first and best 21st-century cocktail… to push the boundaries of classic tiki.”
The long road finally wound its way to Miller’s own bar. In summer 2018 he teamed with Major Food Group to open The Polynesian, a Midtown tiki bar described by Robert Simonson as “an honest-to-goodness urban oasis.”
So what does Miller do when he’s not drinking, or figuring out how to one-up tiki masters of yesteryear? Here, he takes a stab at our Lookbook Questionnaire to share the Bruce Springsteen album he could listen to on infinite loop, his weirdest hobby and the last text message he sent.
What do want to be when you grow up?
Best thing you ever drank:
Rum and Ting alone on a beach at sunset on Dominica, listening to reggae. That is my happy place.
Worst thing you ever drank:
Probably strawberry Margaritas out of a fish tank when I was a freshman at Washington State. It took me years before I could even stomach the smell of tequila.
First time you ever got drunk:
High School with a bunch of my friends hanging out in a hot tub. Pretty typical stuff. As I get older, the stories get better.
If you had to listen to one album on loop, for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Bruce Springsteen’s Tunnel of Love.
What’s the weirdest hobby you currently have or have had?
My sarong collection. I have far too many for a middle-aged man.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known five years ago?
That I was finally gonna get my own bar.
Weirdest cocktail experiment you’ve ever attempted:
Putting coconut peanut butter in a cocktail… it worked.
What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not eating, drinking or drink-making?
Weirdest drink request you’ve ever gotten:
Vodka Martini in a highball glass.
Your favorite bar, and why:
Zig Zag Café in Seattle; it’s like home to me.
Best meal you’ve ever had:
Torrisi Italian Specialties. I was simply blown away.
What’s your go-to drink in a cocktail bar?
Whatever Nathan Wooden tells me I should drink.
In a dive bar?
Miller High Life with some absinthe.
Your preferred hangover recovery regime:
A couch, a TV, Seamless and more rum.
The one thing you wish would disappear from drink lists forever:
The last text message you sent:
“Christ, I did not need to see that.”