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Crafting More than Cocktails

Michael Milam’s journey from a crush to crafting cocktails.

Michael Milam (Photo by Alex Rosa)


When it comes to the world of bartending, there is one thing that Buddy’s bartender Michael Milam wishes that people understood: “Less ice doesn’t mean more liquor.”

Milam, 35, originally from Salado, Texas, has lived in Montrose for 14 years now. He started out as a server when he was only 16, and when he turned 18, the legal age to serve alcohol, he had the opportunity to take his work in the service industry one step further. But it wasn’t just his age that set him on a path to success behind the bar. It was a cute guy.

At the restaurant where he was working at the time, there was a bartender he had a crush on. “In an attempt to get closer to him,” Milam says, “I asked him to train me to bartend,” During training, Milam worked as his crush’s bar back. “In the course of training, he says, “I realized I had a flare for mixing.”

Once Milam realized how much money he could make, he knew it was the job for him. Eventually he was scheduled to bartend. “And there was no going back,” he says. “Now I’ve been bartending for 17 years.”

Though he never slowed down long enough to pursue a college degree, Milam does see a possibility for that in his future. “I’d like to go to college one day, but I’m still unsure about what I want to be when I grow up.” As a kid, he says, he had dreamed of becoming a veterinarian.

These days, he’s a well-loved bartender at Buddy’s. “I work Happy Hour on the weekends and also for our award-winning Tuesday Trivia,” Milam says.

His favorite drink to mix is the Blue Hawaiian because, he says, “It’s the closest thing to being on vacation one can get without being in Hawaii.” The Bloody Mary, on the other hand, is his least favorite. “Just eat breakfast and drink after,” he advises.

Now, if someone says, “Surprise me”, Milam does have a little something up his sleeve that he loves to deliver. “I have my own recipe for a drink I call “Green Kool-Aid,” he says. “It’s sweet and strong. And I’ve never had it sent back.”

When it comes to aspiring bartenders, Milam has some sage advice: don’t believe what you see in the movies. “There’s more to bartending than just having fun,” he says. “Remember that the bartender is the one responsible for the experience at and after the bar.”

Milam is highly involved in the LGBTQ community through his work. He has been bartending in gay bars for 13 years. He also makes time to give back. Since 2014, he has been doing volunteer work for PFLAG, donating his bartending services for a variety of fundraisers and events. He’s also involved with Houston Gaymers, a group for LGBTQ+ people who are into video games. “I used to volunteer as a bartender for their monthly meetups until I was able to get the group to meet up on the second Saturday of each month at my bar, Buddy’s,” he says.

Over the years, bartending has meant more to Milam than simply slinging drinks. It’s also been about being a part of history. “My favorite all-time memory was working Pride 2015 after the Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriage legal,” Milam says. “I remember feeling so honored to help so many fellow LGBT people celebrate our victory.”

Milam loves what he does, but if he did have a different dream for his future, it would be a simple one: “Winning the lottery!”

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Jenny Block

Jenny Block is a frequent contributor to a number of high-profile publications from New York Times to Huffington Post to Playboy and is the author of four books, including “Be That Unicorn: Find your Magic. Live your Truth. Share your Shine." She has appeared on a variety of television and radio programs from Nightline to BBC Radio to Great Day Houston and has performed and spoken at bookstores, events, conferences, and resorts in the US and Mexico, as well as on Holland America Cruise ships.
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