Adam Millay delivers drinks and a listening ear to Santa Fe’s Rio Chama - Albuquerque Journal

Adam Millay delivers drinks and a listening ear to Santa Fe’s Rio Chama

Adam Millay, who is the bartender at Rio Chama in Santa Fe, holds the Salted Martini, which includes caramel vodka, Bailey’s Irish cream, creme de cacao and amaretto. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

Copyright © 2023 Albuquerque Journal

“Good morning everyone! This is Adam, your friendly neighborhood bartender at Rio Chama.”

This is an example of what Adam Millay posts to the Santa Fe Bulletin Board group on Facebook.

With a rundown of what’s happening at the Santa Fe restaurant, he is able to showcase his charm and hospitality, all while marketing the brand.

Millay is new to the Land of Enchantment – as he moved to Santa Fe on Sept. 15 with his wife, Sieria Gonzales Millay.

“My wife is a native Santa Fean,” he says. “It’s taken me a few years to get us to move back from Florida.”

In months, Millay has built up a community online and he’s seeing the results inside the restaurant in downtown Santa Fe.

Adam Millay creates libations at Rio Chama in Santa Fe. He has taken it upon himself to promote the restaurant on social media to offer a place of community. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

Millay, 38, has been a bartender for 18 years.

He’s cut his teeth in the industry – first in downtown Nashville, Tennessee, then to South Beach, Miami.

Before Santa Fe, he was at Walt Disney World for 8 years.

“I was looking for a place where there were regulars,” he says of his job search in Santa Fe. “I finally know that I’m here for the long term. I wanted to place myself in an environment to build relationships with the city and the community. I want to see the patrons again and know them by name. This is the first time in 12 years that I’ve had zero stress or anxiety at work.”

Over the course of his career, Millay has learned from doing.

At 20, he transferred from Kentucky to Nashville, where he was driving a 35-foot box truck and delivering furniture.

The work was physically demanding and Millay knew he didn’t want to do that for a lifetime.

A stint in retail brought some more experience – as well as a long commute.

Then a manager suggested that he should try for a job in the bartending industry.

“They needed a barback and I spent a year learning the ropes,” he says with a smile. “I bartended there until 2009.”

One aspect that Millay enjoys about his chosen career is he gets to bring hospitality to everyone.

He finds comfort in being able to listen to the patrons and wants to build a community with them.

“I hope to continue making impressions on the beautiful people of this state. I know I am a transplant, but I am someone who has traveled the country and seen the good the bad and the ugly and I want to do my part to beautify the ugly and shine light in the darkness,” Millay says. “Being from Kentucky I have strong Southern hospitality and being at Disney World for eight years, I have the Disney Magic, so combine those two things and I can bring Southern magic to The City Different. Helping the local community helps everyone and I would love to be a beacon of light, love and success. We just need to support and be good to each other.”

Millay utilizes his position to not only offer hospitality but make the connections to where he can make a difference.

He’s figuring out the logistics to somehow pull Santa Fe businesses together to help the less fortunate and also growing his hair out – which is currently shoulder length – and will donate it to children with leukemia.

“I want to personally find how to do a food drive and maybe do something with YouthWorks,” he says. “Finding a way to help those people takes some time. I think I’m on the right path to getting where I need to be in making a difference.”

Being on his feet does take a toll on Millay as he’s been in three major accidents.

“I’ve had problems with my spine and hopefully will be able to make it to Albuquerque to visit Dr. Beau Hightower,” he says. “I’ve been watching him on YouTube for years.”

When it comes to bartending, Millay’s not about the flash.

“Flaring and throwing things in the air is something you can put on a show with,” he says. “For me, bartending is having your patrons and them telling you about their day. You’re there to listen. Sometimes, all a person needs is an ear or a shoulder. I take a lot of pride in being a bartender. You’re there for them to vent.”

Millay’s love for the craft has grown over the years as well.

When it comes to his drink of choice – it’s a Blue Moon.

“For somebody that doesn’t drink beer, I love the balance of orange and coriander,” he says. “I’ve been drinking that since I was legally allowed to.”

Making a drink for somebody, he keeps in mind the benefits of some of the ingredients.

“Ginger, lemon and honey,” he says. “Those are the classics. You can drink alcohol and get a little health kick with those three ingredients.”

He’ll often recommend an old fashioned or Manhattan.

“One of my favorite drinks right now is the mojito,” he says. “You have to make it with crisp mint leaves because it’s fresh. You get the aroma and it hits the spot.”

Millay’s slowly creating a community in Santa Fe and is hopeful his moves will make an impact.

“I just want to be the best for myself, my wife, my job and my community,” he says.

Night on the Border which is made of lime juice, Epsilon Tequila and Agave by Adam Millay. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

Night on the border (Spicy Margarita)

2 ounces Espolón Blanco Tequila

¾ ounce cold-pressed lime juice

¾ ounce Aperol

½ ounce house-made habanero agave

Plaza Fiesta Chile Salt (A mix of maple sugar, hickory smoked sea salt, chiles, lime, coriander, paprika and chocolate extract. It is a locally bought spice here in Santa Fe.)

Add the first four ingredients to a cocktail shaker and shake. Pour into glass rimmed with Plaza Fiesta Chile Salt.

The Salted Martini, that includes caramel vodka, Bailey’s Irish cream, creme de cacao and amaretto. by Adam Millay at Rio Chama. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

Salted Caramel Snickertini

2 ounces caramel vodka

1 ounce Baileys (Irish cream)

1 ounce creme de cacao (chocolate liqueur)

.5 ounce Disaronno (amaretto)

Shaved chocolate

Coarse Kosher salt

Add the first four ingredients to a cocktail shaker and shake. Pour into a martini glass rimmed with the Kosher salt. Optionally, you can line the inside of the glass with liquid chocolate or caramel. Top with shaved chocolate

Editor’s note: Cocina Connection is a once-a-month feature that takes a behind-the-scenes look at a New Mexico-based chef, who, in turn, shares some recipes.

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