Tastemakers: Thomas “T” Leggett & Chef Lee Gregory of The Roosevelt, Richmond

by: Amy Ciarametaro

Make sure to stop on by The Roosevelt in Richmond’s historic Church Hill and ask Thomas “T” Leggett for ‘Forgiveness, Not Permission’ or the ‘Jackalope’ during September #VaSpiritsMonth! Or, try your hand at prepping these fun cocktails at home using the below recipes:

Forgiveness, Not Permission, featuring KO Distilling Battle Standard Navy Strength Gin
1 oz. KO Distilling Battle Standard Navy Strength Gin
1 oz. Oloroso Sherry
1 oz. Pierre Ferrand Orange Curaçao
1 Dash Bitter Truth Aromatic Bitters

Combine all with ice and stir till chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon peel.

The Jackalope, featuring Laird’s 100 Proof Applejack
2 oz. Laird’s 100 Proof Applejack
1/2 oz. Cantaloupe Cordial**
1 Dash ea. of Scrappy’s Lavender Bitters and Bitter Truth’s Lemon Bitters

Combine all with ice and stir till chilled. Strain over ice filled rocks glass and garnish with orange peel.

**Cantaloupe Cordial: Start with equal parts sugar, water, and sliced cantaloupe. Heat sugar and water over medium heat, and stir to dissolve. Remove from heat and add cantaloupe. Let sit with fruit to taste, then strain off fruit into a sterilized bottle. Refrigerate.


Thomas “T” Leggett has been slinging drinks as the Bar Manager for Richmond’s holy grail of southern-culinary-culture, The Roosevelt since it’s opening in 2011. For those not familiar with The Roosevelt, it’s a ”must taste” destination. The atmosphere is elegant but not fussy. The cuisine is an untraditional celebration of the South (e.g., country pâté red onion jam with Virginia peanuts, pickles, and toast as an appetizer, or their roasted rockfish cheese grits with local beans and shell pea ragout as an entree). And the drinks, “damn tasty, made from mostly local ingredients,” according to Esquire Magazine when they named The Roosevelt one of the Best Bars in America. Not one to brag, Thomas explained that he really just tries to keep things comfortable and welcoming. Also, “Surrounding myself with other creative people, has helped a lot; whether it be other bartenders or the chef’s perspective.”

Thomas Leggett & Chef Lee Gregory, The Roosevelt
Thomas Leggett & Chef Lee Gregory, The Roosevelt

Speaking of other creative people, Chef Lee Gregory is the man who diligently executes southern dishes that both nourish and inspire. Chef Gregory has been a James Beard Award semifinalist not once, not twice, but three times (2013, 2014, 2015)! I’ve had the good fortune of working with him many times over the years. He is both professional and down-to-earth.

Now, take a look at their drinks menu. You’ll notice several things off the bat that Thomas has intentionally done. The list has many drinks that are approachable and affordable, such as T’s signature cocktail, the “Seersucker” with bourbon, sweet tea syrup, bitter and lemon; it’s part of the comfortable and welcoming approach. Then we mosey on over to the “Curtain Call” which is more adventurous with espolón blanco (silver tequila), fino sherry, aperol, lime, strawberry, egg white and cinnamon bitters. Thomas, how did you know I have a soft spot for all things sherry and aperitifs?

Also while looking at the drinks menu, you’ll notice how much love these guys throw to Virginia. Thomas is selective in the wine, beers and spirits he carries, and rightfully so. “I don’t carry Virginia products just because they’re local; the ones I carry are selected for their quality,” he explains. The wine and cider list is affordable, well-curated, and 100% Virginia. The beer menu also has a heavy focus on Virginia. Keeping in stride, the back-bar is filled with a great selection of #VaSpirits, with 15 I believe at last count.

Though quality comes first, Thomas isn’t afraid to wave the local flag to support our community. “It puts money back into our local economy, which is great. You can see where these products are made and meet the makers. There’s a story and connection there that I value. We have such a growing spirits, beer, cider, and wine scene in Virginia! It’s an exciting time to be drinking in Virginia.” And this is why we named Thomas Leggett a #VaSpirits Tastemaker for September! #VaSpiritsMonth

*Rapid Fire with Thomas “T” Leggett of The Roosevelt*

#VaSpirits: Where were you born?

Thomas: Danville, Virginia.

#VaSpirits: Tell us a little bit about your daily routine!

Thomas: Mornings usually start with Lamplighter coffee. Nights will sometimes end at Saison, Heritage, or Bamboo Cafe.

#VaSpirits: When you’re not behind the bar, what do you enjoy doing?

Thomas: Hanging with my dog Kola in the backyard, taking trips with my lady, playing guitar and banjo, currently reading and obsessing about Rasputin, collecting rum, watching movies and eating popcorn.

#VaSpirits: To wrap things up, tell us what you enjoy drinking when you’re not drinking Virginia spirits.

Thomas: I love rum. So many places produce sugar distillates and they are all so different. I reach for fortified wines a lot as well. Vermouths, sherries and Madeiras really tickle my fancy. I’ll sneak in a Châteauneuf-du-Pape every now and then, too.

For more information, check out:
The Roosevelt: Website / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter
Thomas “T” Leggett: Instagram
Chef Lee Gregory:  Instagram / Twitter

Photo credit: Jay Paul & The Roosevelt