The People of Tucson: Drink Slinger, Thomas (Tiger) Ziegler

The People of Tucson put their spin on places to visit.

Words and Photography by Evan Zavitz

In 1952, a Greyhound bus hailing from Dubuque, Iowa, delivered Thomas Ziegler to the historic Hotel Congress. Known for his kind, people-first attitude, Ziegler wandered into Hotel Congress in search of a drink and ended up working the bar as a favor.

A man wearing a blue checked shirt and a southwest style vest serves a drink at TIger's Taproom in Hotel Congress

More than 62 years later, Ziegler can still be found pouring drinks for locals and travelers alike here, where he earned the moniker “Tiger” after an incident at the bar. A customer standing over a foot taller than him and weighing in at least 250 pounds was groping a female patron. Ziegler calmly yet firmly diffused the situation, resulting in the aggressor leaving the bar. Another patron exclaimed, “Get ’em, Tiger!” and the name stuck.

For his 80th birthday, Hotel Congress honored him by naming the bar Tiger’s Taproom where he is still pouring classic and sophisticated cocktails and sharing his insights on the city with customers at Hotel Congress.

A man wearing a blue checked shirt and a southwest style vest pours a cocktail at TIger's Taproom in Hotel Congress

Tiger’s Take on Tucson

When it comes to Tiger’s favorite things, he enjoys the simple pleasures; a cold beer, Dr. Phil and Judge Judy, his customers, and his adopted home of Tucson. And while Tiger seldom likes to drive anymore, when he does, he often travels alongside his brother and his brother’s family.

“We like the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and the Reid Park Zoo. And, of course, we like to go up to Mt. Lemmon too,” he said.

And after more than six decades living in the Old Pueblo, Tiger is no stranger to the varied and inspired cuisine of the area.

“In Tucson, you can experiment with and experience different dishes. There’s this one Mexican restaurant, Casa Molina, that I really love. I love tacos, enchiladas, and chimichangas,” said Tiger. “The Cup Cafe here at Hotel Congress is also marvelous. We have some of the best food in Tucson, and I serve a great Bloody Mary.”

Tiger is a true icon in the fabric of Tucson lore. His taproom has been a mainstay for the community. When asked about his motivation and why he stays in Tucson, Tiger will tell you: “I stay because I love my people. I love Tucson. I love the mountains. I love The University of Arizona. I love everything about it.”

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