This past Sunday, he died at his home, peacefully and suddenly, due to a known heart condition. Rocky was 42 years old.
Though Rocky had extensive classical music training and a previous career in technology, he was best known for his work in the cocktail world; most recently as the “Gardien des Chais” [Keeper of the Cellar] at Maison Ferrand. A frequent world traveler, Rocky was, both at home and in heart, a Seattle man. As a graduate of the University of Washington, Husky sports were a top priority, and Seahawk games were never missed. He held season tickets to the Seattle Symphony and was actively involved in the local chapter of the United States Bartenders’ Guild.
Rocky’s reach went far beyond Seattle city limits, however. In addition to cocktail and rum conventions across the country, he was also a regular at the international stops of the Tales of the Cocktail “Tales on Tour” gatherings, helping to educate bartenders around the world. He was a staple at Portland Cocktail Week and a fearless leader at Camp Runamok. He committed his time to further the aims of spirits-related causes, like the Tales of the Cocktail Foundation and Speed Rack.
In 2009, he became a friend of Daily Blender. Already a member of the eGullet culinary forums, and on the verge of launching his own blog, NW Vivant, Rocky was a natural addition to a Seattle luncheon held in honor of chef David Chang’s visit to the Emerald City. While most guests in attendance were clad in sweaters and jeans, Rocky stood out from the crowd, arriving in a proper three-piece suit with a big smile on his face.
From that point forward, he was a constant in the spirits coverage on Daily Blender, both as a confidant and as a connector and contributor. Over the decade, we met for food and drink nearly a dozen times every year, from dive bars and football brunches to full-menu dinners and late-night cocktails. Whether Portland or Seattle or Edinburgh, Scotland, his jubilant bear hugs made it seem as if time had never passed.
Rocky was a loyal friend with a shoulder to cry on and laughter to share; a bon vivant with the best bar and restaurant recommendations for any city. He was humble and selfless despite his rockstar status, exuding joy even when he was weary from his travels. Young or old, newbie or cocktail veteran, all were welcome at his table.
He was a king…and the world won’t be the same without him.
A toast to the great Rocky Yeh.
**A memorial celebration for Rocky Yeh will take place at Seattle’s WithinSodo event space on Monday, January 13, 2020, from 6:00 pm to midnight. In great Rocky tradition, all are welcome.**
Photo credit: Jennifer Matthewson / Daily Blender, unless otherwise noted.