comScore

Best of

the Twin Cities

Best Bartender

Pip Hanson, Cafe Maude

Remember back, not so long ago, when bartenders poured their mixers from mass-produced bottles, when juices weren't squeezed fresh, and when any sweet alcoholic drink tasted like a liquid lollipop? Thank heavens for La Belle Vie's bartender Johnny Michaels, one of the first locals to elevate his beverages to haute cuisine status. We've recently been enamored with the drinks created by Michaels's protégé, Pip Hanson, who manages the bar at Café Maude. (The two also have a mixology consultancy called Proof Drink Design and created the list for Psycho Suzi's new digs). To get a taste of Hanson's skill, try sampling the three ways he mixes whiskey. Hanson pours his Blood on the Rocks in a two-toned, Tabasco-laced whiskey sour with red wine floating on top. It may sound as terrible as Spain's wine-cola calimocho, but when the beverage blends, it turns sweet-tart and tasty, cut with astringency and a slow, spicy burn. Then sample the Bitter Branch, which combines whiskey with sea salt and two Italian liqueurs, a sweet black walnut and a bitter, artichoke-flavored aperitif. The viscous blend starts out mild and smoky, almost like a caramel without the sweetness, and finishes with an alcoholic punch. The Barley and Butter is another innovator, with its blend of sherry, honey, and butter-washed Scotch whiskey (the spirit absorbs the flavor of melted butter, which is later strained off). Even if Hanson's not working, the drinks taste just as the server describes them—a testament to the barkeep's contagious enthusiasm.

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