BEST BARTENDER Minneapolis 2002 - Corky Hisle
His name is Corky, fer cryin' out loud, and that really should say it all. But in case it doesn't, let us point out that he needs no bartender guide to make, say, a rob roy or a Gibson. And if he ever learns your name, rest assured Corky will never forget it. Besides, he says he has a true love for bartending: "If I didn't need the work, I'd probably still do it." Good thing, considering he's at this legendary Minneapolis establishment five nights a week: three in the polka bar, and two in the piano lounge. His 29-year career proves that his quiet demeanor and poker face have served him well over time. Hisle, a native of Kansas, took his first gig at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres in 1973. "I saw Charlie Mingus there," Hisle says, recalling a time when the Chanhassen had a live music club. "That was cool." By 1978, Hisle found himself owning and running a bar in downtown Minneapolis called--what else?--"Cork's." By 1984, the bar had "died of natural causes," and Hisle was slinging drinks at the airport, where he developed a knack for what is perhaps any good bartender's best attribute--the quick character study. "You catch a lot of different people at the airport," he notes, "and you learn right away whether to talk to them much or not." By 1990 Hisle had ended up at Nye's, where, he says, old bartenders go to die. "It's the sign of a good place," Hisle claims, "when all the people that work there tend to stick around." Hisle, who just turned 55, says that what he loves most at Nye's is the mixture of people--young, old, newcomers, regulars, and the occasional famous folk. "If I have a favorite moment," he concludes, "I'd have to say they are all favorite moments."