Photo by Liz Banfield
File this under: One piece of truth that cocktail-fans must begin to massively speculate upon. Pip Hanson, one of the founding bartenders who helped create Minneapolis’ national-class cocktail scene, is returning from his astonishing London run. Cocktail obsessives will recall that Pip left his perch at Marvel Bar about a year ago, to take a London sabbatical and see what he could see. He was quickly snapped up to become head bartender at Artesian, which has been awarded the prize of the World’s Best Bar for four years running.
Most bar-watchers assumed that was the last the noble north would see of him. But no! “We parted ways a week ago,” Hanson told me on the phone, still on the ground in London. “Initially when I signed on we were going to change everything—it was going to be a complete revolution. I had a plan that was pretty wild.” I pressed Hanson for the wild plan, but he wouldn’t divulge any of it, because he’s going to try selling the plan stateside next. Is it tiki? Is it abandoning all mixers? Hanson said not either of those. Also, he wrote a book and can’t talk about that either. Okay. Anyhoo, the planned revolution at Artesian got into one of those guillotine situations where the head was parted from the rest of it. “It became clear over four months that they weren’t ready for something as radical as what I wanted. I decided, well I’m going to do it—I just can’t do it at Artesian.” I had to ask,“So, did you quit or did they throw you out?” He answered, “It was mutual.”
And now he’s coming back! With a blueprint for a revolution, and no clear next job. How can you say that, isn’t a return to Marvel Bar inevitable? No, he said. No?
Well! That's interesting.
I pressed Hanson for more details of what else he’s bringing back from London—new techniques, new ingredients, what? Not much, he said; they’re having the same gin boom we are, small distillers pushing the boundaries of gin-flavors, but nothing too revolutionary to report. There’s a British trend for Italian bartending,* especially a way of shaking drinks known as “the Throw" in which there’s some sort of option for pirouettes and long pours from one vessel to another. “It’s super-silly, and I don’t really endorse it, but it is novel and I bet Gruppo Campari will try to make it big,” he said. So, aside from a distaste for working at hotel bars, what else is he bringing back from London?
A hard-won and now deeply felt insight that the coolest stuff in the world might be very much off the beaten track. “It was an incredible confidence-building year for me,” said Hanson. “Seeing behind the curtain of Artesian, which I’ve read about for years, at Drink Factory, assessing the whole London scene, measuring the hype against what I felt about it, it all gave me an incredible amount of confidence. I’d talk to people who would fly out from London to Lisbon, then drive to an incredible restaurant in a village of 1,000 with fish plucked right from the ocean outside and the wine grown on the nearest hills—I’m more interested in that now than hype.” So you went to London and discovered the emperor had no clothes? “Kind of,” admitted Hanson. “So my headline is: Minneapolis is better than London?” I asked. And with that Hanson gave the perfect Minnesota reply, which is the long, long, multi-syllabic “Yeah” which actually means no, but yes a little, but honestly no, but it’s nuanced.
And that’s why people have to come back to Minneapolis, because we’re awesome and also the only people who can understand each other's ridiculously long and coded ‘yeahs’. Welcome back Pip! And let the speculation of his next bartending spot begin.
*this article originally mis-stated “The Throw” which is entirely the author’s fault and prompted many laughing emojis from across the pond. Hanson also supplied evidence of The Throw in its wearying form: