Kate Gerwin, Bismarck, ND
Why we're singing her praises: “She’s singlehandedly creating and shaping the cocktail scene in North Dakota,” says Pam Wiznitzer, President of the New York chapter of the United States Bartenders’ Guild, and a cocktail hero herself as creative director of spots such as Seamstress and Belle Shoals. Gerwin’s work extends way beyond the bar, too: her efforts transformed the state’s laws regarding alcohol, helping to bring new spirits into the state for distribution. She runs a multi-venue operation in town that features a rooftop bar, an event space, a cocktail-supply retail store, a speakeasy, and a “small plates tavern.”
Testify: “She created a platform for bartenders in North Dakota,” says Wiznitzer, “and now has her staff competing in national and world competitions.”
Behind the Bar: Gerwin won a global bartending competition with a concoction she calls Brown Chicken, Brown Cacao. It’s a riff on the Smith and Curran, a drink invented in Bismarck, and it features some surprising complementary ingredients, including yogurt, cardamom seeds, and black walnut bitters. Her venues are sprinkled with similar, expertly made, pleasantly surprising drinks such as Everybody Loves Ramos, Thai Whon Awhn, and Can’t Dutch This.
Top off: You might be thinking, Bismarck, really? But the place has a legit drinking history: one of its leading joints during the 1950s was the Blue Blazer lounge in the downtown Prince Hotel, which took its name from one of Jerry Thomas’s most famous drinks. It was there that two wildcatters came in one night and asked bartender Gebert “Shorty” Doebber for a hair of the dog. Their names? Smith and Curran.