The Norsten Bar might not have the same swagger as The Bachelor Farmer's lower level Marvel Bar, but over the years the space adjacent to the restaurant has become known for an entirely different breed of innovative cocktails. Norsten pours several signature cocktails made with low proof spirits and unexpected ingredients like mead, vermouth, sherry, kombucha and even a dash of fish sauce. While these intriguing cocktails pair beautifully with food, Norsten's manager realized that they were lacking in a wide selection of drinkable dessert options. He is now curating what is likely the most expansive and interesting brandy program in Minnesota.
I don't really care for whiskey.
"I don't really care for whiskey," he confessed. The brandy program only just launched, but so far Palmer and Pip Hanson, who oversees the cocktail programs inside both bars at The Bachelor Farmer have amassed a collection of over twenty brandies including armagnac, cognac, calvados and a few select Spanish brandies for the bar.
Brandy is distilled from wine made either from grapes or in the instance of calvados, apples and then stored in casks or barrels where the flavor develops.
Rather than a teeny pour in an enormous glass, the style of brandy sipping preferred by those who favor smoking jackets, these are served in a small Riedel glass with a curved lip. Palmer poured a bit of Camus Cognac and discussed the way the aroma develops as a guest sips the spirit. As it breathes, not unlike the wine from which it's distilled.
Cognac, Armagnac and Calvados are all named for the regions that where they are distilled. "It's thought that if you find a similarly priced cognac and armagnac that the cognac is going to be a better deal. That's not necessarily true. Like wines from Bordeaux, it's the name that is so well known," Palmer explained. "Also, cognac is double distilled while an armagnac is single distilled. With armagnac the flavor is less refined by the process and more about the barrels they are aged in. This is where you get those oak and vanilla notes."
I am gonna kill it.
Palmer hasn't always been cradling snifters. He began his bartending career inside a chain spot several years ago and found service suited him. Tending bar is the only job he's ever had. With fierce dedication he has worked his way up through the industry, landing the position as Norsten's manager this spring. "We take a ton of pride in serving our guests here," he explained on behalf of his staff. "At the beginning of an evening, I just try to focus on the customer and know that I'm gonna kill it." He relishes the opportunity to read the minds of guests to make certain that each night is the highlight of their day, whether on a date, eating dinner solo or even just grabbing a quick cocktail while waiting for a table in the dining room.
"There's only a staff of four here, but we put in a ton of work and take great pride in what we do," said Palmer.
As our conversation drew to a close, he had me sniff the young cognac that he first poured as we spoke. The flavors had blossomed into a full, soft perfume delicate enough to dab behind the ears. Rich vanilla like warm baked cookies floated from the oaky depths of the glass. "This would be what you smell just before your last drink," he said. Not a bad way to end the night.
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