Best Bartender - 2009
No one denies that Ted Kilgore, formerly of Monarch, can make magic with spirits and a shaker. But if Kilgore is a great mixologist, Nhat Nguyen of Urban on South Grand is a great bartender. A great bartender must display as much facility with customers as with cocktails, and Nguyen fits the bill. Years ago at the now-defunct Mirasol, Nguyen was one of the city's pioneers in mixing drinks with tea infusions and tropical fruits. He's carried over his enthusiasm for fruit to the drink list at Urban, which features fresh ingredients such as cucumber, kiwi and raspberries (one recent departure from fruit is the "Socialite," a concoction of gin, elderflower liqueur, rosewater and a squeeze of lemon). But the fast-pouring, fast-talking Nguyen also likes mixing it up with his heterogeneous clientele. He's not shy about offering relationship advice (one common theme: Both parties are stupid, and they should just end it). Nor is he shy about joining his customers for a drink. "You know the exact moment he's had too much," observes Tom Schmidt, the owner of Franco and a regular at Urban. "He starts taking his shirt off and kissing his biceps."