The Art of Intuiting Cocktails at Bryant’s

Their skilled bartenders don’t exactly take your order.

At Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge, the 80-plus-year-old institution on South Ninth Street, patrons are not handed a menu to peruse.

“We have a list of questions we ask people. We have a conversation and decide together what they would like,” says owner John Dye, who reports a 98 percent success rate. The hardest people to decode are the “sweets people” who think they like sweet undertones with their booze but later find out they don’t.

For the staff’s reference, hundreds of drink recipes are stored in an old Rolodex organized by decade and extending back to the 1930s. These include the Pink Squirrel, which Bryant’s claim to have invented.

“Sometimes we want to develop a drink that fits a modern taste,” says Dye. But not just any drink makes the cut. Since Dye took over 10 years ago, just 100 new concoctions have been added.

Recent newbies are Cherry Benjamin, which joined the list about eight years ago, with a cherry-ginger flavor profile; Flamingo, a grapefruit hurricane-style drink; and Graveyard Whiskey, unsurprisingly popular around Halloween, says Dye.

The Ultimate Milwaukee Drinking Guide

‘I’ll Drink to That’ appears in the December 2017 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

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A seasoned writer, and a former editor at Milwaukee Home & Fine Living, Kristine Hansen launched her wine-writing career in 2003, covering wine tourism, wine and food pairings, wine trends and quirky winemakers. Her wine-related articles have published in Wine Enthusiast, Sommelier Journal, Uncorked (an iPad-only magazine),, and Whole Living (a Martha Stewart publication). She's trekked through vineyards and chatted up winemakers in many regions, including Chile, Portugal, California (Napa, Sonoma and Central Coast), Canada, Oregon and France (Bordeaux and Burgundy). While picking out her favorite wine is kind of like asking which child you like best, she will admit to being a fan of Oregon Pinot Noir and even on a sub-zero winter day won't turn down a glass of zippy Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.