Ian Youngs, the new head bartender at Ann Arbor wine bar Vinology, could make you a drink off the menu, but he'd prefer to make something unique.
"Someone might come up to the bar and ask if I can make a Cosmopolitan," Youngs says. "Sure, I can make that, but why don't I make you something strange, something that fits your palate more?"
When creating a custom drink, Youngs says he starts by asking if there's anything the customer hates, and then follows up by asking: "What do you want to dream about tonight?"
Youngs grew up in the Irish Hills just west of Ann Arbor and went to the University of Michigan, where he got serious about food and beverage his junior year.
He left Michigan about two and a half years ago to learn more about his craft in Aspen, Colo., where he soon landed at Hooch, a speakeasy bar with a "darker vibe," Youngs says.
Earlier this year, he moved back to Michigan for personal reasons, to "support family in a time of need."
But if he had to end up anywhere out of necessity, Ann Arbor is "a lovely area" to ply his trade as an expert in wine and cocktails, he says.
Youngs keeps an eye on trends and says Michigan is due to start enjoying the "tiki" vibe and more rum drinks. He says he loves making cocktails with unexpected ingredients, like squid ink for a black cocktail. Youngs says drinks with fire are on the rise as well. But above all, cocktail connoisseurs are becoming interested in unusual liquors and liqueurs from other regions, such as aquavit, a caraway-flavored Scandinavian spirit, or arrack, a south Asian spirit made from the sap of coconut flowers, sugarcane, grain, or fruit.
Youngs shares the credit for Vinology's dynamic cocktail menu with bartender Mark Long.
"We rock this bar out together," Youngs says. "He's a fantastic bartender."
Youngs says he never wants to be a dictator when it comes to creating a drinks menu and running a bar.
"It's not because I'm not able to, but it's my personal philosophy to split the ideas among everyone," Youngs says. "Everyone has a story to tell through their own drinks."
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Images courtesy of Vinology.