Embrace The Pivot: A Q&A With Evan Knutson of Maxwell Mansion

If you’ve never experienced the beauty of Southeastern Wisconsin, trust us when we tell you that you’re going to want to put it on your to-do list after taking a look at the stunning photos from Maxwell Mansion. Located just 50 miles outside of Milwaukee, this stunning historic hotel in the resort town of Lake Geneva is the perfect getaway for those in need of some R&R.

One of our favorite spots on the Maxwell Mansion grounds is the cozy Apothecary Bar, where bartender Evan Knutson met us virtually to show us around and let us in on some of the innovative infusions being made daily.

Be sure to check out Sage-Infused Gin & Tonic Evan made for us live on Highballs at High Noon and watch his live session with Mary on Instagram!

Download the free Highballs at high noon e-book here!

Q: What was it that first got you into cocktails?

Evan Knutson: I started learning about cocktailing when I was hired on as a server at The Black Sheep in Whitewater, WI. Shortly after onboarding, we began implementing the “Old Fashioned of the Month.” We were thrust into crafting cocktails and finding complimentary flavors and I saw a real opportunity to experiment and be creative in new ways. I’ve since moved to Maxwell, where I’ve continued to hone my curiosity and diversify my cocktail experiments.

Q: What new cocktail discoveries are you exploring right now? 

EK: I’ve been very interested in crafting my own shrubs. I like them because they’re a complete cocktail ingredient that can be used in mocktails and cocktails alike. I think it’s important for those who abstain from alcohol to be able to enjoy a unique beverage experience and shrubs give them the opportunity to do so.

Q: Why do you think people at home might be intimidated by making cocktails?

EK: I think the biggest barrier for people making cocktails at home are the tools. Sometimes we think we should have the shakers, the strainer, the great cocktail glassware… but really what we already have at home will probably do fine. I saw a great IGTV where the host was using a Magic Bullet to shake his at-home cocktail. It doesn’t have to be fancy to be tasty! Start with what you have and move forward from there!

Q: What are some of your favorite cocktails to make at home?

EK: My all time favorite cocktail to make at home is the classic Sidecar. You only need three ingredients and something you can shake it in and BOOM! You’ve got a lovely citrus-based cocktail with some subtleties that shine through. I also just find its flavor profile to be enjoyable at any time of the year.

Q: What do you take to a party?

EK: I always bring a deck of cards or another portable card game. You never know when a party needs a little ice breaker or rousing game of Euchre to really get things going! 

Q: Where do you think the cocktail and bar industry is headed?

EK: I think that craft cocktails are going to continue coming to your home digitally. I see a handful of my bartender friends who are moving towards hosting online workshops where clients follow along and learn the tips and tricks gained over years of crafting behind the bar. I really think there’s a lasting market for these and other fun “at-home” cocktail options. 

Q: What has the pandemic taught you?

EK: The pandemic has really taught me to embrace the pivot. A lot of the ways we had operated before have seen drastic changes. Without getting too deep, I’d just like to remind folks that changes outside can bring good changes inside - it's all about perspective.

The Apothecary Bar at Maxwell Mansion. (Image credit: Maxwell Mansion)

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