Vanessa “Van” Morrison
Winks Bar and Grille
This is the first of a new monthly series that will feature Northeast Ohio’s most popular and innovative bartenders. The term “Master Mixologist” is granted only to those individuals who excel at a handful of attributes. Not only should the bartender be technically proficient, but creative and personable.
Vanessa “Van” is Northeast Ohio’s newest cocktail gunslinger. Originally from Pennsylvania, she currently reigns supreme at the newest and most unique concept from the Winking Lizard, Winks Bar and Grille. Helping the Galleria come back to life, Winks has been a hit since opening a few weeks ago.
Part of the success is its ambitious cocktail menu, which Morrison brought a lot of experience to. She came Winking Lizard owner John Lane’s attention after winning the Hangar One regional cocktail competition in 2011. Recognizing her talent, Lane enticed Morrison to accept a corporate position as his company’s official mixologist, developing all the Lizard’s cocktail menus.
At Winks, Morrison has really been able to spread her wings. Some of her more creative efforts include ingredients like smoked bison grass, “charred” ice, egg whites, and even nicotine! Beyond beyond the liquid wonderland, Morrison’s personality also packs a punch. It is easy to understand how she can hold court at Winks and make any type of customer feel comfortable. When I met her, she was days away from becoming the first female bartender to win the Fabulous Food Show mixology competition.
The combination of delightfully odd ingredients and a welcoming personality is Morrison’s ticket to being a Master Mixologist. Between the Steelers and Morrison, Pennsylvania is really giving us a run for our money. At least Morrison is a Clevelander now. Check out a couple of her creations at Winks and judge for yourself.
Smoking Jacket ($6)
Four Roses Single Barrel
tobacco/anise infused bitters
fresh lemon juice
house made honey syrup
“Charred Ice” Smoked Rye Manhattan ($6.50)
Smoked Ice Puck
Winks Bar and Grille
1301 East 9th St.