Tastemaker: Garry White, bar and food manager, Denmark

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

Why he's a Tastemaker: When Denmark opened in March 2014, the second-story, Ikea-furnished cocktail bar was a refreshing change of pace to the speakeasy-style lounges dotting Columbus. The 30-odd signature and seasonal cocktail list followed suit with riffs on classics, like a Manhattan made with a blueberry shrub. Leading this spirited bar is wildly creative food and drink manager Garry White, who always stops to ask: Can we make that turmeric gin infusion or tobacco tincture from scratch? When the answer's yes, the result is tempting cocktails and flavors layered with the skill of a master chef. Thanks to White's direction, Denmark is one of the most exciting cocktail bars in the city.

How he got here: White started in the kitchen, most notably as culinary director for Italian chain Buca di Beppo. Burned out after logging 70-hour weeks, White quit and headed back to school to finish a degree in fine arts. This is when he stepped behind the bar. "I had all this knowledge that I'd built up after 10 years of being a chef," he says. "It was just a natural pull."

Spirted design: Instead of being divided into spirit categories, Denmark's menu is organized by six flavor profiles. It's a way of discouraging customers from gravitating toward a favorite spirit and instead to a flavor or mood.

Modern ideas: Next up, White says customers should look for a few modernist cuisine techniques to grace the cocktail list. Bartenders have been creating house infusions sous vide, but spherification (sealing liquid inside an easily popped gel-like capsule), foams and other methods are on the way.

Green thumb: Eight years ago, White would have told you his thumbs were black. Today, he maintains a large garden behind his Clintonville home, where he grows all the herbs and much of the produce used in cocktails and dishes at Denmark. This summer's project includes digging a pit greenhouse-about 6 feet deep and below the frost line-so he can grow about nine months out of the year.

denmarkonhigh.com

Age: 40

Previous gigs: Buca di Beppo, Burgundy Room, Hubbard Grille

Go-to drink: Sazerac

Guilty pleasure: "I love a good brandy alexander. It's just so rich and creamy."

Off-night eats: G. Michael's, Harvest in Clintonville and Cuco's. "I love Cuco's. I probably eat there more than any place else."

Favorite ingredient? Amaro Nonino. "It's got a really nice overall sweetness-bitterness balance. I think it imparts nice flavor in a cocktail."