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Thursday, January 29, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 32.0° F  Overcast
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Madison's new breed of bartenders: The Arty Upstart, Matt Young
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Matt Young
Matt Young
Credit:Carolyn Fath

Where: Merchant
Previous: Marigold Kitchen
Makes his own: tinctures, infusions, tea syrups
What's shaking: It has been a big year for Young. After training at Merchant for only a few short months, he became a finalist for Bombay Sapphire and GQ's "Most Inspired Bartender" of 2011. It is a premier industry contest, with over 3,000 bartenders competing. The drink he created for the contest was The Stalker, which included Bombay Sapphire gin, fresh celery, Luxardo Maraschino, bitters, Dolin vermouth, simple syrup and lemon juice.

Young grew up in Madison and was an art major at Illinois Wesleyan before returning and working at MMoCA's Art Cart, a traveling interactive learning program for children.

"Bartending," Young says, "is an engaging art. Originally, I wanted to be a graphic designer, but I didn't want to sit in front of a computer all day."

He credits JR Mocanau, his co- bar manager at Merchant, with helping train him for his meteoric rise to bartending stardom. He also learned from Nick Kosevich and Ira Koplowitz, the owners of Bittercube (a craft bitters company out of Milwaukee), who have also helped train staff at Merchant. Young summarizes what he's learned: "The Bittercube philosophy is that a drink must taste balanced, and that less is more. Just bring out a few flavors."

Of his own training in art history and how it relates to being a bartender now, Young professes: "I love to work in an environment where I can be creative and at the same time interact with people. It's a great balance of crafting and entertaining. I also love the history; cocktails are an American craft, and I'm proud to be part of that."

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