Shimp is keenly aware that his new downtown ZIP code demands a certain quality behind the bar. “The cocktail program will be the next big thing for Red Cow in 2015,” he says. “And what we do in the North Loop will be parlayed here in St. Paul.”
The man behind the shaker will be Ian Lowther, the Far North Spirits brand ambassador and longtime barman at the recently shuttered Solera. “I’m so stoked to get Ian,” says Shimp. “Just the thought process and ingenuity behind his cocktails is amazing.”
Lowther will now be mixing cocktails on the very same block as two of the Cities’ finest bar programs: Pip Hanson and the Marvel Bar crew, and Robb Jones & Co. at Spoon & Stable. “I’ve definitely thought about that,” says Lowther. “It’s crazy, but it’s also really exciting. Because more than anything, I have the chance to show our own attitude towards cocktails.” That attitude might, for example, include a curated menu of Boilermakers for downtowners in need of a classy beer and a bump.
“We’ll be doing a ton of house made ingredients—falernum, lime cordial, vermouth, ginger beer, among other things,” says Lowther. “There will be a cocktail on tap—something tropical to help people forget we’re opening in February. One of the standouts on the list for me is a vermouth-forward cocktail that incorporates pear eau de vie. It’s light and low proof with crisp pear and spice.”
Once the North Loop location is in full swing, Shimp will put the breaks on any more local expansion. “I think three right now is our Twin Cities plan,” he says. “If we do anything we might try Denver. The front range of Colorado has a lot of similarities to the Twin Cities. I want to keep it very urban, and we’ve found three neighborhoods we feel we can do the best in.”
Instead of more restaurants, Shimp will focus on different strategic partnerships. He’s currently working on a deal with the Twins to have a Red Cow burger kiosk at Target Field, and potentially a similar arrangement with the Wild down the road.
However Red Cow manages to evolve, expect their focus to remain where it counts: solid burgers and a premium on customer service. “Hospitality is number one, and it starts internally,” says Shimp. “If we don’t have a happy, excited staff, it’s downhill from there. But if they are, they take that excitement and pass it along to guests. Then you add in great burgers, great beer, cocktails and wine, and now you’ve got a recipe for success.”