Boosting Madison’s already impressive culinary scene with its skilled team, memorable cuisine and hospitality, small plate bistro and wine bar Graft has seemingly made success inevitable.
The latest installment in the town’s string of sustainably-sourced dining venues, which opened in July, is the epitome of swank.
“The idea behind Graft is the grafting of European and American grape vines,” restaurant partner Sam McDaniel said. “Combining wine, food and hospitality [creates] the greatest thing in the world.”
Initially, this goal defined Graft. But then they acquired renowned Madison restaurant L’Etoile’s Scott Anderson as their mixologist.
Anderson provided the new restaurant with a more extensive cocktail program that still coordinates with Graft’s cuisine.
“I’ll work on something multiple times and let the public taste it to get multiple opinions,” Anderson said.
Anderson’s knack for developing a cohesive menu began when he entered the restaurant industry at age 14 as a dishwasher in Green Bay. He later worked his way up to cooking and front-of-house positions.
His destiny, however, was not always high-quality cuisine. From serving breakfast at the DoubleTree to digging ditches in Glasgow, Scotland, Anderson has amassed quite the résumé.
But these seemingly random career paths all shared a simple passion: creating something.
So after a two-year stint at Johnny Delmonico’s Steakhouse — where he trained most of the staff — Anderson happily proceeded to the bar program at L’Etoile. There, Anderson was free to experiment with his alcoholic affinity under owner and James Beard award-winning Chef Tory Miller.
Now at Graft, Scott seeks to change perceptions about the way classic cocktails are made and should taste, including Wisconsin trademarks.
“People here expect a sweet drink made with brandy, but a true Old Fashioned is made with whiskey,” Anderson said.
In terms of personal favorites you can find McDaniel sipping on his stand-by — but always open to experimentation — martini.
Anderson’s drink of choice, however, is the Last Word.
“It’s a cocktail from Detroit of gin, lime, green Chartreuse and maraschino liqueur,” Anderson said. “It’s cooling in the summer and goes down warm in winter.”
Though his mixology challenges notions of how cocktails are made, Anderson hasn’t had a drink returned yet. His surprising concoctions and eclectic small plates are what make Graft an impressive addition to Madison’s food scene.