Beverage Director

The Best Bars in the Twin Cities to Drink at Right Now

Martina | Eliesa Johnson
Martina | Eliesa Johnson

It’s cold and snowy outside, you worked a long day, and the last thing you want to do is head home to a sad, half-empty bottle of wine to lift your spirits. If you have no plans, heading to one of the best bars to grace the Twin Cities this year is a great place to start. In the years since craft cocktails and locally distilled delicacies exploded onto the dining scene, we have seen some impressive new establishments pop up all over. From better brews and earthy wines to a perfectly mixed martini, we have the bases covered.


Seven Corners

A safe bet for cheap drinks and burgers
Despite the sad fact that Republic’s Uptown location recently closed, the original is still going strong. Republic consistently tops lists of best drinking establishments for a reason. Their excellent selection of beers and cocktails (both on draft!) pairs well with any number of the delicious food on offer, with unusual combinations like peanut sauce-topped duck burgers and soba noodle salad. Thirsty patrons can enjoy flights of beer or two different whisky brands, and even better, Republic has a happy hour that just won’t quit. One of the best deals in town, Republic’s twice-daily happy hour knocks prices down on all tap beers, house wines, cocktails, and even includes a $6 burger. For an affordable, guaranteed good drink, Republic is always a safe bet.

The Happy Gnome

Downtown St. Paul

Excellent beers and St. Paul’s best fire pit
This good old St. Paul standby features 89 craft beers on tap, making this an absolute must-visit for any beer aficionado. They also offer a ton of different tasting events and beer dinners that help educate beer nerds and showcase the joys of craft brewing. Slide into a booth and enjoy what’s on tap or opt for a speciality cocktail like The Bees Blood Orange Knees (local Bare Honey infused Hendrick's gin, Meyer lemonade, and blood orange juice). Additionally, Happy Gnome boasts an excellent food menu and a variety of liquor options for drinkers who just can’t stomach more beers. Make sure to take at least one peek outside, even in the cold: Happy Gnome features one of the best patios in the Twin Cities. It's accessible year-round thanks to its enormous outdoor fire pit.

The Muddy Pig

Downtown St. Paul

St. Paul’s OG beer temple that has served over 2,000 beers on draft
Before there were Surly, Summit, and the plethora of other beer temples, there was the Muddy Pig. One of the first bars in the Twin Cities to emphasize craft beer, the Muddy Pig features more than 40 beers on tap, including a lot of local brews. Since July 2016, the bar has served over 2,000 different types of draft beer. That equates to a lot of rotating options for beer enthusiasts. As comfy as a well-worn sweatshirt, the Muddy Pig is a safe bet for beer lovers who need options, and those who think they don’t like beer at all; with so many possibilities it’s impossible not to find something you’ll love.

Buster's on 28th


A neighborhood bar focused on hard-to-find beer
Buster's is a gem that puts the celebration back into drinking beer, especially when those beers are interesting, weird, or hard to get a hold of -- which is why Buster's is usually a good spot for special cask events and tap takeovers. The bar also offers a build-your-own flight option, which varies in price depending on the styles you choose, but it is a great way to explore new brews from their rotating options. The filling pub grub menu also guarantees you can (somewhat) hangover-proof your visit, even if you need vegetarian options. If you’re smart enough to plan your visit around one of their many events, you can win sweet giveaways like record players.

Tattersall Distilling's Cocktail Room


A fancy cocktail bar in a vintage space with innovative drinks
Housed in the 115-year-old Thorp Building, this place is technically a distillery, but its cocktail room is designed to perfectly show off everything that they’ve got working. Everything you’ll drink here is made in-house or directly made to Tattersall’s own contemporary specifications, and you can’t possibly go wrong with any of the options. Tattersall serves a broad array of house-made liquors (our last count was at least 22 different varietals), so there is sure to be something for everyone. If you make a night of it, make sure it’s in a tight party, as Tattersall does not allow groups of 15 or more. 

Lawless Distilling Company


Custom-made liquors for custom-made cocktails
When the folks behind Bittercube announced that they were opening their own distillery and cocktail room, it became an instant classic. This overdue addition to the Twin Cities cocktail boom came onto the scene hard -- using its own brand of Tippling House vodka and Greenway gin along with their custom line of high-class bitters -- and its bartenders easily pour some of best and most interesting cocktails around today. Lawless also has a kitchen and is serving up tasty bar fare on a revamped menu; they even allow you to bring your own food, if you'd prefer.

Volstead's Emporium
Volstead's Emporium

Volstead's Emporium


Possibly the truest speakeasy in the Twin Cities
For the novelty factor alone, Volstead’s Emporium is a surefire crowd pleaser -- if you can find it, that is. Located in an alley behind several other local businesses, Volstead's has sometimes been accused of being a bit pretentious -- but the long weekend lines can only be attributed to the fact that their bartenders kick ass at what they do. While the cocktails tend to rotate seasonally, the Brooklyn (a twist on a Manhattan) is definitely a drink we find ourselves going back for. If you fancy your nights out Prohibition-era style, swing by for a classy indulgence.

Rival House Sporting Parlour

Downtown St. Paul

Rival House goes beyond hotel bar expectations
This beautiful St. Paul spot may be a hotel bar, but it’s got a surprising amount to offer rabid sports fans. A great place to start is the 24 cicerone-approved craft taps and a menu that specializes in top-shelf bar food made with locally sourced ingredients in mind. On top of that, Rival House has added Instagram-worthy interiors and a lively sporting parlor that includes Skee-Ball, ping pong, and bubble hockey for all of your vintage gaming needs. Add in the ability to do all of this while watching all of the games on the big screens? Now you’ve got yourself a pretty solid game day setup.

Half Time Rec

Downtown St. Paul

A classic, award-winning Irish sports bar
When it comes to sports bars, there are three things you need: beer, food, and TVs. This little St. Paul institution just so happens to have those three things in spades. There are more than 20 beers on tap, multiple big screen TVs, and seriously delicious Irish-style bar food courtesy of the Paddy Shack. Just in case you need a little more, they’ve also got bocce ball in the basement, as well as pool and bean bags. Don’t worry about dressing up here; you can definitely roll in with your best pair of torn jeans and ugly sweater and fit right in. Try to avoid underestimating Half Time Rec’s low-key charms; it’s won awards for best burger and best dive bar for a reason.


Lyn Lake

Great pizza, flowing beer, and a dizzying selection of video games
Up-Down is the ultimate fantasy fulfillment for gamer fans. Showcasing a unique collection of over 50 different classic arcade games, pinball machines, and Skee-Ball alleys, along with several N64 setups, life-sized Jenga, and Connect Four sets, this is definitely a spot for people who like to play. Make sure to troll their website for ongoing updates on available pinball and arcade games, as well as daily drink and experience specials. If you feel like spending New Year’s Eve out of the house but in comfy clothes, this is your spot for interactive fun -- just make sure to get there early enough to snag your favorite games. The selection of 64 craft beers on tap, excellent pizza by the slice, and the fact that it’s always 21+ place it a notch above.

Vegas Lounge

St. Anthony Park

A den of karaoke and meat raffles
If there’s nothing you dream of more than bright lights and an open mic, look no further than the Vegas Lounge. This is a karaoke bar through and through. From the top-notch song selection to an excellent sound system, you’re guaranteed to have fun any night of the week. It serves up more than just karaoke, too, with a weekly lineup that includes bingo, meat raffles, $2 drink specials, and two-for-one happy hours. Release your inner pop star and swing through, especially on nights you know will get rowdy.

Troubadour Wine Bar


An all-natural wine selection you can feel good about drinking
Troubadour advertises itself as an all-natural wine bar. That matters because -- as health-conscious oenophiles know -- cheaply or poorly made wines can often contain undesirable ingredients like added sulfites, pesticides, and unfiltered farm residues. Troubadour’s mission is to sell wines that are as clean, safe, and delicious as possible, and the bar pulls it off. Its menu has recently included rare varietals like Nebbiolo and Picpoul, as well as a solid range of the classic varietals like pinot noir and others you've probably already heard of. Troubadour’s current seasonal menu features wines exclusively made by women winemakers, so, by all means, support these ladies of the grape. Troubadour also has a small selection of beers on tap for those of you who don’t dig wine, but overall, it’s just a great little spot to just sit back and relax.

Bev's Wine Bar

North Loop

The wine bar that started it all in the North Loop
This place has been a North Loop institution since before it was known as the North Loop. For over 20 years, Bev’s has been serving up all kinds of wines by the glass and the bottle, along with a variety of nibbles and pizza for more substantial snackage. It’s also the sort of quaint little place where you can actually have a quiet conversation -- fueled by a simple, but high-quality, wine list. Bev’s keeps relatively short hours depending on the level of foot traffic, but don’t forget to reserve the space for private events.

GYST Fermentation Bar
Jackie Adelmann Photography

GYST Fermentation Bar


Every food and drink item is somehow fermented
What if you need somewhere to go that offers interesting drinks with and without alcohol in them? Look no further than GYST Fermentation Bar, one of the more unique upstarts to grace Uptown’s dining scene. Everything on its menu is fermented. When it comes to food, this means things like pickles, cheeses, and pickled fish. Non-alcoholic beverages include a bracing range of kombucha, kvass (spiced brines, such as beet or pear brine), shrub sodas, and brine shots. Alcohol-wise, the tightly curated menu includes intriguing combinations such as sherry and cider or vermouth and kombucha, as well as a solid range of wines, beers, ciders, dessert, and fortified wines. Swing by for the afternoon happy hour or sign up for one of the many fermentation classes GYST hosts on subjects like making your own kombucha at home.   

Young Joni
The Restaurant Project

Young Joni


Speakeasy great for drinks and wood-fired Asian-fusion pizza
The lines can be long to get in, but this hot spot, which only just opened, is so worth the wait. From creative, Asian-cuisine-inflected pizzas to gorgeous wood-fired side dishes, Young Joni’s perfectly executed menu is sure to surprise even the most wizened foodie. But Young Joni also has a secret back bar in addition to the main restaurant out front. Those facing a long wait can add their name to the list and hop down the alley to a speakeasy-style hole in the wall featuring Young Joni’s trademark creativity, but in cocktail form. Drinks include combinations like gin, saki, butterfly pea flower, and cucumber brine.

Bulls Horn

South Minneapolis

A true dive bar with extremely serious food
"Great food, no bull" is this bar's tagline, and you should pay attention to it. Bulls Horn is a local dive that was recently purchased and renovated by acclaimed local chef Doug Flicker. Reflecting a labor of love and an homage to Flicker’s favorite local haunt, he kept the bar's original vibes (which likely date back to 1935) but revamped the important stuff, like the food. You can’t go wrong here: one of the most acclaimed local chefs delivering delivered perfect chicken gizzards, pizza burgers, and adult-themed lunch trays like dill pickle fried chicken and ring bologna? In a dive bar with a respectable, affordable range of straightforward brewskis and a few wine selections? Keeping it simple can be oh so good.

Eliesa Johnson


South Minneapolis

South American flavors made to drink in the cold North
One of the most hotly anticipated debuts of 2017 is finally open, and boy was it worth the wait. With an astonishing Argentinian-inflected menu that includes fried blowfish tails, sea bolognese, and grilled octopus with bone marrow, you could be forgiven for never wandering past Martina's food menu. Don’t overlook the cocktails, however, which are just as creative as the dishes. The Kind of a Kalimotxo mixes red wine, rosso vermouth, amari, kola, lime, and nitrogen into a mix-and-matched wonder, and the Promiscuous includes a chest hair-raising vodka blend and basque olive brine. Non-drinkers can choose from a carefully prepared list of mocktails, and anyone who requires simpler tipples can order from beer, cider, or the encyclopedic wine list. Reservations are already nearly impossible to get, so book far ahead of time.

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Becki Iverson is an overstimulated millennial with multifarious passions she somehow finds time to catalog on her blog, Compendium ( Follow her on Instagram @beckiiverson for snapshots of how her brain operates, or Facebook for a shortcut to her long-form musings. 
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