'Last Week Tonight' Writer Josh Gondelman Takes Shots, Talks About Working For John Oliver
The flagship of the Jester Concepts bar group has held strong since hiring local craft wizard Jesse Held to lead the team. The Parlour Old Fashioned is now a Twin Cities classic cocktail in its own right, while the layered Wise Beyond His Years (Scotch, spiced vanilla liquor, honey, and lemon) shows off the team’s more experimental strokes.
One of the things that makes Heyday -- already one of our all-time favorite Twin Cities restaurants -- stand out is its addition of an extremely well-executed cocktail program. The bar flaunts its skill in drinks like the Bitter Redhead, a blend of bourbon, Campari, ginger, jalapeño, and lemon that is balanced into a cocktail that’s sweet, sour, spicy, and just a little bit floral.
Like the rest of the Jester Concepts family, Constantine, which just turned one, features cocktails from Jesse Held, but that’s the only similarity between it and its older siblings. Located in the dark basement of Hotel Ivy, the spot doesn’t take itself too seriously, rolling with a menu of cheeky drinks, like the Lumbersexual, which mixes citrus vodka, orange curacao, lime, and cranberry cordials. But don’t let that playfulness make you think this spot is anything but a fantastic bar. Constantine does its cocktail well. Really, really well.
Saint Dinette shines bright under the big shadow cast by its older sister, The Strip Club Meat & Fish. For a sampling of its wares, order the Thanks for Last Night. The drink features tequila, sweet corn tomatillo, Zing Zang, and lime, and comes with your choice of a Sol Mexican Lager; or the Healthy Vacation, an equally impressive concoction of Gosling's dark rum, mezcal, honey liqueur, ginger, lime, and a mixture of bitters. If you show up for brunch, the morning cocktails stand up to the late-night fare, and the staff makes a mean Bloody.
This little bar, situated right along Nicollet Ave’s Eat Street, has been serving up outstanding cocktails for years. The main bar features rotating seasonal drinks like The Drunken Botanist, an aptly named concoction that features gin, strawberry rhubarb, sake, lemon, pineapple, rose, and orange bitters. And you can hit up the special Tiki bar in back for all your fruity, heavily garnished drink needs.
When it first opened, Volstead’s Emporium took a lot of flack in the community for its strict speakeasy approach. No website, Facebook page, or anything more than mere word of mouth to spread info on this Lyndale spot may seem a little too pretentious to some, but the level of quality that continues to match the secrecy makes it all work exceptionally well.
For the sake of the speakeasy, all we can tell you in regard to location is that the door is located in a back alley at Lake & Lyndale, behind a well-known cowboy-themed bar. Once inside, if nothing on the frequently changing menu catches your eye, ask a bartender for help, or trust that the Old Fashioned, or any of the sherry-based cocktails, have yet to disappoint.
Du Nord distillery’s in-house cocktail room features a few signature drinks utilizing its own brand of L’etoile Vodka and Fitzgerald Gin along with a list of various seasonal offerings. If you’re thinking what we’re thinking, a Fitzgerald & tonic can’t happen fast enough.
When it comes to having a reputation that can’t be overrepresented, The Strip Club in St. Paul consistently exceeds expectations, and that also extends to its bar program. Cocktails like the longstanding Cobra Kai, which features Kilo Kai Rum, habanero bitters, and the house-made sour, are simple mixtures, so the ingredients and expertly layered flavors shine.
Having earned a well-deserved national rep for its cocktail program, Marvel Bar continues to deliver one of the best top-shelf bar experiences in the area. Its signature Oliveto cocktail features olive oil, egg white, lemon, Licor 43, and Gordon’s gin, while the Gatsby combines Benedictine, Tomatin 12 Year Scotch, salt, apricot, and water for a truly delicious drinking experience.
Gavin Kaysen’s North Loop dining destination has quickly earned its place as one of the top spots in the Cities to nab a delicious drink courtesy of Robb Jones masterful cocktail menu. A beautiful pisco sour always hits the spot, but Spoon & Stable’s variation makes the classic even better with Macchu Pisco, pineapple, orange flower water, and lemon, while the spot’s play on an Old Fashioned includes Plantation Grande Réserve rum, Angostura, and a muted sweetness from roasted pineapple demerara.
This might be the new holy land for cocktails in the Twin Cities as legendary barman Dan Oskey has created a brand-new distilling empire. While you can find Tattersall's spirits in many of the liquor stores about town, head straight to the source: the bartenders at the massive cocktail room are constantly putting together drinks of the absolute highest caliber.
With a signature drink list laced with outstanding cocktails like the And Fire In The Sky (mezcal, Cynar, maraschino, demerara sugar, and lemon juice) or the Ballad Of A Thin Man (Tattersall Aquavit, pineapple and lime juices, and bitters), Icehouse unfailingly delivers on its cocktails. However, what we are really loving are its $5 sipping shots. Smaller than a typical drink, but fixed on ice to prevent shooting, these drinks might just be the best cocktail deal in the Twin Cities.
With offerings like the Keyser Söze (tequila, ginger, lime, and black currant), the Satan Laughs & Spreads His Wings (a blend of bourbon, hazelnut orange liqueur, and spicy bitters), or the Playing Make Up, Wearing Guitar (a carbonated bourbon Manhattan with cola-cherry bitters), you get your five dollars' worth every. Single. Time.
The godfather of Twin Cities craft cocktails, Bradstreet Crafthouse has maintained its standard (and name) since moving to a new, larger Uptown area location from its original spot in the Graves Hotel, where it’d been since 2009. The signature Bradstreet cocktail, made of Jim Beam Rye, jasmine, ginger, lemon, and egg white, weathered the move in style, but the rest of the menu is equally worth your attention; if you’ve never tried an on-tap cocktail, test the waters with the Professor (gin, lime, ginger, and Angostura bitters).
Perfect for a cocktail novice, Tongue in Cheek breaks its menu down into flavor categories to help guide your palate. Looking for something spicy? Try the Mother of Dragons, which features jalapeño-infused Jim Beam, Mathilde Pêche, and passion fruit. Want to ease in with something sweet? Go for the Ron Swanson, a loaded combination of Bulleit Rye, Luxardo Maraschino, Ferrand Dry Curaçao, and Blackstrap Bitters. If you need more guidance, opt for a flight, which features one from each category, and let the bartenders talk you through the lineup.
The folks behind popular Bittercube bitters just opened this Seward spot at the tail end of June. While it's too new to declare “best,” that Lawless Distilling has culled together an impressive menu of cocktails all made with its own vodkas and gins warrants an honorable mention, and a call for you to grab a spot on the patio ASAP.
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