I live in Minneapolis, that I will have to move away in a few short months makes me very sad. I love the city, I love the museums, I love the theaters, I even love the libraries when the damn municipality can get it together to pay people to staff them more than four days a week.
There is one thing I do not like. The drinks scene. Oh, it’s fair enough if you do your own mixing. There are good liquor stores with fine selections, but saving money is not the only reason I don’t go out to bars much. Probably the peak moment for me, the defining one that got me to stick to beer at Minneapolis bars, was when I ordered a gimlet and it came with two hazelnuts in it. They stared up at me from within their clear (and sadly watery) grave, little brown dots distorted by ice floating in my glass.
1 part Gin
1 part Rose’s Lime Cordial
Shake and strain. Some will prefer vodka, humor them. Some will want more booze, personally I think that’s fine, I like a 3:2 ratio myself though a 5:3 can be nice as well.
A gimlet can be good with a heavy pour or a light one. I ordered it because it was hard to mess up. It’s the drink everyone should start on when the first start mixing, because it is so hard to truly botch.
Oh, there are places where you can get good drinks around here. From what I can tell, Psycho Suzi’s mixes right out of the Grog Log. Which is hilarious when you think about it, because on their motto is “Good taste is for suckers.” The menu page has “Where your petty concerns of authenticity are irrelevant.” And they’re the ones doing it right. You could go to a place like The Lexington and get a good Manhattan, and there are other bars that do this one right, Nye’s Polonaise comes to mind, and you have to love their website. But you could just as easily go to Campiello and have to tell them that a Manhattan has bitters in it. Do I actually want them to do that they ask? Hell yes! This is not a variation. This is a Manhattan. The Manhattan and the Martini are the classic left and right hook that slugged American drink craft to the top of the heap back in the day. A Manhattan has no fresh ingredients. The cost of keeping fresh citrus around and the time to squeeze said citrus should not be factors. Campiello makes a show of their bar, the people behind it should know how to use it.
Despite the fancy ingredients that get tossed around in my and causabon’s posts, I am not a terribly fussy drinker. I like to mess around and try things, and I care about getting stuff right, but I’m drinking trashy seven dollar saki right now. When it comes to beer, there are several very good local brands that do a fine job and don’t break the bank. But a cocktail is a cocktail and should be done right or not at all. Sure, there are bars where you can tell you shouldn’t bother ordering one. I know better than to ask for a sidecar at the CC Club.
But there are bars around here that clearly think that they grok the whole cocktail thing, and they don’t, which breaks my heart. What about the people who write about drinks around here? Here’s the City Pages (the free local culture rag) drinks of the week for the recent past. That’s just an atrocity. It’s palate warfare. Let’s not get into the grasp of cocktail history implicit in the April 25th entry. These are the people who took over for Dara Moskowitz, who I trust implicitly on food, but once lauded a drink that was apparently just Inniskillin spaced with vodka, which I simply fail to see the point of. The Inniskillin is too sweet for you? Get something else. That drink is just a way of sugaring booze down your gullet. EDIT: I am not being entirely fair about that drink, but it deserves more space than can be given here.
Those “Drinks of the Week” are indicative. The whole area is a damned diabetic coma. Most places you go to have theme drinks with pun names that try match fruit juice and vodka with the decor. Note to local cocktail menu designers, adding Grand Marnier does not mean that you have succeeded in breaking out of the vodka and fruit juice mold. I’m not naive about this. I know most cities wouldn’t be any better, but would it kill the people who supposedly care in this city to, you know, care?
It doesn’t take much. The knowledge is out there and easy to acquire. They could start with something simple, like reading the Savoy Cocktail Book entries at Underhill Lounge. Or maybe just buy the Savoy cocktail book and start that journey yourself. Take it back to the basics people. You don’t have to go lighting rosemary on fire with chartreuse right off the bat.
And get off my porch. I need to put the boxes there because I’m moving to the coast.