Traditionally, cocktails are a mixture of spirits, sugar, water and bitters, but things have changed a little bit since the onset of the shaken and stirred varieties. Now, we want it all and we’re willing to go out on a limb and try something completely new in the name of alcohol.
As part of that trend, many restaurants and bars are choosing to focus on Minnesotan ingredients, including spirits from the new distilleries popping up around the area. It’s obvious: They’re proud of what we’re producing here. It’s an exciting time for cocktails around the lake, so throw caution to the wind and try something new from our liquor experts. Get ready for an explosion of flavors old and new in this roundup of delicious cocktails to try on your next night out on the town or for dinner with the family.
This drink will make you remember the sunny days of summer. According to bar manager Troy Vasquez, they sell it by the bucket (figuratively, not literally). It’s light and refreshing and made with Prairie Organic cucumber vodka, fresh cucumber, St. Germaine, lemonade and a dash of mint. It’ll remind you of days boating on the lake. This drink pairs well with any type of seafood, including CŌV’s wood-grilled salmon with pineapple relish and diver-caught pan-roasted scallops. $10.
Take a little vacation at Lago Tacos. Served in special fiesta glasses, the ultimate margarita is a top-shelf version of their classic margarita, with Hornitos Reposado, Cointreau, house-made margarita mix and Grand Marnier. All margaritas at Lago Tacos are made with fresh ingredients including lemon and lime juice. The house-made margarita mix is what makes this drink stand out—you’ll avoid sugar overload, which can be an immediate turn-off when we’re talking margs. Lago bartenders also only salt half the rim in case salt isn’t your thing. And if tequila isn’t your thing, try the Hornitos Reposado. We think it might change your mind. $12.
BLVD Kitchen & Bar
This unique drink at BLVD is said to originate in New Orleans, and some claim it’s the oldest known American cocktail, but all we care about is that it’s a great fall drink. The base of the Sazerac is Bulleit bourbon, which is quickly gaining influence in Minnesota because of its high rye content, spicy taste and smooth finish. It also contains pure cane simple syrup and a spritz of Pernod, which adds a touch of anise flavor. Order BLVD’s hearty, redeye steak cooked on a wood-fire grill—the smoky flavor will complement the Sazerac. $12.
Ike’s Food and Cocktails
Not very many drinks achieve such a bright pink hue—and contain ice cream. Almost forgotten, the pink squirrel is exactly what a classic cocktail should be, with crème de cacao light, crème de noyaux, and vanilla ice cream. You may have only heard your grandma order this on a special night out, but this cocktail is starting to make a resurgence. Whether it brings back nostalgic memories of sock hops and soda shops, or you’re just trying it for the first time, the pink squirrel pairs nicely with a classic supper club meal of New York strip steak with béarnaise and French onion soup. Plus, the timeless atmosphere at Ike’s draws you in and won’t let you go. $12.
Belle Glos Clark and Telephone Pinot Noir
If cocktails aren’t your thing, stop at Spasso, where they have an extensive wine list. This pinot noir is a fantastic transition from summer to fall with its jammy, light oak flavor. The medium body makes it very approachable—and at just the price you like. Spasso doesn’t mark up its wine as most restaurants do, and you can tell by their enthusiastic staff they are excited to introduce you to a wine that they know you’ll love; plus, they have a huge, ever-evolving selection of hard-to-find wines by the glass. This particular pinot noir pairs delightfully with their grilled chicken and wild mushroom risotto. Glass $10, bottle $40.
Jake O’Connor’s Public House
This is a classic with a little twist on it. The Moscow mule has been on top of popular craft cocktails lists for the last few years. Jake O’Connor’s has made an even better version: The Minnesota mule contains the usual ginger beer and lime but adds unique Minnesota vodka from Vikre Distillery on Lake Superior. This spirit contains wild botanicals from the north woods, local grains and the clean, crisp water of Lake Superior. Not to mention that it’s aged in handcrafted Minnesota oak barrels. This is a no-nonsense way to make vodka, all local and all from scratch. You’ll love this drink with the smoked lamb shank, slow-braised and served with whiskey-candied root vegetables. Get ready for the cozy atmosphere you’ll find here and prepare to never want to leave. $7.50.
Jimmy’s Food and Cocktails
Are you a bourbon lover? Give this cocktail a try. You’ll enjoy the brown derby with fresh ingredients including grapefruit, honey syrup and Baker’s bourbon. Jimmy’s hand-pours each martini and even fresh-squeeze all of the juices that they use in their cocktails for a crisp flavor. Baker’s bourbon from the Jim Beam family utilizes a special strain of jug yeast, which results in a silky-smooth texture that complements the honey syrup. This cocktail pairs nicely with almost anything that you choose from the menu including their special in-season selections. $10.95.
Imagine that it’s a hot August day and you’re pulling your boat up to the dock at Maynard’s. All you want is a refreshing drink. Missing that feeling already? Don’t worry, you can get Maynard’s refreshing bootleg cocktail all year-round. Beefeater gin and the restaurant’s own bootleg mix combines sour lemons and steeped mint leaves to achieve the perfect refreshing flavor. It pairs nicely with their chips and guacamole, which is a great dish to share with friends. $8.95.
(Left: Ike’s Pink Squirrel; Right: BLVD’s Sazerac)