Lake Minnetonka Bartenders Serve Up Holiday Favorites

Local bartenders serve up holiday favorites.
Nigel Martin from Jake O'Connor's shows off the Irish coffee.

If there is one thing Minnesotans know about the long, cold winter, it’s that every once in a while you need a good, stiff drink to take the edge off. Whether you’re a beer dabbler, wine drinker or martini lover, the right drink on a cold day can be just as refreshing as a cool, crisp beverage on the Fourth of July.

Cold months beg for something to warm you up. Admit it: We’ve all woken up on those especially cold mornings and considered adding a splash or two of whiskey to our morning coffee. Most of us think better of it (unless we ride the bus and have an especially lenient boss) but the desire for that little extra pick-me-up is a common winter phenomenon.

Luckily, we have bartenders here in the Lake Minnetonka area who are ready and waiting to mix up the perfect holiday drink—ones that will warm you to your core and make your spirits (pun intended) bright.

Lago Tacos
Bartender: Jesse Cohn
Holiday Drink of Choice: Dessert martini
What’s in It? Bailey’s Irish Cream, Blue Amaretto, horchata, cinnamon

Lago Tacos

Lago Tacos is the new kid on the Excelsior block. In a tight-knit community, where locals love nothing more than neighborhood eats and drinks, Lago bartender Jesse Cohn is excited for what the first holiday season has in store for the Mexican eatery.

Cohn is a five-year veteran of the bartending world, including a stint at Lake Minnetonka staple Maynards. He started bartending at Lago Tacos when it opened in February and has high hopes for this holiday season.

“[The holidays] bring out the happiness in people,” says Cohn. “People like being out with their family and friends.” He loves this aspect of the season, and aside from the rush-rush atmosphere of Black Friday, the holidays offer bar-goers the chance to sit back and relax with a drink—an atmosphere that the bartenders at Lagos strive to maintain.

To celebrate the season (and perhaps convince some of those busy shoppers to take a load off), Cohn wanted to give his patrons something new and fun to try. Most people make the switch from dark beer to light beer as the weather gets colder, but Cohn wanted to push the envelope and be a little more adventurous. He came up with a rich, creamy twist on an old classic.

So he invented his own festive drink for the holidays: the dessert martini. Take everything you love about a martini, crank it up to the next level and you’ve found a Jesse Cohn original recipe, one that tickles your sweet tooth and hits the spot on a cold winter day.

In a small town like Excelsior, well known for its summer activity, winter can be a slow time. Cohn says it’s mostly locals who come out around Christmas and New Years as folks step up to support local establishments, adding to the ambiance of a neighborhood bar.

Cohn relishes being the bartender locals come to see, and he’s ready and waiting to serve you a dessert martini.

Jake O’Connor’s

Bartender: Nigel Martin
Holiday Drink of Choice: Irish coffee
What’s in it? Jameson Irish whiskey, coffee, whipped cream

It’s cold outside and you want a hot drink. It’s the holidays, so you want something sweet. Nigel Martin, bartender at Jake O’Connor’s in Excelsior, knows just what you need. When the wind is howling outside and the thermometer is in the blue, he serves his customers a nice, warm Irish coffee. Simple. Comforting. Delicious.

Martin is a bartender’s bartender, with roots that trace all the way back to Ireland. He moved to the Twin Cities because his wife is from here, and found the perfect fit at Jake O’Connor’s, where he’s worked for three years. As the day bartender, Martin sees a lot of regulars come through, which he particularly relishes during the holidays. With his family in a different country, the season can be a little lonely for Martin, but he has found a second home in the Lake Minnetonka area with a new group of friends.

“There is a lot of good camaraderie [with customers]. Especially when you go out drinking after work,” jokes Martin in his thick Irish brogue.

While he and his friends may not be throwing back Irish coffees, it is still one of his favorite holiday drinks to serve. Most people like it as a dessert, as it blends the perfect mix of coffee, whiskey and whipped cream.

Irish coffee is a classic at pubs everywhere, and Martin has been serving it for years. With its blend of hot coffee and whiskey, it’s sure to warm anyone on a cold winter day.  Plus you come away with a nice whipped cream mustache, just like you did drinking hot chocolate as a kid.

Happy holidays, indeed.

Making Spirits Bright at Home: Nigel Martin’s favorite recipes

Spiced Apple Cider
4.5 oz. hot apple cider
1.5 oz. Captain Morgan rum

Combine, serve with a cinnamon stick.

Hot Toddy
1.5 oz. Jameson Irish whiskey
4.5 oz. hot water

Garnish with lemon and cloves; add sugar if desired.