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Minneapolis Has a $35 Cocktail, And I Tried It

A speakeasy experience with a premium cocktail. But is it worth it?


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The $35 Sazerac at Al's Place in Minneapolis

Photo by Jason DeRusha

When I first heard about a place in Northeast Minneapolis serving a "Captain's List" of $35 cocktails, I was intrigued. Is this like a fishbowl cocktail for the whole table? Is it served in a balloon and filled with smoke, like something from Chicago's Aviary

Nope. It's a single cocktail served inside a charming new speakeasy above Stanley's Bar Room in Northeast Minneapolis, called Al's Place. Al's is open Thursday–Sunday nights. You knock on a door at University & Lowry marked only by a green light. You can also enter a photo booth inside Stanley's to get in. The entire place is themed in the time of Al Capone, and if you Google "Al's Place," the entry says it's a furniture shop (a nod to the fact that a furniture business was Capone's first front operation). A smoke machine pumps in a light haze designed to simulate a smoke-filled bar of the 1920s. 


Photo by Jason DeRusha

I'll get to the $35 cocktail in a minute.

First, let me tell you that I enjoyed Al's. Yes, the speakeasy trend has been around for a while, especially in larger cities. PDT in New York opened a decade ago, and it was similar: You entered through a phone booth in a hot dog joint. But Al's is fun; they have a lounge singer on Fridays and Saturdays, and the main cocktails were quite good—and quite reasonably priced. We liked the Mattress Manhattan quite a bit, made with Redemption Rye, Maison Rouge Cognac, and Yanguirre Vermouth. Served up for $12. I also recommend the Davenport Double Standard with Redemption, Old Tom Gin, raspberry syrup, and lime, $11. Most cocktails are $9–$12. 


​Photo by Jason DeRusha

But, Jason, how was the $35 cocktail?

It was...good. Very good. Of the five $35 options, I ordered the Sazerac. This five-cocktail "Captain's List" also includes a Clover Club (with Crooked Water Naval Strength gin), a Presidential Manhattan (with a Germain Robin XO brandy), Mary Pickford (El Dorado 12-year aged rum), and a Jack Rose (Arkansas Black 21-year apple brandy).


​Photo by Jason DeRusha

We were told that these cocktails use very high-end, and somewhat rare, liquors. That is partially true. The Germain Robin XO and the Arkansas Black 21 Applejack are both $100+ retail bottles, while the Sazerac uses a very nice Copper & Kings Butchertown brandy, which is listed at $52 at Total Wine. The Crooked Water and El Dorado are around $35 retail. At any rate, the cost of the spirit is only part of the premium experience. The Sazerac was really nicely made—"Two Bits" (our really wonderful bartender) used a honey-orange tobacco spirit and a fire-lit absinthe rinse to create a deep, complex flavor.


​Photo by Jason DeRusha

Still.

"Two Bits" may have explained the history of the cocktail, talked about the bitters and the syrups and everything, and it may have been fun. But $35 for a cocktail? It is ridiculous. Ridiculous. Aviary's top cocktail price is $28, and most go for around $20. The freakin' Aviary! The main attraction at Al's is the storytelling and the tableside prep. Don't get me wrong, I love when I get guacamole made tableside. But I'm not willing to pay $35 for it. Are you? 

Afterward, my friends and I went up the street two blocks to the bar at Hai Hai, where it was happy hour, and we enjoyed some more cocktails, also prepared right in front of us. We were sitting at the bar. They cost $6.

Al's Bar
2500 University Ave. NE, Minneapolis
612-788-2529
www.alsplacempls.com

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