Creative Cocktailing

Pass the bourbon, the shrub, and the bitters: it’s time to get shaking. We asked three of the Twin Cities’ most revered bartenders to invent a new Minnesota-themed cocktail. We gave each an inspirational drink name and the license to create. Below are their delicious formulations that will keep you sipping well into winter.

Read more about local drinks in “Twin Cities Best Bars.”

Dan Oskey, The Strip Club Meat & Fish

Dan Oskey blends flavors like artists do paint, combining seemingly disparate tastes into fresh new beverages to savor—the alcoholic kind at The Strip Club as well as his Joia soda line. Oskey says he’s not a runner (“I don’t believe exercise is actually good for you,” he quips), but incorporated an acidic homemade shrub, or drinking vinegar, into his cocktail so the drinker might feel the marathoner’s proverbial burn. His saffron-yellow Mile 23 has a raisin-like aroma, and a clean, bittersweet flavor with hints of the malty botanicals of the old-style gin, the herbal fennel liquor, as well as pear, sage, and a hit of spicy cinnamon.

Twin Cities Marathon DrinkMile 23, Twin Cities Marathon

2 oz. Anchor Distilling Genevieve Genever-style gin (or other genever)
½ oz. Liquore Strega
1 Tbsp. pear/sage “shrub”*
drinking vinegar
4 drops cinnamon/ancho tincture**
fresh sage

In a mixing glass over ice, add Genever-style gin, Liquore Strega, and shrub. Shake and strain into martini glass. Top with cinnamon/ancho tincture and garnish with a sprig of fresh sage.

*Pear/sage “shrub” drinking vinegar:
 Combine 3 ripe D’Anjou Pears, halved and cubed, and 8 sage leaves with 2 cups white wine vinegar and let infusion sit for 7 days at room temperature. Add all ingredients to saucepan and bring to simmer with 1 cup of light brown sugar. Cool and strain. Store in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.  

**Cinnamon/ancho tincture:
Add 1 1/2 oz. Cinnamon Sticks (or 12 sticks) broken once lengthwise and once widthwise and 2 tsp ancho chile powder to 1 cup of 151 Everclear and let sit for 2 weeks at room temperature. Strain dry ingredients (cinnamon & ancho) from alcohol and add dry ingredients to 1 cup water. Bring water to simmer and strain water mixture into alcohol mixture.  Strain again through coffee filter for clarity. 

Johnny Michaels, La Belle Vie

Johnny Michaels of La Belle Vie was at the forefront of the craft cocktail resurgence when it hit the Twin Cities a few years back. Since then, he’s gone on to consult on drink lists at several fine bars around the metro, including Café Maude and Icehouse. His Great Halloween Blizzard of 1991 is an alternate version of his Ciderhaus, made with whiskey instead of bourbon, in honor of his storm experience. The snow had stranded Michaels at a friend’s house without a winter hat and, when the two set off in search of provisions, he improvised a paper balaclava from a Lunds grocery bag, tucking the upside-down sack into his jacket collar and ripping out a hole for his eyes. Michaels and his friend then headed over to Hennepin-Lake Liquors in Minneapolis, where his robber-like headgear set the staff into a panic. After Michaels abated their fears, the staff sent him off with a replacement blaze-orange hunter’s cap branded with the Jack Daniel’s logo. With that memory in mind, Michaels created this boozy warm-up that softens the alcohol’s sting with the sweetness of apple and woodsy allspice.

Halloween Blizzard DrinkThe Great Halloween Blizzard of 1991

1½ oz. Jack Daniel’s whiskey (or other whiskey)
½ oz. Schonauer Apfel (or other apple schnapps or apple-juice concentrate)
¼ oz. St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram (optional)
Dash of Angostura bitters
Splash of dry French sparkling cider (or a splash of fresh cider and cava)
Apple slices

Pour whiskey, apple schnapps, and allspice dram into a lowball glass with ice. Top with bitters and sparkling cider. Garnish with apple slices.

Pip Hanson, Marvel Bar

Pip Hanson and his crew at the Marvel Bar are meticulous drink-makers who like to experiment with non-traditional mixers—they hand-chip their ice from 300-pound blocks and shake their gin with olive oil. Inspired by his titular ingredient, Hanson not only reached for a corn-based spirit, but actually juiced his own fresh kernels. (Don’t be deterred by the septic smell, as the sweet juice tastes much better than its odor suggests.) Hanson’s drink is a bourbon silver fizz—silver means it’s shaken with an egg white. The result is a creamy, light, butter-yellow beverage with a sweet-tart bite and a whisper of corn below its frothy top: Indian summer in a glass. Were you to find yourself lost in Sever’s Corn Maze with one of these in hand, you wouldn’t really care if you found your way out.

Corn Maze DrinkLost in Sever’s Corn Maze

1 ²/³ oz. J.W. Dant Bonded bourbon (or other bottled-in-bond bourbon)
1 oz. fresh sweet-corn juice
²/³ oz. fresh lemon juice
¹/³ oz. simple syrup
1 egg white
1 oz. seltzer

Place all ingredients except seltzer in a Boston shaker. Add three cubes of standard kitchen ice cubes and shake vigorously for about 30 seconds, or until almost all of the ice has melted. Strain into a chilled glass, tap the glass against the counter, and gently swirl to separate foam before topping with seltzer.

Read more about local drinks in “Twin Cities Best Bars.”