Drink of the Week: The Gibson at Heartland

Sampling the new cocktail menu at Heartland.

 Winters in St. Paul are magical. White twinkle lights wind around trees and street lamps. The old buildings glitter with freshly fallen snow, and the city parks are blanketed with just a few stone steps peeking out from beneath the pristine cover.

When Heartland first opened in Lowertown, there wasn’t much there beyond the farmers’ market. Now the neighborhood has grown up around Lenny Russo’s restaurant. As times change, more restaurants spring up and a stadium takes shape nearby. And Heartland is also undergoing some changes. The market attached to the restaurant has been closed for a renovation; the space will be reborn with a larger deli.

The bar has also been given a small makeover with the addition of a menu ideal for pre-ballgame noshing. The dishes include three burgers: pork, beef and bison. There are hearty, humble, classic dishes such as fried local fish and coq au vin. The cocktail menu, much like the food, uses local sourcing when possible and is filled with elegant takes on classics.

The Gibson might just be the most ideal of these drinks. North Shore Gin No. 6 meets North Shore Aquavit and is served over a pickled shallot. And that’s it. So deceptively simple, and the result is such elegant sophistication in a glass. The gin has a gentle juniper spice, like a bracing January wind, amped up with a floral, peppery finish threaded with a soft, lemony citrus. The light-handed addition of aquavit enhances the pink peppercorn flavor with a few additional hints of spice, tasting almost like cardamom with a breezy note of lemongrass.