America's Coolest Drinking City

It's actually two: The Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul are home to award-winning beverages.

WITH A SURPRISING number of Fortune 500 companies (17) for such a small metropolitan area (Minneapolis and St. Paul together have only 725,000 residents), there’s a good chance you’ve been to the Twin Cities for a meeting. But you may have missed their greatest asset: drinking innovations that come from a long winter. When temperatures drop below freezing, locals at these bars get busy developing award- winning beverage programs to spark their homegrown spirits.


Look for a bouncer working a crossword puzzle next to the basement door of the James Beard Award-winning The Bachelor Farmer restaurant, and you’ve found Marvel Bar. Order the Oliveto, a drink featuring gin, lemon, Licor 43, extra-virgin olive oil and an egg white. Developed by the founding bartender, Pip Hanson—who went on to oversee the beverage program at London’s famed cocktail bar Artesian—this unexpected—ahem—marvel will win over the most hesitant client. For a more recent creation, try a Fashioned By The North, a gin-and-rye-based cocktail.


Once you break through the crusty exterior at this aptly named dive, the bartenders will provide insider’s expertise on local liquors like J. Carver Distillery’s Runestone Straight Rye and unmissable craft brews like Surly Brewing’s Furious IPA. Plus, you’ll likely run into local legends from the music scene (Grumpy’s owner runs a small record label), including Soul Asylum or punk legends Dillinger Four.


Not everyone is a cocktail aficionado. For a stand-out wine list, grab one of the 12 seats at Alma’s restaurant bar, and James Hirdler, the sommelier since the restaurant’s opening in 1999, will take you on a journey through unexpectedly excellent pours, possibly including Carlos Creek Winery’s Vidal Blanc from Alexandria, Minnesota, which he describes as tasting of peach, mango, and apricot with Trockenbeerenauslese-like bright acidity.


When your Lyft finishes bouncing over the scattershot potholes in the alley behind the historic Thorp Building, the dimly lit tools of the trade behind Tattersall Distilling’s bar will banish any doubts about this out-of-the-way gem. Don’t miss the house-made, award-winning Aquavit—what they call the “Scandinavian rival” to their equally award-winning gin.


While St. Paul may be older, its younger (but bigger) brother across the river has it beat in the cocktail game. The former’s Saint Dinette is looking to turn those tables, however, by drafting a team from two highly decorated restaurants that closed too soon: La Belle Vie in Minneapolis (RIP 2015) and The Strip Club in St. Paul (RIP 2017). General manager Laurel A. Elm—acolyte of the godfather of the cocktail movement in Minnesota, Johnny Michaels—leads a team with something to prove and the means to do it. Try a classic whiskey sour, with their house made sour, or the Well Dressed Man, made with Campari, Dolin Dry, Lafleur Mallet Sauternes, herbes de provence and oleo saccharum.


By Jessica Flint


New York City

Before Dinner The Club Room at the Lowell hotel, on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, is hidden away in the back of the recently rebuilt property’s first floor. Designed by interior designer Michael S. Smith, it’s reserved for hotel guests until 5 p.m.; any time after that (up until midnight) the public can sit in the intimate, living room-style lounge and order cocktails and light bites.


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Dinner and Drinks The city’s beloved back-lane wine bar, Love, Tilly Devine, recently underwent more than just an interior makeover: It also got a new executive chef, Ben Abiad. In doing so, the bar tightened up its wine list to focus on more up- and-coming Australian producers and made the menu more local and vegetarian-friendly.


After Dinner Like the Club Room at the Lowell, The Duc de. Morny Library at the La Réserve Paris hotel, a short walk from both the Avenue des Champs-Élysées and the Grand Palais museum, is reserved for guests only during the day; they can drink afternoon tea and enjoy an honor bar. But come evening, the antique-book lined library turns into a jazz bar that recently became open to the public.


Late Night In a town where finding a drink past midnight can be a challenge, Joe’s, in Camden, stays open until 3 a.m. Yes, it’s a dive bar. Yes, it has a retro theme. Yes, it dogs. But it’s a place where you can sing along to rock ‘n’ roll into the wee hours every night of the week.

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