Bottled and Barrel-Aged Cocktails, Eastlake Brewing, 11 Wells MN13

Banner for the Toast: Drinking Well in the Upper MidwestThis month’s Toast features the sophisticated winter cocktail menu at Lyn 65 plus news of bottled cocktails. Enjoy a look at Midtown Global Market’s brand new Eastlake Brewery, and get acquainted with 11 Wells distillery.

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Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Winter Cocktails at Lyn 65

A strip mall is not the place you’d expect to find remarkable beverages or creative, flavorful cooking, but at Lyn65, you will find both, and their bar program is getting serious results.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Immediately upon entering, we could see several small wooden barrels in the dining room, which is flanked by a substantial bar at which each stool was occupied.

The restaurant’s winter cocktail list debuts this week, and for the first time it highlights the barrel-aging program implemented by bar manager and co-owner Travis Serbus. The barrel aging of cocktails is catching on because it enhances flavor and adds depth, as it does for a Chardonnay or Russian imperial stout.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Serbus explains that two classic French drinks, a Vieux Carré and Boulevardier, have spent the last 6 to 8 months developing in virgin oak barrels. The barrels will be re-used, infusing additional flavor into a second generation of beverages.

For depth of flavor and pleasant spice, try the barrel-aged Vieux Carré. As one sips, a pleasant scent of anise and lemon becomes evident among the flavors of aromatic bitters and softened booze. The effects of aging on cocktails is not unlike what happens when you slow cook food — flavors are mingled and sharpness fades.

lyn65-drink

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Two year-round cocktails stood out, as well, not only for their superb flavor but also for their creative ingredients. The Cook Cut Stab Kill, an orange-marmalade twist on a whisky sour, is a textural delight featuring deep orange notes rather than pungent tartness. As a counterpoint to a heavy winter beverage, go with the Tijuana Brass Smash (above). Mild avocado and lime may sound like liquid guacamole, but they come into perfect balance thanks to cucumber vodka.

While large-batch and kegged cocktails are not uncommon (and can be found at The Rabbit Hole and Icehouse, for example), maturation in wooden barrels is done at only a few local places, including W.A. Frost and Sea Change. The noteworthy beverages we sampled make Lyn 65 a destination for drinkers.

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

11 Wells Distributes Minnesota 13

Located in the former blacksmith building of the historic Hamm’s Brewing complex, which was used for brewing from 1865 until after prohibition, is the new distillery, 11 Wells, founded by Bob McManus and Lee Egbert. Egbert is the proprietor of Dashfire bitters, and McManus is a business analyst and microbiologist. Their complementary backgrounds set up 11 Wells to become a household name in the alcohol realm. The company’s title comes from the 11 wells that were used as a source during Hamm’s reign. The same water goes into the new generation of beverages created in the gritty space. The two owners have obtained the rights to brew Minnesota 13, a historic spirit whose heyday was Prohibition.

Minnesota 13, the name of the grain behind the drink, is a hearty corn developed at the University of Minnesota for a short growing season. As the story goes, moonshiners in Stearns County became infamous for producing a barrel-aged booze with Minnesota 13 that reportedly displayed higher quality than most other bootlegged spirits in the nation.

As you may imagine based on the location, name, and flagship product, 11 Wells is committed to staying rooted in history and local tradition, and they’ve put much effort into growing the prohibition-era corn variety and developing historic recipes into a beverage that will appeal to the modern palate.

Distribution is in full swing at restaurants and liquor stores; Minnesota 13 White Whiskey, and Maelstrom Rum are widely available, as is a prototype series featuring spirits that are in development.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Pop the Top on Bottled Cocktails

Don’t be surprised if after ordering a mixed drink you see the bartender reaching for a bottle opener. No, she didn’t get your order wrong, bottled cocktails have established a presence thanks to Hola Arepa, Borough, and Marché.

Four bottled cocktails can be found at Hola Arepa, along with an extensive list of other signature drinks, curated by Dan Oskey. Pre-made batches are portioned into 6.5-oz. clear bottles, capped, and refrigerated, so they need only be poured over a glass of ice for service.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

For drinkers who enjoy sitting at the bar for entertainment, the theatrics of cocktail mixing are lost in part. There is a certain appeal, however, in the grown-up soda element of the bottles. The obvious advantage to bartenders is ease of service, essentially shifting much of the burden to prep time, so the staff is less likely to be swamped.

Those seeking a sweet beverage to cut a spicy meal should look no further than the Range Life, which features Velvet Falernum, a spice-infused, rum-like spirit from Barbados, and strong pear notes. Although unique and flavorful, we found Range Life to be out-of-balance in terms of sweetness, begging for a sour or bitter element to temper the cane sugar taste.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Our preference was We Surfed Here, a spicy grapefruit and habañero number. Although the rum is mild, the pleasant cinnamon element puts a wintery twist on the Caribbean feel without screaming “Christmas.”

At Marché (part of the Jester Concepts group that includes Coup d’État and the North Loop’s Borough/Parlour), bottled beverages have become a specialty. Not unlike its neighbor, Muddy Waters, Marché specializes in delivering both coffee and cocktails alongside pastries and from-scratch soups, salads and sandwiches.

The speed advantage of the pre-made cocktails is even more obvious at this bar. It adds a bit of a grab-and-go feel. But whether this removes some of the upscale cocktail sense, and makes the $10 price tag seem steep, is a real question. Their Fernet Me Not was recently featured in the Heavy Table Hot Five.

Paige Latham / Heavy Table

Paige Latham / Heavy Table

Eastlake Brewery Now Open

Eastlake’s location in the Midtown Global Market brings Minnesota’s newest brewery to a neighborhood that is relatively barren as far as beer is concerned. In addition to the vast variety of cuisines at the Global Market, diners will now be able to indulge in a good variety of beverages  thanks to Eastlake Brewery. Four beers are currently available along with kombucha and root beer.

The opening lineup is a bit unusual, with two Belgian-inspired beers and two darker selections. We found each member of a pair to be too similar, leaving drinkers with essentially two choices.

Paige Latham / Heavy Table

Paige Latham / Heavy Table

The saison is very dry and relatively light; the beer is so crisp and brief on the palate that it is almost bland, but it’s certainly refreshing. It would play nicely with many foods found in the market, including moderately heavy dishes and spicy foods. For similar flavor but more pronounced hop bitterness, the l’Ogre de Turvueren is a better choice.

Also on the bitter end of things is the Nicollet Mauler Black IPA with robust dark malt and a resinous, earthy, hop bitterness. It is their strongest offering from a technical standpoint. For even more malt but also significant bitterness, opt for Slop City, a rye stout. Due to the nature of rye as a bitterness enhancer, this one is far more dry than a typical stout, and despite the trompe l’oeil dark color, malt lovers will have to wait until new beers come on line.

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