Cocktails at Martina in Minneapolis

 

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

Martina in Linden Hills has drawn a lot of of buzz since opening late last year. The attention comes in part due to the neighborhood and also to the quick turnover of its predecessor, Upton 43. Chef Daniel del Prado is another cause for renown. The Argentine chef has made a name for himself in Minnesota at several dining destinations including Bar La Grassa and Solera, but his South American roots are most evident in his latest creation.

Also notable is the beverage staff, many of whom worked as part of the first-rate team at Bittercube. Beverage director Marco Zappia (formerly of Lawless Distilling and Grand Cafe) leads a team that includes Dustin Nguyen (formerly of Can Can Wonderland and Eat Street Social), and Adam Witherspoon from Alma.

Blending spirits in house, while not entirely novel, is a concept that Martina plans to raise to a new level. The bar staff has developed custom blends of cornerstone spirits like vodka, gin, and rum as well as specialty liqueurs like fernet. Nguyen explains that one individual spirit is used as the base, while others of the same type are added to contribute specific characteristics. The majority of these blends use three or four ingredients. Eventually, the team plans to showcase these house blends straight up. As a result, the cocktail menu is notably devoid of brand names, and Martina avoids the common “pay to play” practice wherein distilleries offer their cocktail recipes and are in turn promoted on menus.

Paige Latham Didora / Heavy Table
Paige Latham Didora / Heavy Table

For now, the spirit blends are found in an array of cocktails that range from straightforward to avant-garde. The thoughtfulness evident in the cocktail list is also found in the management of glassware, the level of service, and the restrained level of novelty. Many of the offerings feature degrees of salinity, appropriate for the seafood-forward cuisine, while a few offer balanced sweetness and floral notes to temper grilled and charred meats. Ice is also used thoughtfully and skillfully.

A visit to the bar starts with an of-the-moment vermouth blend (a signature practice of Zappia’s from Grand Cafe), which acts as an amuse bouche. The current offering has a marmalade and plum-skin aroma with a balanced flavor profile of hibiscus, black pepper, and bay leaf. The tannic nature lingers on the roof of the mouth.

Paige Latham Didora / Heavy Table

For caipirinha fans, the Viceroy ($9) is a variation that offers a similar tropical bouquet but without much sugar. Classic Brazilian cachaça meets pineapple and lime, but the addition of togarashi, a spice blend often found in ramen, takes the final product in a different direction. Togarashi adds pepper, sesame, and seaweed notes that build a subtle burn in the back of the throat, but the cocktail never becomes spicy. It’s at once beachy and savory.

Cocktails at Can Can Wonderland in St. Paul

Paige Latham Didora / Heavy Table
Paige Latham Didora / Heavy Table

The voyage through the hidden entrance of Can Can Wonderland is Wonka-like and full of anticipation. Glossy red arrows are painted on the walls, and with a bit of trial and error, it’s hard not to smile while hoping to arrive at the correct door. Stepping into the carnival makes the illusion instantly real — it’s not just your imagination, you’re having fun. This place is a grown-up carnival where everything and nothing seems out of place.

Paige Latham Didora / Heavy Table
Paige Latham Didora / Heavy Table

Can Can Wonderland, which opened last month off of University Avenue in St. Paul, is a singular concept, despite the recent trend of games-plus-drinks seen at the outrageously popular Up-Down in LynLake and West End’s Punch Bowl Social. There is a decidedly homegrown personality to Can Can’s mini-golf Xanadu. Its energy bounces from the bar, to the row of vintage pinball machines, and throughout the putting green. It feels the way a carnival should feel: quirky with an emphasis on whimsy.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

The drinks are no exception. Nick Kosevich (above) and the team at Bittercube have been consulted to bring quality cocktails to two different bars inside the place, and the team took inspiration from their surroundings, rather than riffing on the worn-out classic-cocktail-with-a-twist concept.

On the more restrained end of things is the Subtle Beast ($9), made with blanco tequila, mezcal, grapefruit-lime elixir, cappelletti aperitivo, Jamaica #2 bitters, and rimmed with Sal de Gusana. The sheer number of ingredients is in clear contrast to most other menus curated by Kosevich, but surprisingly, each component stands up in the mix. The mezcal brings subtle smoke, while the citrus adds both sweet and tart. The pleasant tequila backdrop is not boozy, but aromatics from the cappelletti aperitivo (an aromatized wine) create a bold punch. Sal de Gusana, a salt-like powder made from dried agave worms, is mixed with kosher salt for a spicy rim.

Paige Latham Didora / Heavy Table
Paige Latham Didora / Heavy Table

For an even more spirit-forward option, go with the sparkling Neon Love ($10). House tonic is mixed with a healthy dose of Bombay Sapphire East gin and lime. Crushed ice creates a bed for butterfly pea flower, a flavorless blue powder that slowly bleeds into the liquid, leaving a purple tie-dye look streaking towards the bottom of the glass. Gin is the star, but the tonic is close behind, with beautiful anise and clove notes. A silver flocked lime slice creates an image that’s pure intergalactic chic.

Paige Latham Didora / Heavy Table
Paige Latham Didora / Heavy Table

Even more adventurous are the semi-frozen drinks served out of a slushie machine. The texture of the three choices is more Slurpee than ICEE, and they range from sweet to sloshed.

For those who like their alcohol hidden, opt for the fruit-heavy Boone & Crockett ($8), a mix of the lowbrow wine, rum, lime and Bolivar bitters. A mild, floral finish adds depth to what otherwise might as well be rum and Kool-Aid. The middle of the road option is the pleasant Humu Humu Nuku Nuku Apua’a ($11). This one is tiki up front, but it leaves the palate with a pop of alcoholic heat. A mix of rum, pineapple, cherry and vanilla bean is perhaps most notable for what it lacks — there is no coconut to push it into island territory.

Finally, the refreshing High Plains Grifter ($9) was voted the most refined slush cocktail by our team. Whiskey anchors the combination, while a beautiful lemon-tangerine aroma and flavor hits the palate without much sweetness. This is due to the addition of lemon oleo, a gravity-filtered form of citrus juice and essential oil, plus orange bitters. A splash of Fulton Lonely Blonde creates ideal balance.

Paige Latham Didora / Heavy Table
Paige Latham Didora / Heavy Table

In the over-the-top department comes the final adventure, a dessert drink called Monkey Business ($14) which is at once a milkshake and wallop of bourbon. It’s a lollapalooza-sized shake made with bananas, peanut butter, ice cream, bourbon, and chocolate. A thoughtful topping of dried bananas adds texture. Thankfully, it is not as thick as the typical milkshake, but it is large and rich enough to serve more than two people.

Can Can Wonderland may feel at once vintage and trendy, but the drinks are unlike any other program in recent exploration. It feels like the alchemists at Eat Street Social got inspired by the Minnesota State Fair. The entertainment provides appropriate pacing between drinks and they have created a foolproof system for moving about the attractions as food and drink tabs can be opened and closed anywhere without hassle.

This attention to detail makes the visit even more effortless, as do the knowledgeable bartenders who are genuine in their interest in explaining the many obscurities on the menu.

Can Can Wonderland, 755 Prior Ave N, Suite #004, Saint Paul, MN 55104, 651.925.2261. Mon–Wed closed, Thu 10 a.m.–11p.m., Fri-Sat 10a.m.–12a.m., Sun 10a.m.–10p.m.

 

Gamle Ode, Du Nord and Bittercube Winter Cocktail Contest Results

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table
Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

Mike McCarron of Gamle Ode writes:

The judges have spoken and it is time to announce the winners of the first Gamle Ode, Du Nord, and Bittercube Winter Cocktail Contest!

Many thanks to Eat Street Social for hosting, plus providing perfect food and service Monday night. Also, warm thanks to our co-sponsors for providing the awards — Eat Street Social, Du Nord, Wedge Co-op, The Third Bird, Barbette, Red Stag, Restaurant Alma, and Gamle Ode. And thanks to all of you who entered this contest, sharing your mixological knowledge and love of great local spirits and bitters.

And now, let me congratulate all our winners. Every one of these cocktail recipes is worthy your consideration — to add to your home bartending repertoire, to share with your friends and family.

Erik Nelson
Erik Nelson

First Prize: Sweet Grass — Erik Nelson
Makes one cocktail
1¼ oz. dill aquavit
¾ oz. Milagro Silver Tequila
¼ oz. Art in the Age Sage
¾ oz. Cocchi Americano
¾ oz. lime juice
½ oz. Bare Honey lavender blossom honey syrup (1:1 honey and water for syrup)
2 droppers Bittercube Door County Hop bitters

Mix all ingredients, and shake with ice. Served in a coupe or Nick & Nora. Garnish with fresh dill.

Greg Simonson
Greg Simonson

Second Prize: This Side of Paradise — Greg Simonson
Makes two cocktails
3 oz. Du Nord Fitzgerald gin
1 oz. rhubarb liqueur (homemade, recipe available upon request)
3 oz. fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice
1 oz. hop simple syrup (follow standard simple syrup recipe and steep
hops for 3-4 minutes)
2 bar spoons rosewater
4 oz. India pale ale (Town Hall’s Masala Mama is excellent)

Stir all ingredients except IPA with ice until cold. Strain into two cocktail glasses or coupes. Top each with 4 oz. IPA, and give light stir to mix. Garnish with grapefruit peel.

Chris Hatch
Chris Hatch

Third Prize: Snusgatan — Chris Hatch
Makes one cocktail
50 ml (1½ oz.) Gamle Ode Celebration
20 ml (½ oz.) Russell’s Reserve rye
20 ml (½ oz.) Cointreau
absinthe (for rinse)

Stir first three ingredients over ice, and strain into a chilled Nick & Nora or coupe that has been rinsed with absinthe.

Rebecca Aylesworth
Rebecca Aylesworth

Fourth Prize: Northwoods Sunset — Rebecca Aylesworth
Makes one cocktail
2 oz. Fitzgerald Formula No. 1 gin
1 oz. lime juice
1 oz. rhubarb syrup (recommendation: Morris Kitchen Rhubarb Syrup or homemade)
a dash Luxardo Maraschino liqueur
a dash Campari liqueur
½ dropper Bittercube Orange bitters

Mix all ingredients, and shake with ice. Served double strained into a coupe or Nick & Nora.

Winter Cocktail Contest: Semi-Final Results

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Mike McCarron of Gamle Ode writes:

Today is the day we announce the results of our First (hopefully Annual) Heavy Table Gamle Ode, DuNord and Bittercube Winter Cocktail Contest.

First, many thanks to my hardworking and gracious co-sponsors: Heavy Table, DuNord, and Bittercube. I sincerely hope we can do this again — bigger and better — next year. When you take on anything new like this, you need co-sponsors who are bold and yet flexible, and ours have been the best.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

I feel the same appreciation for all of you who submitted recipes. I admire your skill and the boldness that was reflected in your amazing submissions. When the contest was launched, we had no idea we would receive this many high quality recipes. Heavy Table sent us the submissions document shortly after midnight on Friday, and when I read it on Saturday, I realized that the high quality and large volume would make judging over the weekend for today’s announcement very difficult.

As we dug in, above all we felt an intense duty to provide a thorough and fair evaluation out of respect for the efforts made by the people submitting cocktail recipes as well as for the co-sponsors who kindly provided awards.

Daniel Murphy / Heavy Table
Daniel Murphy / Heavy Table

As a result, we are now appealing to your sense of flexibility, since we have chosen to change the judging rules. Over the weekend we pared the entries down to seven finalists, and:

— The awards are to be reallocated to ensure that all seven win at least $50, but that all seven are up for the four main awards.

— The main awards will now be determined at a final judging and awards program hosted Monday evening, March 2, from 7-9pm at Eat Street Social. Finalists are encouraged to attend, and the North Star Bartenders’ Guild and / or celebrity judges will decide the four main award winners.

Jeanne Foels / Heavy Table
Jeanne Foels / Heavy Table

We feel this will give the fairest results, and allow each of the cocktails to receive a measure of respect from the bartenders guild and local cocktail fans, who can come out to sample the beverages and share an evening together, instead of merely reading about the results.

Details are still being determined, but a casual program with food and beverages will be prepared, and we hope everyone interested will swing down to enjoy the evening and put the pressure on the judges as they try to pick the winners.

That said, here are the seven winners and finalists for the four main awards:

Condition Oakland

This Side of Paradise

Sweet Grass

Snusgatan

Lawn Dog

The Forest Floor

Northwoods Sunset

Many thanks to all participants, and I hope to see you at the final judging and awards program on Monday evening, March 2, 7-9pm at Eat Street Social where you can weigh in on these winners.

Paddy Shack Reviewed, Sisyphus Brewing, and More

Kate N.G. Sommers / Heavy Table
Kate N.G. Sommers / Heavy Table

More love for the Jack Riebel-forged upscale dive bar fare of Paddy Shack. Stephanie March digs Victor’s on Water. I’m a sucker for shakshouka, so shakshouka pizza seems worth reporting. Beer sage Doug Hoverson stops by Sisyphus Brewing and the Well Fed Guide to Life hops over to the Monte Carlo (above). Restaurant Alma fights to add boutique hotel rooms upstairs and adds a Bittercube-driven bar program to the upcoming Cafe Alma. And 10 places to take your kid when it’s damned cold out, including Riverview Cafe, A Cupcake Social, and Sovereign Grounds.

Announcing the Gamle Ode, Du Nord, and Bittercube Winter Cocktail Contest

Natalie Champa Jennings / Heavy Table
Natalie Champa Jennings / Heavy Table

This contest is sponsored by Gamle Ode Aquavits, Du Nord Craft Spirits, and Bittercube.

A northern winter is nothing to be trifled with. But a strong and well-crafted cocktail can go a long way toward battling the frost and sleet.

Daniel Murphy / Heavy Table
Daniel Murphy / Heavy Table

Du Nord Craft Spirits, Bittercube, and Gamle Ode Aquavits (distilled and bottled by 45th Parallel Distillery) are dedicated to making drinks that embrace and celebrate the North, and they’re interested in seeing what you can do with their spirits. Your entries are by due Feb. 20 — you can email them to editor@heavytable.com.

Here’s what we’re looking for: new cocktail recipes that use Gamle Ode and / or Du Nord craft spirits and / or Bittercube bitters to entertain, enlighten, and delight. They can include just about anything else: other spirits, mixers, garnishes, beer, food, fire, ice, foam, and so forth.

We’ve got some terrific prizes on the line, including gift cards for Barbette, The Third Bird, and Red Stag Supperclub … plus a $250 grand-prize gift certificate to Eat Street Social, so grab your spirits, shakers, and garnishes, and start mixing!

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

RULES

1. Entries are due by 11:59 p.m., Friday, Feb. 20, 2015. Winners will be announced on Monday, Feb. 23, 2015.

2. Contestants can submit up to two entries in each category (Du Nord, Gamle Ode, and Bittercube), for a total of up to six recipes.

3. Each cocktail recipe should be named and photographed (camera phone photos are fine). Tell us how many cocktails each recipe makes, too.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

4. Entries should be submitted as plain text in the body of an email to editor@heavytable.com.

5. Immediate relatives of Du Nord, Gamle Ode, Bittercube, or Heavy Table team members are not eligible to win.

6. Entries will be judged by representatives of Du Nord, Gamle Ode, and Bittercube for appearance, creativity of name, and (most importantly) taste. The best recipes augment, highlight, and celebrate the flavor of the spirit or spirits being used without overwhelming them.

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

PRIZES

Grand Prize: A gift certificate for $250 at Eat Street Social will be awarded to the cocktail that best uses Du Nord and / or Gamle Ode spirits and / or Bittercube bitters to embrace and / or effectively combat the depths of winter. Our grand prize winner will also receive a $100 gift card for The Wedge Coop!

Best in Spirit: Gamle Ode — A $100 gift card for Eat Street Social and a $50 gift card to the Red Stag will be awarded to the cocktail that best uses any Gamle Ode spirit (Aquavit, Celebration Aquavit and / or Holiday Aquavit).

Best in Spirit: Du Nord — A $50 gift card for the Du Nord Cocktail Room along with a tour and tasting for 4 plus a $50 gift card to The Third Bird will be awarded to the cocktail that best uses any Du Nord spirit (Fitzgerald Gin and / or L’Etoile Vodka).

Best in Bitters: Bittercube — A $50 gift card for Restaurant Alma (which features a Bittercube cocktail program), a $50 gift card for Barbette, and a Bittercube variety pack will be awarded to the cocktail that best uses any Bittercube product.

Borough Boasts Talent to Make North Loop Impact

The Tap Header

Readers: Win Heavy Table pint glasses

The Tap loves restaurant tips from readers, so we’re awarding a Heavy Table pint glass to the best tipster each month. The Tap is the metro area’s comprehensive restaurant buzz roundup, so if you see a new or newly shuttered restaurant, or anything that’s “coming soon,” email Tap editor Jason Walker at jason@heavytable.com.

November’s winner: Suzanne LaPalm of Oakdale

Jason Walker / Heavy Table
Jason Walker / Heavy Table

Borough (now open)

730 Washington Ave N, Minneapolis | 612.354.3135

An ambitious restaurant and bar with a crew talented enough to make an instant impact on city dining, Borough is now open in the Warehouse District. Chefs Nick O’Leary and Tyler Shipton, who met at Travail and between them count stints with local titans Sameh Wadi, Steven Brown, and Isaac Becker, lead the kitchen with a dedication to turning fresh, simple ingredients into flavor-packed creations.

O’Leary and Shipton’s beautiful kitchen, replete with gleaming white tile and custom-designed by the pair, is visible from the bar and will churn out a menu with lots of variety: scotch eggs, bison tartare, sweetbreads with chicken skin, fried cod with mashed potatoes, squash and brown butter pasta, and steak with oxtail ravioli.

Jason Walker / Heavy Table
Jason Walker / Heavy Table

“We’re both farm boys, so we just like good food,” O’Leary (above right) said. “We’ve worked at pretty good restaurants and learned some pretty refined techniques, and I think we’re just going to use that to take simple food to the next level. ‘Flavor Country,’ we always call it.

Our menu is pretty straightforward with not a lot of chemicals or anything going on — just good food that takes a long time to cook sometimes, like inexpensive cuts of meat like oxtails, but that with preparation and seasoning will taste good.”

Shipton (above left) said the menu was mostly American but would include plenty of dishes with worldwide influence: Asian, French, Mediterranean.

“We like to say it’s eclectic and like to have the variety to change something if we get bored so we can switch it up,” he said. “We just want the diners to have a comfortable experience with good food, good wine, good cocktails, good craft beer list. Everything working together.”

Jason Walker / Heavy Table
Jason Walker / Heavy Table

Manning the drinks both at Borough and the connected downstairs Parlour bar is Jesse Held (above), a Town Talk Diner barman from way back who was named best bartender of 2012 by City Pages while at Eat Street Social. Held said the bar was devoted to house-made everything, from infusions to syrups, as well as locally famous Bittercube bitters.

Drinks include spins on standards, like an Old Fashioned with Old Grand Dad, Old Overholt, and Cynar and cherry bark vanilla bitters; or totally new creations like the “Sunny Place for Shady People” with Fernet Branca, pineapple juice, Barenjager, lime juice, and blackstrap bitters. There are also 16 tap beers.

Borough has been “soft opening” for a couple days; it and Parlour have a grand opening planned for today, January 2. Based on a preview dinner I attended, and assuming its personnel sticks together, it looks like the North Loop may have its newest gem.

The Sparrow Cafe (now open)

5001 Penn Ave S, Minneapolis

In just the past five years, the corner of 50th and Penn has seen three coffee shops of varying quality come and go: Cafe Bean, Dragonfly Coffee, and, most recently shuttered, the Adagio Cafe. Misunderstood parking, a Bruegger’s right down the street, and a lack of foot traffic have all played a role, as has the space’s tiny footprint and meager kitchen.

Now, though, Jasper and Sheila Rajendren are giving it a go with the Sparrow Cafe, which opens today and will serve coffee, pastries, and something the three previous tenants didn’t offer: lunch service. The hope is to reinvigorate the kitchen for baking — which will be interesting given the lack of space.

I hope they succeed, because that corner is a great one that’s about to get even greater with the addition of the planned Broders’ Wine Bar.

Tangiers Eatery and Lounge (opens in 2013)

116 First Ave N, Minneapolis

This place popped up on the radar last summer and had plans to open sometime in 2012. Nothing materialized, but the Tangiers’ Twitter feed has been revived, and a peek into the space revealed at least a little progress. We’ll see.

The Tangiers is billed as an upscale restaurant and bar, which the Warehouse District already has in spades. After I talked to a couple of North Loop journalists the other night, I gathered that the area could use not a fancy place but instead a casual gastropub or two.

NOW OPEN

CLOSED / CLOSING:

  • Origami, 12305 Wayzata Blvd, Minnetonka
  • Italianis, 3508 E Lake St, Minneapolis
  • Adagio Cafe, 5001 Penn Ave S, Minneapolis
  • The Donut Cooperative, 2929 E 25th St, Minneapolis | 612.353.6089
  • Kiev Foods, 2500 7th St W, St. Paul
  • King & I Thai, 1346 LaSalle Ave S, Minneapolis

COMING UP:
Minneapolis

  • Zeke’s Unchained Animal, 3508 E Lake St, Minneapolis | 612.720.9878
  • Northgate Brewing, 3134 California St NE, Minneapolis | 612.234.1056
  • Smack Shack, Washington Ave N and 6th Ave N, Minneapolis. Opens Jan. 22.
  • Dangerous Man Brewing, 1300 2nd St NE, Minneapolis. Opens in January. | 612.209.2626
  • Burch Steak, Burch Pizza Bar, 1942 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis. Isaac Becker’s planned steakhouse in old Burch Pharmacy; opens in February.
  • Parka, 4023 E Lake St, Minneapolis. Opens early 2013.
  • One Two Three Sushi, 80 S 8th St (IDS Center Skyway), Minneapolis. Opens early 2013.
  • 612 Brew Taproom, 945 Broadway St NE, Minneapolis. Opens early 2013. | 612.217.0437
  • Blue Door Pub, 3448 42nd Ave S, Minneapolis
  • The Original Just Turkey Restaurant, 3758 Nicollet Ave S, Minneapolis
  • Tangiers Eatery and Lounge, 116 First Ave N, Minneapolis.
  • Rincon 38, 3801 Grand Ave S, Minneapolis | 612.408.7063
  • Red Cow, 3624 W 50th St, Minneapolis. Opens in 2013. | 651.336.2179
  • Origami, 1352 Lagoon Ave, Minneapolis. Opens in 2013.
  • Seward Cafe, 2129 E Franklin Ave, Minneapolis. Opening for dinner service. | 612.332.1011
  • Broders’ Wine Bar, 2221 W 50th St, Minneapolis
  • Tiny Diner, 1014 E 38th St, Minneapolis | 612.822.6302
  • Spill the Wine, Lake St and Bryant Ave, Minneapolis. Moving from downtown location in April 2013. | 612.339.3388
  • Morrissey’s Irish Pub, 913 W Lake St, Minneapolis. Opens early 2013.
  • Rocky and Shem’s Ice Cream Shoppe, 56th St and Chicago Ave, Minneapolis.
  • Sandcastle, Lake Nokomis, Minneapolis. Doug Flicker’s concessionaire restaurant at the lake. Opens spring 2013.
  • Town Hall Tap, 5019 34th Ave S, Minneapolis

St. Paul

  • Las Sirenas, 199 Plato Blvd, St. Paul | 651.888.2233
  • Bang Brewing, 2320 Capp Rd, St. Paul. Opens in 2013.
  • French Meadow, 1662 Grand Ave, St. Paul. Opens in 2013.

Greater Twin Cities Area

The Tap is the Heavy Table’s guide to area restaurant openings, closings, and other major events. The Tap is compiled and published biweekly by Heavy Table writer Jason Walker. If you have tips for The Tap, please email Jason at jason@heavytable.com.

Eat Street Social in Minneapolis

Crystal Liepa / Heavy Table

If there’s one thing Eat Street Social has in spades, it’s vibe. The second child of Northeast Social owners Joe Wagner and Sam Bonin, Eat Street Social (in the old Tacos Morelos spot near Nicollet) is all darkness and opulence: shadowy brocade walls, high maroon booths, and glowing castle-like light fixtures provide the setting for a huge and fantastic square bar that thrusts into the center of the room, commanding attention in a Guthrie-like manner.

It’s this stage of mixology that really inspires a visit to Social. All the eating and dining and chatter ebb from this center, where head bartenders (and founders of Bittercube bitters) Nick Kosevich and Ira Koplowitz grin and sling some really inspired drinks.

Crystal Liepa / Heavy Table

From a long list of unique creations, the Copper Dagger ($9) seems to be a favorite among the staff. Averna Amaro, Lemon Hart 151, St. Germain, and cap of foamy egg white make up a tart and delicate suede-colored cocktail masquerading as a thick cappuccino. The Queen Charlotte ($10) is like a floral lemon bar, fashioned with Grey Goose and liqueur violette, but the 21st Century Cocktail ($9) was our favorite on the list. Gin, Lillet Rouge, and house-made cocao nib liqueur result in a drink that’s 80s-prom-dress mauve. At first whiff it’s chocolately, but when the drink goes down it’s all mellow, floral citrus, with none of the piney edge that makes the gin-haters hate.

Unlike its list of bright, enthusiastic cocktails, Social’s lunch and dinner menus are governed by an earthier, iron-rich agenda. From the healthy list of appetizers (including steak tar tar and calamari), we tried the scallops ($10) and mussels and fries ($10). While both proteins were tender and treated well, they would benefit from a splash of brightness. The mussels absorb a dark edge from their hot but slightly bitter garlic and white wine broth, and the scallops come with a competing trio of apple butter, fried sweet breads, and an acerbic kumquat marmalade. A forkful of all four components loses the mildness of the apple and scallop almost entirely, making a harsh and confusing bite.

On the entrée side of things, the gnocchi ($17) is similar. Though soft and heady with truffle, the dish is almost overwhelmed by a pool of earthy brown butter. But the menu’s dark and stormy bent is perhaps best embodied by the smoked jalapeno and tomato soup ($6). It’s a creamy barbecue in a bowl, and while other dishes would welcome a squeeze of lemon here and there, this soup is practically perfect just the way it is.

The Melthouse Bistro Opens and Morning Roundup

A (very hostile) open letter to the Lexington in St. Paul, a review of Bittercube Bitters, a gourmet grilled cheese restaurant called Melthouse Bistro is opening in Milwaukee, a visit to Steve’s Meat Market in Ellendale, a review of Summit’s Black Ale, the vintage and profoundly enigmatic Live from Lunds, the owners of Oceanaire need a geography lesson, and a profile of Hook’s Cheese in Mineral Point, WI. (Hook’s 10-Year Cheddar + Buffalo Trace bourbon = the best late-night snack ever created.)

Eat Street Social, Rye Delicatessen & Bar, Pig & Fiddle and more

Readers: Win Heavy Table pint glasses

The Tap loves restaurant tips from readers, so we’re awarding a Heavy Table pint glass to the best tipster each month. The Tap is the metro area’s comprehensive restaurant buzz roundup, so if you see a new or newly shuttered restaurant, or anything that’s “coming soon,” email Tap editor Jason Walker at jason@heavytable.com.

October’s winner: Kari Anderson of Minneapolis

Eat Street Social (opens this fall)

14 W 26th St, Minneapolis

Northeast Social owners Joe Wagner and Sam Bonin are coming to Nicollet Avenue this fall with Eat Street Social, a new bar and restaurant in the former Tacos Morelos space that hopes to replicate the laid-back yet elegant vibe and quality food, wine, and beer of their first restaurant.

Eat Street Social will also have liquor, and Nick Kosevich and Ira Koplowitz of Bittercube bitters are leading the cocktail program. Kosevich is well-known locally as the former bartending force at the Town Talk Diner, and Koplowitz cut his teeth at Chicago cocktail den Violet Hour. These guys live to make unique, delicious cocktails, and their hiring means Wagner and Bonin are serious about giving Eat Street Social a bar that means business.

“I’d say [Kosevich] is right up there, one or two with the top bartenders in town,” Wagner said. “And so we’ll be making our own tonics, of course we’ll be using Bittercube bitters. Most of the big stuff for the cocktails will be made in-house.

“The bar that we designed is going to be really neat. We’re using a sushi cooler for a lot of the ingredients to stay fresh. Kind of like food, you want to use the freshest ingredients. So it will be a display area where you can really watch the whole process.”

Geoff Little will be executive chef at both locations and design the menu at Eat Street, so the food will stick close to what Northeast Social already does: an approachable yet thoughtful array of well-crafted small plates, salads, sandwiches, and entrees. But Eat Street will be different in ways other than the cocktails, as the larger dining room will seat around 100 and there will be live music a few nights a week, as well as a banquet space (formerly Azia’s Caterpillar Room). It will also have an old-fashioned soda fountain, with housemade syrups and old-school soft drinks like raspberry sodas, tonics, and egg creams.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

“We can’t wait for it to open because we have a lot to show,” Kosevich (above) said. “I haven’t made drinks in this city for over two years. Since I left Minneapolis, since I left the Town Talk, we basically have been working Bittercube and designing cocktails all over the Midwest. So this is really the first time that we get to showcase that work, the culmination of two years of hard work, here in Minneapolis.”

Kosevich and Koplowitz, who essentially have been given free rein to create their menu, have some strong opinions about what makes for tasty, interesting liquor. One conversation with these guys, and you know the bar at Eat Street Social is not going to be typical.

“Most back bars you go in and it’s all kind of things that everyone knows and everyone’s heard of, some big factory distilleries,” Koplowitz said. “One thing that we’re really excited about with this project is to have a nice, broad spirits list with … a lot of things that are a little more esoteric and unique than the Johnnie Walkers of the world.”

“People are going to order something, and we may not have it,” Kosevich said, “because we’re showcasing something more unique that’s similar, comparable, or contrasting, but through the in-depth education aspect of our spirit program [bartenders] will be able to direct people in the right way, in the right direction that they want to go. Guests leave in a more positive way when they’ve been given something new, something fresh.”

“One classic example would be rather than having Jack Daniels, have George Dickel, which is another Tennessee whiskey that is really nice,” Koplowitz said. “It’s not craft, it’s still a really big company, but showcasing something that’s been around a long time and has been somewhat forgotten.”

But it’s not all about drinks. Wagner said he and Bonin’s goal for Eat Street Social was to create a place for real drinks, yes, but also solid food and cool vibes for the creative, funky Whittier neighborhood. The two moved to the neighborhood from Rochester together when they were 18 and never lost their love for the area.

“With MCAD being over there, there’s a lot of creative young people that gives a lot of energy to it,” Wagner said. “There’s a lot of fantastic food on Eat Street. We’ll bring kind of a new feeling and operate something that isn’t really in that area right now.

“There’s no real bars in that neighborhood. I mean, Uptown, even, there’s nothing really. The Uptown Bar was cool back in the day, but it’s gone. There’s no real bars to kind of replace it.”

Eat Street Social is shooting for a late fall opening.

Rye Delicatessen & Bar (opens this month)

1930 Hennepin Ave S, Minneapolis | ryedeli.com

Lowry Hill is getting a huge jolt of all-day food and cocktails. First came The Lowry and now it’s Rye Delicatessen & Bar, set to open in the former Auriga space on Hennepin.

Milwaukee’s Most Intriguing Men and March 4 Tweet Rodeo

@HauteDish plans to start serving Sunday brunch, @Bittercube makes an appearance in an M Magazine piece about “Twelve of Milwaukee’s Most Intriguing Men,” @Northern_Brewer’s Brewing TV is now available on iTunes, @Smack_Shack plans a lobster boil next week and is taking advance orders, and @BrasaRotisserie celebrates Fat Tuesday.

Homemade Liqueurs for the Holidays

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

If you go shopping for a good liqueur, you’re essentially playing booze roulette; carefully crafted liqueurs made with quality ingredients sit beside neutral grain spirit-based liqueurs swimming in artificial colors and flavors. Packaging and pricing are suggestive of quality, but can also be deceptive. Fortunately, there’s a way to ensure that you get a great liqueur for a great price: Just make your own.

Learning a few basic techniques can allow you to create an arsenal of flavors for your home drinking experience and to share as gifts for friends and family.

In this article, we’ll write about two different processes. The first will involve heat, a technique generally used in citrus-based liqueurs. The second style of liqueur making works great with berries, cherries, and frozen fruits — it’s a process of maceration without heat. The two recipes are simple ways to get started on creating a variety of your own home liqueurs. These recipes are guidelines, so feel free to riff on them with your own ideas and ingredients.

Spiced Orange Liqueur

Orange liqueur is a very versatile product to have in your home cocktail arsenal. For the holidays, we’ve added some traditional holiday spices. This cordial will be nice on the rocks and in cocktails. Feel free to opt out of the spices or tweak which ones you use.

One important rule when working with these recipes — you can always add more at a later time, but it is much more difficult to take away. For instance, if you really like clove and add a heaping handful, you may be disappointed when all you taste is clove, but if you add a bit at a time, you can finish the process with more.

The Spiced Orange Liqueur recipe does have a bitter element coming from the pith — Come on, we’re Bittercube! Would you expect anything different? We recommend you try the recipe this way, but use a microplane to remove the zest from the oranges (instead of a peeler) to achieve a rich orange flavor with fewer bitter notes.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Spiced Orange Liqueur

Use a one gallon glass jar with a lid for this recipe