One of the most promising Minneapolis neighborhoods for beer drinking recently added cocktails to its list of reasons to visit. The Sheridan neighborhood of Northeast, while relatively quiet and residential, is gaining steam as a nightlife destination. Part of Young Joni, but with a separate entrance along the same alley as Dangerous Man Brewing Company, is an unnamed cocktail room, popularly dubbed “the back bar.”
Though the term “speakeasy” is avoided, it is hard to ignore the similarities to underground operations like Volstead’s Emporium in Lyn-Lake. In fact, both have alleyway entries and red lights demarcating the entrance during open hours.
After passing through a dark vestibule, drinkers will find several low tables, plush seating, and an abbreviated bar. This backdoor cocktail bar has all the flair of Parlour within the dimensions of a shipping container, plus cozy vintage touches. Unfinished raw wood walls with light bleeding in give a treehouse feel.
The cocktail menu doesn’t categorize drinks as classics or signatures in the fashion of many high-end bars. Instead, each drink stands very much alone, and the menu features a single one on each page. During a handful of visits over a few weeks, no changes were evident.
Adam Gorski, best known for his role at the helm of La Belle Vie’s cocktail program, is responsible for cocktails at both Young Joni and the back bar.
One signature drink drew mixed opinions. The Corduroy Angel, made with Calvados Coquerel, sorghum, and Amaro Sfumato Rabarbaro, was boozy and robust. The amaro, made from rhubarb, but with a smoky character, came off as oddly chemical in nature, like liquid smoke with an aromatic twist. On the other hand, the sorghum adds a restrained, molasseslike sweetness. The supporting characters effectively stopped the Calvados from shining, but this is a cocktail for amaro fans.
The Bruised Ego, while sweet, was well-constructed and intricate. Juniper, rye whiskey, and cardamom have overlapping flavor profiles, with each contributing a powerful mix of herbal and spice notes while playing off one another. On our first visit, the cardamom was overpowering, but the second version was much more balanced. The citrus and honey add significant sweetness and cut through the heavy herbal flavors.
Sunshine Superman was a favorite. Hopped gin, grapefruit, and Punt e Mes were served with a straw in a highball glass over large ice cubes, which made the drink refreshing and sippable. The initial bitterness, from house-made infused gin, is pleasant. The Centennial hops — not only in the gin but also floating atop the ice as a garnish — add a beautiful grassy note, contrasting perfectly with a bright grapefruit punch.
The back bar rises above the everyday but doesn’t stretch into special occasion territory. Cocktails were all $12, which is in line with Marvel or Tullibee, and they can be delivered to the Young Joni dining room if your table there becomes available. Service was mediocre at tables, while at the bar it was more prompt and knowledgeable.
The back bar at Young Joni, 165 13th Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413; 612.345.5719