Top 10 craft cocktail bars in the Twin Cities

Categories: Cocktails, Top 10

The best spots to quaff a cocktail
There's never been a better time to be a drinker. It's become almost mandatory for every new restaurant of a certain price point to employ a master mixologist behind the bar. These days you can't swing a shaker without smacking over a few bottles of handmade bitters. While the craft cocktail movement has swept the nation, we are lucky to have in our midst a long list of talented leaders in the field. While we could easily rattle off 50 great places for drinks in the Twin Cities, we have narrowed the field to these top 10.

See also:
Top 10 sandwiches in the Twin Cities
Top 10 dive bars in the Twin Cities
Top 10 romantic restaurants in the Twin Cities

10. The Lowry Uptown
The Blue Plate Restaurant Company has made a name for itself opening restaurants that perfectly reflect the corners of the city where they live. Three Squares is great for brunch, lunch, and family dinners, just as the Groveland Tap is great for college kids looking for a beer and some waffle fries. Stephanie Shimp and David Burley knew they wanted a killer bar in their first foray into Uptown. What they built is a place that was instantly packed with both the families and hipsters that call this place home. The drinks are sophisticated, but the flavors take them a step beyond expectations. The old-fashioned Sazerac is just as pleasing as the Creepin on My Thai Bo. (2112 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis; 612.341.2112. Lowry Uptown website)

9. Butcher & the Boar

Butcher & the Boar bar.jpg
The Butcher & the Boar & the Bourbon
There is no scurrilous boss, or scumbag client, or rancid traffic situation -- no insufferably bad day -- that can't be conquered by an afternoon sip of bourbon at Butcher & the Boar's bar. Drinking a proper mint julep this summer, I would swear the cocktail actually lowered the scorching temperature of the day to a perfectly manageable afternoon -- hand to God, it conjured a breeze. That's how good these drinks are: They can change the very nature of a day. The amount of work that went into every item on the food menu was matched by the work that went into the bar. This is just one of many reasons we continue to love this new spot. (1121 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis; 612.238.8888. Butcher & the Boar website)

8. Meritage

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Meritage's Jack Rose
It's hard to imagine a time when the bar side of Meritage wasn't there, the addition fits so seamlessly with the easy elegance of this French restaurant. One major difference is perception. It was hard to believe before that incredible cocktails could come out of that tiny bar, which closely resembled a modest shelf in the back of the room. That will never happen again. The new bar is a shimmering corner jewel, with stacks of wine bottles, rows of top-shelf liquor, and beautiful absinthe container proudly proclaiming that this is a great spot for drinks. The talent of those mixing the drinks does not disappoint. The entire list of champagne cocktails is refined, with just a bit of a naughty edge, that we expect from our French friends. Try the Singing Violet, sparkling wine mixed with a bit of Farigoule, a slightly sweet thyme liqueur, and a bit of herbal creme de violette. It's like sipping a dew-soaked, sun-kissed field of wildflowers. (410 St. Peter St., St. Paul; 651.222.5670.  Meritage website)

7. Cafe Maude

Rachelle Carlson
Their original location, the near-suburban Minneapolis spot, wasn't exactly ground zero for hipster gatherings, and yet the bar would draw them out of their Nordeast, downtown, and Uptown enclaves. The easy elegance and self-assurance of these drinks would woo anyone over. Even those who don't imbibe the hard stuff can find an expertly crafted drink to enhance their day or evening.  With the addition of the new Loring Park location and a few more hugely talented bartenders, Cafe Maude will continue to set the bar high. Try the Fruited Pig at Loring Park: Pierre Ferrand 1840, Pig's Nose Scotch, grapefruit juice, spiced syrup, and hopped grapefruit bitters, a clever play on smoke and light, with the dark and bright flavors blending harmoniously. (5411 Penn Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.822.5411. Cafe Maude website)

6. Icehouse

Icehouse Bloody Mary.jpg
Ben Lansky
Bloody Mary Icehouse Style
These guys had us at cocktail Popsicle. The proliferation of Johnny Michaels's genius continues at this new hot spot on Eat Street. The drink menu goes on for days, with every sort of classy cocktail, from frilly girly drinks to the Robert Mitchum whiskey collection. With great food, great bands, and some seriously sensational cocktails, Icehouse has burst onto the scene and is racing up the great-drink charts. We place them at No. 6, with a Bulleit. (2526 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis; 612.276.6523. Icehouse website)

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