Classic Cocktails and Five Places To Love Them

Cocktail parties is sometimes called a cocktail reception. We’ve all been through it, the the tragic attempt trying to be hip. Sooner or later we find our way and like magic it all just falls into place. Sadly though there are still a few of us out there, leftovers from the hedonist ’90’s who need to be told what to do. So thank your lucky stars here I am. I’m ready and able to set you straight on where to find a great cocktail and more importantly, advise you on which cocktail you need to order.

We all don’t need to feel hip but most of us need to feel we belong. And there is no better way to feel like a member of the gang than when you order a martini. After all we’ve been taught and all we’ve seen in movies and on T.V. this surely must be the way to real sophistication. Now I’m not talking about those silly frilly fruity concoctions invented to make 22 year old girls feel like their own Barbie dolls on a date. I’m talking about the true king of cocktails. The gin and vermouth elixir, icy cold in a dewy glass with one or two simple (note no blue cheese stuffing etc) briny green olives anchored to the bottom of a plastic pick that pokes jauntily over the edge. Anything else that thinks its a martini is not !!! Its only a cocktail being served in a glass that may have at one time held the royal potion.

When you think of a Manhattan I hope you are like me and it brings images of Ruby Keeler dancing her way to stardom while Dick Powell croons. I know I’m dating myself, but what the heck. In order to truly enjoy a real Manhattan of blended whiskey, dry and sweet vermouth and a touch of bitters, you need to know who they are. And if by chance your only experience with a Manhattan is pouring some brandy over ice in a juice glass with a maraschino cherry for Uncle Dave at Christmas, then you need to take a step back and reflect on the meaning of your life.

Rob Roy was a 17th century Al Capone like gangster that won the hearts of Scots for his bravado and willingness to thumb his nose at authority. Why his name graces the second best way to drink scotch is anyone’s guess. Except when it’s made well with good scotch, the right touch of sweet and dry vermouth and an elegant swirl of lemon rind or even the lonely cherry, it does bring tears to my eyes. Suddenly I’m caught in the fog on the moors and I can hear the sirens call of Brigadoon.

I could go on but three cocktails is enough on anyone’s tab. Now let’s discuss where to get these ethereal delights crafted by bartenders who have the knack and ability to pour all the heart and soul they can into every glass.

Tops on my list is the bar at the St. Paul Grill. See Al or Spike and tell them I sent you. Either one will tuck you under you wing and take you on a cocktail journey to remember. Just book your room at the hotel upstairs in advance, just in case you take the long trip.

Next is Monte Carlo in the Minneapolis Warehouse District, the venerable bar that not only knows how to craft a cocktail, but how to hire the bartenders to keep the tradition alive. I’ve benn haunting the place for years and have rarely been disappointed.

I would be remiss and most likely shunned by my peers if didn’t give high marks to Ike’s Food and Cocktails in Downtown Minneapolis. Not only are the bartenders friends (yes I have many bartender friends around town), but they mix a great drink in a classic urban downtown bar atmosphere.

Manny’s Steakhouse has big steaks, big lobsters, big spuds and if you try to partake in it all, you limp out after paying a whopping bill. The bar is the best spot to sample the atmosphere, food and of course cocktails of Manny’s. The cocktail glasses match the enormity of everything else so just plan on one, or have a driver ready. By the way if we ever meet up there, ask me about the nude on the back wall. I’ll tell you her story.

Last and certainly not least on this fanciful bar crawl is the bar you frequent all the time. The bar where everyone knows your name. The bar where the bartenders know exactly how you like your drinks. You don’t have to be a candidate for Hazelden to know a place like that. A bar is only as good and the inhabitants within. Once you find your place or places like I have then you will understand how much enjoyment they can bring. I grew up in a family that owned and operated bars. To me they were places filled with people of every race and walk of life. As a young teen I heard stories of triumphs and pains of life. All of which I think prepared me for the man I was to become. The kind of man who can enjoy a carefully crafted cocktail in the company of good friends.

Tobie began his career as part of a restaurant and tavern family in Chicago. As a student of liberal arts at Kendall College he discovered his calling in the restaurant industry. Leaving school before graduation, he accepted an apprenticeship under Chef John Snowden at Dumas Pere LEcole de la Cuisine Francais.

The classic French apprenticeship prepared him for a career as Chef and consultant. Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises re-opening of the legendary Pump Room in 1977 was his first project. Since then, he has used his creative talents working with restaurants all over the country. He currently resides in Minneapolis working with an active list of consulting projects including, The Sample Room, a renovation of an old bar to a modern eatery Ikes Bar and Grill, classic dining in downtown Minneapolis, Monkey Dish Bar and Grill ; an outrageous fun concept in suburban Chicago among others. His articles have appeared in various local publications and he makes regular appearances on radio and TV. He is working on a book called IMPROV COOKING.

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