Winter Guide to the Twin Cities 2012

The best winter warm-up drinks, cool concerts, must-see plays, and carnival activities in the metro

Winter Guide to the Twin Cities 2012
Dan Picasso

Five Great Winter Warm-Up Drinks

By Emily Weiss

Though it happens without fail every year, the temperature dip always seems to throw everyone for a loop. Co-workers obnoxiously compare notes on how long it takes them to scrape their windshields. Parents complain about having to buy yet another pair of snow boots for their still-growing kid. Eager cross-country skiers aren't so bothered by the cold, but they'll talk your ear off about how unfortunate it is that we don't have decent snow yet. We find that an effective antidote to all this moaning and groaning is to gently suggest going out for a drink. Though the alcoholic ones have their charms, the booze-free beverages on our list are just as worthy of being one of your go-to winter warm-ups.

Moroccan Mocha • Cahoots Coffee

We're all about this shop's perfumey and refreshing lavender lemonade in the summer, but as soon as the days get shorter and the nights get chilly, thoughts turn to the Moroccan Mocha from St. Paul artists' hangout Cahoots Coffee. Beautifully foamy, balanced smack in the middle of bitter and sweet, and extra aromatic thanks to a blend of lingering North African spices, this spicy chocolate drink won the 2012 Charlie Award for outstanding cup of coffee. 1562 Selby Ave., St. Paul; 651.644.6778

Hot Toddy Aster Cafe

This St. Anthony Main hot spot may just be the winter warm-up headquarters. It's famous for its tea-infused vodkas, but it weaves that hot drink sensibility throughout its bar menu. Choose from cocoa spiked with amaretto, hot cider with Grand Marnier (or any other tipple you fancy), or go for a classic hot toddy. Aster makes its with Jameson, honey, lemon, and hot water. Simple, straightforward, and it'll cure what ails you. 125 SE Main St., Minneapolis; 612.379.3138

ChaiderJanine's Coffeehouse

To be fair, you can get this half-and-half combination of chai tea and fresh hot cider at Starbucks, but the blend created by Janine's in the North Loop is all about the quality ingredients and a ratio that's a little heavier on the nice, tart cider. The result has all the clove and cinnamon-tinged warmth of a traditional mulled cider, but the creaminess makes it more dessert-like, and the smidge of caffeine makes it perfect for an afternoon pick-me-up. 119 N. First St., Minneapolis; 612.630.5188

Tequila, Wey The Strip Club

A drink doesn't have to be hot to successfully warm you up. Dan Oskey, bartender at the Strip Club, proves that with his ingenious mix of tequila, sour tamarind syrup, and a special extract of ancho chiles and hot cinnamon. The drink is as intoxicating as it is interesting, with the pepper's heat lasting long after the initial cleansing burn of the tequila. The sour fruit makes it reminiscent of a margarita, yet it's like nothing you've ever had before. 378 Maria Ave., St. Paul; 651.793.6247

Mexi Cocoa Birchwood Cafe

You might not think the dark and ancient flavors of mole sauce would really work in a sweet treat that's usually reserved for kids, but Birchwood's really does. The sophisticated Mexi Cocoa is made with cayenne and allspice for depth and heat but finished with a generous dollop of fresh whipped cream to temper it. 3311 E. 25th St., Minneapolis; 612.722.4474

Winter Concerts

By Reed Fischer

Brandi Carlile Varsity Theater | December 30-31

Seattle folk-rock songstress Brandi Carlile told City Pages earlier this year that Minneapolis is "probably the biggest market for me in the whole country." Indeed, she sold out two straight shows at the Zoo this summer, and the same thing is likely to happen at the Varsity for two shows marking the dawn of 2013. Her latest album, Bear Creek, intimately highlights Carlile's gospel-leaning smoky voice, and if there's ever been a song to accompany wiping the slate clean at the end of the year, it's "That Wasn't Me." 21+, Sunday is sold out, Monday $100-$200, 8:30 p.m. 1308 Fourth St. SE, Minneapolis; 612.604.0222.

Dan & Matt WilsonPantages theatre | February 1

Dan and Matt Wilson have performed in too many Twin Cities bands to count, but their projects, both shared and separate, invariably display an ear for tunefulness and often a lyrical wink at the listener. With a cache of Semisonic, Trip Shakespeare, the Twilight Hours, and solo work, including alt-rock delights and Dan's pop songwriting with Adele, they will have hits a-plenty to pull from till "Closing Time." $38, 8 p.m. 710 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; 800.982.2787.

SoundgardenOrpheum theatre | February 2

Chris Cornell has done a lot of things since forming Soundgarden in 1984, but this was arguably his best musical idea. After a lengthy hiatus, the Seattle grunge titans recently re-formed and created only their sixth studio album, King Animal, the first since 1996's Down on the Upside. Between Cornell's hoary wail, guitarist Kim Thayil's astronomical fretwork, and the blasts initiated by bandmates, this might not be the right night to be parked under a chandelier. $59.50, 8 p.m. 910 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; 800.982.2787.

Tame ImpalaFirst Avenue | March 4

March can be a bleak month for the seasonally affected, so best to put Aussie psych-rockers Tame Impala on the calendar now. When the brittle plastic ice scraper snaps in your chapped hands, you'll be able to tell yourself there are only so many days until the groove of "Elephant" spins your hips into oblivion. The critics have already deemed Lonerism one of the year's best, but don't let the title mislead you. This band is to be experienced in a hot, sweaty group. 18+, $18-$20, 7 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775.

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