The best Twin Cities bars for spirits

We distill what local watering holes serve up the best Scotch, gin, tequila, vodka, and more

Though it has a reputation as the official drink of regrettable nights, when consumed responsibly and discerningly tequila is a rather refined spirit with a huge range of character. Barrio on Nicollet Mall (and locations in Lowertown and Edina) is No. 1 with a bullet when it comes to broad selection, with well over 100 tequilas behind the bar, from its own Barrio blend at $4 a pop to lots of good, mid-range reposados like Kah and Milagro Select and big-time extra anejos like Patron Burdeos. It even has three mezcals (a tequila-like spirit made from the maguey plant) on the menu, which wouldn't be worth noting if we were in, say, Santa Fe, but mezcal is not often seen in Midwestern bars. Barrio mixes them well in mean margaritas, but such fine tequila is best bare or, if you must, with one of Barrio's "compadres" — a sip of blood orange soda, fresh grapefruit, or ginger apple juice. Representing more of the Tex-Mex perspective, Bar Abilene has been Uptown's tequila bar of choice for over a decade and is unlikely to be unseated by newcomers like Johnny Tequila's Drinking Taco. Though most of its fruity house margaritas use Sauza tequilas, a number of other high-end tequilas are suitable for sipping, from Sammy Hagar's Cabo Wabo to the ritzy Herradura Suprema.

Barrio 925 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis; 612.333.9953

At Barrio you can choose from more than 100 tequilas
Alma Guzman
At Barrio you can choose from more than 100 tequilas

Location Info

Map

Butcher & the Boar

1121 Hennepin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55403

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Minneapolis (Downtown)

Haute Dish

119 Washington Ave. N.
Minneapolis, MN 55401

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Minneapolis (Downtown)

Icehouse

2528 Nicollet Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55404

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Uptown/ Eat Street

Amsterdam

6 W. 6th St.
St. Paul, MN 55102

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: St. Paul (Downtown)

St. Paul Grill and Bar

350 Market St.
St. Paul, MN 55102

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: St. Paul (Downtown)

The Muddy Pig

162 N. Dale St.
St. Paul, MN 55102

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: St. Paul (Downtown)

Moscow On the Hill Restaurant

371 Selby Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55102

Category: Restaurant > Russian

Region: St. Paul (Downtown)

St. Petersburg Restaurant

3610 France Ave. N.
Robbinsdale, MN 55422

Category: Restaurant > European

Region: Robbinsdale

Barrio Tequila Bar & Cafe

925 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, MN 55402

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Minneapolis (Downtown)

Bar Abilene

1300 Lagoon Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55408

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Uptown/ Eat Street

Kieran's Irish Pub

85 6th St. N
Minneapolis, MN 55403

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Minneapolis (Downtown)

The Local

931 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, MN 55402

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Minneapolis (Downtown)

Cooper Pub & Restaurant

1607 Park Place Blvd.
Minneapolis, MN 55416

Category: Restaurant > Burgers

Region: Golden Valley

The Liffey

175 W. 7th St.
St. Paul, MN 55102

Category: Restaurant > Breakfast

Region: St. Paul (Downtown)

Merlins Rest

3601 E. Lake St.
Minneapolis, MN 55406

Category: Restaurant > Brewery

Region: Seward/ Longfellow/ Minnehaha

Zen Box Izakaya

602 Washington Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Category: Restaurant > Japanese

Region: University

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Bar Abilene 1300 Lagoon Ave., Minneapolis; 612.825.2525

Whiskey

There are about as many different types of whiskey as there are letters in the alphabet, but since we've already covered bourbon and Scotch, we'll focus on some of the more popular varieties. For single malt and blended Irish whiskeys, you'll be well served at any one of the Cara Family Irish Pubs around town, which include Kieran's and the Local in Minneapolis, the Liffey in St. Paul, and Cooper in St. Louis Park. Find rare and reserve bottles of Jameson, a few different labels from John Powers (less commonly consumed in the U.S. but still the No. 1-selling whiskey in Ireland), and of course your standard Bushmills and Tullamore Dew. For a more comprehensive selection of whiskeys from all around the British Isles (and beyond), check out Merlins Rest in Longfellow. Its list is too long to post anywhere, so just ask for the Whisky Bible behind the bar, inquire about bottles that are almost gone for good, and talk to Bill Watkins, Merlins' official minister of culture. Merlins hosts a whiskey tasting the first Thursday of every month and a shanty sing every fourth Monday, which is best enjoyed about two whiskeys in. Japanese whiskey, once thought to be an inferior product to "real" whiskey, has recently enjoyed a spike in consumption in the U.S., but it's still hard to find, even at whiskey-focused bars. We recommend Zen Box Izakaya, an outstanding and fun Japanese restaurant that has several interesting bottles in stock, including Taketsuru 12-year, Yoichi 15-year, and Yamazaki 12-year. They're available in flights, perfect for sipping alongside some crispy tempura or steamed dumplings.

Cara Family Irish Pubs various locations; carairishpubs.com

Merlins Rest3601 E. Lake St., Minneapolis; 612.216.2419

Zen Box Izakaya 602 Washington Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.332.3936

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1 comments
Branden Strot
Branden Strot

i would venture a guess, any place you can get to by walking would be the best spots to any particular person.

 
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