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BEST COCKTAILS Minneapolis 1999 -

A few years back there was a going-away party for a Star Tribune editor at this dark, wood-paneled watering hole, beloved by Stribers for its proximity to the Newsroom of the Twin Cities. (It's also stumbling distance from City Hall.) At the climax of the evening, the guest of honor scrambled atop a chair to address the assembled. He berated the befogged before him, lambasting them for, well, not drinking enough anymore. He recalled a time when "the Wagon" was overflowing with sodden scribblers. Those days may be gone, but the cocktails served up at this Minneapolis institution--potent vodka gimlets with an eye-dropper's worth of lime juice, a nonfussy gin martini--recall those bygone days, when strong drinks--and not Jell-O shots--were the order of the day. Unlike so many of today's upscale cocktail lounges, at the Wagon you pay for booze, not designer barware: well drinks are a mere $2.75, with premium-call drinks ranging from $3.25 to $5.25. The original Wagon was razed in 1992 to make way for a municipal parking ramp; the reconstituted Wagon opened close to the same spot in 1993. Order a couple of Manhattans here and you'll forget what year it is soon enough.

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