You've got your drinking budget, we've got our drinking budget, and what good, savvy drinkers we are, indeed. But have you ever stopped to consider that cocktailing, while it seems like a need, is really and truly just a want? And like all the things we really, really want, this thing should transcend practicality and lurch us forward into the realm of affluence, bliss, and pure hedonism. But you know you can't afford that (and we can't either). So grab your most successful friend, the one with the Maserati and the rhinestone belt buckle. Even if you don't even like him, the $500-a-pour booze-goggles should fix that, for one night only, at least. Here are the 10 bars that are best for when that guy is buying:
Il Foro, 40 S. Seventh St., Minneapolis
In a world with an over-abundance of testosterone, mixologist Trish Gavin is a blast of fresh, feminine air. But don’t get it twisted and think this means she’s some pantywaist girl. Gavin pours them like a woman, which means her repertoire runs from the most wicked-serious Negronis to ways with Fernet you didn’t know were legal. Round out the Il Foro experience, if you wish, with a $550 bottle of 2004 Dom in this mystical, verdant Deco wonderland, and if your salary man’s bling really and truly never runs dry, a maybe $120 bone-in dry-aged New York strip. Please allow 60 minutes for medium-rare. At this plane of opulence, who’s thinking of rushing anyway?
St. Paul Hotel, 350 Market St., St. Paul
If true luxury never goes out of style, there’s really no superior bar to the classic St. Paul Grill, in the hotel most chosen by presidents and foreign dignitaries. With “generous grill-sized portions,” $15 cocktails, and $25 glasses of Pinot, even if you don’t smoke, tucking a stogie into your lapel just feels like the right thing to do here. And if you've ever thought “power lunches" were something St. Paul didn’t really do, look around and prove yourself wrong. If the lady in the three-piece suit and the no-nonsense pixie and the cigar cutter in between her nimble, moneyed fingers doesn't clue you in, then maybe the $750 one-ounce pour of Macallan 55 will.
Marvel Bar, 50 Second Ave. N., Minneapolis
The first NYC-style speakeasy that actually worked in our otherwise prudent town, Marvel is still the gold standard for luxe seduction. No food served here, this is a Willy Wonka’s factory of liquid candy, where if-you-have-to-ask-you-can’t-afford-it tiny, aqueous elixirs get a chemist’s attention. Founding bartender Pip Hanson has gone off to England to study booze the way anthropologists study dirt: far, wide, expansively, and expensively. Here’s to hoping he returns to Marvel armed with consequential evidence that there are even better, more exorbitant ways to drink.
Constantine, 1115 Second Ave. S., Minneapolis
Less a bar than a naughty little underground church, the murky depths of Constantine’s drinkers' lair blocks out the rest of the harsh known world and puts on a quieting sleep mask of potent sedative. This is a place not necessarily for quiet contemplation, but for worshipful fixation on the hooch. Behold the slightly sinister taxidermy, the hostess lording over the place from a pulpit and the bartenders doling out stuff a little harsher than that average hipster's tinctures. Book a room at the upstairs, ultra luxe Hotel Ivy for when the spins invariably join the party.
Moscow on the Hill, 371 Selby Ave., St. Paul
For there are days when not just a glassful will do, and you’ll take the whole bottle, thanks. In true Russian tradition, where you haven’t drank unless you’re in fact under the table, Moscow on the Hill offers bottle service of vodka. And because this isn’t an undertaking to consume without solids, order some great towering piles of pelmeni, perogi, and a soupçon of borsht. Vueve Clicquot is just a wee bit north of a hundo, and your date won't mind a bit if you grab a bolly for dessert, we're sure of it.
Foreign Legion, 105 S. Fifth St., Minneapolis
While the restaurant side of Foreign Legion has morphed from cheese and charcuterie stylings to full-fledged casual Italian restaurant, the dusky drinking emporium bar area remains. With stools that grab your cheeks like an Italian Lothario — unctuous, yet irresistible— gambling lamps that keep your eyes on the prize, and a cadre of calendar-cute barmen, what’s on the menu is almost moot. Luckily, the spirits are as serious as the rest of it, with a sommelier-selected wine list and available flights to have you going back again and again, to try to decipher which you like best, new world or old. (Old is more expensive, if it matters).
Meritage, 410 St. Peter St., St. Paul
The sculptural absinthe service, with buxom naked ladies flanking the jug on either side, sets the tone for this true brasserie experience. Rarely do we do things this civilized on our side of the ocean, but relaxing into the pro hands of this continental experience pushes drinking into vocational territory. We recommend the full absinthe service, where the ritual of sugar cube, rinse, and besuited server is well worth whatever it costs. And you're not paying anyway, remember? Make it a double.
The Alchemist, 2222 Fourth St., White Bear Lake
"Godfather of the cocktail" Johnny Michaels is not likely to throw his energies behind anything less than rock-star looks and skills. The Alchemist, way out in White Bear Lake, is well worth the mileage on your Camry if you want to know how things are done, and done properly. Michaels made his name with an approach to mixing a drink the way Mick approached taking the stage in hip pants: fearlessly and fabulously. These are drinks worthy of paying a serious premium for, like bespoke cologne. Make yourself irresistible and plunk down the big bucks.
Spoon & Stable, 211 N. First St., Minneapolis
Around here, we don't really like when big-city slickers come to tell us how it's done, so good on Gavin Kaysen, original Minnesota boy (and longtime NYC city-slicker) for plucking local drink mixing genius Rob Jones to head up his soaring urban bar in the foyer of Spoon & Stable, the restaurant we love to feel conflicted about. But ambivalence doesn't reside at the bar, where an understated, yet opulent rye-infused Boulevardier or Sidecar get whipped up with gleaming tools of the trade— long, glinty, twirling Hawthorne stirrers, crystal mixing goblets, hardwood muddlers, the whole of which have you knowing that the end result will be no kiddie cocktail. It's like when the landlord shows up wearing his big tool belt. He's gonna fix things up right, the first time.
Parlour Bar, 730 Washington Ave. N., Minneapolis
Expansive yet intimate, this is another speakeasy-style basement that kicks anything but pure, loosey-goosey leisure to the curb. Playboy recognized it as one of America's best bars, so maybe you're in the mood to woo the likes of some Hefner wives? This might be a good place to begin. Consider sending over a round of "All The Single Ladies": blanco tequila, pamplemousse, grapefruit, lime, prosecco and jamaican #2 bitters. If that doesn't work, consider a "7 yr. itch" of 7 year rum, cream sherry, ginger, lemon, Jamaican bitters, and cream soda. Keep going like this until the credit card reads "declined" or the object(s) of your desires abdicates, whichever comes first.