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Mixed drinks without hard booze? Leave it to the Cardinal Bar

The "Hoppi Apple," a refreshing mix of Crispin and Summit

The "Hoppi Apple," a refreshing mix of Crispin and Summit

We’ve all got that one friend (or two) who throw the whole group off. “Let’s go for a beer” are hard words for some to swallow. As difficult as it is for us beer lovers in the crowd to understand, there will always be a select few who just don’t like the taste of beer. I don’t get it either. Merely typing these words sends shivers down the spine. A gluten allergy? Now that’s understandable. But a plain old dislike for the taste of a good homegrown Minnesota brew? We’re calling bullshit, and the Cardinal Bar in south Minneapolis has our back.

Family-owned and run for over 30 years, the Cardinal Bar, conveniently located just off the light rail at 38th Street and Hiawatha Avenue, is one of those places where you can find the comforting classics only a good hometown bar can offer, including bingo Mondays, trivia Tuesdays, meat raffle Wednesdays (with 75 cent “Taco Wednesday” specials), and karaoke every other Saturday night. 

Noel and Rachel Casey, the brother/sister team at the Cardinal, like to think of their bar as a second home for their customers. A place where you can bring your family for lunch without having to drop 50 bucks in the process. A place where the regulars demand the young Wednesday-night bartender retrieve her car from the shop she dropped it at earlier that day so they can fix it for her at a fraction of the price — true story. A place where you can be yourself. 

It’s this sort of family-run mentality that lead Rachel Casey to design the bar’s first-ever mixology menu. The desire to appeal to a wider range of customers and not wanting anyone to feel left out on account of their dislike of beer, Rachel took matters into her own hands and whipped up an additional “Drink Combos” section of the Cardinal’s regular beer and wine list. The idea of mixing malt beverages with tap beer sprouted after hearing complaints from patrons that drinks like Kinky and ciders such as Crispin were too sweet. Others thought some of the tap beers were too bitter. Rachel’s solution? Mix the two together. The result has been a well-received list of mixed drinks at an establishment known for quaint simplicity and charm. Adding a bit of sweetness cuts down on the bitterness of the beer, according to Rachel, making for a smooth, bittersweet finish. The best of both worlds, really.

Running strong for about a year, these “mixed drinks” have been a hit, especially over the summer. As a popular destination spot for softball teams to stop for after-game food and drinks, the Cardinal’s specialty drinks are extra-refreshing on a hot summer evening. And they won’t break the bank, either, with all but one costing a mere $5.75.

The creativity doesn’t stop at the menu. Don’t put it past the bartenders to try their own hand at this new take on mixology, as proven just last Wednesday evening by way of Summer Shandy and Lonely Blonde — a combination that tastes as though it has always been, with a perfectly smooth finish that will leave you frantically trying to recreate this concoction in your own kitchen. Yes, the folks at the Card know what they’re doing, and to put it bluntly, it tastes good. The Hoppi Apple’s sweet and sour punch is enough to take you back to junior high, sucking on caramel apple suckers in the hallway in between classes.

The pool room at the Cardinal Bar

The pool room at the Cardinal Bar

Next on their agenda? Not Your Father’s Root Beer floats. If the bittersweet taste of the Card’s craft “mocktails” didn’t have you at first sip, this sweet, savory, and boozy twist on a childhood classic is sure to fit the bill. The Cardinal also makes a great weekend brunch destination, offering $5 Mimosas made with orange juice and champagne as well as $5 Sake Marys.

The Cardinal Bar’s list of Drink Combos:

“Black Velvet,” Crispin/Guinness

“Hoppi Apple,” Crispin/Summit

“Lemon Tree,” Crispin/Summer Shandy

“Bird Lemonade,” Redd's/Summer Shandy

“Pink Mink,” Kinky Pink/Chardonnay