It’s been called one of the most influential bars in the world, credited as being “at the vanguard of the classic cocktail revival” by the annual World’s 50 Best Bars list. If you’re a cocktail drinker, you’ve tossed back drinks inspired by its menu and milieu.
New York’s Death & Co., now in its 11th year of drink slinging, helped fuel the cocktail revolution that swept across the U.S. The influence of that movement can be felt across the Twin Cities at bars like Eat Street Social, Parlour, the aptly named Prohibition, and Hammer and Sickle.
It will more pointedly be felt Labor Day weekend at Constantine, when Death & Co. takes over the bar.
The Hogwarts of cocktails, which recently opened a second location in Denver, will make its Midwest debut alongside Constantine’s crimson seats and gothic décor on August 31 and September 1.“The head bartender in Denver (Alex Jump) and the head bartender in New York (Matthew Belanger), they’ve curated everything from the menu to the playlist to what the vibe is going to be in Constantine for the night,” says Morgan Ross, sales and marketing director for Constantine.
The Death & Co. duo will be behind the bar both nights. “They’re bringing recipes they’re familiar with and using our ingredients to curate the menu,” says Ross. That means you’ll find a unique Death & Co. experience that includes Minnesota spirits like Tattersall and Earl Giles syrups, a company co-founded by Constantine bar director Jesse Held.
Born in 2007 and named after a Dashiell Hammett story, Death & Co. wasn’t the first bar to bring back classic drinks, but there are few that have had its massive influence. When it opened, the owners built a team of New York cocktail All-Stars who were given free rein to build a unique, expansive menu. It didn’t just push the classics, but did so with panache and an addictive inventiveness.
“Death & Co. has had an undeniable impact on the resurgence of classically inspired cocktails,” says Dan Oskey, founder and chief operator of Tattersall Distilling in Minneapolis. “Their book has been fundamental in improving cocktail culture across the globe, taking classic cocktails and expanding upon them while at the same time recomposing their essential components.”
Bartenders like Held and the emergence of distilleries like Tattersall have been a boon for barflies in Minnesota. “I think the appreciation for [cocktails in Minnesota] has grown,” says Ross. “I think Jesse [Held] is a great example of local people in the cocktail scene really changing the face of it. Along with the distilleries popping up, people are learning more about the cocktails they’re drinking. People are getting more interested in the back bar and not just the well.”
There are plenty of places in Minneapolis to grab a fresh take on a proper drink. Nonetheless, having something from Death & Co. is a unique opportunity, especially outside of the East Village or Denver. It’s a bar that continues to earn honorable mentions in the World’s 50 Best Bars list, where it ranked highly for five straight years starting in 2009. (That included four straight top-10 rankings.) In many instances, the bar has been bumped down the list by programs run by old Death & Co. team members at places like the famous Dead Rabbit.
Constantine will open at 6 p.m. both nights, and the door will run just like Death & Co. in the East Village: No reservations. No cover. Everyone is welcome to enjoy some spirits.
“I think bars like Death & Co. have made the cocktail experience come back,” says Ross. “They bring the craft cocktail to everyone. [The New York bar] is very small, very dark, just kind of a mysterious door on the sidewalk. You walk in and you’re transported to a different bar experience than you walk through with any other bar door.”
For one weekend, Constantine is going to try to bring that door to Downtown.