Top 10 martinis in the Twin Cities

Life keeps getting better for Twin Cities cocktail lovers. New and exciting craft cocktails are being conceived, and classic cocktails are being rediscovered. No list of classic cocktails would be complete without the martini.

It's clean, elegant, sexy, and its simplicity is part of it genius. The original martini was equal parts gin (or vodka) and sweet vermouth with a dash of orange bitters. The recipe has evolved to be made with dry vermouth, and far less of it (I use a ratio of 3:1). Some omit the orange bitters, and some (heathens) even skip the vermouth altogether.

But the martini is more than just the sum of its parts; it's also an experience. You just can't order a martini anywhere; the room itself is part of the experience. It can't be a cookie cutter chain restaurant. It has to have character and sophistication to match the cocktail.

To name the top 10 martinis in the Twin Cities wasn't easy. There are so many great bartenders making great martinis. These are the bars that are pouring the martini that my great-grandfather would have wanted.

10. Marvel Bar

Nobody loves martinis more than the Japanese. The cocktail culture in Tokyo really began in the 1950s, and the bartenders of Japan (and their patrons) have had a love affair with this cocktail ever since. Our Twin Cities ambassador of Japanese bartending, Pip Hanson, and his team of mavericks hand chip the ice used in their martinis before stirring or shaking them to the perfect temperature. The cocktail list at Marvel is half classic cocktails and half original recipes. The classic cocktails are made with a passion and professionalism to rival any cocktail bar in any town.

9. La Belle Vie In a bar known for its creative cocktails, one might think it ill advised to order a drink as simple as a martini. Nothing could be further from the truth. The bartenders at La Belle Vie, headed by Johnny Michaels, treat the classic cocktails like an old friend and are happy to make it however you like. The attention to detail at LBV starts long before you order a drink. When a new bottle of vermouth is opened it is immediately transferred to smaller bottles to minimize oxidation, and it's refrigerated to prevent spoiling. Over the years Michaels has created several subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) twists on the classic martini.

8. Café Maude Café Maude is one place that really has it all: sexy lighting, stimulating music, intriguing artwork, delicious food, and most important, their bartenders really know their drinks. When ordering a martini at Café Maude you will have several gins (or vodka, if you must) vermouths, and even bitters to add. No matter how busy they get, the people behind this bar will help guide you through the ordering process, line up the ingredients in front of you, then build the drink and stir or shake it while you enjoy the show.

7. Meritage Since expanding the restaurant and adding the new sexy bar, Meritage also added a couple of ace bartenders to their team. Nikola Govich and Rob Jones, formerly bartenders at Bradstreet Craftshouse, have stepped in to ensure the cocktails are given as much attention as the food. Govich acts as bar manager and also works the dining room, while Jones is the head bartender.

6. Bradstreet Craftshouse A bar that really takes its drinks seriously, the innovative bar staff at Bradstreet have really put themselves on the map as a destination cocktail bar. In addition to their creative house recipes, they offer a very user-friendly classic cocktail section, which was one of the first in town to bring back the orange bitters.  

5. Monte Carlo Among the oldest bars in the Twin Cities, the Monte Carlo didn't pay much mind to the trends in the bar world, they just kept making the great drinks taste great. Now that you're all grown up and graduated from Scooby Snacks and Colorado Bulldogs, the bartenders at the Monte Carlo are ready to pour you what you've been missing.

4. St. Paul Grill The St. Paul Grill is a piece of perfection, from the moment you walk in to the moment you stumble out and get in a cab, everything about the place screams "have a martini!" and the bartenders know how to make them. Many of them have been pouring martinis longer than you have been legally allowed to drink them.

3. Anywhere in the Foshay tower Whether you are sitting on the top of downtown Minneapolis at the gorgeous Prohibition bar, enjoying a steak at Manny's, or just escaping the cold night at the Living Room bar, the Foshay is one of the best places in town to stick out your pinky finger and enjoy a martini.

2. W.A. Frost Whether it's a hot summer day on the gorgeous patio or a frosty winter night in the dining room, W.A Frost offers you a dining and drinking experience you will remember the rest of your life. The bartenders here know how to make a martini--just order one and enjoy.

1. Nye's Polonaise Room No list of Twin Cities martini dens would be complete without Nye's. Walking through the door, one passes through time. Almost nothing has changed on the "old side" since its opening in 1950. The bartender might even be the same one working that first night, and the well-poured martinis most certainly are still here.

Previous coverage:

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Top 10 late-night restaurants in the Twin Cities

Top 10 romantic restaurants in the Twin Cities

Top 10 bloody Marys in the Twin Cities

Top 10 margaritas in the Twin Cities

Top 10 macaroni & cheese dishes in the Twin Cities

Top 10 burgers in the Twin Cities

Top 10 sushi restaurants in the Twin Cities

Top 10 ice cream shops in the Twin Cities

Top 10 coffeehouses in the Twin Cities

Top 10 hot dogs in the Twin Cities

Top 10 pizzerias in the Twin Cities

Top 5 brewpubs in the Twin Cities

All of these lists are available on City Pages' new Best of the Twin Cities app. Click here to see it in action.

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