Top 5 drinks of 2010

This year in beverages saw a wealth of cocktail options across the Twin Cities. There were the fruity, the fragrant, and the fierce--in other words, something for every kind of drinker. We highlighted the white liquors in summer, the brown in winter, tasty brews and even a mocktail or two.

So after 12 months of weekly missives, the Hot Dish is proud to declare our five favorite drinks of the week for 2010. It was a tough field, with the craft cocktail trend in full swing and new bars taking on the challenge each month. However, we whittled down the list and present the tastiest pours from this year's files.

1. Bradstreet Cocktail


Bradstreet Craftshouse

601 N. First Ave., Minneapolis; 612.312.1821

At Bradstreet they take drink-making very seriously. With five types of ice, house-made syrups and bitters, and drinks mixed so precisely that they measure some ingredients with eyedroppers. In this dimly lit den of heavenly spirits, we had to find out what their namesake cocktail would taste like.

The Bradstreet Cocktail is made with Jim Beam, jasmine syrup, egg whites, and its signature bitters containing jasmine, ginger, and secret ingredients. The result is a complex and balanced cocktail, starting with lovely floral scents, accompanied by herbal flavors--a regular botanical potpourri--and the bourbon root of the drink bringing warmth and depth. The egg whites, we were told, are used to cut the sharpness of the spirits, carry the alcohol, and create a soft mouthfeel. We were also told that bitters were used in drinks in olden times not only for flavor but also because the glycerol alcohol they contain was cheaper than spirits. So you have a fantastic cocktail, in a dreamy atmosphere, with a mixology lesson to boot. A full-on win. --Michelle Leon

2. Curried Pisco


The Strip Club

378 Maria Ave., St. Paul; 651.793.6247

Always on top of the latest drink trends, Dan Oskey of  the Strip Club has taken on the flavors of the Far East with this new creation. Pisco, a centuries-old Peruvian grape liquor, is the base, which is complimented by Velvet Falernum, a liqueur with hints of almond and vanilla used in many rum drinks,  Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, and, finally, house-made curry bitters.

The curry and ginger are both very aromatic and complementary of each other, and they're the notes that stand out most. The pisco brings a warmth, the Falernum a gentle sweetness. Really complicated stuff here, yet in the expert hands of Oskey--Best Bartender 2010, the flavors find a harmony, with a lovely sweet and spicy melody. --Michelle Leon


3. Dave's BrewFarm Matacabras


Northeast Social Club

359 13th Ave. NE, Minneapolis; 612.877.8111

Northeast Social Club, also known as "The Best Restaurant for a First Date" is a mighty fine place to tip back a pint.

And when the beer in that pint is named after a wind that kills goats...all the better! Northeast Social Club is serving this brew from Dave's BrewFarm in Wisconsin, where Dave grows the hops for his creations. A very earth-friendly venture, Dave's BrewFarm uses geothermal heating and cooling and a wind generator for power to make this "wind-brewed beer."

Matacabras is a hot wind, found in the legends of Spain, known as the "goat killer." But contrary to its name, this beer is delicate, with an orangy nose, a hint of floral, and modest hops. Although it's brewed in a dark Belgian style, it's still choice for a warm day. Since the Dave's BrewFarm beers are made in small batches, it's hard to know how long this selection will last, so get up on it while you can. --Michelle Leon

4. Art Teas


Midori's Floating World Cafe

2629 E. Lake St.; 612.721.3011

As the name would imply, Midori's Floating World Cafe is a place where food and drink are beautiful and ethereal. And with 35 different types of tea on the menu, the world of florals, herbs, and spice have a high reign.

I was especially intrigued by their selection of art teas. Beautifully prepared, like time-lapse photography you witness your tea buds unfold and blossom, as small petals float to the top of your glass like pretty little fish. They have several art teas to choose from, including infusions of jasmine, osmanthus, or chrysanthemum flowers.

Not only are these teas lovely and fun to witness as they fruit, but they are also fragrant with flowers and herbs, and soothingly warm--an ideal companion to Midori's Floating World Cafe artful dishes. Watching a colorful world come to life, right there on east Lake Street in the middle of the could you go wrong? --Michelle Leon

5. Breakfast in Vermont


Amore Victoria

1601 W. Lake Ave., Minneapolis; 612.823.0250

The first snow has fallen and the fresh chill demands drinks with brown, warming liquors. To satisfy that urge, glide into Amore Victoria, sit at the darkly lit bar, and ask bartender Shawn Jones for something seasonal. He'll probably suggest a Breakfast in Vermont. And if you're smart, you'll acquiesce. It's strong, slightly sweet, and suits November to a tee.

The Breakfast in Vermont is a fab combo of oatmeal- and vanilla bean-infused whiskey mixed with pure maple syrup and two kinds of bitters--a blackstrap bitter made by former Town Talk Diner mixologist Nick Kosevich's company Bittercube and an "old-fashioned" classic aromatic. The maple syrup helps the drink go down easy but isn't cloying when paired with the bitters and whiskey. We imagine it would be amazing both with a plate of pancakes or as the perfect nightcap after a long, cold evening out. Either way, it demands that you slow down and appreciate each sip. --Marsha Trainer

And our Honorable Mentions: Café Maude's Barley and Butter, Heartland's The Last Word, Town Talk Diner's The Green Fairy, and WA Frost's Orange-Rosemary Press.

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