For more of the best places to drink, check out our other City Guides.
The Twin Cities drinks scene has always been cool — literally.
The restaurant scenes of Minneapolis and St. Paul have developed in the past 10 years to be some of the most dynamic and diverse in the country. While some classics were built to last (hotdish, anyone?), the Twin Cities feature vibrant dining from the ultra-casual to the fantastical, including some stunning James Beard Award winners.
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But if there is anything that Minnesotans know better than eating, it’s drinking. According to the Minnesota Craft Beverage Council, there are more than 350 craft beverage producers within the state, and approximately 50 percent of those are in the Twin Cities alone. Here, high-quality drinks are an essential part of daily life and the cornerstones of every bar and restaurant. When drinks are such a large part of the local artisan economy, they’ve gotta be good.
This list celebrates the different corners of what the Twin Cities drinks scene has to offer: the family spots, the hipster joints, the classical, the fantastical, and the casual. Yah sure ya betcha.
Best Place to Find Hidden Gems by the Glass: Terzo Wine Bar
A couple of blocks away from the peaceful and relaxing Lake Harriet, Terzo Wine Bar in South Minneapolis was practically made for slow summer nights. The third installment of the Broders’ Cucina Italiana, Terzo is a neighborhood spot celebrating contemporary Italian cuisine and street food, but the wine is the real reason to stop by. Its wine list boasts over 300 selections from independent and traditional producers, focusing on hard-to-find regional styles — it’s not typical to find a by-the-glass list that serves Schiava, Soave, and Nebbiolo Rosato in the area. And alongside house-made focaccia and porchetta sandwiches? Bellissima.
Tip Jar: With five restaurants and cafes at this intersection alone, parking can be a bit of a bear. Instead, opt to park on Lake Harriet and take a moment to stroll past the stunning homes and gardens along Penn Ave.
Address: 2221 W. 50th St., Minneapolis, Minn. 55419
Best Reason to Head to the ‘Burbs: The Dampfwerk Cocktail Lounge
Looking at the Dampfwerk Cocktail Lounge from the parking lot, one might be surprised to learn that inside the harsh industrial exterior is one of the most innovative distilleries and swanky cocktail lounges on that side of the Mississippi. “We put a lot of effort so that the style matched our brand and bottling, which is more of an elevated German spirit,” says Bridgit Loeffelholz, creative director for Dampfwerk. The distillery itself takes inspiration from traditional German spirit-making, featuring fruit brandies and herbal liquors as the heart of the brand — many of which came from a collection of 200-year-old recipes. The cocktail lounge at Dampfwerk proudly displays how those traditional elixirs can fit into the modern drinking culture, offering innovative cocktails such as the Pink Panther complete with aquavit, lacto-fermented raspberry, pineapple, lime, and Dampfwerk’s Helgolander liqueur. But according to Loeffelholz, the pro move for first-timers is to order the brandy flight, featuring the distillery’s pear, apple, barreled apple, and immature grape brandies.
Tip Jar: Minnesota distilleries can now sell up to two 375-milliliter bottles to each individual customer a day. If you want to recreate some of these great cocktails at home after trying them, pick up a couple of liqueurs on your way out.
Address: 6311 Cambridge St., St Louis Park, Minn. 55416
Best Place to Bring Family of All Generations: Falling Knife Brewery
Falling Knife Brewery has quickly built a reputation for producing some of the most world-class and carefree beers in the area — a dichotomy that rings true in every aspect of the brand. When building the taproom itself, owner Dan Herman created it with the intention of being a “third space.” “There’s your home and your work, but where else do you go to feel welcomed?” says Herman. “Hopefully, every guest that comes through our doors has that experience.” The Falling Knife taproom has two sections so that guests can choose their own adventure — the main taproom where friends or family can talk uninterrupted, jamming along to the staff’s jukebox selections, and the back taproom, where guests can play some pinball or watch the game. It’s a great place to bring any and all of your loved ones — whether they be your granddad who only drinks American lager or your trendsetter cousin who only drinks the haziest double New England IPAs. There is a spot for anyone along the bar, and Herman’s team ensures that anyone can fit right in. “Our taproom staff really comes in with the singular focus of giving you an elevated service experience without it being pretentious,” says Herman. “‘The servers wear T-shirts, but the service wears white gloves’ is the best way I’ve heard it described back to us.”
Address: 783 Harding St. NE #100, Minneapolis, Minn. 55413
Best Place to Go If You Need a Tropical Vacation: Hai Hai
Even in the depths of a Minnesota winter — blizzards, black ice, and all — you can find pockets of tiki-fueled sunshine. Hai Hai is well regarded as one of the best new restaurants in the Twin Cities, but the bar is an equal tour de force. The bartenders at Hai Hai masterfully turn classical cocktail ingredients on their heads with house-made ingredients inspired by the bright and intriguing flavors of Southeast Asia, such as jackfruit cordial, Viet cinnamon grenadine, and lime leaf-Thai basil Chartreuse. A personal favorite on the menu is the Next Up, a playful take on a Daiquiri featuring fresh-pressed sugar cane juice, ginger, lime, Thai basil, and your choice of spirit. Enjoy the drinks either inside the dining room, filled with lilting palm leaves and eye-catching patterned wallpaper in ocean-blue and jade green, or opt to go outside if it is warm enough and sit underneath the string lights, and yes, even more palm leaves.
Address: 121 University Ave. NE Minneapolis, Minn. 55418
Best Place to Feel Like a Cool Kid: Bar Brava
With a white subway tile backsplash, open kitchen, and only 30 seats in the entire operation, Bar Brava is one of the only places in the Twin Cities specializing in natural wines — it has basically become a pilgrimage site for any hip young person just dipping their toes in the category. The wine list is filled with heavy hitters from the wine world including Lieu Dit, Martha Stoumen, and Frank Cornelissen, paired perfectly with light, tapas-inspired fare. Bar Brava recently switched to a new model for service: on the weekdays serving snacks and wines, and on the weekends hosting pop-ups with Minnesotan chefs and restaurant concepts like A Bird in Hand (they will still be providing the wine pairings — don’t worry).
Address: 1914 Washington Ave. North, Minneapolis, Minn. 55411
Best Place to Impress Your Date: Skaalvenn Cocktail Lounge
When you pull into the parking lot for the Skaalvenn Cocktail Lounge, you may think you came to the wrong place. Located in an old office building, your mind will play tricks on you, thinking you’re headed to a dental exam rather than one of the best cocktail experiences in the Midwest. Skaalvenn’s products are hard to miss at liquor stores across the state, with their cute and colorful cartoon Viking logos, but its cocktail room seems to flip that on its head. The dark and sultry bar is one of the only spots in the area to offer top-tier molecular mixology: foams, smokes, clarification, and hydrosol mists all grace the cocktail menu. One of the most essential tools at the back bar is a miniature vacuum distiller. Bartenders don’t use it to make alcohol, though — it’s used to create highly concentrated essential oils to more effectively build the flavors of their cocktails. “Skaalvenn distillery is probably the best place to get some really avant-garde, ‘high-level’ cocktails in the Twin Cities,” says Robb Jones of Meteor Bar. “They’re doing some off-the-wall sh*t there.”
Tip Jar: According to Minnesota state law, every alcoholic item used at a distillery’s cocktail lounge must be a product made by the distillery itself (you’re not going to be getting beer here). All of the liquors used in Skaalvenn’s fantastical cocktails were distilled next door, just a few feet away.
Address: 8601 73rd Ave. North #14, Brooklyn Park, Minn. 554228
Best Place to Bring a Large Crowd: Indeed Brewing
Indeed has become synonymous with the vibrant beer culture of Nordeast Minneapolis. Placed at a central location (not too far from the highway, not too close to hear it), Indeed Brewing’s flagship location has enough space to fit a group, both indoors in its massive three-story former warehouse, and on its expansive black-top patio outside filled with picnic benches and standing tables (you can also have your dogs with you outside). Indeed is great for when you’re meeting with a group of friends where everyone has different tastes: honey ale with lavender, pistachio cream ale, dark lager, and yerba mate hard seltzer all grace the taproom menu. During the summer, enjoy live music and nightly food trucks provided by Revival fried chicken.
Tip Jar: Looking to get more of the flavors of Nordeast? Hop across the street to Vivir, a Mexican cafe, bakery, and market. Hidden away to the side is also an agave spirits lounge, Escondido, open Saturdays and Sundays for reservations and walk-ins.
Address: 711 NE 15th Ave., Minneapolis, Minn. 55413
Best Place to Leave the Margarita Behind: Colita
The culinary teams at all of chef Daniel del Prado’s restaurants have been praised for their graceful interpretations of Latin American cuisines, but their drinks deserve a moment in the sun, too. The bar is like walking into an Instagram post — placed inside of a reconstructed gas station, it’s light and airy; everything is minimalist except for the walls behind the bar that are plush with plants. While the kitchen is known for its elevated takes on Tex-Mex staples, the bar wants you to rethink what you know about traditional Mexican cocktails. A highlight of the bar menu is fermentations typically made by street vendors in Oaxaca — herbs, spices, and flowers are added to agave nectar and left to ferment. They’re then added to cocktails like the Curado de Agave with agave nectar, guava, lychee, hibiscus, and peppercorn. In the end, each one is only 4 to 5 percent alcohol, which helps those fresh flavors sing. If you’d like to up the proof, choose from Colita’s well-curated selections of tequila, mezcal, and rare pechuga.
Address: 5400 Penn Ave. S, Minneapolis, Minn. 55419
Best Place to End a Big Night Out: Meteor Bar
While its motto, “Old ass bar, good ass drinks” comes off as a bit crass and cocky, Meteor Bar has really lived up to that adage. In this remodeled old dive bar/porno lounge, co-owners Elliot Manthey and Robb Jones wanted to create a space that served top-tier cocktails to the people, no matter their background: “We opened Meteor because the city needed it. Minneapolis needed that low-key spot that appeals to everyone,” says Jones. Meteor was practically made to be the last stop in a night — no matter if the first spot you went to before was a bit uptight, or if you think nothing can surpass the drinks you had an hour ago, Meteor was built to lift the mood and end the evening on a high note. There are so many different routes you can take: slowly sipping on impeccable Daiquiris, spying an odd bottle on the bar and asking the bartender to make something with it, scarfing down hot dogs with outlandish toppings, or getting a round of beers and Meteor’s “shot of the moment” for the table, which are essentially mini, extra-condensed cocktails made to pack a punch. No matter your attitude when you walk in the door, Meteor is a surefire way to make sure the evening ends right.
Address: 2027 North 2nd St., Minneapolis, Minn. 55411