NEW YORK Perhaps Minneapolis never quite got over the Prohibition era of the 1930s. How else to explain the popularity of its iconic cocktail, The Bootleg?
The city's signature drink - heard of by few outside of Minnesota - is a relatively homely one, a fizzy, sweet-and-sour concoction akin to a Tom Collins goosed with mint.
Everyone seems to have their own interpretation. Some are made with frozen lemonade mix and 7-Up, blended until slushy; others are spiked with grenadine, orange juice, even green food coloring.
"It was pioneered by a local Minneapolis country club in the early 20th century and soon became a staple at all the finest clubs in the Twin Cities," explains Dean Phillips, President and CEO, Phillips Distilling Company and a fifth-generation spirits producer based in Minneapolis.
"To this day, many sell club-bottled Bootleg mix to their members and each claims their version is the gold standard."
In other words, unless you're hitting the country club circuit, the average business traveler is not likely to encounter The Bootleg.
Instead, in the business district downtown, fine wine flows at white tablecloth restaurants like Bar La Grassa (www.barlagrassa.com/) and Manny's Steakhouse (www.mannyssteakhouse.com/), while a plethora of Irish bars offer access to world-class beers, including many from local brewers.
Sure, you'll find "cocktail magic," Phillips says, at bars such as Bradstreet Craftshouse (www.bradstreetcraftshouse.com/), on the first floor of the Graves 601 hotel. Influenced by access to city's rich restaurant scene, many cocktails have a culinary bent.
For example, at the recently opened Marvel Bar (marvelbar.com/), a speakeasy-style bar in the cellar of the Bachelor Farmer restaurant, look for the Olivetto, an unusual emulsified olive oil sour. Meanwhile, La Belle Vie (www.labellevie.us/), lauded as one of the best restaurants in the Twin Cities area, the "Night of the Hunter," is a vodka martini dosed with salted caramel and garnished with Marcona almond-stuffed olives.
But you won't see The Bootleg on any cocktail menu. That doesn't mean you can't get one. "Strangely, it's not widely featured in public drinking holes," Phillips muses. "But ask the right bartender and you're in for a treat."
RECIPE: The Bootleg This variation on Minneapolis's iconic cocktail, attributed to La Belle Vie bartender Johnny Michaels, is among the most appetizing.
1 oz. vodka 1 oz. gin 1 oz. mint syrup (1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, and a handful of chopped mint leaves) Fresh lemons/limes Cava Sparkling wine Chartreuse Mint sprig, for garnish Over high heat, mix sugar and water with chopped mint leaves, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, strain mint and let cool. Shake vodka, gin, mint syrup, and freshly squeezed citrus juice, pour over ice. Top with Cava and a splash of Chartreuse. Garnish with a fat sprig of mint.
(Editing by Peter Myers and Paul Casciato) (Kara Newman is the author of "Spice & Ice: 60 tongue-tingling cocktails", available. The opinions expressed are her own.)