Making spirits bright

Top Twin Cities bartenders share recipes in ‘North Star Cocktails’

A dash of Angostura bitters, two-and-a-half ounces of Canadian whiskey, a third ounce Grade B maple syrup and a dash of Fee Brothers old-fashioned bitters. It sounds like an elixir crafted by a 21st century alchemist, but it’s a drink known as the Victoria — just one of many recipes offered in a cocktail anthology published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press available since Nov. 10.

Award-winning drink maker Johnny Michaels, with contributions from the North Star Bartenders’ Guild, mixed up a home bartenders dream with “North Star Cocktails.” The 218-page book documents 75 of Michaels’ own recipes and features nearly 200 recipes in total. Among the contributors are Jesse Held, president of the guild, and Nick Kosevich, member of the guild and part owner of Bittercube, an establishment dedicated to crafting artisanal bitters.

Michaels helped create the North Star Bartenders Guild last year and is currently the La Belle Vie bar manager. Starting his bar career at Gluek’s bar as a busboy, Michaels has risen to the top of the Minneapolis bar scene. He has created bar lists for several establishments, including Café Maude and Smalley’s Caribbean Barbeque and Pirate Bar.

The recipes range from simple to exotic. Some even have a splash of the holidays in them, such as the whiskey-ridden Grinch Nog and the “Festivus Sugar”-infused Mistletoe — a frequently desired favorite, but a drink that is only offered from the day after Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve.

The book includes more than just cocktail recipes, although that is the bulk of it. In the beginning is a brief history of drinking in the Twin Cities along with a “Sermon on the Bar” written by Johnny Michaels. A look into some syrups and bitters follows the drink recipes.

Creator: Johnny Michaels
Spirit: Vodka     
Glass: Martini

1/2 ounce clementine or orange vodka
1/2 ounce citrus vodka
1/2 ounce gin
1/3 ounce unsweetened pomegranate juice
1/3 ounce Lemon Sour
1/3 ounce Cointreau or triple sec
Lime wedge
Simple syrup
Dash orange bitters
3 drops orange flower water
1-1/2 to 2 ounces cava (approximately)
Festivus Sugar (red, white, and green large-grained sanding sugar, combined)
6 to 11 fresh pomegranate seeds
Orange peel spiral

Use a lime wedge dipped in simple syrup to paint half the outside rim of martini glass and then roll it in Festivus Sugar. To a cobbler shaker one-third full of ice, add all the liquid ingredients except cava. Cap and shake vigorously 5 seconds. Strain into glass, add pomegranate seeds, and hang orange spiral on rim. Top with cava last so that seeds and twist won’t mar the light cava foam on the drink’s surface.

Grinch Nog
Creator: Johnny Michaels
Spirit: Whiskey     
Glass: Martini

1 1/2 ounces Wild Turkey 101-proof or Rittenhouse 100-proof rye
1 1/2 ounces Beefeater gin
1/2 ounce maraschino liqueur
1/4 ounce absinthe
1/2 ounce Lemon Sour
2 dashes Fee Brothers old-fashioned bitters
Dash Angostura bitters
Dash Regan’s or Angostura orange bitters
1 or 2 dashes salt solution
Lemon wedge
Green maraschino cherry, on a skewer

Into a Boston tin half full of ice, squeeze and add lemon wedge and then add the liquid ingredients. Swirl until proper (this one takes a lot of swirling) and strain into martini glass. Garnish with skewer across top of glass.