Squash Daquiri at Cafe Alma
This is a great town to drink in, and I'd set our cocktail culture against any in the world. That said, one drink rose above all the others in 2016, to blow my mind into a thousand smithereens of delight and wonder: The squash daiquiri at new Cafe Alma.
Close readers of this space will know that this drink started as a sort of inside, inside, very inside joke about how amusing it was that farm-driven, earnest and forthright chef Alex Roberts wanted to serve cocktails at the venerable, earnest, and rather hushed Restaurant Alma, and the legislative hurdles he would have to overcome to bring cocktails to that residential community by the University of Minnesota which is always leery of more college kids and more frat-house behavior. This inside joke culminated in our blog-post memorably titled: Strippers Are Keeping You From Your Butternut Squash Daiquiri.
I mean, a butternut squash daiquiri, I thought this was every kind of hilarious—off-putting, nonsensical, impossible. And yet. Clearly we need to run this sort of nonsense much more often, because Nick Kosevich and the Bittercube crew of bartenders and consultants extraordinaire took the challenge and, as they had eighteen months to tinker with it, have hit it out of the park. Behold the drink of the year. It's a butternut squash daiquiri in a decorative gourd, mother truckers. That gourd is a yerba mate gourd, a traditional drinking vessel in some lands, and it is light and sturdy and feels very much like a gourd in your hands, which is cool. (They wash and then sanitize it with an alcohol protocol after you use it.) But then there's the daiquiri itself, which loses the earthiness of squash and pulls the neat trick of tasting like a sweet-tart candy, if a sweet-tart candy was way better than they are, and tasted whole and deep and essential. But that's not all! They pipe a creamy, slightly sticky meringue-topping over the whole of the gourd-opening before they give it to you, and you feel like you got a personal meringue pie, but also you can poke the topping down into the drink and it gets creamy and changes the whole time you're drinking it. Also there's a hilarious sage leaf garnish. Everyone I've bought the thing for bugs their eyes out at me like they've just seen a flamingo for the first time: It can't be real! Then they try it, and it's unbelievably awesome.
Anyway, there's more whimsy, hilarity and culinary know-how packed into this little gourd than any earth-bound human has any right to expect—it's also the dessert of the year, as far as I'm concerned. Get it before they take it off the menu, and get the Starry Night too, which is like the night sky seen from Grand Marais as rendered in a sparkling wine snow-globe, and it's impossible to photograph so you just have to get one. What's next, a rhubarb colada?