There's a lot to love about the Capital City these days, especially since the local government decided to upgrade their happy hours. Earlier this year the city reviewed their liquor license laws, and decided to revise a few, allowing more neighborhood spots to upgrade to a full bar. Well done.
Joan's in the Park was at the top of the list with their shakers poised when they received approval. If you haven't been, Joanne Schmitt and Susan Dunlop's diminutive eatery on Snelling is the perfect embodiment of a well-run neighborhood restaurant. If you're looking for the essence of fine dining (white tablecloths, attentive service, great wine list, a perfectly cooked steak or fish chop, with all the stuffiness and pretense replaced with family-like hospitality, Joan's has it in spades. And now, they have cocktails.
This isn't some rum-n-coke joint (though if that's your poison, they'll happily oblige), they have vintage glassware and modern signature drinks along side some old school classics. The one pictured above is a Buttered Scotch which consists of brown butter washed Dewar's with Cedar Ridge apple brandy, a little Oloroso sherry, and a touch of apple and nutmeg. In its beautiful glass with its hunk of block ice, it would fit right in with any bar in the North Loop. I also tried The Bee Keeper which was elegant and light with Gosling's Black Seal rum, lively Pisco, plus honey and lime with buckwheat bitters. I love that they have a barreled gin and tonic called The "Bill Morrissey" in homage to the late great St. Paul restaurateur.
The neighborhood feels like they might opt for the classics more often, and there's a lot of depth on that side of the list: A Sazerac made with local New Richmond Rye, a Blood & Sand featuring The Macallan 12, a perfectly refreshing Negroni, and a Gin Daisy with orange sorbet.
My advice is to grab a seat at the bar and order a snack of corn dumplings with crunchy shrimp on poblano sabayon with cilantro and queso fresco, then tuck into a Del Sol: mezcal and tequila lifted with tomatillo cordial, lime juice, and coriander tincture in a salted glass. This is clearly a foodist drink menu that pairs well with eating.
After five minutes in this place, you'll realize that in St. Paul, the bar has been raised.