By Steve McPherson
205 East Hennepin Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55414
Nestled under Ginger Hop (the pan-Asian fusion spot that used to be The Times) and down the street from what is still (thank goodness) Kramarzcuk’s, Honey occupies the space that used to be Jitters, and puts it to damn good use. We’ll forgive it for touting itself as being “inspired by the underground clubs of New York City” for two reasons: 1.) it legitimately does remind one of countless little below-ground bars from the West Village to the Upper East Side and 2.) they make some rather impressive cocktails.
Not content to simply sling this season’s fruity nightmare, Honey prides itself on drinks like the Sazerac ($8), a traditional New Orleans cocktail made up of rye (Old Overholt, in this case), bitters, absinthe, and a touch of sugar. And no, the absinthe isn’t going to have you hallucinating purple elephants or anything, but its anise flavor is an excellent balance for the sharpness of the rye.
They also know how to get creative with a drink like the Angel’s Share ($9), which combines Martin Miller gin and a touch of red currant jam. Gin seems to be one of the great forgotten liquors of the current day, having been overthrown in a popular revolution by vodka in the martini. But when it comes to good cocktails, who says the proletariat has ever been right? The floral bouquet of a good gin is more subtle and rewarding than most any flavored vodka out there (Moscow on the Hill’s excellent housemade horseradish vodka notwithstanding), so here’s hoping drinks like the Angel’s Share can lead it back to prominence through creative cocktail crafting.
Once you’ve chosen a cocktail (or picked from their healthy wine list or rotating tap beer list), Honey provides a healthy number of options for socializing. The bar itself is a pleasant place to be—although on crowded nights you’ll find yourself skooching in frequently to accommodate passersby—but there are also couches with low tables in the back and tables with more upright seating options. There’s music just about every night of the week, but most of the time it’s the mellow, sociable kind—largely jazz and small groups. If you stick around long enough though, the hip-hop dance parties start around 10 pm on weekend nights. And good for them, but we’ll take our highballs elsewhere where they start getting jiggy with it.
Steve McPherson is a writer and musician who has lived in the Twin Cities since 2004, where he teaches writing and music at McNally Smith. His dog is named after both a drink and a guitar. He tweets from @steventurous.