In a world dominated by the craft cocktail phenomenon, it’s easy to forget about one of the most classic, elegant drinks out there: the martini. It’s a simple drink, made with gin or sometimes vodka, a kiss of vermouth and your choice of olive or lemon peel. But it’s a delicious libation, and one that has become ingrained in American culture. It’s the drink of Humphrey Bogart and James Bond, the drink about which legendary comedian Jackie Gleason said, “One must defend his home, his wife, his children and his martini.” Up or on the rocks, dirty or with a twist, shaken or stirred, you simply can’t beat a good martini. But where to find the best one? There are plenty of lounges and bars around the metro that can make you a good craft cocktail. If you want a good martini, look no further than the following bars and lounges.
Mancini’s Char House and Lounge
531 7th St. W.
Saint Paul, MN 55102
Mancini’s has been a Saint Paul mainstay since the 60s, and if you’re ever wondering where people go at night, look no further than the red leather booths of the lounge. It seems that everyone is drinking a martini, and you’ll definitely want one as well. This family-owned Italian bar and restaurant harkens back to the days when Saint Paul’s Little Italy ran the neighborhood, and you’ll get the same quality of service and product today that you would have then. As Noel Coward suggested, the best martini is a glass of gin waved in the general direction of Italy. At Mancini’s, you’ll feel like you’re already there.
The Monte Carlo
219 3rd Ave. N.
Minneapolis, MN 55401
The Monte Carlo has been around since 1906, making it not only one of the oldest bars in the state, but a bar you can trust to make one hell of a drink. It was making martinis back when Teddy Roosevelt was president, and it still mixes them to perfection. With Vegas-style attitude, you might expect Frank, Dino and the rest of the rat pack to pop in while you’re lounging in this time capsule. Chances are, they’d order a martini as well.
Nye’s Polonaise Room
112 E. Hennepin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55414
The glowing red neon sign at Nye’s welcomes you into northeast Minneapolis’ beloved, charmingly old-school bar and restaurant. Dimly lit, with a piano bar, gold booths and dark red carpet, it seems that Bogie himself should be waiting to greet you at the door. Fittingly, the martini at this classic watering hole is one of the best in town. Mixed perfectly by the veteran bartenders, you can enjoy this martini at a bar that doesn’t need any bells and whistles or gimmicks to enhance your experience. Pure fun and great martinis make this place one of the must-try bars in the Twin Cities.
Related: Best Secret Bars in Minneapolis
Saint Paul Grill
350 Market St.
Saint Paul, MN 55102
One of the classiest places to enjoy your martini, the bar at the Saint Paul Grill not only makes an amazing martini, but you’ll feel like a million bucks sipping on it. With an enormous gin selection, you can choose whichever suits your fancy. Then let the experienced bartenders do the rest while you enjoy the elegant surroundings. With high ceilings, dark wood and the faces of Saint Paul greats like F. Scott Fitzgerald winking at you from their portraits on the wall, everyone is a legend at the Saint Paul Grill.
601 1st Ave. N.
Minneapolis, MN 55403
While you certainly can enjoy the selection of frou-frou drinks at this Minneapolis cocktail mecca, the bartenders understand what it means to make a great martini and they make one of the lightest, crispest and most refreshing martinis in town. They know that an evening can be made with just the right amount of gin and vermouth. The lounge itself is a great place to relax, and any of the great martini drinkers of days’ past and present would feel right at home sipping one at the bar or splayed across one of the plush, comfortable booths.
Related: Best Lounge Bars in Minnesota
Adrian Schramm is a resident Saint Paul writer with a passion for all things local. Through his work with Saint Paul Almanac and Minneapolis Examiner at Examiner.com, as well as in the kitchens of bars and restaurants around town, he has discovered what truly makes the Twin Cities tick.