Among Jessi Pollak's achievements as the bar manager at Spoon & Stable, one she's most proud of? Putting dessert cocktails on the menu.
The high-end Minneapolis restaurant might not seem like the place to get the kind of sweet, creamy or chocolaty concoctions long found in supper clubs. But Pollak's after-dinner drinks take a sophisticated turn.
"Dessert cocktails are a place where we can be more adventurous, incorporate more whimsy than we can on our standard cocktail menu, so I like to do things that are a little bit sweeter, a little more timeless, things that are fun and nostalgic," she says.
The after-dinner drink category casts a wide net — think sweet wines, bitter digestifs, syrupy liqueurs. Then there are full-fledged cocktails that could be sipped alongside dessert, or in place of one. A staple during the disco age, more restaurants are ushering dessert cocktails — even the much loved and much maligned White Russian — into the modern era.
"The great Midwestern supper clubs are cool and fun, and we're throwing an homage to them by bringing sweeter cocktails back — a little bit," says Keith Mrotek, bar manager at P.S. Steak in Minneapolis. He's choosing newer liqueurs and adjusting recipes to be less sweet than their reputations would suggest.
P.S. Steak makes a White Russian with local Norseman coffee liqueur. A different dessert choice would be the Dram, a blend of spiced pear liqueur, whiskey, sweet vermouth and other liqueurs that pique Mrotek's interest. It's served with a single ice cube that dilutes and softens the drink as it melts. Baking spices like cardamom and allspice from the pear liqueur make it the perfect postprandial (aka after-dinner) drink for autumn.
One restaurant that's leaning full tilt into the Wisconsin supper club vibe with its cocktail program is Minneapolis' Hi-Lo Diner, which has had ice cream cocktails on its menu since it opened in 2016. The most popular is the Alexander Hamilton, which riffs on the classic brandy Alexander by mixing vanilla ice cream with Brandy Sainte Louise, Tattersall crème de cacao and Hamilton Jamaican black rum "to add a little extra character and complexity," says bar manager Ryan Barott.
Barott says spiked milkshakes are ideal for fall. "Ice cream is, obviously, cold, and once the weather starts getting a little chillier, adding a warmth to it via the power of alcohol is pure magic."
Three to try
Spoon & Stable, spoonandstable.com
Bar manager Jessi Pollak won an award for her unique creation that's inspired by World War II spy Virginia Hall, code-name Artemis. Smoky mezcal, sweet chocolate and banana liqueurs, a dash of habañero and a whole egg come together for a drink that's "very simple when you look at it, but then it actually has all these unexpected flavors to it. It kind of like catches you off guard."
P.S. Steak, psmpls.com
A crystal decanter of "bottle condition" (that is, premixed) whiskey, sweet vermouth and liqueurs never fully empties. Instead, bar manager Keith Mrotek blends in liqueurs of the moment for an ever-changing after-dinner drink that's smooth and complex.
Hi-Lo Diner, hi-lo-diner.com
The ice cream drink that started it all at Hi-Lo Diner is a refined take on the boozy milkshake found in supper clubs across the Midwest, the brandy Alexander.