Norcal eats and the most innovative cocktail program in the Twin Cities

  • On April 28, 2015

Originally published: June 26th, 2013

Drew Wood of Thrilist


For the most part, craft cocktails have become synonymous with dark Vaudevillian spaces and mixologists who would also be great extras in Newsies. And while Christian Bale musically gaming the tyrannical turn-of-the-century newspaper delivery system is pretty cool, it’s good to know that — thanks to Marin Bar & Restaurant — now some of the best cocktails in Minneapolis can be had minus the Jules Verne-ery.
Yes, the main dining room & bar are a significant departure from the spare, white space of previous tenant D’Amico Kitchen, but more on that in a bit… To the cocktails!
The main thing that separates their bar program from the rest in town: their big trick isn’t the host of bitters they use or the way they chip ice from a block, but rather their literally just-picked aromatics and the fact that they’ve taken craft cocktailery outside.
The Periodic Table of Gin & Tonic. It not only makes science waaaaay more interesting, but it also presents the formula by which Marin’s reinventing G&Ts.Periodic Table menu aside, the big innovation is in their house tonic. Lemon zest, orange zest, lime zest, citric acid powder, and lemongrass are integral to its flavor, but the real secret is those brown chips: extremely-hard-to-find cinchona (quinine) bark.
They pre-make the chinchona bark syrup (brown bottle), but everything else is done to order. They pour the syrup over ice, add the requisite amount of house-made soda water (effectively the second half of the tonic water), then stir in your pick of gin (from Prairie Organic to St. George Terroir), and add your aromatics, like hibiscus, gentiana, or, um, nasturtium… you know? Good ol’ nasturtium? The end result is a gin & tonic that looks and tastes like none you’ve ever tried before.
The upstairs bar, while influenced by that same neo-Victorian vibe, is much airier. In addition to classics, they’ve got a list of Champagne cocktails, craft suds, and “specialties”, like the mezcal/Averna/Carpano/Benedictine/aromatic bitters Mexico City.
Food-wise, Mike Rakun — the leader of Marin’s butter-less kitchen — is slinging lighter NorCal-style eats like the Spring Peas, Ham, and Citrus. They’ve also got a wood-fired pizza oven for making flatbreads like the oregano, mozzarella, and slow-roasted tomato number.
They also serve breakfast. And if you enjoy eating while reading the paper, it actually might be the one time you wish Marin’s bartenders were Newsies.