In the past decade, the lounge of the 510 Groveland building has been the site of some legendary drink-making. So how does P.S. Steak’s new bar manager Keith Mrotek step into this space? With confidence, but also reverence.
“This space has been synonymous with Johnny Michaels,” he says, noting the former La Belle Vie barman among a constellation of all-stars. “For me, what is that character? What does that mean? The words I come up with are whimsy, fun-loving, and against-the-grain. Trying to take those and embody those into a program that’s new and different fresh, but bringing it to a diverse clientele that’s very discerning.”
His challenge: devise an interesting and impressive cocktail menu befitting of this lounge and its history, but not one so over-the-top that it adds to the building’s lingering reputation as being too posh and inaccessible.
And from our first sips of things, he’s succeeding. His new cocktail lounge menu features drinks with recognizable formulas, made unique through the selection of an interesting spirit.
“That’s been one of the most fun things I’ve experienced in my time here is just working with all these things I haven’t had access to,” he smiles. “I can just buy them. I don’t have to make them.” (Mrotek arrives at P.S.S. after a long stint at Norseman Distillery where he could only vend the alcohol they make in-house.)
Among these new mixers, we find Escubac, a gin-style spiced liqueur from France that’s somewhere between a gin and aquavit, holding its own in Love Letters, an elegant aperitif with Dolin Dry vermouth and the floral Ramazzotti Aperitivo Rosato. It’s tastes like a member of the Negroni family—dry and light, just the right amount of bitter.
Also of note on the new menu: Smoke Signals (by Michael Lindgren), a Gibson martini with a lovely bonfire lilt to the nose thanks to Chase Oak Smoked Vodka, and Bittersweet Nothings (Kara Smith), which features a full ounce of Angostura bitters mixed into a dark crimson sour with lemon and grapefruit.
Across the hall at the steakhouse, Mrotek is keeping things even more straightforward, with no originals, riffs, or reinventions, just faithful interpretations of the classics. The inspiration is turn-of-the-century New Orleans and that means a sazerac and vieux carré, a bubbling Ramos Gin Fizz, and the best French 75 you’re likely to find outside of Arnaud’s (splurge on the deluxe “cardinal” version made with Hennessy XO—the doughy character of Ruinart Blanc de Blanc sparkles with the sweet cognac).
And while the steakhouse side of P.S. retains the all traditional trappings of dark wood trim, big bloody cuts, and cult Napa cabernet, we see Mrotek and Co. moving the lounge into a different vibe. “Casual” will probably never be the right word for 510 Groveland, but cheap glasses of punch (and punchbowls!) are making it more approachable. Their new barbecue menu on select Sundays (the next one is October 20) helps with that aim as well.
“I even have to remind myself when I talk to customers in the steakhouse,” Mrotek says. “We have this whole different thing going on over here.”
510 Groveland Ave., Minneapolis
Lounge hours: Mon–Thu: 4–11pm; Fri: 4pm–midnight; Sat: 5pm–midnight; Sun: 5–11pm