Prohibition may seem like ancient history, but two suburban speakeasies are reviving the nostalgic romanticism of that era while giving timeless classic cocktails tasty new twists.
Reminiscent of the original speakeasies, both the Mudd Room in Mendota and Volstead House Whiskey Bar and Speakeasy in Eagan are fittingly inconspicuous—Volstead House is accessed through a red curtain in the back of Burgers and Bottles restaurant, while the Mudd Room is hidden in the basement below Lucky’s 13 Pub.
The Mudd Room is the more atmospheric of the two, replicating many of the decorative features of the time including a tin ceiling, a stacked stone wall, and oil lamps, with red velvet booths and curtains. According to general manager Heather Kelly-Burrows, the bar itself occupies a former house long-rumored to be a well-located hideaway for bootleggers to smuggle barrels of whiskey onto railroad cars in the backyard, transporting them to the nearby Mississippi River en route to U.S. cities for consumption.
Standouts include the Dirty Politician, a gin-Campari sour made with Hendrick’s gin, Tattersall sour cherry, Campari, and housemade Limoncello, shaken with an egg white, and Ma Barker, a twist on a Cosmopolitan, made with Far North Gustof Gin and Tattersall Cranberry Liqueur with a hint of sage. Still, the classic Old Fashioned is the best seller, according to Kelly-Burrows.
The Volstead House Old Fashioned ranks as that establishment’s top seller—and no wonder. The imposing six-tiered wall of liquor bottles above the back bar holds one of the largest whiskey selections in the Twin Cities. The atmosphere at Volstead’s forgoes the Roaring 20s speakeasy theme in favor of a more modern cocktail lounge bedecked in rich, dark wood.
While you can drink your whiskey neat (and in flights), Volstead’s flexes its creative muscles on its cocktail menu. Take the Get Off My Cloud, for instance, made of Citadelle Gin, Blume Marrillen apricot eau de vie, absinthe, Pisco coconut milk, macadamia orgeat, eucalyptus, egg white, and lemon. Or the Stigibeu, made with Volstead House Private Select Single Barrel Bahnez Mezcal, Velvet Falernum, Vermut Lustau Sweet Vermouth, strawberry, and lime.
These fun-yet-serious cocktail lounges may deliver a different speakeasy experience, but both offer up a novel sense of theatricality that spotlights the elevated cocktail culture they are bringing to their suburban neighborhoods.