When it was announced that Ringling Bros. circus would close earlier this year, Nick Kosevich needed a drink.
The acclaimed bartender has spent a lot of years in the Twin Cities (and beyond) making high-end, artisanal cocktails that refine and expand on the classics. For his latest cocktail project, he’s gone in a whole new direction at the mini-golf-fueled playground Can Can Wonderland.
“It’s this idea of the soda fountain, but there are no rules back here,” he said from behind one of Can Can’s two bars. “It’s a circus in here.”
So, he invented a boozy shake for the occasion of Ringling’s demise. “Death of the Circus” combines banana rum, circus peanuts (those electric-orange peanut-shaped marshmallows), Nilla wafers and vanilla ice cream into a playful cocktail that’s the opposite of a grown-up Negroni.
“When you hear the thing you went to as a kid is gone forever, how does that make you feel?” Kosevich asked. He says that’s the question he pondered when coming up with Can Can’s newest drink. “It’s not an homage, but a talking point in the world of malts.”
Can Can Wonderland’s spiked ice cream cocktails are the latest over-the-top dish to be featured in our video series, Outta Control. Watch past videos about a 10-pound pho challenge here and another on the cookie dough craze here.
“We’re trying to move away from everything [fancy],” said Kosevich, who co-owns a cocktail consulting company called Bittercube (it also produces bitters).
Instead, nostalgia reigns supreme at Can Can. A cereal bar with selections from millennials’ sugar-addled youth can be turned into any blended drink (without booze for kids, with booze for everyone else). Ingredients like gummies and even cheddar cheese powder from a mac and cheese box appear on the menu.
Banana rum was particularly low-brow for Kosevich. “It’ll beat away what you think integrity is,” he said.
Even if the flavors aren’t as complex as an aged Port, the drinks are still made with precision. Kosevich even tops the “Death of the Circus” with more of those marshmallow “peanuts” using a tiny, long-nosed tweezer he keeps in his apron.
Another malt on the menu is the “Aye Aye Cap’n,” which grinds up Cap’n Crunch cereal with ice cream and a high proof dark rum that’ll “melt the ice cream faster,” Kosevich said. Topped with whipped cream, the concoction is then sprinkled with powder made from the cereal’s “crunch berries,” separated by color.
(A staffer has to separate each of the red, blue, green and purple bits to make the unadulterated color powders. “It’s a great first job to have,” Kosevich said.)
A second bar in this basement space has a row of slushy machines, each spiked with alcohol. Beginners can start with grape/vodka or strawberry/gin mixes. Campari/grapefruit and absinthe/wine slushies are for more refined palates.
They’re all part of Kosevich’s rule-busting ethos when it comes to cocktail-making in the modern era. “Here’s where the normal parameters are,” he said. “Let’s explode those.”
To see more photos and videos from our crazy/classic food series, follow us on Instagram at @outtacontrolmn.