Dan Oskey's New Craft Distillery in Northeast: "Life's Too Short to Drink Crap"

Pick two colors. Imagine them as long strips in your mind, and weave them perpendicularly over each other. If you're like us, you'll recognize it as something plaid-ish, probably a flannel. Good.

This summer, that pervasive pattern is working its way into Northeast in the form of Tattersall. What's Tattersall? It's a fancy term for plaid, the checkered design that is Minneapolis's unofficial uniform -- and the name of the next distillery in Minnesota's burgeoning craft distillery scene.

See also: Which Bargain Beer Should Be the Official Tallboy of Minnesota?

Dan Oskey, most recently shaking up bottled cocktails at Hola Arepa, has teamed up with his childhood friend Jon Kreidler to open Tattersall Distilling in the Thorp Building, located in the Arts District of Northeast.

Oskey has built himself a following in the Twin Cities, from bartending at mega hot spots such as the Strip Club Meat and Fish in St. Paul to Hola Arepa in Minneapolis, as well as creating his own line of Easy & Oskey Bitters. He's also had a hand in the production of the tasty, all-natural Joia sodas that you've probably spotted in your local co-op. We caught up with the bustling juggernaut and were able to slow him down for an interview over coffee.

Go figure.

Hot Dish: Favorite spirit to work with? Dan: It changes. Gin and whiskey. I love tequila, I work with it obviously a lot at Hola, more so than I did at the Strip Club. That's the audience. I enjoy rum; it's great too, but my favorite is gin. Gin is traditionally a cocktail spirit; you don't sip it neat. I think you get a lot of variety with gin, there's different styles. I'm gonna grab Old Tom gin for this drink, but I'll grab a botanical one for this drink. As long as you know what your end product is supposed to be.

How many spirits will Tattersall eventually have? D: Spirits and supporting spirits? Let's see... Jon: At least a dozen. D: Over a dozen.

Any takes on obscure ones? Grappa? Aquavit? Cordials/Liqueurs? D: That's a really good idea. Maybe we should do that. We might be doing things that don't even have a predecessor at all. Like one that is a surprise, it's so obvious, why is somebody not doing this.

In your opinion, what's the most overrated schnapp flavor? Underrated? D: Underrated is root beer, because it was made here. It was invented here! It's absolutely underrated! Don't mix it with anything, though. Overrated? Raspberry. Peach. Almost all the American schnapps are overrated. Nobody's really using them in the 494/694 vortex. Once you leave that though, and it's sugary schnapps everywhere. It's fake flavor, and there's no integrity there. I know it sounds shitty, but it's sugar and fake coloring. If you want raspberry flavor in your drink, what is wrong with muddling simple syrup and raspberries, straining it, and getting real raspberry flavor in your drink? J: But it's a lot more work than just using schnapps. D: But you know what it tastes like when it's fresh. I'm a huge blueberry fanatic, and I love using it in drinks, especially in the summer. Using things we grow here in Minnesota, like berries.

What drink would you be okay with never making again? D: Long Island Iced Tea. Better yet, top shelf long islands. Like, really dude? "Strong Island, bro." Fuck outta here.

Why the location in Northeast? J: People go on brew tours, that's kind of the common thing there. After a while of drinking beer for a few hours, another option is for something lighter. We already have a captive audience. It's a lot easier to access. D: And there's Ward One; it's the brew district. It's the culture there. You've also got the structure of the building, the cool industrial feel. And the size of the spaces... it's 9,000 square feet. You need space to do a brewery or a distillery.

Is distillery the next brewery boom? J: The craft distillery market is still in its infancy. It's where the brewery market was, 10, 15 years ago. What you saw with the craft brewery market when it came along, it was super simple, lagers, stuff like that. That's where all the creativity blew up. The big guys in the liquor world, it's dominated by large players. They're not set up to experiment and try new things. They're using continuous stills that are producing thousands of cases per run, so you can't do anything small. On the craft side of it, you're gonna see more interesting and new things put out as we start experimenting.

What's the most versatile herb? Any infusions you're excited about? D: I think the simple answer is mint. It can be shaken, it can be a garnish, muddled, etc. There are so many varieties, the most popular being peppermint and spearmint.

Can you tell the difference between craft vodka and Svedka? D: Yes, totally. Absolutely. I can totally tell. I can tell by just smelling them. Easily. Svedka doesn't smell like anything. And everything else... well, we'll just leave it at that.


What's some shit you drink that you're embarrassed about? D: I'm not embarrassed about anything. I drink pink wine! J: How about that one bottle you have at home, the one you haven't drank yet? D: Which one is that? J: The nut liqueur. D: Haha. Hmm, I'm not embarrassed by anything. I've had this discussion before, but let's say we're talking about bourbon, right? Someone will be like, "Jim Beam is crap." It's not crap. It's the quintessential bourbon, the first one you drank when you're 16, so like, for the rest of your life, it's that pure flavor. Is it the best? No way. There are some amazing bourbons out there. But to totally write something off? Get outta here.

So you stand behind what you drink. D: Yeah, always. Life's too short to drink crap beer or crap cocktails or crap anything.

What's some shit other people drink that they should be embarrassed about? D: People will come in and order Skinny Girl. "We don't have that." "Can't you make it?" I'll gladly water your drink down for you. Look at the label. It's like 30 proof. You take the booze out, you're gonna lose the calories.

Yeesh. D: I don't know, I think that as a bartender, I've said this for years, and I mean it. "Drink what makes you happy." The bartender shouldn't scoff at you. Our job is hospitality. It's not to be a snob, or judge anybody. Really. First and foremost it's hospitality. Somebody asked me last year, "What's next for trendy things?" How about a return to hospitality? The Twin Cities could work on that. Not everybody, but still. Giving a shit about your guest. Acknowledging and anticipating a guest's needs. That's hospitality. The same way, if people come to your house, you want them to be impressed; you want them to be happy. If people come in half an hour before close, and you're like, "Oh god, ugh, *rolls eyes*." You signed up for this. This is what you do.

What's the best thing about the Twin Cities right now? D: The fact that everybody is embracing local movements, and has a general interest in it. Not just like, "It's local, I want it." People want to be educated about it. When people come into the distillery, they're not gonna get this whole diatribe. They're gonna do their own research, which is really cool. You look at the way so many things have exploded, I mean, look at the restaurants. Then years ago, look at it now. The food has just gone straight up. We're cooped up for six months out of the year, we have to be creative.

And now we have a distillery that will match that. D: I think that part of the culture here too, is like, this is not an obvious choice for a thriving economy. It's the least likely. We're far north, cold as shit, everybody talks about the weather all the time... I've tried to leave half a dozen times and I keep ending up back here. It's the embracing of "what's going on here." J: People are proud to be Minnesotan, proud of what we create and proud of what we do. D: Like, look at the state fair. It's like, our thing.

What's your go-to drunk food? D: CHEESE. Fucking just cheese. Or pizza. We'll probably have some salty snacks or food trucks at the distillery eventually.

Do you have any superstitions? D: I have all sorts of superstitions. I believe in karma. Like, in a crazy way. Both good and bad, I see it all the time. I don't know if this is superstitious or just OCD, but any night before I bartend, everything has to be in an exact place or I literally won't start working. The bar has to be all set, the jiggers have to face a certain way, etc. Actually, I'm gonna call OCD on that one. But if I start working and it's a mess, I feel like I'm never going to catch up. Is karma a superstition? I don't know, but I feel like I've experienced it every day. You make a choice that maybe's not in everybody's best interest and it ends up biting you in the ass. That sort of shit. Is it karma or is it physics? Like, mental physics...

How do you find the time to do it all? D: You can find the time if you want to find the time. Less Netflix and less distractions. That's why I don't have social media. I might do social media for Tattersall for the first time in my life, but like my own personal social media? I don't know. I still find time, like last night, to go to Corner Table and hang out all night and go see the guys over at Eat Street afterwards. I was considering that last night too, like, "Shit, I need to order my seeds to plant, am I gonna have time for that?" I'm like, yeah, I'm gonna fucking make time. There's so much to do right now. You can make all these grandiose plans to do stuff, but at the end of the day, we're gonna be in the distillery making booze, and we hope to be making a lot of it, because we want it to be the best product out there.

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