Minnesota’s most anticipated distillery has arrived. But that’s not necessarily saying much.
In the state’s nascent distilling scene, most of those opening up shop do so with liquid resumes cleaner than their vodkas. His may not be the most directly relevant experience, but Tattersall Distilling’s Dan Oskey has a proven track record of making delicious drink-y things. The former ace bartender became one of the Twin Cities' most respected, wielding high-end cocktails without pretense at the Strip Club and Hola Arepa.
But with Wednesday’s opening of his northeast Minneapolis distillery, Oskey — who's also a partner in bitters company Easy & Oskey — has largely traded his shakers for copper stills.
Standing on the floor of his industrial spirits shack, Oskey downplays the notion that his years of balancing cocktails fully prepared him for finding the right botanical mix in Tattersall’s earthy gin, which neither takes the juniper-burying liberties many New American gins do, nor is as sharp as a more traditional London dry.
“When I was developing this I wanted it to be the most versatile shit ever,” he says.
In Tattersall’s hidden cocktail room, down the alley from Diamonds Coffee Shoppe in the Thorp Building, the versatile-by-design gin shows up in summery classics, such as a Southside and a couple of gin and tonic twists. Nevertheless, Oskey swears it holds up to a dirty martini’s brine.
While there still isn’t much precedence for Minnesota cocktail room design, those we’ve visited in other states range aesthetically from garage-bar dumps to posh martini lounges. Oskey and partner/childhood bud Jon Kreidler’s open and inviting space is taproom casual, classed up with a few grandpa’s-den leather chairs and an elegant chandelier dangling above the U-shaped bar. In other words, feel free to rock a Summit T-shirt and your favorite cargo shorts from 2001 while sipping a comely Clover Club on Tattersall’s patio.
The startup hooch makers at 1620 Central Ave. NE open their glass garage doors to the public this week, but three of their bottles – gin, vodka, and an aquavit – are already available in liquor stores. A fourth unaged corn whiskey is cocktail room-only. And the persnickety Food and Drug Administration has already approved recipes for seven of 13 forthcoming liqueurs, including absinthe and a hefty 80 proof crème de cocoa. The others still await the green light.
“One of those is my fernet,” Oskey says glumly of his approval-pending bitter. “I’m like ‘Pleeeaase, can we get that?’ It’s like my favorite thing.”
Speaking of favorite things, ours is Oskey’s aquavit. The corn-based (as all Tattersall’s spirits are for now) caraway booze rests with oak chips for two weeks, giving the traditional Scandinavian spirit a faint woody accent without dulling the botanical medley, which also includes fennel, coriander, and lime. In the simple stunner 7 Yard Stick, it herbaceously bounces off a not-too-vinegar-y celery shrub, which yields a fresher, more prominent garden flavor than some prevalent celery bitters.
“I don’t think aquavit is given enough attention,” Oskey says. “It’s Scandinavian gin.”
Let this be the summer of Minnesota aquavit at Tattersall’s new digs.
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