Photos by Aaron Davidson
During WWII, the Thorp Building on Central Avenue in Northeast Minneapolis housed the General Mills Mechanical Division. This highly secretive facility produced torpedo navigation systems and the first “black box” flight recorders. In their stead, a pocket of quintessential Northeast is now coming together, including the requisite bike shop (Greg LeMond’s) and a distillery.
You’ll have to drive down the alley behind Diamond’s Coffee Shop to arrive at Tattersall Distilling. “It’s not obvious where we are,” says Dan Oskey. “People are going to have to want to get here to be here. So we have to reward that with hospitality.” The barman late of Strip Club Meat & Fish and Hola Arepa is moving to the manufacturing side of the bar with childhood friend Jon Kreidler, and will debut his taproom and spirits to the public by the end of the month.
Oskey has been headlong in this project since the week before opening Hola Arepa, but construction has been largely limited to the last few months. Among a flurry of recent activity, the bar has taken shape and the new patio has been poured. Walls of 10-foot tall glass will run the tasting room, echoing the huge glass windows facing the railway. Eventually, Canadian Pacific rail cars will amble past the building, bouncing headlights off the zinc-plated bar against the far wall. And above the bar will loom an 18th century mantlepiece with decorative lion heads staring down on your martini.
Tattersall will debut with three spirits – a vodka, gin and barrel gin. “Having bartended and worked with spirits and liqueurs over the last 18 years, I know what I like,” says Oskey. “What do I think we could do better? It’s a tall order. But with gin, we know what we want to make, we have the flavor profile down to a T.”
Oskey’s gin will be on the London Dry end of the spectrum, but won’t be just a singular punch of pine. “Sometimes I think gin is made by people who don’t love gin,” he says. “They don’t understand gin. Juniper is actually a sweet, cool, earthy flavor. When people talk about that pine needle flavor, I think they mean a particular brand of gin. We want to create something you can sip on neat.”
Tattersall’s barrel gin will mature in white wine barrels sourced from Alexis Bailey Vineyards in Hastings. This should add a more nuanced, floral element to the product, unlike the more toasty barrel gins that taste like a gin-whiskey hybrid. The vinous residue in the barrels should make it taste martini-ready, as if it’s been already dosed with Cocchi or Lillet.
“It’s been really interesting to identify what holes are missing behind a bar,” says Oskey. “We’ll develop things you don’t see behind bars. For years I’ve asked myself why is nobody making this flavored liqueur? It’s an opportunity to give bars something new to utilize.”
They’ll also make liqueurs and spirits solely for in-house use (including an un-aged corn whiskey that should be ready by the opening), secure a winery license to make vermouths, and also craft their own bitters, syrups, homemade tonics – and all that jazz. Oskey will be spending far more of his time behind the still than the bar. Instead, Timmy Leary from Strip Club and Bennett Johnson from Hola Arepa will play lead on the shakers.
Oskey says its obvious why Strip Club alums would influence the vibe of Tattersall: “Tim Niver really helped me understand what level of hospitality I expect. You think working with that guy for seven years didn’t rub off on me? Hospitality is something we need to work on in the Twin Cities. People are either overbearing or not there, you have to anticipate what the guest’s needs are. We’re going to place a premium on that here.”
The two gins, along with a vodka, should also be available at retail stores by the end of June. And pursuant to the new omnibus bill, Tattersall has become the first distillery permitted to sell their bottles on-site. The opening date is still extremely soft, and potentially in flux, but right now Tattersall is on track for a June 26th debut.