When it comes to local distilleries, we’ve learned to take their timelines with a handful of salt. Construction delays are inevitable. Permitting, licensing, inspections, and label approvals are at the whim of bureaucracy. Recipe development, especially for aged spirits, can be difficult if not agonizing.
This is all to say, we don’t fault a distillery for being anxious to open a cocktail room but then taking much longer than expected to do so—like when 11 Wells initially told us they’d be serving cocktails by spring of 2015.
Three years later, their cocktail room is finally ready for a soft opening this evening. But the delay has come with a major benefit: the time to build up a diverse catalog of products to pour. Six aged spirits, four clear spirits, and a handful of liqueurs give 11 Wells’ cocktail room manager Brandon Smith a wealth of opportunity for his drink list.
“We have quite a few classics, and some unique takes on the classics to showcase our lineup of liqueurs,” he says. “A lot of cocktail rooms, and cocktail bars in general, make use of flavored syrups, and we will eventually. But these give us a really nice base to work with right out of the gate.”
For example, 11 Wells’ orange curaçao is more bitter and complex than your average triple sec. Together with their ginger liqueur it mimics orgeat syrup and provides wonderful depth of flavor to their mai tai (which is built on their very tasty three-year-aged Boiler Room rum). Similarly, their cherry and allspice liqueurs combine to stand in for sweet vermouth in their Manhattan.
If you’re a whiskey drinker, we’d recommend any cocktail with their Straight Rye, easily the best of their five whiskies, made with the same AC Hazlet rye grown in Hallock, Minnesota, that makes up Far North Spirits’ Roknar Rye Whiskey.
The cocktail room occupies the rear corner of the former millwright shop in the historic Hamm’s Brewery complex on St. Paul’s East Side. It’s the first distillery cocktail room to open in St. Paul, and makes the Hamm’s complex, which also houses the taproom of St. Paul’s Flat Earth Brewing, a more complete drinking destination.
The City of St. Paul is currently paving a road behind the distillery, against which 11 Wells has constructed a 450-square-foot patio. Once the sod is in place, more picnic tables will follow. Inside is an intimate affair—barstools ring the room with a 50-person capacity. But as long as the sun is shining, we’ll be taking our cocktails outside.
Stay tuned for an official grand opening, with all the ribbon cutting, local dignitaries, and pomp and circumstance, sometime later this summer. For now, they’ll host cocktail hours Thursday through Saturday, during which all of their spirits and liqueurs will be available for purchase.
Head Distiller: Seth Reid
Cocktail Room Manager: Brandon Smith
Address: 704 Minnehaha Ave. E., St. Paul MN 55106
Soft open: Thursday, June 28, 5-9pm.
Cocktail room hours moving forward: Thursdays 5-9pm, Fridays 5-10pm, Saturdays 4-10pm.