It’s autumn in Northeast Minneapolis. All the flannel and beards and work boots suddenly look appropriate. The breeze is no longer brisk—it’s just cold. I have the urge to burrow somewhere, to insulate myself against the coming winter. I just want to sit down and have a good cocktail and nothing else.
And so I find myself in a cozy corner of Tattersall Distillery. I’ve melted into a distressed leather couch. I don’t want to move and I don’t have to—this distillery has a wait staff. A young bartender in his slate-gray apron approaches, and in short order, he returns with a Phil Collins. Not the singer, of course, but a slim tumbler of aquavit and lemon. I’m so used to waiting in lines to taste local booze straight from the source. Here, my feet are up and it feels princely.
“We’re thankful people come out here. We have to be,” says Tattersall co-founder Dan Oskey. “If you’re not, if you expect it, if you think you deserve it, you’re wrong.” In the last two years, the Metro has added over a hundred new restaurants, and craft cocktail programs feel like the norm rather than the exception. In just four months, however, Tattersall has risen above the crowd.
The Minnesota micro-distilling movement is hurtling through its formative years. I’ve seen and tasted its growing pains—construction delays, equipment and fermentation issues, and a few cringe-worthy spirits. But all these wrinkles can, and likely will, be ironed out. In a few years, we’ll have a wide array of fine local spirits on the shelves and we’ll be proud of what our state has contributed to the distilling scene at large.
But it’s the strength of our local distilleries’ cocktail rooms that will make them a true cultural force. That’s where the rubber meets the road—where the spirits have a name and a face. It’s where outsiders and out-of-staters can truly gauge the vibe and personality of our spirits. And it’s in this respect that Tattersall is the current leader of the pack.
“People come here because of the room. It’s sexy,” Oskey says. “When people are in here, the chandelier is on, the music is going, and the cocktails are good—there isn’t anything like it around here at all.”
The sun has gone down too early. That chandelier radiates off the zinc-plated horseshoe bar. Nearby, a train ambles past, reduced to a quiet rumbling among the vibrant chatter of groups on the patio. There are three televisions in the cocktail room. As near as I can tell, no one is watching them.
I scan the crowd and realize there’s no average customer here. There’s a lot of gray hair in the building, but also a few kids. It’s both girls’ night out and mom’s night out. There’s a sea of thick-rimmed glasses, worn both fashionably and earnestly.
“Everyone loves craft cocktails, but I think it’s part of our job to make them more accessible,” says Jon Kreidler, Oskey’s partner in Tattersall, adding that a huge part of sampling spirits at liquor stores is simply giving out cocktail recipes, not lecturing customers about their craft. “People may know us in Minneapolis, but you get out to White Bear Lake and they’re like, Tattersall who? We have to get it out in front of people, and show them how good it is.”
That work starts from their home base in Northeast. “You sit down with Bennett [Johnson] or Timmy [Leary], they’re the most easy-going dudes in the industry,” Oskey adds. “But they’re very professional. They’re hospitality-first to make people feel comfortable. But if you want to chat, if you have questions, they’re there to answer them.”
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