Back on the production floor, just behind my couch, a towering column still sparkles behind a plate-glass wall. The pace of production running through that still is staggering. In just a few months, Tattersall has managed to finish 14 spirits for use in their bar. That number will reach 18 by year’s end. Even more remarkable—not a single one tastes perfunctory, rushed, or compromised.
I’ll admit I was skeptical when I first heard Dan Oskey would open a distillery. He’s a great bartender, sure, but what does he know about making spirits? A great chef can have no idea how to raise a chicken. But hold on—isn’t that changing, too? Aren’t the truly innovative chefs the ones who will take that extra step; who will go to the farm and build the right product from the ground up? Perhaps Oskey isn’t a distiller at all, rather an innovative bartender taking that same approach.
This dawned on me as I was judging the semifinal round of this year’s Iron Bartender competition. It didn’t matter which secret ingredient the competitors were faced with—cilantro, dried ghost peppers, daikon radish—they were drawn repeatedly, almost reflexively, to Tattersall Aquavit.
“It’s just a cool flavor,” Oskey says. “Caraway pairs well with things, but it’s so un-obvious. I love Aalborg, and when they left the market, it left a hole. Think of your spirits as spices. It’s just another tool to play with.”
Tattersall has anticipated the kinds of spirits that bartenders want but don’t have access to. I mean, who could have imagined Twin Citizens fawning over small-batch aquavit? And if Tattersall’s forecasts remain spot-on, get ready for every bartender in the area to embrace digestifs in the near future.
“I’d never been exposed to amari before ’08 or ’09, and now it’s my favorite thing,” Oskey says, using the correct Italian plural of amaro. “My entire liquor cabinet at home is amari—and a couple bottles of Tattersall gin.”
And sure enough, Tattersall is working on a whole spectrum of amari. Their fernet has a cool, minty overtone to complement the earthy, bitter chocolate profile of the herbs. A black walnut nocino is still sitting in a drum, waiting for its day in the sun.
I take a last look around Tattersall. It’s proud but a little clandestine. Refined but not snooty. Ambition with a dash a restraint. Outside, it’s dark and cold and I’m walking away from the distillery trying to navigate the gigantic potholes in their gravel alleyway. I look back through the windows at the orange glow of pretty, laughing faces. This is the face of modern Minneapolis drinking.
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