Far North Spirits cocktail room
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Sample Local Spirits at 10 of Minnesota's Best Distilleries

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Far North Spirits' cocktail room  / Bodega Ltd

Sample Local Spirits at 10 of Minnesota's Best Distilleries

By James Norton

Much like taprooms, Minnesota's cocktail rooms are places where visitors can hang out, sip cocktails made from spirits distilled on-site, and learn about what they're drinking — all while enjoying the ambiance of a working distillery. Here are 10 to check out on your next trip.

  1. Earl Giles, Minneapolis
    Earl Giles Distillery

    Earl Giles Distillery / Erin Dahlin

    Earl Giles, Minneapolis

    Food and drink vets from Parlour, Bittercube, Town Talk Diner and more launched Northeast Minneapolis' latest tasting room / full-service restaurant at the tail end of 2022. Between its abundant greenery, sprawling open space, and bright natural light, Earl Giles is a perfect escape from winter's most frigid stretches and a must year-round thanks to creative small plates and pizza and a stacked menu of specialty cocktails. That includes everything from a booze-less Logan Park Swizzle blend of rhubarb, strawberry, watermelon, vinegar, tea and mint to a Rabbit Kick rendition of gin, carrot juice, vanilla, lemon citrate, and cracked black pepper.  

  2. Brother Justus Whiskey Company, Minneapolis
    A tasting at Brother Justus Whiskey Company

    Brother Justus Whiskey Company

    Brother Justus Whiskey Company, Minneapolis

    The state's most dedicated single malt whiskey purveyor is named after a Benedictine monk from Central Minnesota who encouraged copper still creativity during Prohibition and the Farm Depression of the 1920s. Brother Justus' award-winning spirits include a cold-peated whiskey made completely from Minnesota malted barley and leaning into left-field tasting notes of herbs and mushrooms. 

  3. Tattersall Distilling, Minneapolis
    Bartender at Tattersall Distilling in Minneapolis / Photo by The Restaurant Project

    Tattersall Distilling in Minneapolis / The Restaurant Project

    Tattersall Distilling, Minneapolis

    While it was founded about a decade ago, Tattersall has a lot of history. The Thorp Building where it's located once housed General Mills Mechanical Division, which manufactured top-secret military equipment during World War II under the watch of the FBI and CIA from the guard towers. Today, the industrial chic space serves more than three dozen cocktails made from more than a dozen spirits including vodka, gin and aquavit. Food trucks and live music add to the contemporary yet comfortable vibe.

  4. Vikre Distillery, Duluth
    The cocktail room at Vikre Distillery

    Vikre Distillery

    Vikre Distillery, Duluth

    Duluth's booming beer scene isn't the only exciting thing about drinking in this great northern port. Vikre Distillery puts out several varieties of gin and aquavit, plus whiskey, a "Bar Master's Series" inspired by chartreuse, amaros and aperitivos, and other seasonal spirits available for sampling in the cocktail room that sits in the shadow of the city's famous Aerial Lift Bridge.

  5. Far North Spirits, Hallock
    Far North Spirits distillery in Hallock

    Far North Spirits distillery  / Starr Gazers

    Far North Spirits, Hallock

    Should you find yourself in the northwest corner of the state, the tiny town of Hallock (population 981) boasts one of the region's hottest distilleries. The sophisticated flavor profiles and design-forward packaging of Far North Spirits have landed the distillery's products on store shelves across the United States, and their Alander spiced rum and herbaceous Solveig gin can be found in bars and restaurants throughout the Twin Cities.

  6. 11 Wells Spirits, St. Paul
    Five bottles of craft spirits atop the bar at 11 Wells Spirits

    11 Wells Spirits

    11 Wells Spirits, St. Paul

    Located in the historic Hamm’s Brewery on St. Paul’s east side, 11 Wells has earned a solid reputation for distilling esoteric and lovingly labeled spirits, including rye whiskey, agricole rum and a wheat whiskey. Each bottle in the distillery's prototype series bears information such as proof, months aged, char level, mash bill and more, appealing to the spirits nerds whose thirst for local artisan products is helping to power the craft spirits boom.

  7. The Dampfwerk Distillery, St. Louis Park
    The "Do You Have Any Vodka?" cocktail at Dampfwerk Distillery

    The "Do You Have Any Vodka?" cocktail at Dampfwerk Distillery

    The Dampfwerk Distillery, St. Louis Park

    German food culture informs much of the menu at Dampfwerk Distillery, especially its peerless fruit brandies and herbal liqueurs. Order the "Do You Have Any Vodka?" to sample an obstler-style blend of plum, grapes, apples and pears alongside jasmine, lemon, a tomato leaf tincture (!), and a blast of brisk seltzer water. Copperwing Distillery is right around the corner if you want to host a cocktail room crawl, too.  

  8. Panther Distillery, Osakis
    Panther Distillery in Osakis

    Panther Distillery, Osakis

    Panther Distillery, Osakis

    Proudly touting its status as Minnesota's first legal whiskey distillery, Panther Distillery of Osakis also makes bourbon, gin and spiked apple spirits. The distillery offers tours and tastings, with an opportunity to buy distillery memorabilia if you're so inclined.

  9. J. Carver Distillery, Waconia
    A cocktail at J. Carver Distillery in Waconia

    A cocktail at J. Carver Distillery 

    J. Carver Distillery, Waconia

    The gorgeous copper stills of J. Carver Distillery put out a variety of beverages including vodka and gin (in both premium and ultra-premium editions) and a 96-proof barrel-aged brown gin made with wild rice and other local grains, described as “a whiskey lover's gin.” The distillery is in good company, with several wineries and breweries nearby in and around Waconia.

  10. 5Rocks Distilling Co., Brainerd
    Preparing an Orange Spray Cocktail with a twist of orange at 5Rocks Distilling Co, Brainerd

    Orange Spray Cocktail at 5Rocks Distilling Co, Brainerd / Cuyuna.com

    5Rocks Distilling Co., Brainerd

    Minnesota-grown wild rice and beets are both featured in the flagship Cold North Vodka of 5Rocks Distilling Co., a distillery hidden along a Brainerd highway — not far from the newfangled Woodlore Cider. Other notable tasting room takeaways include a small-batch Amaretto, a cask-strength bourbon, and a salted black licorice liqueur you'd be hard-pressed to find outside Finland (a.k.a. Salmiakki). 

James Norton

James Norton is the author of Lake Superior Flavors (University of Minnesota Press), a guide to eating and drinking on the Lake Superior Circle Tour. He is currently the editor and publisher of Heavy Table.