Minnesota Distilleries Serve Up Local Spirits

By James Norton

Tattersall Distilling cocktail room, Minneapolis
Photo courtesy of Tattersall Distilling

You can learn a lot about a place by the way people eat. A plate of food doesn't appear from nowhere; it's informed by the land, cultural traditions, and the destination a place is traveling toward. Increasingly, the same is true about the way people drink: More and more, what's in your glass can tell a story about where you are.

Minnesota's craft distillery boom arose thanks to recent legislation that greatly reduced licensing costs and let small, artisan makers jump into a game long dominated by giants.

And it's being fostered by the growth of cocktail rooms, the craft distillery equivalent of taprooms. They're 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 being on the scene at a working distillery.

And while there are only a handful of cocktail rooms up and running, expect waves more to open in the months and years to come as the Minnesota craft distilling industry finds its legs and reaches out to visitors and residents alike.

Du Nord Craft Spirits, Minneapolis

Du Nord Spirits distilleryLocated in the vibrant Longfellow neighborhood of South Minneapolis, Du Nord Craft Spirits was the first cocktail room to open in the Twin Cities. The space is rough-hewn and welcoming, dominated by a giant industrial spool that serves as a common table. The distillery serves seasonal cocktails made from their spirits, and the bar always offers Fitzgerald gin & tonics or L’Etoile vodka martinis.

Cocktail Room Hours
Monday-Thursday 4-10 p.m.; Friday 4 p.m.-midnight; Saturday noon-midnight. Happy Hour from 4-6 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Tattersall Distilling, Minneapolis

Though less than a year old, Tattersall has a lot of history. The Thorp Building where it's located once housed General Mills Mechanical Division, which manufactured made 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 dozen spirits including vodka, gin and aquavit. Food trucks and live music add to the contemporary yet comfortable vibe.

Cocktail Room Hours
Wednesday-Thursday 4-11 p.m.; Friday 4 p.m.-midnight; Saturday noon-midnight.

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 three varieties of gin, plus whiskey, a bold aquavit, and other seasonal spirits available for sampling in the company's cocktail room.

Cocktail Room Hours
Monday-Saturday 2-11 p.m. Free tours daily at 5:30 p.m.

Far North Spirits, Hallock

Far North Spirits HallockShould 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.

Cocktail Room Hours
Saturdays from 5-8 p.m.; free tours and tastings at 5 p.m., April through December (call to reserve)

11 Wells Spirits, St. Paul

Located in the historic Hamm’s Brewery on St. Paul’s east side, 11 Wells has quickly earned a solid reputation for distilling esoteric and lovingly labeled spirits, including rye whiskey, agricole rum, and a new 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.

Cocktail Room Hours
Opening later this year.

Panther Distillery, Osakis

Panther Distillery Osakis equipment 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.

Monday-Thursday 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tours available every half hour.

J. Carver Distillery, Waconia

The gorgeous copper stills of the newly established 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.”

Cocktail Room Hours
Friday 4:30-9 p.m.; Saturday 12-6 p.m. Tours on Friday at 5 and 6 p.m.; Saturday every hour from 12-4 p.m.

The legal drinking age in Minnesota is 21. Prefer beer or wine? Check out a Minnesota craft brewery or winery.