Just a few years ago, Minnesota was behind on the craft distilling boom. The license fee for new distilleries in Wisconsin was around $1,000. In Iowa it was $350. But in Minnesota, the House of Representatives voted to double it to $30,000 in 2005, just as the craft spirits movement was starting to grow nationally.
Minnesota finally lowered the fee to $1,100 in 2011, and in that time, big things have happened. Among the more than a dozen new distilleries are Norseman Distillery and Du Nord Craft Spirits in Minneapolis, Vikre Distillery in Duluth, and Far North Spirits in Hallock, near the Canadian border.
And then there’s Tattersall. Its opening earlier this year was exciting on multiple levels: it’s run by bartender and Easy & Oskey Bitters co-founder Dan Oskey, it’s in a beautifully renovated industrial space complete with a large cocktail room, and it’s rolling out a broad roster of spirits that will eventually include some innovative liqueurs and vermouths.
Tattersall, in Northeast Minneapolis tucked behind Central Avenue near the artists’ studios of the Northrup King Building and the Bauhaus and 612 breweries, has quickly become a destination despite the limits and legal restrictions inherent in a Minnesota distillery. Legally, its cocktail room can only serve the spirits it produces. This means it cannot legally serve a proper martini until starts making its own vermouth (it still needs to be licensed as a winery to do so). But with two kinds of gin, aquavit, vodka, absinthe, an unaged corn whiskey, a sourced Kentucky bourbon, and an Italian-style amaro, Tattersall has the ability to serve drinks that any craft cocktail bar would envy.
Thanks to another change in Minnesota laws, Tattersall and other distilleries are now allowed to sell spirits in small, 375ml bottles (not full-size 750ml bottles) direct to the public.
I visited Tattersall for a private event hosted by Architecture MN magazine and attended by a few dozen of its writers, photographers, designers, and readers. Architect Aaron Wittkamper and interior designer Amy Reiff were there to talk about the space they designed for the distillery and cocktail room.
Tattersall sits in a back part of the sprawling Thorp Building, a large complex of old factory warehouses on Central Avenue. Thorp was originally a manufacturer of fireproof industrial doors. During WWII, the building was home to a division of General Mills that made the Norden Bomb Sight, a gadget that enabled planes to drop bombs more accurately, and an early flight data recorder invented by a University of Minnesota mechanical engineering professor named James J. “Crash” Ryan. It now houses dozens of businesses, from photographer’s studios and gyms to bike companies and furniture makers.
Inside Tattersall, the distillery and the cocktail room are separated by a glass wall. All of the stills, vats, and barrels are visible from the seating area and the bar. The cocktail room isn’t a mere tasting room; it’s big. There’s a horseshoe-shaped bar at one end and huge couches and club chairs at the other. On the other side of the front door from the bar is a section of tall tables and a small stage.
Distillery cocktail rooms are a new kind of space — distinct from microbreweries — and Tattersall’s designers opted for a mix of industrial and elegant to reflect that. Reiff, the interior designer, used the distillery’s name, Tattersall (a simple grid-style plaid pattern) as a design cue without being too obvious or becoming too masculine. That manifested itself in things like menswear-upholstered club chairs, a big chandelier, and a salvaged mantle behind the bar.