Spirits in the Night

Founder Dan Oskey talks to Distillery Manager Bentley Gillman at Tattersall Distilling in northeast Minneapolis on Monday. Tattersall, which distills its own spirits in a distillery just beyond the glass walls of its cocktail room, will open for business on Wednesday, July 8.

Juliet Farmer

Founder Dan Oskey talks to Distillery Manager Bentley Gillman at Tattersall Distilling in northeast Minneapolis on Monday. Tattersall, which distills its own spirits in a distillery just beyond the glass walls of its cocktail room, will open for business on Wednesday, July 8.

Grant Tillery

Craft breweries are a dime a dozen in Minneapolis. But that’s not the case for craft distilleries and cocktail rooms — yet. 
 
DuNord Craft Spirits pioneered the trend when it opened this January, and with the debut of longtime friends Dan Oskey and Jon Kreidler’s Tattersall Distilling, it seems more like a growing movement than a passing fad.
 
“I don’t know where the trend is going — it changes so quickly on a yearly basis,” Oskey said. “A few years ago, it was like, ‘Nine ingredient cocktails!’ Now, it’s like simpler is better; speed and balance, less-is-more seems to be the trend right now. At least that’s where I’m at.” 
 
After a storied career in the Twin Cities’ bartending scene, Oskey set out on his own at the beginning of this year with Tattersall Distilling. He honed his chops at local craft cocktail hotspots like Hola Arepa and the Strip Club Meat and Fish. While working at Hola Arepa, Kreidler told Oskey of his desire to open a craft distillery in Minneapolis. Oskey jumped at the partnership, and the crew has been hard at work building the space since spring.
 
“Right away, [Jon] lays down five year projections, and I’m like, ‘This guy’s for real,’” Oskey said.
 
Oskey is no stranger to starting businesses. In 2010, he helped launch Joia Soda, and a botched attempt at a solo bitters kit in 2011 led to Easy & Oskey, one of the preeminent bitters companies in the Midwest. 
 
The distillery is set in the historic Thorp Building, standing guard over Central Avenue. Oskey is a history geek, and explaining the building’s provenance is his equivalent of being a kid in a candy store. 
 
“The FBI and CIA used to be stationed out of [here] in World War II,” Oskey said of the Thorp Building. “General Mills bought the building, and they were building high-tech military equipment. The Norden bombsight was built here, which is that green screen you see. It was portable; you could bring it in and out of your plane.
 
The bombers would take it out with them if they crashed because it was [a] very top-secret piece of equipment. The green screen gave accuracy dropping the bomb.
The building next to us is where they developed the Ryan listening device, which is known as the Black Box.
 
The space reflects the building’s industrial history, with concrete floors and sparse, gray walls. Oskey, Kreidler and their team opened up windows that were sealed off with insulation to let light into the naturally dark room. 
 
From the bar, drinkers can see the vats where the spirits are made, beautiful in their polished silver, gold and copper patinas. Tattersall’s bold yellow-lettered logo sits atop the distillery’s front garage door and western wall, and the typeface strikes the perfect balance between old-school classicism and modernism. A chandelier
from Architectural Antiques hangs over the hand-built wood bar, lending the room Gatsby-esque elegance.
 
Tattersall is hidden at the building’s back parking lot. While the location is obscured, parking is ample and the distillery’s secrecy wards off people who don’t appreciate the craft of fine spirits. This isn’t a ploy of elitism, rather it’s the acknowledgement that it takes knowledge and intent to enjoy a proper cocktail.
 
“Your audience [is] people who want to be there,” Oskey said. “It’s not just people who are walking by and are going to walk in and say, ‘Hey, you got a Bud Light?’ That’s not going to happen.”
 
The bar offers a full menu of craft cocktails (which will be finalized by Wednesday’s opening) featuring the distillery’s spirits. A small food menu will also be featured, and new local food truck Brooks High Beer Battered will park outside the space a couple of days each week. Tattersall’s current menu includes drinks made with gin and vodka due to federal regulations. The Tattersall crew has a dozen more patents pending, but the limited selection won’t be lacking thanks to the quality of the spirits and Oskey’s bartending expertise and innovative nature.
 
“We’ll probably only have gin and vodka right away,” Oskey said. “We’ll release more products as the approvals come in from the feds.”
 
Certain laws also prohibit outside liquors from entering the distillery. To combat restrictions, Oskey devised recipes for his own takes on classic mixers.
 
“If you have a cocktail room near a distillery, the law states that I can’t bring in, for example, Campari,” Oskey said. “I love Campari, so we went out and developed our own bitter orange liqueur, which will work well in a Negroni, a Boulevardier, an Americano.” 
 
For Oskey, cultivating a top-notch team is just as rewarding as building the space and the menu at Tattersall. Though he’s culled the crème de la crème of restaurant staff from the Strip Club, Hola Arepa and Heyday (among other places), the backbone of the operation is Oskey and Kreidler’s 30-year friendship, stemming from their childhood in suburban Shoreview.
 
“You learn to exploit one another’s talents in a very positive way,” Oskey said about their partnership. “Jon and I — since we’ve known each other [for] forever-and-a-half — know how to communicate with one another. There’s something to be said about that; you grew up with somebody, and not only did you spend the past 25 years with that person, you grew up in a community where you had the same teachers, had similar values, played on the same sports teams, so you actually know how to communicate in a healthy, positive way.”