Michelle Winchester has successfully raised four boys, and now she’s going to celebrate by making you a drink. Or rather, lots and lots of drinks from her forthcoming distillery, Twin Spirits, opening at 2931 Central Ave. NE sometime this fall.
“I’m the owner, I’m the distiller, it’s a one-woman boat,” Winchester told me. “My husband and I have been together for 25 years, and we’ve talked about different business ideas I’d want to launch the entire time. Now that the kids are old enough,” their boys are 13, 15, 20, and 22, “I’m ready to do it.”
But why a distillery? “We’ve also liked to drink spirits the whole time. We have for years, we like to entertain with special drinks, and try different tastes wherever we go. Every step has made me more and more interested in liquor.”
To see if her hunch that a weekend fascination with cocktails made sense to parlay into a career, Winchester visited a number of distilleries, especially in New York, and went to a few distilling conferences with break-out sessions for newcomers who wanted to start a distillery.
“Everyone said: Do you like to try new things? Are you a cook? Do you like to experiment and tinker? Do you like to play with recipes? Every one was a yes. I got completely hooked on the idea of a distillery.” So she took some courses at Chicago’s Siebel Institute, and she’s going for it.
What will she make? All kinds of things. Potato vodka, a variety of gins (including a mushroom gin and a rye-based gin) and eventually a whiskey, made with rye she malts herself, in an on-site malt house.
The name of Twin Spirits isn’t what you’d assume, Winchester told me, it’s not merely a spin on Twin Cities. In fact, it has multiple meanings to her. For one, she is a cancer survivor. A friend had a similar cancer and didn’t survive, and ever since Winchester has felt she carried on some of his spirit with her. For another thing, she spent three years as an activist working to pass the amendment allowing gay marriage in Minnesota, and throughout it all felt that straight allies and gay advocates were twinned spirits, working toward a common dream. Finally, something has always resonanated with her about the idea that there’s a difference between how so many people really are, and how they’re perceived.
You might think she’s just a quiet 50-year-old heading toward an empty nest after raising four boys, but actually, she’s about to seize a significant space on the local food and drink landscape. Will there be a cocktail room? Absolutely, Winchester says, though it may not open till a few months after the distillery does in mid-fall (latest November). So raise a glass to Northeast and welcome Minnesota’s newest distiller, who’s out to prove that second acts in American life can come in many forms, including by the liter, on the rocks, and neat.
Twin Spirits Distillery, 2931 Central Ave. NE, twinspiritsdistillery.com