Mark 3 p.m. Thursday, November 13 in red on your calendars, cocktail lovers, because that's the moment that the local distillery boom unleashes Minnesota's first distillery-based cocktail sampling room: Vikre Distillery in Duluth's Canal Park.
I phoned co-owner Emily Vikre to find out what the deal is, and stole a quick 15 minutes before her baby woke up from his nap.
"Congrats! What’s it called?" I asked.
“We don’t have a specific name for it yet,” Vikre said, “though we’re thinking about calling ourselves Vikre Distillery and Think Tank. Kidding! I’m kidding.”
Emily explained that once the state passed legislation allowing cocktail tasting to happen at distilleries, she and co-owner and husband Joel Vikre had to work with the city of Duluth to get an ordinance passed allowing such a thing, which they did. The state stipulated that these cocktail rooms could not sell another distiller’s liquor, so there’s no vermouth for martinis, or Campari for Negronis. But this is no problem for Emily Vikre, who's also well known for developing recipes at her blog Five and Spice.
She’s spent all summer and fall developing homemade tonics, homemade bitters, homemade syrups—the works. Some of the cocktails you can expect at the new Vikre cocktail room include:
*Many gin and tonics, using seasonally appropriate house-made tonic (more warm spice in the winter, such as cinnamon, more citrus in summer); gin and tonics will be designed specifically around the line of Vikre gins, including Juniper, Cedar, and Spruce.
*A Vikre gin old-fashioned, using house-made grapefruit bitters and a grapefruit rosemary syrup along with the Vikre Cedar Gin.
*An Aquavit apple blackberry shrub with drinking vinegar, for aquavit.
*A fresh raspberry and rhubarb-infused juniper Gin sweetened with Earl Grey tea syrup and brightened with lemon.
And lots more!
“Our main goal with the cocktail room was to give people the chance to taste the gin in the context of a cocktail—after all, that’s typically how you would experience it, not many people drink gin straight. And once we knew we wanted to do that, we wanted to make it just beautiful and cozy in here, so people can stay and hang out and feel like they’re coming to our house for a nice cocktail.”
The planned hours for the foreseeable future are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, 3 to 8 p.m., Emily says, and when they feel like they have the cocktail part of things under control they hope to serve food, too, from their commercially approved kitchen that they already built.
“I’d like to do crazy Nordic tacos, fresh baked breads, interesting pickles, just good, fun bar food.” In the future they will also, they hope, be selling tonic syrup from the cocktail room—the law forbids them from selling their alcohol, for that you still have to go to a liquor store. That said, the cocktail room will likely be the first place they’ll sell liquors they are developing, such as a cognac-barrel matured aquavit planned to release this winter, a smoked rye whiskey, and a maple barrel-aged bourbon-style whiskey.
Jealous much, Twin Cities? Start driving! You could be there before they close. And if Duluth is too far to drive, just be patient—St. Paul’s 11 Wells is promising to open its cocktail room real soon. Till then: Congrats, Vikre! Way to make the shores of not-yet-frozen Lake Superior a little more cool.