cocktail room at du nord
This winter saw the successful expansion of yet another Minnesota distillery – Du Nord, located near Hiawatha and 32nd. Du Nord (adopted from the Minnesota slogan, l’Etoile du Nord) joins the likes of Panther, J. Carver, Wander North, 11 Wells, Norseman, Vikre, Far North and more to expand the craft spirits scene in Minnesota. Though they had been bottling for about a year, their model is a bit different from others – Du Nord’s cocktail room is their focus. It is one of very few in the state along with Duluth’s Vikre and is the only one in the Twin Cities area so far.
There are many reasons for the booze boom, not the least of which was a change of laws that occurred in 2011. The spirits industry was dramatically influenced by what beer drinkers refer to as the “Surly Bill”. This piece of legislature significantly dropped the cost of opening a distillery from a ludicrous $30,000 to $1,100, and the result has been tasty.
“L’etoile du Nord Vodka is the first craft vodka of its kind to bring together sugar beets (arguably Minnesota’s ugliest crop) combined with Minnesota’s most abundant crop, corn. The vodka passes through two stills, 20 rectifying plates and charcoal filtration; the end result is a crisp, uniquely smooth vodka with a subtle sweet flavor.” –Du Nord
Their second success, Fitzgerald Gin, was originally intended to be the first of many. It’s a “classic London dry style gin, leading with a strong juniper flavor backed by citrus, angelica root, and licorice root”. But the cocktail room opening has become the focus for the foreseeable future, I was told by bartender Matt Barthelemy.
Visit the taproom for affordable ($6-9) cocktails ranging from very simple to complex. The menu is straightforward and essentially outlines recipes rather than subjective commentary.
Favorites were the pale pink Salty Dog (above, left) for vodka drinkers. The quality of the spirit and the grapefruit juice really shine in this glass. It is not overly sweet and the moderate amount of salt accentuates the bitter and tart notes. Barthelemy emphasizes Du Nord’s use of subtlty in mixers and ingredients, as well as quality. “We used to use Ocean Spray when we first started,” he says, indicating the grapefruit juice. “Now we can use much better juice and it makes a huge difference.”
Gin is available in a classic martini or in the electric fuchsia Steady Eddie. Don’t be put off by the appearance- there is nothing unnatural about the color, which comes from cranberry juice. Don’t write this off as a “chicks drink”, either – it packs an intense gin punch full of aromatics, lime and bite.
More cocktail rooms are sure to follow on the heels of this one. J.Carver has indicated their watering hole isn’t far off, and Wander North’s vision has always included a lounge.