countdown to cocktail room at J. carver, and what the 375 law means
Of course, many discerning drinkers have already had their first taste – bottles of vodka and gin have been on the market for several months now. But thirsty eyes and ears will be treated to hourly tours this Saturday from noon to 3pm.
After about six months of tedious recipe perfecting, Gina Holman, Bill, and Matt are anxious to open their doors to the public. Visit the distillery not only for samples but also for detailed education from passionate craftspeople. The advantage to visiting J. Carver is that they create so many different products; visitors we be able to see, smell, and taste the differences between a clear spirit and an aged one as well as appreciate the delicate care required for adding botanicals or processing grape skins. As opposed to smaller distilleries, the Waconia gem boasts its own barrel room displaying Minnesota-made wood barrels, not just for bourbon but for gin, as well.
The cocktail room, which hosted a private sneak peak last Friday, provides a wonderful space for sampling. Those attending tours will be offered a tasting cocktail or a sampling of various spirits, with additional drinks available for purchase. My suggestion? The intriguing Grappa-latte concoction. Made with shaved drinking chocolate, coffee-infused vodka, and Merlot grappa, it’s like nothing you have ever had and works for any time of day.
No word on when the cocktail room will be open for your everyday drinking beyond tour times, akin to Duluth’s Vikre or DuNord in Minneapolis.
Adding to the excitement for visitors is the recent passage of legislature allowing cocktail rooms to sell liquor directly from the production site, as breweries routinely do in growler format. It’s not as exciting as it may sound for the spirit producers, however, due to the restrictions on sales provided in the law. The only size permitted to be sold over the bar is 375ml – half of a typical 750ml bottle. Considering the size restriction, this poses huge upfront costs to the business – new bottles, labels, test batches…oh, the headaches.
Still, I’m no killjoy, and I am happy that distilleries have the choice to sell these mini-boozes (name still under debate). Do I think they should feel obligated to? Certainly not. In my opinion, the inclination to visit a producer directly is not determined by whether or not I will be able to make an on-site purchase. Of course I do when I can – it helps stimulate business for that cheese farmer or winemaker while fulfilling my need to know where my food comes from. But drinking in a cocktail room and buying a bottle of liquor for my house are independent events, as are imbibing at a taproom or on my couch. The one has little bearing on the other.
Furthermore, consumers send a message directly to liquor store owners when buying Far North or Noreseman over Grey Goose.
No matter your stance on the demi-bottles, it’s time to celebrate the rise of the cocktail room in Minnesota, most specifically the metro distillery setting the standard for a varied and quality spirits repertoire.