Twin Spirits Distillery opened quietly, but to a large crowd, two weeks ago in Northeast Minneapolis. The minuscule distillery and its cocktail room have been in planning for about two years, and the debut makes Twin Spirits the first woman-owned and -operated distillery in the the state.
With a capacity of fewer than 50 people, the cocktail room feels like a small, neighborhood gathering place, but based on the level of activity, its draw is formidable. The newcomer is in good company, with Tattersall Distilling to the south and Norseman and Wander North distilleries to the southeast, meaning neighbors have a good opportunity to become familiar with local spirits.
While Twin Spirits describes its previously vacant building as farmlike, the interior feels industrial, and the exterior appears as a repurposed commercial space. The cocktail room bleeds into the production space, bringing visitors close to the stills and other equipment. Decor in the seating area skews vintage, but the area behind the bar has modern floating shelves and classic subway tile, so the space lacks any coherent image.
The owner, Michelle Winchester, can be found serving tables during cocktail hours. She currently bottles two different vodkas, one gin, and a moonshine made from distilling mead, each of which is available for tasting. Miki Mosman, known for her work at Cafe Maude, is the mind behind the substantial menu.
Visitors can choose cocktails ranging from the simple, such as straight spirits or a gin and tonic, to the more complex, including a favorite among our tasters, the Tricky Miki ($8), a balanced mix of Claro vodka, chocolate, orange, and pomegranate with a balsamic vinegar finish. Though the drink was a bit sharp on our first visit, the technique or the recipe had been modified for the better the following weekend. The initial flavor is powerfully orange and chocolate, like the foil-wrapped chocolate orange that must be smacked on a hard surface before enjoying, but the balsamic classes the whole thing up.
Winchester explains that the Claro vodka is distinct from the M vodka in that it has been passed through an activated charcoal filter, reducing the citrus and spice character and making it more appropriate for mixing. When enjoyed neat, the Claro has clear vanilla and baked bread notes. It lends itself to sweeter drinks.
The other success is the chartreuse-colored Venus Verde ($8), made with M gin, ginger juice, cardamom, basil, and tonic. This herbaceous combination made us long for spring, and the heady melange of aromas compensated for the too-subtle gin, which doesn’t declare itself as juniper- or botanical-based and is hard to distinguish in the drink overall. The cardamom is a perfect anchor for its bright partners, while the ginger isn’t noticeable.
Two other beverages, while lacking significant problems, were bland. The Lavender Honey Bee ($8) tasted only like gin, lemon juice, and honey, and held no lavender at all. Similarly, the Ruckus Rosemary ($8), with M vodka, lime, and rosemary simple syrup was lacking dramatically in intensity of flavor.
Overall, expect a much more approachable menu than that of Norseman, with familiar ingredients perhaps mixed in a creative way. There are fewer classic combinations than can be found at Du Nord Craft Spirits, for instance, but no single drink is a total knockout at this point.
Twin Spirits also owns a large, warehouselike space across the parking lot that they plan to use in the future for barreling. Winchester tells us that she is in the process of acquiring many types of barrels for aging, which will presumably happen in this building.
Twin Spirits Distillery, 2931 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis 55418; 612.353.5274; Wed-Sat 3-10 p.m.