After almost a year of sending bottles of Greenway Gin and Tippling House Vodka to liquor stores, Lawless Distilling Company has opened its cocktail room in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis, an area with little else in the way of cocktails. Their business model follows the trend of several other Minnesota distilleries, such as Wander North and Du Nord, by having a strong off-sale presence combined with specialty mixed-drink offerings in the cocktail room. While the cocktail room, located in the most industrial portion of Seward, is nowhere near the size of Norseman or Tattersall, its cozy nature is part of its charm.
But Lawless has a stronger motivation to experiment with curated drinks because of its partnership with Nick Kosevich and Ira Koplowitz of Bittercube Bitters, the company that is responsible for the apothecary-like bottles that stand shoulder-to-shoulder on home and restaurant bars throughout the Midwest.
Bittercube is known for offering input and expertise through formal consulting arrangements. The team, led locally by Kosevich, may be best known for its work at Eat Street Social, especially in the tiki-themed Torpedo Room. Their work at Lawless is predicated on the fact that all alcohol used (with the exception of the bitters) must be made in house due to regulations for on-premise sales at distilleries.
The regulations have lead to a partnership in which both parties compose ingredients to create the best-tasting drinks possible using elements made almost entirely from scratch. The current menu has a tiki bent to it, a resurgent trend in mixed drink culture, but the menu as a whole reads from classic to signature to seasonal.
The most refreshing drink of the bunch is the effervescent but potent Cherry Bark Collins, made with gin, lemon, simple syrup, and seltzer, plus one of Bittercube’s more famous tinctures featuring cherry bark and vanilla. The citrus stands up to the cherry, but even with the sugar, the drink doesn’t stroll into powdered-lemonade territory, likely due to the bitters.
If tiki is speaking to you, opt for the Royal Hawaiian. The name evokes bad decisions on a cruise ship with ramifications the next morning, but this is a modernized version of an island specialty. Think of it as the urban piña colada. Again, the Greenway Gin is featured, but what makes this one eyebrow-raising is the orgeat, an intense almond syrup with a floral twist. The pineapple is mellow, rather than tinny and sharp, as it often is, making the balance ideal. If your tropical memories are positive, then allow the floating orchid to take you to sandier places.
The creativity of the See Saw Old Fashioned is beyond what one would expect, and as such is a reason to make a trip to the cocktail room. The bizarre variation on the classic formula swaps vodka for the traditional bourbon or rye, but as bartender Dustin Nguyen points out, this cocktail was historically made with a range of spirits. “People think it has to be bourbon, but that’s not true.”
To that point, the See Saw Old Fashioned presents drinkers with the unconventional — vodka, blue curaçao, ginger liqueur, rum-tequila syrup, and Bittercube Mahalo bitters. It was executed well with intermingling notes of allspice, black pepper, and bitter citrus.
Lawless Distilling, 2619 28th Ave S Minneapolis, MN 55406; 612.251.9250; Wed-Thu 4 p.m.-10 p.m., Fri-Sat 4 p.m.-midnight