Norseman Distillery and cocktail room is now open, making it the fourth artisan spirits room in the north Como area of Minneapolis. It joins the likes of Northgate Brewing, Insight Brewing, and Wander North Distillery, filling out a new craft alcohol district outside the familiar Northeast scene.
Compared to Norseman’s old warehouse basement space, the new location feels lofty and fresh. And above all, Norseman is now serving its liquor to the public. The cocktail list is simple. According to bar manager Keith Mrotek, that’s deliberate: The list is built to help visitors feel inspired and to enable them to make similar drinks at home.
Each menu item has three or four ingredients in addition to the spirit it highlights and ranges in price between $8 and $10. Most ingredients are likely to be known to the regular drinker, but there are a few highlights to interest the aficionado.
Mrotek, a Marvel Bar alumnus, noted that all spirits (even balancing spirits like amaro) used in a distillery cocktail room like Norseman have to be made in house. To meet this challenge, Norseman crafts its own aromatics including fernet (an amaro liqueur), triple sec (orange liqueur), and “fortified wines,” which are similar to sweet and dry vermouth. The fernet is in the process of being perfected; with a pronounced bitterness, it has notes of mint and anise that are almost overwhelming, but in a cocktail like the Hanky Panky, these notes are more tempered.
Mrotek described the process of creating the triple sec as one of tribulations. In an attempt to recreate the familiar flavor of Cointreau, which has a classic, candylike orange taste, Norseman achieved a much more natural woody flavor with subtle citrus notes. Soon to be released to the public, the orange liqueur may be the most exciting addition to the lineup since the strawberry rhubarb gin.
Norseman is making whiskey, but it isn’t ready yet; meanwhile, they are making their Old Fashioned with a “leathered” aquavit, which is just as it sounds: aquavit that is macerated (the process when a spirit sits and fuses with an addition) with leather to up its earthiness. You’ll have to go to the cocktail room to try this spicy treat; it is not currently available at liquor stores.
Adding further to the intrigue, the Old Fashioned is served on a hand-cut sphere of ice. While this may be the norm at some of the city’s best spots like Eat Street Social, at Norseman, when the barback chips away diligently at a large cube of ice mere feet from your table, it feels more bespoke. Leftover ice chips are used in the classic Negroni, while regular ice cubes are used in the other beverages.
The menu hits all the classics: The Gin Fizz tastes exactly like its parts, straightforward as it should be, with light and fluffy egg white floating to the top. There is also a daiquiri, a Collins, and a mule (made with local ginger beer from Spruce Soda Co.), but the standout is the martini.
Super smooth on the palate without strong alcohol spikes, but not lacking in overall texture, the martini is made with the dry-vermouth-like fortified wine, stirred gently with ice for several minutes to get it to the right temperature, and garnished with lemon. This martini is a mainstay and is bound to convert any non-martini drinker to the beverage of Bond.
Although it’s made with rum, the Hoover takes on a whiskey sweetness with deep cherry tones from the fortified wine. The anise-scented body is cut by accents of orange to create an easy-drinking yet surprisingly complex beverage. The sweet vermouth alone would make for a satisfying post-dinner tipple, like a sherry but lighter and less sweet.
Beyond the cocktails, Norseman creates non-alcoholic beverages ($6 each) in the “Driver Drinks” category. Using local kombucha from Prohibition, the Kombucha Collins has a strong lime flavor that stands up to the kombucha funk, resulting in an even earthiness throughout.
While weekends at Norseman are increasingly crazy, on weeknights, the vibe is calm, quiet, intimate, and appreciative — on our visit, all customers received a cocktail “amuse bouche” called XYZ, made with Norseman Rum, orange liqueur, and lemon. It was a fresh and zesty “thank you” that felt right when savored in front of the warm fireplace while surrounded by the room’s mostly gray, white, and black New Nordic decor. (By contrast, the bathroom is a sassy gold, blue, and green).
The seating areas are spread out and allow for table service, making up for the relatively small bar. On the loading dock there is spacious patio with a fire pit surrounded by tree stumps, a setting begging for warmer days. Given all the swank of the city’s top notch cocktail bars and the swagger of the North Loop’s MartinPatrick3, Norseman succeeds in making a cocktail room that feels original yet traditional, with a clean twist.
Norseman Distillery Cocktail Room
Cocktails from house-made spirits in the north Como area of Minneapolis
451 Taft St NE, Suite 19, South Loading Dock
Minneapolis, MN 55413
Owner: Scott Ervin
Mon-Thu 5 p.m.-11 p.m.
Fri 5 p.m.-midnight
Sat 4 p.m.-midnight
Parking: Small lot and street