by Stephanie March - 9/22/22
Some very exciting news for cocktailians, there's a new distillery bar coming to Northeast. Dashfirehas moved the entire distillery from Minnetonka to the Thorpe Building, and finally, after nearly a decade making bitters, bottled Old Fashioneds, and canned cocktails (quite successfully as he's in 26 states and distributes internationally), owner Lee Egbert plans to open a cocktail room.
Even better news, he's relying on the relationships he's developed over the years to make it something unique. Tyler Kleinow and Robb Jones of Meteor bar are on board to consult and help build the menu, and Jeff Rogers has ended his time as Beverage Director of Jester Concepts to run the bar. These are some of the foundational names that have built our local drinks culture, we wouldn't be raising the glasses we do without their work.
Taking over some of the space vacated when Tattersall moved a chunk of their distilling operations to River Falls, Dashfire now occupies some 20,000 square feet in the building. The new cocktail room will be fashioned out of the event space that Tattersall launched as the Clover Club just before the pandemic hit. Tucked away at the back of the building, the new spirits bar will be known as Elusive.
But it won't be drinks as normal. "We've always been known for our botanicals, I mean we started with bitters," Egbert said. In 2013, Egbert made his first batch of bitters and dropped some off at the Haute Dish bar. He hadn't even built a website, was just starting out. A local bartender happened to be at Haute Dish post-shift, tried the bitters, and contacted him immediately to say they were great and how could he get them at his bar in Saffron. That bartender was Robb Jones. "It blew up from there," remembers Egbert, "I walked into Strip Club and Dan Oskey [then bartender and now co-founder of Tattersall] said 'what can I get for you' and I replied 'well actually, I might have something for you', to which he said 'I hope you're about to tell me you're that new local bitters guy'. And that was that."
Dashfire's Elusive bar will not be about a new version of a Negroni or another kind of Old Fashioned. This team is interested in using the botanicals that they will grow and forage to create new kinds of spirits and redefined drinks . Egbert has certified forager on staff to help find locally growing plants that will bring entirely new flavors to a distillate.
"Check this out," Jones said as he passed me a jar with some spiky things in it. "This is prickly ash, and it's got this crazy aroma and taste. It's like a citrus, maybe the only citrus flavor that can grow in Minnesota, but it's a member of the peppercorn family so it brings this tingle to your mouth too." They'll take this plant, break it down and create a spirit that retains some of the flavors and properties. I tasted a trial batch and friends, I don't even know how to describe it. It was kind of lemony but also kind of earthy? The smell was floral on the front, but also had a bite? Can a smell have a bite?
This team is hoping Elusive will be like a lab. Of course you'll have the spirits and drinks you know and love, they're not taking your gin from you. But they'll also be building new kinds of drinks based on spirits that don't even exist yet, flavors you can't find yet. Egbert is ready to play, "I'm not interested in just making things according to the same old rules, I mean we'll follow governmental standards, but we don't have to just keep making the same things over and over. We're all interested in finding a new language in drinks and spirits, things that don't easily fit into any of the existing categories."
Rogers, who will be the main person running the bar, jumped in, "It's like not having boundaries. You know, as bartenders, we have this puzzle box with pieces that are Campari, gin, etc. And you can use them to make a gimlet or a Negroni, but you're still held to the box. What we are saying is, throw out those words, remove the box, and make your own puzzles pieces to see what you can create. Maybe you put them together and realize it's a star."
It's about the journey for this team. They believe that when the cocktail bar debuts sometime later this year, hopefully still this fall, that it will be evolving every week. They don't necessarily want it to be the same bar in a year, and hope that they'll have caught their groove with spirit creation and blending within a few years.
Perhaps this is their superpower: they are able to act like a start-up, but with the solid foundation of a ten year old distillery behind them. They can afford to make some mistakes, run down a creative path to see where it leads without fear of losing everything. That's a gift to creatives, and to drinkers.
The bar will be open Wednesday though Saturday nights, staying open to midnight so as to catch some of their industry friends for a last drink. Sundays will be reserved for classes and events, which Rogers thinks will be a big part of the way people experience and learn about their new spirits.
Stay tuned for more details as they get closer to open, and get ready for something new.