Sue Z’s Finds

Gin and tonic season couldn’t come fast enough this year. Mixing up crisp summer cocktails is a breeze using gin crafted by two North Woods Minnesota couples. Cheri Reese and her husband, Michael Swanson, distill Far North Spirit’s Solveig gin at the family farm in Hallock, and Emily and Joel Vikre craft spruce, juniper, and cedar Boreal gin at Vikre Distillery in Duluth. Both couples use local grains and juniper for their handmade, seasonal, smooth-tasting spirits (North Loop Wines and Spirits, 218 Washington Ave. N.; Zipp’s, 2618 Franklin Ave. E.; Solo Vino, 517 Selby Ave., St. Paul). Another new spirit I’ve been enjoying is AVIV 613 Vodka from Minneapolis-based Tzfat Spirits. Working with distillers in Israel, founder Marc Grossfield has crafted the only vodka in the world distilled from wheat, barley, olives, figs, dates, grapes, and pomegranates. Grossfield suggests toasting life’s celebratory moments and bringing this sleek triangular-shaped bottle to a summer soirée ( For a great grill-related gift, celebrate hometown hotdishes with Faye Passow’s clever dishtowels and hot pads, which list favorites by region in Minnesota. Tater tot hotdish marks the Twin Cities, Park Rapids boast fish supper dish, and, of course, Austin’s got Souper SPAM hotdish (Mitrebox Framing Studio, 213 Washington Ave. N.;

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Sue Zelickson (Sue Z.) is a James Beard Award-winning food media personality, philanthropist, and longtime contributor to Minnesota Monthly and WCCO radio. She has founded the Charlie Awards, the Women Who Really Cook networking organization for women in the local food industry, and the Kids Cafe at Perspectives, Inc., which improves access to nutritious meals for families in need. You can find her buzzing around from event to event throughout the Twin Cities, helping to raise funds for charitable organizations, including some she has had a hand in building.