Photo by Rachel Fergus
I showed up to the party late. As in 24 hours late. Despite my untimely arrival, I got to enjoy what remained of the first fall-themed festival at Northeast Minneapolis distillery Tattersall—called Harvestival—thanks to the hay bales and gourd decorations left over from the day before, which complimented the chandeliers hanging between the distillery’s exposed pipes and its nap-worthy leather couches in the corners. Unlike the people who made it to the actual party on Saturday, I got to watch the Vikings play while sipping my drink and photographing pumpkins.
Tattersall opened in 2015, and since then has served up drinks created by Tattersall employees, from its bartenders to manager Bentley Gillman. Gillman explained the process to me: Employees meet with ideas for new drinks, and those ideas are then combined, tried, and reworked. The goal, Gillman says, is for each drink to appeal to numerous pallets.
Four beverages created by the group comprise Tattersall’s first “Harvestival” menu: two apple brandies and two pommeaus (another apple-based liquor).
Curious about the new brandies, I asked Gillman what process the apples go through before reaching a customer’s glass.
Apple brandy begins with (no surprise) apples. A Maple Lake orchard, Organic Breezy Hill, presses 18 varieties of apples, combines the juice, and sends the juice to Tattersall. The distillery shipped in about 10,000 gallons of juice for the batch of apple brandies that they are serving now.
Tattersall uses 18 varieties of apples to appeal to many pallets, since each apple has a unique taste and each “rests differently on your tongue,” Gillman says. While tart apples—crab apples, for example—taste better in brandy than sweet apples (as brandy is traditionally not a sweet drink), the sweet apples’ higher sugar content yields a higher alcohol content after the fermenting process. Here’s how that works: Before fermenting, Tattersall distillers measure brix, or the amount of sugar in the juice. Fermenting depends on yeast, which eats into the sugar and produces alcohol as a by-product. This usually takes 10 to 12 days. After that, they measure the brix: A zero brix number means that there is no sugar left in the liquid, so there is nothing left for the yeast to convert into alcohol.
Once fermented, the liquid is boiled, or distilled, for a day. The distilling process purifies the fermented liquid by separating the alcohol from residual liquid. Alcohol has a lower boiling point than water (alcohol boiling at 173.1 degrees Fahrenheit while water boils at 212 degrees), so the alcohol evaporates while the water maintains its liquid state. The evaporated alcohol is funneled into a cooler container, where it is condensed back into liquid form.
Finally, the distilled alcohol is poured into toasted oak barrels and left to age for a year. Gillman says that oak is very accessible in Minnesota, so Tattersall’s barrels are made out of local wood and created by local craftsmen. Gillman also stresses that toasted oak does not overpower the flavor of the apples; instead, it adds to the taste.
Tattersall introduced two apple brandies this fall: “New Senses” and “Breezy Hill.” New Senses combines the flavors of apple brandy, earl grey, Americana, orange crema, and sherry vinegar. Breezy Hill combines apple brandy, lime cream, amaro (an Italian herb-based liquor), lemon, maple, and absinthe. Neither of the drinks is sweet.
Pommeau, a traditional French drink, is a member of Tattersall’s main menu and highlighted on the Harvestival menu as an apple-based drink.
There are two main differences between Tattersall’s apple brandy and pommeau. The first is that pommeau does not have as many apple varieties in it, resulting in a narrower taste pallet. Secondly, though pommeau is an apple brandy, it is proofed with apple juice while most drinks are proofed with water. (Proofing adds non-alcoholic liquid to the alcohol to activate the yeast.)
The first pommeau on the menu is “Golden Company.” Tattersall created the drink by mixing pommeau, bourbon, lemon, amaro, admiral spice, maple, and angostura bitters, the combination resulting in a somewhat sweet beverage. “Lightning Rod,” the second, is a not-so-sweet drink made up of pommeau, amaro, ginger, fernet, and angostura bitters.
The pommeaus are currently a part of Tattersall’s main menu. The apple brandies, however, are new beverages that were created for Harvestival. Depending on popularity, one or both may join the pommeaus on the main menu.