Deep In SLP, Copperwing Distillery Excels

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A doctor, a lawyer, and an engineer walk into a bar…

The doctor (Brian Idelkope), lawyer (Chris Palmisano) and engineer (Kyle Kettering) aren’t so much walking into the bar as they are owning it. The trio are the owners of Copperwing Distillery, St. Louis Park’s first distillery, located at 6409 Cambridge St. Copperwing is also the sponsor of TC Matchmaker.

“We went through application after application and found Billy Smith, who owns Warehouse Winery, and he was nice enough to let us use his space for development,” Idelkope said. “He didn’t really charge high rent because we didn’t have anything. Me, Chris and Kyle built the first still, got proficient at it, then bought professional equipment and opened last year.”

Idelkope and Palmisano do their day jobs full time and leave the distilling to Kettering, who left his engineering job to be the distillery’s first full-time employee.

“I’ll go and prep for the next day,” Idelkope said. “I don’t sit in front of still and watch it.”

The current menu has 17 alcoholic beverages, three non-, and Big Watt nitro coffee on tap. Their main spirts that they mix with are vodka, gin whiskey, and Vodskey – a clear spirit that head bartender Tim Burgart said is made with the mash of the whiskey, but didn’t get to a high enough proof in the distilling process.

“We got it to 186 proof, but we needed 190 proof to call it vodka,” Idelkope said. “We proofed it to 80 proof, and it has all the extra oils and flavors from the whiskey still in there.”

Burgart said that vodka can be made from basically anything that can be fermented.

“The Vodskey is unique enough to trademark,” he said.

The challenge with a distillery is that the only alcohol that can be used is made on site. Want a Martini? They make their vermouth for mixing purposes. It gives Burgart plenty of room to be creative in his approach to creating the menu.

Take the SLP 75; it’s a play on the French 75, which is made with gin, champagne, lemon juice and sugar. Since he can’t use champagne, Burgart boils the alcohol out of it to make a champagne reduction, adds lavender, and then runs it through the a forced carbonation machine – basically puts it on tap, and finishes it with a twist of lemon.

“What’s unique is talking people into your drink, because these flavors are made to go together,” he said. The menu is what the menu is.

But with unique takes on everything from the Old Fashioned, the Manhattan and the Moscow Mule, the Copperwing crew makes tasty cocktails off the beaten path of St. Louis Park.