Lots on Tap at Great Lakes Distillery
The elder statesperson of Wisconsin distilleries, Great Lakes Distillery (GLD) offers some radical cocktails alongside compelling bar food.
Great Lakes Distillery
616 W. Virginia Ave.
CC, FB, OD, GF
Handicapped access: Yes
Tasting Room Hours: Su 11 a.m.-8 p.m., M-Th 11 a.m.-10 p.m., F-Sa 11 a.m.-midnight
Scheduled Public Tour Times: Su-Th 1, 3 and 5 p.m.; F 1, 3, 5 and 6 p.m.; Sa 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 p.m.
First things first: GLD makes my favorite cocktail in the city: the indomitable Scud Runner ($8), which mixes a house tonic alongside their Rehorst Gin and a float of Amerique 1912 Absinthe Rouge, their very legit, wormwood-featuring take on the classic French liqueur. It takes the dry, botanical notes of your run-of-the-mill G&T and kicks some sweet anise into it, making for an unforgettably satisfying flavor profile. Another gin-based drink, Gins & Roses ($8), eloquently hides the boozy burn of alcohol behind a tart and floral rosewater lemonade, allowing for a mix of herbality and citrus.
Those who take the hour-long tour of the distillery ($10) will get a view of the distilling floor, some hit-or-miss jokes and five pours of Great Lakes’ spirits (with bottles available for purchase afterwards). Among the standouts: their Rehorst Citrus & Honey Vodka, which tastes and smells like the aforementioned adjuncts—no gross, weird flavoring; the Rehorst Barrel-Aged Gin, which ages their Rehorst Gin in whiskey barrels and is orangey and oaky and mind melting; their Artisan Series Banana Brandy, which smacks you with banana flavor (side note: During my visit, for the second batch of Banana Brandy, they had 1,400 pounds of soon-to-be-hand-peeled bananas on the distillation floor); and their newest liqueur, Good Land Orange and Spice, which you could think of as a ramped-up and more complex triple-sec.
Great Lakes Distillery, which distributed about 78,000 bottles in 27 states last year, is much more than that distillery you see in your local bottle shop with the “Buy Local” tag beneath it: They’re an excellent spot to get inventive cocktails and quality food.