On this episode of “Next Round,” host Adam Teeter chats with Jon Kreidler, co-founder of Tattersall Distilling, to discuss the rapid growth of his spirits brand. Currently, the brand offers over 30 products and produces a whopping 40,000 cases each year — not a small feat for a brand that has only existed for six years.
Kreidler discusses the brand’s new line of RTDs and canned cocktails — specifically focusing on Tattersall’s Cosmo Bianco in light of the cocktail’s renaissance — and how he uses data to decide which products to release next. Finally, Kreidler shares his vision for the future of Tattersall Distilling.
Tune in and visit https://www.tattersalldistilling.com/ to learn more.
Or Check Out the Conversation Here
Adam Teeter: From VinePair’s New York City headquarters, I’m Adam Teeter, and this is a “Next Round” conversation. Today, we are talking with Jon Kreidler of Tattersall Distilling. Jon, thanks so much for joining me.
Jon Kreidler: Thanks for the time, I really appreciate it.
A: Yeah, totally. Before we jump into everything, what is Tattersall Distilling?
J: We’re a craft distillery located in Minneapolis. We are also in the process of building a second facility in Wisconsin right now, but we are just focused on very authentic products. We have a massive portfolio and a really amazing cocktail room, and we’ve been up and running for about six years now.
A: Yeah, I want to talk about that. In only six years, I think you have what, 30 products?
J: We have a lot.
A: Why? Are you crazy?
J: We’re slightly crazy, but it’s really driven by the laws in Minnesota. The way it works here, if you have a cocktail room, is that you can only serve what you produce.
J: When we originally built the business, we wanted to have a cocktail room or a bar that could compete with any bar in the city, state, and country. As we wanted different drinks, it led us to create different products. As we rolled those out internally, our distributor and other people would ask for us to start distributing them. We have a hard time saying no, so we have a massive portfolio.
A: You’re in Minneapolis, obviously. Basically, you guys would make a vodka to make vodka drinks or a gin to make gin drinks. Do you have one distiller who works for you guys? How does that work? Or do they have to learn how to make every different spirit?
J: Before we launched, Dan — who is my partner in this business and we’ve been friends since second grade — and I spent nine months working on the gin before we even opened up. The same with a lot of the other liqueurs especially, and we spent many, many months perfecting them. Once we got the big equipment, we started ramping them up to a larger scale. From there, it was just adding stuff constantly.
A: Where are you guys trained in distilling? How did you learn how to make spirits?
J: I went to the Michigan State Distilling School, and Dan went to another school. Then, we bought equipment and we may or may not have been doing it out of our basement for a while.
A: Illegal, but it’s fine.
J: We won’t admit to it, but yeah.
A: Cool, so what was the first spirit you guys made?
A: OK, so were you aware that you were going to need to make every single thing that you wanted to serve in your cocktail room when you were starting the business? I’m curious how that business plan was created. Did you guys want to create a distillery and a cocktail room at the same time? Or did you create a distillery and then the cocktail room came because you can’t have a distillery without a cocktail room? What went through your decision-making process and conceptualization process when you were creating the business six years ago?
J: At the time, a cocktail room wasn’t legal in Minnesota, but we could see that it was going to be passed and going to happen. For our business plan, I think we were one of the first in the country that really put so much emphasis on the cocktail room. My business partner, Dan, is one of the more well-known bartenders in the Midwest and previously had a bitters company and a soft drink company. He is really fantastic with flavors, so we really wanted that to be the focal point for how we reach out to our customers to start. That was a big deal, but we probably had 12 different spirits that we were working on before we opened. As we opened and tried different things, we kept innovating, expanding, and experimenting.
A: When you created the business, who did you think the market would be? Was it going to be the Minneapolis area? Had you always considered that this would expand to 30 states now that you’re distributed in? What was your plan?
J: Yeah, that was the plan. Look, there were other people doing vodkas and gins.
J: There are thousands of them now, and there were people making whiskeys, but there wasn’t really anybody that was so focused on more esoteric stuff like the amari, the liqueurs, and some of the weird stuff that really can set your brand apart.
A: So that was the thing you thought, “OK, this how we’ll get known is really for the liqueurs more than the spirits?”
J: Well, we thought the gin would blow up and we’d be world famous. No, the liqueurs just differentiated it. You go into a bar, and you have those in your pocket. I mean, everybody has gin. We think our gin is the best in the world, but so does everybody.
J: Bartenders have tasted hundreds of gins, so they don’t really care to taste yours, for the most part.
A: Does the gin do well in your region because it is a regional product? In New York, I see tons of Brooklyn gins just because we’re in New York.
J: It does extremely well, and it does well in other markets, too. In those other markets, it’s not quite special just because you’re competing against every market that has their own local channels.
A: Is there one thing, though, out of all these 30, that you want to become known for? Is it the goal to become known as a whole as this distillery that makes tons of different products all really well? Or would you like to ultimately be known for your whiskey or for your liqueurs?
J: Yeah, the whiskey has been the thing we’ve been working on for six years now. It hasn’t been until the last couple of years where it’s gotten to a point where it’s matured, and that we are comfortable with releasing it.
J: This last fall we released our first bourbon. They are bottled-in-bond bourbon, four-plus years. We’re super proud of our straight rye whiskey which is our biggest seller on the aged spirits side. That’s done amazingly well, too. Those just take a little more time, and a little more capital to really build that business up.
A: In terms of the amount, can you give an idea of how many bottles you’re actually producing a year with all this liquid?
J: If it wasn’t for the pandemic, it could have slowed us down a little bit, but we’re looking at about 40,000 cases.
A: Wow, that’s a lot. You’re saying that you are in 30 states. Besides the Midwest, are there any other regions that are really big for you guys?
J: Georgia does really well for us. So does Tennessee, and Illinois does, too.
A: Why do you think that is?
J: Part of it, from a business standpoint, is we have sales reps in those states. We’ve put them there. We got good traction to start. We have really good partners in those states, and having representation on the ground makes a big difference.
A: Interesting. One of the things I want to talk to you about, because I was impressed by it when it was sent to me, is your pre-batched cocktails.
A: So right now you guys have five of them, correct?
A: At least on the site, you have five.
J: Yeah, I think we have another one that we’ll be launching pretty soon.
A: Wow, so what goes into creating those? I think that there’s so many of them that aren’t done well and at least the ones of yours that I’ve had I think are really great. Obviously, you have a business partner who’s a world-class bartender making sure that they’re the best they can be. How have you gone about creating these cocktails? And how are you trying to stand out in this space that is all of a sudden getting pretty crowded, but you seemed to have been there earlier than others have been?
J: Yeah, it really started with the Bootlegger. It is a RTD, but it’s a two-step drink. It was aimed at higher-volume bars and restaurants. Essentially, it’s a vodka Mojito. It’s the one cocktail that Minnesota claims as their own: lemon, lime, mint, and vodka. It was meant to pour that with soda water. It is a super-quick drink that you can push out to the masses.
J: What we found was that it really took off in retail and for off-sale. The consumers were the ones who were driving the volumes on that one. In the fall, as we launched our Old Fashioned, we wanted one that’s completely ready-to-go. That was modeled off of our most popular drink in the cocktail room. It’s probably the most popular cocktail in the country.
A: Besides the Margarita, for sure.
J: Yeah, and we built it off of that build. The amazing thing is how it’s not as sweet. People call it sweet, and it’s significantly sweeter than what we pour in the cocktail room. I don’t think people like to admit they like sweet drinks, but they do. That’s the simple syrup, and that’s what it is. We have our own special blends and the years of building all these different spirits and creating them, we’ve really figured out how these botanicals and spices work together.
A: Very cool. Was the Manhattan next?
J: We did a Salty Dog, which is similar to the Bootlegger. Then, the following fall, we did the Manhattan.
A: The Manhattan’s great. That’s the one that I’ve had that I thought was really delicious. Now, you just put out a Cosmo, correct?
J: Yeah, correct. The Manhattan is my favorite. It’s a little bit drier, and it’s wonderful.
A: We have a theory at VinePair that the Cosmo is making a comeback. We think it’s going to come back in a pretty big way. Why did you choose to do a Cosmo? When we talked to some larger vodka brands they said, “Do you really think so?” We’re seeing them pop up at craft cocktail bars all over the country. I’m curious what caused that decision on your end, in terms of why you would do a Cosmo?
J: We had one in the cocktail room here. I think when we first discussed it, there were a few people in the room who poo-pooed it and said it’s never going to work. Dan knew right then that we were going to have a Cosmo, and it’ll be the best Cosmo anybody’s ever had. It was incredibly popular, and it’s a very easy drink. It’s a simple drink for people to consume, and it’s a recognizable drink.
A: Do you think the reputation it had coming out of the “Sex and the City” moments faded, and people are coming back to it?
J: Yeah, I think so. We have a clear Cosmo. It’s a Cosmo Bianco, so it doesn’t have that pink color to it, which is part of what makes a Cosmo iconic. But also, I think what we found is that it scares a certain part of the population away.
A: Yeah, that’s interesting. I was just about to ask you why bianco, but that makes a lot of sense. Obviously, you guys have grown a lot in six years, and now you’ve opened a new distillery in Wisconsin, correct?
J: We’re in the process. It’s under construction right now.
A: What was the decision to do that? Was it in terms of being able to hit larger volumes? Did you see a huge market in Wisconsin? Why a second distillery and why there?
J: It was because of the existing laws in the state of Minnesota. To be considered a microdistillery and have a cocktail room, there’s a production cap. We worked on it for about three or four years, lobbying and trying to get that raised and it just wasn’t happening. We weren’t gaining any traction. The legislators in the state right now have a lot of bigger issues to deal with, and we just didn’t think it was going to happen. If we wanted to keep growing, we had to look to expand it in another state. Dan and I both have ties to Wisconsin. The new facility is 35 minutes away, and it’s in a pretty amazing little town, so we’re very excited.
A: Oh, so you’re basically crossing the border?
J: Yeah, exactly.
A: That’s really interesting. Stupidly, I didn’t look at a map before I asked you the question. I probably should have.
J: That’s all right.
A: Is this also just so you can grow and expand across the country?
J: Yeah, exactly.
A: I’m curious about why you went with a branded house instead of a house of brands. You’re doing so many different liquids and so many different cocktails. Is there a reason you put them all under the Tattersall name? Had you guys talked about that when you started, saying, “We’re going to do all these different spirits?”
J: We did. That was absolutely intentional. We thought that would allow us to grow the brand quicker, instead of having 20 different brands that we were each trying to grow. I think our brand is pretty recognizable. You see it behind a bar, and you might not know what spirit it is, but you know that’s going to be a good-quality spirit because you recognize us. It was a way to expand our reach.
A: Interesting. So what do you see as the future for the company? It’s only six years in, so is it something you want to build into a massive, national brand? Would you ever entertain offers from larger spirits companies who might be interested? What are your and Dan’s goals?
J: Growth is what gets us excited. Growth and innovation. With the new facility, it’s going to allow us to do a lot more things. The brown spirits, especially as we continue to build those out, it has been a lot of fun. But we’ve been exploring canned cocktails for a couple of years. We actually had them ready to roll right before the pandemic but we pulled back and now it’s just the difficulties in getting aluminum. That continues to be on hold for us, but we’ve always looked at that possibility. There aren’t that many brands in the country that get to a certain size without getting acquired. That’s the natural progression of this industry. For us, we’ve talked about it. We’ve been approached a few times now, and it hasn’t been the right fit or it hasn’t quite felt right. I think there’s a lot of value in being able to leverage somebody else’s existing logistics and distribution and their knowledge. It’s a different game. It’s a certain game growing from a startup to an established company and a breakthrough to that national level. It’s just a different game.
A: For people who are thinking that six years feels really short for them to already be producing 40,000 cases, what do you think is the reason for your quick success? How did you go from six years ago having the business just starting, to then being recognizable in 30 states? What do you attribute to that success?
J: We work really hard. I think we’ve done a really good job of listening to the consumer and figuring out what the consumer wants and staying ahead or at least with trends. Also, taking what the consumer is asking for instead of trying to jam something down their throat. I think that’s the biggest deal. We’ve hired great people to help us out, build it, and help spread the word.
A: When you’re coming up with the types of cocktails you want to make for the cocktail program, how much are you looking at data and things like that in order to inform what you do?
J: Yeah, we absolutely look at data. That was part of the Cosmo. If you look back six months ago at the top RTDs in the country, it was basically White Claw. Then, it was also the On the Rocks Cosmo. It just validated what we were thinking. We thought, “Huh, this is going really well.” We invest a lot of money in data, getting that information, and getting professional help to help us make decisions. If it’s there, I think you’re foolish not to at least take it into your analysis.
A: Right, so before you started the business, what was your background?
J: Finance guy. I worked for banks and hedge funds and needed a change. And that I got.
A: I have to tell you, the products you guys are making are very high-quality, really delicious. I’ve been very impressed with the stuff that you sent, as is the rest of the VinePair staff, so thank you. Keep doing it. And the growth in six years is really impressive. There’s very few brands that have gone to 40,000 cases in only six years. You guys should be really proud of that. If someone was thinking about starting a spirits brand now in 2021, what would one piece of advice be that you would give to them?
J: Just make sure you are unique. Do your research. Make sure that it’s something unique that the market actually wants or is craving or is lacking. Then, go after it. You really have to believe in yourself because you’re going to have a lot of people tell you it’s a terrible idea or tell you the thousand reasons why you shouldn’t do it. As long as you believe in what you’re doing and you’re enjoying it, go after it.
A: Awesome. Jon. One last question: If people want to find Tattersall — obviously in 30 states, they can — but can they also get on your website?
J: You can get it on the website. We have a finder and that’ll show you where you can find it locally. Then, there’s also some links to where you can buy it. There are certain states we can ship into and some we can’t. It’s not direct from us, but it’s through our partners. However, our website is the best spot.
A: Awesome. Well, Jon, thank you so much for taking the time. Congrats on all the success, and we hope to check in with you sometime down the road to hear what else is new.
J: Awesome. Really appreciate it, Adam. Appreciate the work you do on the podcast. It’s great.
Thanks so much for listening to the “VinePair Podcast.” If you love this show as much as we love making it, then please give us a rating or review on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever it is you get your podcasts. It really helps everyone else discover the show.
Now for the credits, VinePair is produced and recorded in New York City and in Seattle, Wash., by myself and Zach Geballe, who does all the editing and loves to get the credit. Also, I would love to give a special shout-out to my VinePair co-founder, Josh Malin, for helping make all this possible and also to Keith Beavers, VinePair’s tastings director who is additionally a producer on the show. I also want to, of course, thank every other member of the VinePair team who are instrumental in all of the ideas that go into making the show every week. Thanks so much for listening, and we’ll see you again.
Ed. note: This episode has been edited for length and clarity.