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Lawless aims for lighthearted cocktails that reflect Minnesota roots

Posted on 23 January 2018 by calvin

Cocktail lounge offers winter Minnesota experience complete with fire, decor, and music

Lawless Distilling (2619 28th Ave. S.) takes a lighthearted approach to cocktails, making spirits that are approachable and not so serious.
Drop by the cocktail room for a Minnesota winter experience, complete with decor and a Minnesota music playlist. Order one of the hot cocktails from last winter’s menu. Or, select from the beverages that were part of the big holiday pop up called Miracle at Lawless.

The menu includes a Hot Buttered Rum (which comes with a marshmallow to roast), a Hot Dog! Toddy or a Sweater Weather. Prefer something cooler? Perhaps you’d like a Sno-ball Old Fashioned #2, a Snow Shoes Glüg, or a Boundary Water. All cocktails feature Lawless Distilling Company spirits and other house-made additions.

The holiday cocktail bar—the only such event in Minnesota—was a pop-up concept in partnership with Cocktail Kingdom, explained Nate Karnitz of Seward, who owns Lawless with his wife Kristen Karnitz, and friend Chris Kulzer who lives near Powderhorn Park.

Photo right: Lawless Distilling bartenders Mark Sather and Nora Curcio mix up one of the lighthearted cocktails Lawless is known for. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

“The concept originated in New York City a few years ago and has since grown to include over 50 bars across the country. The response was overwhelming. It will be coming back bigger and better next year,” the Seward resident promised.

Minnesota born
The three-year-old company was born out of an idea Karnitz had while earning an MBA at Carlson School of Management. He wrote the business plan but didn’t decide to pursue it until shortly after his graduation when legislation changed to allow distilleries to operate cocktail rooms. Nate, Kristin, and Chris came together, flushed out the concept, and brought the business plan to life.

The trio first focused on the distilling end. They opened up the distillery in October 2014 and began distributing to liquor stores and bars. They moved on to add the cocktail room a year and a half ago.

Lawless Tippling House Vodka is hand-crafted in an area of Minneapolis once known for its flourishing tippling scene and notoriously labeled the “Hub of Hell.” The beverage is named after the illegal home bars enterprising residents of Minneapolis opened before, during and after Prohibition. More functional than fashionable, the tippling house was the speakeasy’s less cultured counterpart.

Photo left: Lawless Distilling bartender Eli Morris lights up the cinnamon fire pit served alongside a Hot Buttered Rum while Longfellow resident Andrew Matthews looks on.

The Greenway Gin pays homage to the evolving Greenway Trail a few blocks away by blending the past and present to create a traditional dry gin with a touch of modern character. Beginning in 1872 the Milwaukee Road passenger train carried travelers into Minneapolis on a stretch of land running through the south side of the city. Today, a portion of that defunct passenger rail line has been transformed into the Midtown Greenway, a bustling bicycle highway that transports people differently.

Both beverages are distilled from Minnesota red wheat and sugar beets. The wheat is grown on the family farm owned by Chris’ aunt and uncle in Cold Spring.

In addition to the two spirits Lawless distributes, others are available only in the cocktail room, including Juniper Gin, rum, aquavit, and numerous liqueurs.

“Our Greenway Gin is more of a new western style gin, more floral and citrusy, less piney. The Juniper Gin has more of a traditional flavor profile with a very heavy focus on the juniper berry,” observed Karnitz. “We put the juniper through a unique maceration process, which brings out a very green and fresh pine flavor.”

Partnership with Bittercube Bitters
From the start, Lawless has partnered with Bittercube Bitters, which developed its Minnesota-themed cocktail program.

Bittercube Bitters offers two regular classes at Lawless, which fill up quickly. One of the classes focuses on how to make specific drinks from the Lawless menu, including direction on how to make some of the ingredients that go in them. The other class is the Bittercube 7 Pillars class, which focuses on the seven basic drink ratios that can be used to make hundreds of drinks. Information on the classes is available online.

“The classes are small and personal,” said Karnitz, “part education, part entertainment.”

His own favorite drink to make is a classic. “The gin old fashioned is delicious and easy to make at home,” remarked Karnitz.

New spirits coming
Lawless has recently added Sunday hours and is expanding its production capabilities.

“We’re working on bringing some liqueurs to market, some of which will be unique collaborations with Bittercube. First up are Bitter Orange, Fernet, Creme De Flora, and Pink Gin,” said Karnitz.

He added, “Look for a number of new products to hit liquor stores in the coming months.”

More can be found at

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