Pretend you can hear the click-clack of heels on the pavement as we stepped across the gravelly driveway to this warehouse door.
You press the buzzer for Dock18 without any assurance whatsoever that there’s anyone inside the building who will hear it, or answer.
But we are buzzed in, and walk up a flight of old stairs to a plain, innocuous hallway door. We could easily be at a doctor’s satellite office, or someplace where you go to pay a fine.
But then you step inside.
Once your eyes adjust to the darkness and the blue low lights start to provide backdrop for the other shadowy figures in the room, you get the feeling of being in another world altogether. One you’d NEVER expect to find inside an old, nondescript building like this. A speakeasy!
A tasting room that combined the creative concoctions of Brian Sammons, founder and genius behind Twisted Path Distillery with bitters from Bittercube – also located in the warehouse. Every drink sold there is produced on the premises. Different juices and citric acid creating a cacophony of flavors with Sammons’ handcrafted spirits. I think they’re all his favorite. Every single flavor and batch seemed to be a labor-of-love in the choice of ingredients like black strap molasses from a local organic farmer friend, or the process of aging the whiskeys and vodkas in Sammons’ homemade (but by no means “home made”) 300-gallon still.
Sammons’ past includes a stint with the CIA, one as prosecutor, and now distiller/business owner making concoctions that appeal to him because they taste good. I was lucky enough to be invited to sample many of the spirits he’s created at Twisted Path. They had such varied flavors. None were exactly what I expected; they were smooth and rich and seemed like a different species of familiar liquors.
Twisted Path and Bittercube, an on-site bitters manufacturer, teamed up to create Dock18. Housed in a nondescript warehouse, Dock 18 is a secret gem in the city where two entrepreneurial companies choreograph spirit & bitter combinations only available to taste in the small, six-seat room.
Behind it, the secrets to all the ideas, innovation, and ingenuity that produced unusual trial-by-error bottles of perfection.
It was fascinating to hear the histories behind the two passionate pursuits. I sat at the bar as little droppersful of flavors were dribbled onto my hand.
“We only use naturally sourced ingredients. No extracts or oils,” my art-student turned bartender told me. “Only botanicals.”
I was then urged to smell and taste the bitters on the back of my hand. Cherry Bark Vanilla. Jamaican #2. The trinity that comprises an Wisconsin’s state drink: cherry, bolivar, and orange bitters.
“We want harmony in your cocktail,” the crew of Dock18 explained. They certainly achieved that!
I’d later learn of the burst of craft and traditional beers in Milwaukee as well. It all ties together in Milwaukee’s ever-growing presence of a city to visit. I had no idea that places like Dock18 and Twisted Path and Bittercube existed! I was treated to this experience by Milwaukee Food & City Tours and given behind-the-scenes looks and interviews with all of the owners/chefs/brewers of Milwaukee’s local-success-story brewing & distillery establishments.
I’ll post about the craft brews next, but I started with a different introduction to the city: Twisted Path & Bittercube and their designer drinks crafted to blend together. But only in Dock18. If you’re ever in Milwaukee, try not to miss this spot!
Have you ever explored the tasty world of bitters and spirits?