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?
This sounds like such a fun place to visit! I love their passion and commitment to homemade spirits and bitters. And part of the fun seems to be finding their speakeasy!
Definitely! If I lived in Milwaukee, I’d be there frequently.
For some reason, Dock 18 reminds me of platform 9 3/4 from Harry Potter. I love the speak easy movement. They are really having fun with the noble experiment.
Aw, now this is when I wish I were a Harry Potter fan because this sounds like a good comparison. I’ve turned the analogy around and so can picture what Platform 9 3/4 might be like.
Such a quirky speakeasy bar with its own Distillery! That’s just a great place for some lovely drinks!
I love speakeasies! I found one in Huntsville behind a section of lockers in an old highschool! And, yes I agree with Jenn it reminds me of Harry Potter too!
How fun! It was a new experience for me.
This is so cool. My only question is how do they advertise/market themselves so people know about it to go visit?? Although maybe the whole point is to keep it on the DL so only a select crowd finds out about it. 🙂
Great question. I’m not sure! I think part of its appeal is that it’s a hidden gem in the city, but at the same time, that doesn’t seem like a good business plan. I think they do some special types of evening events and publicize that way. The space is very small; can’t let the word get out TOO much. 😉
As an avid fan of speakeasies, you know I’m putting Dock 18 on my list! Cherry Bark Vanilla bitters sound delicious — we actually make our own bitters, so will have to try and recreate it. I’m sure it won’t be as good as the ones from Bittercube, though. So glad to know about this spot for my next trip to the Midwest! 🙂
How interesting! You make your own bitters??? Then you MUST speak with the owners there. They’re so passionate about what they do and create so many different flavors.
I love the fact that they are using natural ingredients and it’s so fun to speak with food business owners who are truly passionate about their product.
This sounds like a fantastic place to grab a drink or two! I love hidden gems like this where you can enjoy some innovative creations!
One of them was served in a glass that looks like a shark. I should have tried that one, too, but I was pacing myself. 🙂
CIA agent and prosecutor turned distillery owner? How do you find these places?? I love the fun of finding a hidden speakeasy, it’s a nice break from the ordinary!
I know, right? Brian seems to be a very multi-talented man! I never would have found this place by myself. This was part of my Food & City Tour. All of the places they took me were fantastic and places I would have missed otherwise. Sometimes it really is best to go with a local guide.