June Spirit of the Month: Gin!

bottle of empress gin in front of purple flowers

written by Jake

Gin is said to have originated in the 16th century, initially crafted as a medicinal tincture. Juniper, renowned at the time for its healing qualities, played a vital role in the concoction of juniper-infused alcohol solutions administered to address various ailments. Fast forward to the present day, gin continues to be enjoyed, although its association with medicinal purposes may now be subject to debate. 

Most countries where gin is produced still require the presence of juniper for it to be labeled as gin. Apart from that, the choice of base spirits is quite diverse, although grain-based spirits tend to be the most prevalent option. 

Today, gin can be categorized into six main groups. The three most common are:  

  1. London Dry: London Dry gins are the most common and most traditional. They lean heavily into the juniper and must contain no added sweeteners or coloring. 
  2. New American: New American gin (also called Contemporary or New Western), while still containing juniper, start to break from convention a bit by using more unusual botanicals like kelp, lime zest, herbs, etc. This allows for wide-ranging differences among this style. 
  3. Old Tom: Old Tom gins are lightly sweetened and often have a warmer flavor profile. Old Tom is believed to predate London Dry, and as such, is called for in many early cocktail recipes. Try it in a Martinez! 
bottle of gray whale gin on sidewalk


Gray Whale is an American Gin made in California. It uses native Californian botanicals including juniper, kelp, lime zest, and almonds. The result is a complex, bright gin that is perfect for a citrusy Gin & Tonic! 

Gray Whale Gin + Tonic: 

  • 2oz Gray Whale Gin 
  • 1 Can Fever Tree Tonic 

Add ice to a Collins glass. Add a small amount of your tonic, add the gin, and mix lightly. Top with the rest of the tonic and garnish with a lime wheel or lemon twist. Enjoy. 

bottle of empress 1908 gin, pink cocktail, bouquet of flowers
bottle of empress gin in front of purple flowers

EMPRESS 1908 GIN - $39.99

Empress 1908 Gin is named after the Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia. It uses a blend of botanicals, some traditional like juniper and coriander, and some more contemporary, like grapefruit peel, cinnamon, and ginger. However, the show’s star is the Butterfly Pea flower that gives Empress 1908 its unique and striking color. The compounds from the Butterfly Pea, when in the presence of an acid (like lemon or lime juice), change from a deep indigo into a beautiful pink. Not only does this gin taste great, its sure to give any cocktail you use it in an unforgettable appearance. 

    Empress Gin Sour 

    • 2 oz Empress 1908 Gin
    • 1 oz Lemon Juice
    • ¾ oz Simple Syrup
    • Egg White (optional)

    If using egg white: Add all the ingredients to a shaker without ice and shake for approximately 30 seconds. Add ice and shake until well chilled. Fine strain into a chilled glass and garnish with aromatic bitters or a lemon twist. 

    If not using egg white: Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until well chilled. Fine strain into a chilled glass and garnish. Enjoy. 

    Food Pairing: Juniper pairs incredibly well with beef, lamb, pork, duck, and game meats. With juniper being the most pungent component in gin, try your favorite gin or gin cocktail when you are grilling this summer!  

    Cocktails for Spring!

    The sun is shining and we’re all getting eager to start hosting dinner parties in our yards, take the boats out on the lake, and enjoy evenings on the patio, with a refreshing drink in hand of course. Our liquor team put together a couple new fruity, summery cocktails with spirits we’re obsessed with here in the shop. These spins on classic cocktails are sure to wow your guests and make your summer evenings a little more exciting.


    The Margarita is probably one of the most beloved cocktails and for good reason. This riff brings in a tropical twist that makes this cocktail even more refreshing! Tres Agaves Blanco tequila is very citrus forward and helps to lift the other flavors while still providing some peppery bite to round out the cocktail! 

    • 2oz Tres Agaves Blanco Tequila
    • 1oz Chinola Passion Fruit Liqueur
    • 1oz Lime Juice
    • 0.5oz Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao

    Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until well chilled. Serve over ice in a rocks glass or strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a lime twist or lime wheel.


    Our take on a classic daiquiri

    The Daiquiri is an easy, classic cocktail, and the addition of the Chinola passion fruit liqueur takes it to the next level. The bright, slightly tart flavor of the Chinola pairs incredibly well with the rum and lime to create a new twist on a summer favorite! 

    • 2oz White Rum
    • 1oz Chinola Passion fruit Liqueur
    • 0.75oz Lime Juice
    Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until well chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with a lime wheel.


    How do you take a cocktail that screams “summer” and make it even more summer-y? Add in some pineapple! Plantation Pineapple Rum is a fantastic addition that take this cocktail in a new direction! Served up on crushed ice, nothing beats this one on a hot day! 

    • 1.5oz Plantation Pineapple Rum
    • 0.75oz Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao
    • 0.75oz Lime Juice
    • 0.5oz Orgeat

     Add all ingredients to a shaker with ice and shake briefly. Strain into a rocks glass with crushed ice and float an additional 0.5oz of pineapple rum on top. Garnish with a lime wheel.

    Meet Melissa!

    How did you find your way to France 44? What do you do here and how long have you worked here? 

    I’ve been working at France 44 as our Human Resources Manager and Cider Expert for almost six years. Before working at France 44, I had worked for many years in non-profits, as the Executive director of several, and I ran my own Math and Reading Center. I was looking for a change and new challenge, and decided to look into working in a liquor store. The HR position opened up and I decided to go for it!


    What do you like to do when you’re not working? 

    I love to read. I escape reality in books, sitting on my porch swing. I read a lot of fiction, and my favorites are the books in the “Name of the Wind” series.

    How did you get into cider? What do you love about cider? 

    Today is the 9th anniversary of the day I found out I had celiac disease. I was a big beer drinker before, and was looking for an alternative with a similar alcohol content. The first cider I tried was the Milk and Honey Heirloom cider, and it changed my life. I fell down the rabbit hole and didn’t look back. I love the diversity of ciders, and the fact that two cider makers can take the same apples, and make such distinctive, unique products. But most of all, I love the community. I am a part of online groups, the Minnesota Cider Guild, and attend Cider Con every year. I’m also the cider expert for a local news station in Rhinelander, Wisconsin (WJFW), was named the 2023 Midwest Pemellier of the Year, and helped France 44 become a top Midwest off-premise cider sales location.

    Ok tough question – what is your favorite cider?

    Milk and Honey Heirloom reigns supreme!

    What do you want people to know about cider?


    But also, it’s not all sweet. Cider can taste like fresh apples, can be dry, can be sparkling or still; there’s something for everyone. I hope that more people will be open to trying it!




    Meet Our Beer Buyer!

    How did you end up working at France 44?

    After leaving my Job at a local wine distributor, I wanted to get back into the retail side of the industry. France44 was the only store on my list. That was over 16yr ago....

    How many businesses have mysteriously burned down shortly after you were employed at them?

    Two businesses that I absolutely loved working for burnt down after I left. I have solid alibis for both incidents.

    Word on the street is that you drink other things than beer...? Is that allowed? And what's you current go-to non-beer drink?

    I'm a sucker for a great Gin & Tonic, anything from Ridge Vineyards, South Africa Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc. Also, I'll fight anyone who doesn't think Griottine Cherries are the absolute most important item in a great Manhattan.

    As the beer buyer, you have seen the rise (and sometimes fall) of many beer trends. What beer trend are you most excited about?

    We take a lot of pride in curating a great selection of beer in the department. That means we say no a lot more than we say yes. Obviously, we can't ignore the big trends, but I don't go chasing the smaller ones. If those smaller trends are going to work, they'll happen organically and not because we force them. Plus, trends tend to produce products we really don't get that excited about. Just give us well made classic styles!

    We've heard you live in a mysterious land call St. Paul. What's one of your favorite restaurants there?

    Meritage is our splurge restaurant. El Burrito Mercado, Punch, Parlour and Pajarito are some of our neighborhood hang-outs.

    We heard you love to cook. What's the best thing you have cooked recently?

    Last week I made griddle grilled Nordic salmon with Cajun corn cakes and sauteed green beans. Pretty happy with the end result. Basically, a big plate of comfort. I just started reading The Food Lab and The Wok--both written by Kenji Lopez-Alt. I Love his style of writing and it helps get through his textbook-sized books. Also my love of beef and pork have led me to blindly follow anything that Bradley Robinson of Chuds BBQ does with the grill/smoker.

    What's your desert island beer?

    It would have to be a craft Pilsner. Or a Czech Pilsner.....or maybe a German Pilsner. And of course, Champagne. I try never to be too far away from a good bottle of bubbles.

    Daiquiris For Days

    written by Jake

    Rum, lime juice, sugar. That’s all it takes to make one of the most classic cocktails of all time. Invented right around the start of the 20th century in a town of the same name in Cuba, the Daiquiri is the perfect drink for a hot, humid day. Legend has it that the drinks inventor, Stockton Cox, invented it when he ran out of gin but didn’t want to serve his guests straight rum. The addition of lime juice and sugar helped to smooth out the flavors of the rum and the rest is history. Now while the Daiquiri is ideal for hot weather, there’s certainly no reason that this delicious beverage can’t be enjoyed anytime of the year, even in a Minnesota winter. While the original recipe (which we’ll share below) is delicious on its own, a couple of simple tweaks can turn this drink into a complex, winter cocktail. Enjoy!


    • 2oz White Rum – Any white rum that you enjoy will do, but we like Plantation 3 Star for its complexity and price point.
    • 1oz Fresh Lime Juice –  Fresh citrus juices are always the first choice but the bottled stuff will still make a good drink.
    • 0.75oz Simple Syrup – Traditionally a Demerara syrup is used (Liber & Co. make a good one), but truthfully any simple syrup will work.

    Add all your ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake hard until well chilled (frost will form on the outside of your shaker, that’s a good indication that it’s been shaken enough). Strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with a lime wheel.


    • 2oz Plantation Dark Rum – Once again, any dark rum you enjoy will do, but Plantation Dark Rum is excellent and is a great price.
    • 0.75oz Fresh Lime Juice – See above.
    • 0.25oz Liber & Co Ginger Syrup – Ginger syrup will add both sweetness, as well as spice.
    • 0.5oz St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram – This liqueur is a favorite of F44 employees. With notes of clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, and black pepper, this is what’s going to transform this drink into a winter classic. We recommend starting on the lower end of the measurement and increasing the amount from there if you want more of the Allspice flavor.
    • 4 dashes Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Bitters 

    As above, add all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake hard. Strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with a lime wheel, or, if you’re feeling fancy, express the oils from a grapefruit peel over the top of the drink. 

    We have a new POS System!

    As those of you who have come into the store this week have seen, we have upgraded our POS. Thank you all for your patience as we have been making this transition. Best thing about it for you – no more signatures! 

    • You still earn 3% cash back!
    • Redemptions are now in increments of $5, $10, $25, $50, $100, or $500
      • These amounts can be stacked together! 
    • Points are still earned for in-store purchases in the liquor store and cheese shop – and can be used in both.
    • Members will be getting emails with updates on their points and will eventually be able to set up an account online to track points. 
    If you have any questions about the new way of Club 44, email Aaron at aaron@france44.com
      • We are in the process of getting our online sales platform all set up for this spring. We will send a notification when this is complete. 
    • No more pesky signatures at checkout!

    Social, Local, Vocal: The (re-branded) Du Nord Story

    written by Karina

    If the mark of a good producer means that they make good products, Du Nord fills that qualification easily. If the mark of a great producer means that they use their platform to support and champion their local community and give a voice and opportunities to demographics that are usually not heard in the spirits and hospitality industry, then Du Nord is the GOAT.  

    The first thing you’ll notice when you ask Tom where the Du Nord stuff is at France 44 is that, well, you probably notice them a lot more than you used to. They recently chose to undergo a major rebranding, casting aside the more classic and traditional labels in favor of bold colors, big block letters—essentially demanding you to notice them.  

    And this is exactly it: Du Nord demands you to take notice. You’re first taken in by their boldness in packaging, but then you’re sucked in by their boldness in who they are and what they stand for. It’s not enough for Du Nord to talk about good ideas and social change—they live it out and challenge others to do the same. Their mission statement? “We want to change the rooms, open the doors and help people who have not traditionally held power see how we can make it in this business, this town, this life, this world.”  

    Du Nord even chose to re-brand the full name they go by: they’re now Du Nord Social Spirits (changed from Du Nord Craft Spirits). If this doesn’t tell you how focused they are on building community and creating connections, then nothing else will. This is something we at France 44 connect with on a deep level—the idea that alcohol isn’t just alcohol, and that it has the power and potential to be a catalyst for bringing people, ideas, and passions together, just like food does.  

    Here are some of our favorites that you should take notice of: 


    Taking home more awards than we can count, this gin is the only one you need to have on your home bar—especially if you love the juniper-forward kind of gin. The bold juniper is framed by softer notes of angelica, licorice and ginger, giving it a beautiful depth that proves it’s as good on its own as it is in a G&T—or better yet, in Du Nord’s ‘The Wigington’:

    The Wigington Cocktail
    • 2 oz Prominence Gin 

    • 1/2 oz fresh lemon juice  

    • 3/4 oz agave or honey syrup  

    • 2 dashes Angostura bitters 2 drops rose water  

    • Garnish with an edible flower, such as orchid 

    Shake all ingredients with ice. Strain into a martini glass or coupe. Garnish. 


    This special-release gin turns the Prominence Gin up to volume 11. Aged in Du Nord whiskey barrels, this gorgeous gin is softened around the edges with whisps of vanilla and caramel notes along with the ever-present botanicals. Use this is as your base in an insane, off-the-wall version of an Old Fashioned:

    Gin Old Fashioned Cocktail
    • 2 oz Prominence Barreled Gin 

    • 2 dashes Angostura bitters  

    • 2 sugar cubes  

    • Garnish with cherry and orange peel  

    In a rocks glass, combine the orange peel or wheel, bitters, and sugar cubes. Muddle to combine. Add ice, gin and stir from the bottom to combine. Garnish. 


    Frieda is a cornerstone of Du Nord’s lineup, made using cold brew from locally-roasted coffee beans. Nutty and with a deep roasted flavor, it toes the line between chocolatey and dessert-y, and orange-spice-laden. Put this in your Negroni and you’ll never drink it the same way again:

    Frieda Coffee Negroni Cocktail
    • 1.5 oz Prominence Gin 

    • 0.5 oz Frieda Coffee Liqueur 

    • 0.25 oz Campari 

    • 1 oz sweet vermouth 

    • Orange peel garnish 

    Build in a rocks glass and stir with a large ice cube or sphere. Garnish with an orange peel. 

    Get inspired this month (and every month) and drink some “Real good booze that does real good.” Plus, try some of there awesome products on our tasting bar this Saturday! 

    Low-Alcohol Cocktail Recipe

    With dry January coming to a close, we thought now might be an appropriate time to ease everyone back into the harder stuff with a low ABV cocktail: the spritz. Generally, cocktails sit anywhere around 20 to 30 percent alcohol, but spritz style cocktails are much lower in alcohol, with ABV being right around five percent. The most famous of these types of cocktails is the Aperol spritz, a refreshing libation that’s particularly good on a hot summer’s day here in the Twin Cities. So, if it’s a good summer drink, why are we discussing it now, in the dead of winter? Well, by simply swapping out the Aperol with one of our favorite aperitifs, Bonal, you transform the bright and citrusy summer cocktail into something with rich flavors of ginger, baking spice, and bittersweet notes. Add a splash of elderflower tonic and slice of grapefruit, and you have a delicious low ABV drink, perfect for the winter. With all that being said, here it is, the Bonal Spritz:

    • 3oz Bonal Aperitif: Bonal is an aperitif that uses gentian root, cinchona bark (where quinine is derived from), and a blend of herbs that gives it its distinct bittersweet flavor.
    • 1 Bottle of Fever Tree Elderflower Tonic: Fever Tree Elderflower tonic is floral and lightly sweet, while still having that distinct quinine flavor that tonic is known for. We think it’s an excellent pairing with Bonal.

    Fill a large wine glass with ice, add your Bonal, top with the tonic, stir lightly, garnish with a half slice of grapefruit, and enjoy!

    This drink, if mixed according to the above directions, will have an ABV of 4.9% (don’t worry, we did the math so you don’t have to), so feel free to have two! The depth of flavors in the Bonal are lifted and enhanced by the sweet, floral notes from the tonic, while the grapefruit garnish adds a pop of color and beautiful bittersweet aromas that only make this cocktail even better. The result is a fantastic winter variation of a classic summer drink that we hope you’ll enjoy as much as we do!

    Live Holiday Music at France 44



    Vocalist Norah Long, with Erin Roe on keyboard / 3-4pm 

    Chick Cheer Quartet: Nicole Fenstad, Kym Chambers, Nickie Kromminga & Seri Johnson / 4-5pm 

    Guitarist & Vocalist Evan Twichell / 5-6pm



    Holly & Spice: Santa’s Singing Elves featuring Nicole Fenstad & Seri Johnson / 3-4pm 

    Pianist Erin Roe / 4-5pm 

    Violinists Ellen Hacker & Stephanie Skor / 5-6pm 



    Guitarist & Vocalist Alanna Snortland / 3-4pm 

    Jolly Jazz: Vocalist Seri Johnson & Pianist Jay Albright / 4-5pm 

    Vocalist Norah Long, with Erin Roe on keyboard / 3-4pm 

    Treble Tones Choir / 6-7pm 



    Pianist Erin Roe with Vocalist Olivia Snortland / 3-4pm 

    Pianist Natalie McComas / 4-5pm 

    The d’Lakes Trio / 5-7pm  

    Our Maker’s Mark Private Select Barrel has arrived!

    by Tom

    The wait is finally over: we have received our Maker’s Mark Private Select Barrel! Maker’s Mark has one of the most interesting single barrel programs ever where you can customize a ring of staves that are dipped into the barrel for a finishing time period of nine weeks. A few years ago we landed on the perfect blend of staves for our palates. With the addition of ten staves with five different staves to choose from, there are a daunting 1,001 different possible combinations.

    The Staves to Choose From

    The five staves made specifically by the Independent Stave Company to choose from are the following:

    • Baked American Pure 2- the only American Oak in the bunch, giving it brown sugar, vanilla and spice.
    • Seared French Cuvee- This stave is ridge-cut and seared with infrared heat, this stave gives off toasty caramel.
    • Maker’s 46- the classic. This stave gives off dried fruit and caramelized spice.
    • Roasted French Mocha- toasted on high heat in a convection oven, giving off big maple, chocolate, and toasty char.
    • Toasted French Spice- toasted on both high heat and low heat giving off smoke and cinnamon spice.


    The F44 Private Select Single Barrel

    As you can tell, we had a long and arduous task ahead of us. Blending up different combinations of staves to see what we liked best, I mean twist our arms, right? We quickly realized Maker’s Cask Strength is nowhere as sweet as classic Maker’s Mark, so we went for a more creamy and fruity profile while also falling head over heels for the Roasted French Mocha staves. We ended up with the following:

    • 3 Baked American Pure 2 staves for Vanilla
    • 4 Roasted French Mocha for chocolate and maple
    • 1 Maker’s 46 for cherry
    • 1 Toasted French Spice
    • 1 Seared French Cuvee

    Here’s the exciting wrinkle, unless you have used our beloved French Mocha Staves in a past recipe, you cannot use it use it. It was been retired and archived so you can only use it in past recipes, so this is the only place to grab this special bottle we have cooked up for you!

    Bottled at 109.1 proof,  it smells like chocolate covered cherries and tastes like creamy caramel and vanilla, but why don’t you stop in and grab a bottle and see what you think?