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St. Paul Couple Create New Vodka

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — If you’re making a trip to the liquor store this Memorial Day weekend, you may see a new vodka on the shelves.

Introduced three weeks ago, it’s made in south Minneapolis and its key ingredients are from Minnesota farms.

Besides the boom in craft beer breweries across the state, spirit distilleries are another growing industry.

The new vodka – created by married duo Shanelle and Chris Montana – has a French name, L’Etoile Du Nord, which translates to our state motto, “Star of the North.”

They use corn grown in Cold Spring and sugar beets from a nearby co-op. The distillery is located in a building that was once a motorcycle shop on 32nd Street, right off of Hiawatha Avenue. It looks like a science lab inside, where grain is carefully transformed into vodka using an original recipe.

Chris Montana has a full-time job as an attorney at Fredriksen and Byron, and Shanelle works in government affairs. But most evenings and weekends, they’re making vodka at the distillery.

“What we liked about this recipe is that … it gives the vodka a character,” Chris said.

Shanelle says it’s the two main ingredients that make their beverage unique.

“We’re actually the only vodka that we have found made from corn and sugar beets. There are some other corn vodkas on the market, and then you also have some wheat vodkas,” Shanelle said. “There’s obviously potato vodkas, which is historic vodka. You can really make liquor out of anything you can ferment.”

The staff of two does have some help. Shanelle’s father grows and delivers the corn from his farm in Cold Spring.

In July, they’ll start making gin here, called Fitzgerald.

“We are currently doing a lot of trial and error, and just [research and development] for our gin. We have coriander, juniper and then a mix of some other botanicals that we’re possibly using,” Shanelle said.

Also in July, the renovation of this space should be complete, allowing them to open a sampler room where visitors can get a taste, and a cocktail room where they will be able to serve drinks.

L’Etoile Du Nord, distributed by Johnson Brothers, is already sold in more than two dozen liquor stores in the Twin Cities. It just hit the shelves on May 2.

It costs $24 a bottle. Click here for a list of all locations.

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