St. Paul-based artist and drinking-vessel connoisseur Taylor Cathleen is well versed in the world of niche. Her husband creates historically accurate medieval armor (a life-sized jousting suit stands in their living room). She lives an intensely local life, getting everything from coffee to clothing to cocktails from small establishments within a few blocks of her apartment. And she spends several days (and nights) a week sandblasting personalized images and phrases onto various drinking glasses, mugs and mason jars. They’re quirky and cute designs that she draws and etches herself: silhouettes of states on pint glasses, mama and papa bear stemless wine glasses, Old Fashioned glasses with city skylines.
“My mother is obsessed with glassware,” Taylor said. “Everything has to be in the right vessel.”
Her mother’s influence and her family’s encouragement drove Taylor to start creating her etched pieces. Luckily, her husband had access to a sandblaster, so it wasn’t difficult to get going. And as an added bonus, it meant she got to spend more time with him by sharing his work studio.
“As cliché as it probably sounds, my family and friends are my biggest source of inspiration, especially since that’s usually who I’m bellying up to the bar/table/kitchen counter with, cocktails in hand,” Taylor said. “For me, the best designs come from ordinary, unexpected places and that’s what makes them genuine. Whether that’s a conversation with my uncle about his cabin, or my friend talking about seeing the Minneapolis skyline lit up at night on her drive home, I’ve always been inspired by what people closest to me find beautiful and I love to recreate those elements in my designs.”
Another huge influence in her work, Taylor said, is the state of Minnesota itself. “What inspires me most about this state is how much hometown love people have for it and the wide variety of reasons why—from the bustling food + drink scene to the beauty of the Northwoods and everything in between.”
Since she’s something of an expert at it, Taylor shared some of her favorite local places to grab a drink:
Town Hall Brewery – “Town Hall has been brewing craft beer since 1997, so they are definitely a well-seasoned veteran in the Minnesota craft beer community. My husband and I hung out here as friends in college and have been going back ever since. It’s definitely our spot. It’s also where all of our great business brainstorms take place, because nothing says ‘brainstorm’ like the perfect pint of beer.”
Nina’s Coffee Café – “This is my go-to local coffee shop, and is where a lot of my best planning, thinking and strategizing happens. It’s the perfect place to hide away with a laptop and headphones and do some really solid thinking. I love the warm, welcoming vibe here, particularly in the winter when I’m in extra need of a cozy reprieve.”
Norseman – “Norseman was actually the first legal distillery to pop up in Minneapolis, and their original location was in the same building my husband worked in. That’s how we found out about them. I’ve always appreciated small batch spirits and the unique flavors they can bring to the table, and was thrilled to have one in my hometown.”
Taylor also shared a cocktail recipe with us—she created it with local small-batch distillery Norseman gin—that she would usually serve in a lowball glass, but she altered it to make a larger version in a mason jar. Don’t tell her mom.
Rhubarb Gin Sour recipe – the original
2.5 oz. Norseman strawberry rhubarb gin
1 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 oz. simple syrup
1-2 rosemary sprigs
Rhubarb Gin Sour recipe – the mason jar version
5 oz. Norseman strawberry rhubarb gin
2 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 oz. simple syrup
3 rosemary sprigs (1 for garnish)
The Norseman strawberry rhubarb gin is made from Minneapolis-grown rhubarb that comes from the distillery owner’s own backyard—if you can’t get your hands on it, feel free to get creative with another gin. Prepare the glass by running a lemon slice around the rim, then do the same (lightly) with a sprig of rosemary. Combine the remaining ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake well. Pour over ice and enjoy!