MEET OUR TEAM
Emily Vikre – co-founder, President and Arbiter of Taste
Dr. Emily Vikre, PhD, is an INFJ, an enneatype 6 with a strong 5 wing, a Vatta, horoscope is Cancer, personality color is blue. She likes personality diagnostics. Once upon a time, after growing up in Duluth, working as a science journalist and then museum educator, she got a PhD and taught graduate classes in theories of individual behavior and organizational behavior in public health. Always the creative but bookish type, being a professor was probably what everyone had always expected Emily to do. Starting a distillery was probably the thing everyone least expected her to do. But, inspired by secret whisperings from Lake Superior and the desire to move back to a landscape that feeds her soul, Emily left the East coast with Joel and their intrepid dog Squid and came home to Duluth to start Vikre Distillery. Her favorite piece of music is Sibelius’ Symphony 2; her favorite membrane protein is the aquaporin; her favorite tree is the birch; her favorite TV show is old, but not too old, episodes of Top Gear; her favorite animal is her and Joel’s two-year old son, Espen.
What is your favorite song to bottle to? Anything by ABBA (don’t judge).
What is your spirit spirit? Probably Green Chartreuse – kind of weird and intense, but also sweet and complex and, dare I say, pretty much awesome.
Shaken or Stirred? STIRRED! Because, Negroni. Also Manhattan.
Shark vs. Grizzly, who wins? Honestly, I think grizzly because it has arms. BUT, sharks never sleep…
Dinosaurs or unicorns, which is better? Dinosaurs! I used to know everything about dinosaurs when I was 6. Now I’ve forgotten everything about dinosaurs, but still…
Joel Vikre – co-founder, distiller, and CEO
Joel is a socially unreliable, frequently grandiose, sometimes surprising, natural leader-type. He likes the rules he makes. As a younger man, he worked in global health in Tijuana, Mexico, Siuna, Nicaragua, and Lwala, Kenya. In the process he entered and dropped out of medical school, became an armchair ethnographer, learned how to build things, and helped start and lead a few different organizations that have gone on to provide clean water and medical care to millions of people in Africa. He loves things that are hard to get ahold of - like organizational behavior and culture. But he reached a time in his life where living in a place, and doing something more tangible seemed like the best move. Plus, as husband to Emily and dad to Espen and Squid the dog, he discovered that being around his family became the most important thing. The obvious next step? Learning how to distill booze, of course, which turned out to be really fun, and created an opportunity to craft a company with rigorous social and environmental goals. He likes to split his days between the strategy and the super concrete - like plumbing. He does not like the stuff in between. And, oh yeah, he likes whiskey.
Favorite music to bottle to? Joel, even though he likes to play music and loves live music, prefers to listen to public radio. Emily believes he has a politics problem.
Spirit spirit? Joel's spirit spirit is always the one that hasn't been made up yet.
Shaken or stirred? Joel doesn't understand the question, as both seem more or less brownian.
Shark vs. Grizzly? Depends on the medium in which they fight, whether the advantage goes to more teeth or more grabbing appendages. Also the type of shark. Need more specifics.
Dinosaurs or Unicorns? Dinosaurs are REAL AS HELL, and Joel loves things that are improbable and real.
Kevin Evans – Distiller and Coincidentally Hot Intern
Recovering banker Kevin Evans is a distiller with Vikre Distillery as well as the founder of his own company, The Duluth Whiskey Project. He’s been helping Vikre distillery get started since July of 2013 when his family relocated to Duluth from the cities. Kevin has worked in other finance related fields, been a printer, made bagel sandwiches, and got to blow shit up in the Marines. He enjoys whisk(e)y above all other spirits with Scotch above all other whiskies. Kevin moved to Duluth in 2013 following his brilliant physician wife. He has three daughters, is an avid cross-fitter and golfs a ridiculous amount for someone so terrible at it.
Favorite song to bottle to? Tie between My Humps by the Black Eyed Peas and Moonshiner by Uncle Tupelo
Spirit spirit? Talisker 18 year old
Shaken or Stirred? Makes zero difference. Give me the drink.
Shark vs. Grizzly? I think Shark because outside of the phenomena that is a sharknado, the two will have to meet in the water, where I believe Mr. Shark has a distinct advantage. However, a guppy-sized shark would likely lose out to Mor’du, the demon bear from Pixar’s Brave.
Dinosaurs or Unicorns? Unicorns because their blood can keep you alive, even if you’re within an inch of death
Erin Otis – Distillery Production Manager
Erin is from a small town (Longville, MN -The Turtle Racing Capitol of the World!).
Erin does all the work at the distillery (At least more than Kevin).
Erin is very organized.
Erin met Jon.
They got hitched, and two daughters later, all is amazing.
Erin thought she would be a teacher.
Erin leads a double life as a spy due to her nosy nature and aptitude for code breaking/assassination.
-As told by Kevin Evans
Favorite song to bottle to? Anything with a fast tempo to keep everyone moving
Spirit spirit? Vikre Sugarbush Whiskey
Shaken or Stirred? Stirred – it is more organizationally pleasing.
Shark vs. Grizzly? Grizzlies and Sharks would never really get in a fight, so, they both win. (I am a Peacemaker!)
Dinosaurs or Unicorns? Unicorns because Erin is a bit of a princess (Kevin, that’s not a nice thing to say!)
Caleb wendel – Sales and Distribution Manager
Caleb got his start as a wee tot in Michigan. When he grew up he wandered off to places like Utah and Australia and eventually got a business degree in Marketing and Management from Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Michigan – a smaller, snowier version of Duluth. He started out in the spirits world bartending during college. Shortly after graduating from biz school, he co-founded and ran a bike shop for six years before heading west to Duluth to join the Vikre crew. He hasn’t yet met a hobby that he doesn’t like, especially if it involves wheels of any sort. In addition to extreme outdoor athletic pursuits by bicycle - which make all of the rest of us feel super out of shape and non-adventurous, which we make up for by eating extra donuts at staff meetings - Caleb enjoys traveling for both work and pleasure. Caleb also knows how to build and fix all the things, a skill we are able to continually abuse at the distillery.
Favorite song to bottle to? Whatever Scuzzi is not listening to.
Spirit spirit? Bourbon
Shaken or Stirred? Either way as long as it's on the rocks.
Shark vs. Grizzly? If the shark has a laser beam, then the shark will win.
Dinosaurs or Unicorns? Parasaurolophus. It was the Unicorn of dinosaurs.
Caitlin Nielson - MEDIA and BRAnd manager
Caitlin moved to Duluth to pursue her dream of becoming an investigative journalist. Instead, she spent her time studying anthropology, making movies, and co-founding a CSA farm with her friends. Then, she attended an advanced visual storytelling program in Portland, Maine. This experience soldified her inkling that her many passions could be intergrated in a meaningful manner. For the next year, she decided to spend all of her money on plane tickets with the goal of documenting culture. Eventually, she got a job as a Digital Ethnographer... In Saraguro, Ecuador.
Caitlin travels every chance she gets, but every time she leaves Duluth, she misses the air. Luckily, she wound up at Vikre Distillery, where she can do what she loves while living in the place she loves.
Some may call her, "Vikre's token millennial", or, "resident digital native". In her opinion, a more accurate description would be something along the lines of, "person who is cheeriest with camera in hand and something interesting to capture."
Favorite song to bottle to? "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard" by Paul Simon
What is your spirit spirit? You know what they say, "Keep calm and drink Metaxa Ouzo." Oh wait, that's just my Grandpa.
Shaken or Stirred? If I'm in good company, stirred.
Shark vs. Grizzly? Hold on, I need to consult my Pokédex.
Dinosaurs or Unicorns? I'm pretty into fossils.
Chelsy Whittington – Visitor Experience Manager
Lake Bemidji to Lake Superior. Chelsy’s husband said that the name of her biography should be "Laughing Too Loud with Food in my Mouth." She likes funny people and the movie Funny Girl (A bottle of aquavit to the person who finds her a karaoke machine in the Twin Ports with "Don't Rain on my Parade" in rotation...) She likes food and drinks that she’s never heard of, digging through estate sales for vintage collins glasses and digging in the dirt to plant obscure herbs (Does anyone know if Greek mountain tea will grow in Northern MN?)
Chelsy keeps our sticks on the ice while coaxing a cocktail party out nearly every day of the week.
Favorite song to bottle to?
Kevin won't let me pick the music since I fixed/broke his Pandora so that it only played Haim and Mazzy Star. Sorry not sorry KEVIN.
Spirit spirit? A bottle of red wine that transmogrifies into bourbon once I get 3/4's of the way through.
Shaken or Stirred? Shake it (and don't look so serious about it.)
Shark vs. Grizzly? I hate that you made me google this.
Dinosaurs or Unicorns? Which ever one is more likely to let me ride it on a beach.
Nicholas "Scuzzi" Pascuzzi – Esteemed Head Bartender
Scuzzi grew up in Duluth, Duluth Central High School graduate. Went to college for a few years outside of Philadelphia. Moved back. Got hired as a deckhand on a tall ship and sailed for about a year, from the Chesapeake Bay as far North as the Hudson River. Moved Back to Duluth and started cooking. Started tending bar 3 years ago at Zeitgeist. Has a sailboat. Cocktail Nerd. Writes poetry.
Favorite song to bottle to? AC/DC's "Have a Drink on Me" or Tom Waits's "The Piano Has Been Drinking"
Spirit spirit? I sometimes feel like a bottle of Fernet: bitter and complicated, but ultimately refreshing. Other times I feel like a bottle of Batavia Arrack: hard to pin down, sassy and difficult to work with, but only at first. But I think all the time I feel like a bottle of Dalmore 12: a lot of soul for something so young, slightly smoky but with notes of honey and vanilla, a balance of coarse and smooth. But mostly smooth ;)
Spirit Cocktail: the Bijou.
Shaken or Stirred? Shaken. Chaos and control are excited into communion by the mysterious motions of ice inside the darkness of a cocktail shaker.
Shark vs. Grizzly? Depends on which one went to the Jedi Academy. I'd bet on Jedi grizzlies before Jedi sharks, though. Also I blame grizzly bears more than Don Ness for the absence of shark attacks in our fine city.
Dinosaurs or Unicorns? DINOCORNS!!!!!
Chris Monroe – Bartender
Chris Monroe is a Duluth native who spends her time alternating between being a children's book author and illustrator, cartoonist, and purveyor of fine cocktails. Sometimes it is hard to keep those things separate, but so far she hasn't brought gin or aquavit to any schools or children's book events.
Favorite song to bottle to? Don't have one, since I never bottle. (*I have some issues with my hands- so I'm saving them for drawing.*) If I did it would be Eric Satie's "Gymnopedie #1" or Motorhead's "Ace Of Spades."
Spirit spirit? Vikre Cedar Gin- it's like a peaceful Sasquatch watching you from behind a pine tree.
Shaken or Stirred? Shaken of course. Shaken hard.
Shark vs Grizzly? Grizzly- adept on land or in water.
Dinosaurs or Unicorns? Unicorns
Candace Lacosse – Bartender
When Candace isn't moonlighting at Vikre, she's (very) busy running her one-woman show, Hemlocks Leatherworks, making shoes, sandals and leather goods one at a time with her own tiny hands. Traveling to show and teach her craft around the country, she's out of town often but couldn't ask for a better home base than Duluth and Lake Superior, or a better work family than Vikre's. Candace puts the rest of us to shame with the degree to which she embodies all things craft: woodworking, basketry, metal smithing, cooking, and of course craft cocktails. Shameless website plug: check out hemlocksleather.com.
Favorite song to bottle to? Chelsy's myriad podcasts.
Spirit spirit? Vikre Boreal Cedar: warm, robust, unique.
Shaken or Stirred? Definitely shaken. Citrusy cocktails all the way.
Shark vs. Grizzly? In what context? On land or in the sea? In a drunken bar brawl? I'll leave it at this: fiercely majestic, grizzly. Fiercely enigmatic, shark.
Dinosaurs or Unicorns? Dinosaurs. The fantastical grounded in proof. My favorite.
David Moreira - Liquid Justice Provider
Local and regional music or culture has been a continuing influence of Dave’s. With a background in art, design and printmaking, most of his time is now spent illustrating joy through the craft of cocktails behind the bar at Vikre Distillery. White Bear Lake is Dave’s hometown, but since attending UMD in 2007, Duluth has become home. He has worked with Ochre Ghost, Northern Prints, and Prøve galleries to elevate the arts, developed Chaperone Records with album art production, fondled food at Pizza Lucé, been a Sandwich Artist at Northern Waters Smokehaus after eating there so often he knew the recipes before being offered the job, and Dave runs his own screen printing studio, SkatRadioh. Yes, he did do the chalkboards, but Dave says, nothing beats the general creativity and ingenuity of the company as a whole at Vikre. His spare time is often spent at home with a good movie or at the beach when the weather permits. Otherwise you may find Dave boarding down an active volcano side in Nicaragua, in a local mini ramp with his skateboard, developing the new Snackchat app, or narrowly evading dinosaurs using his wit, charm and understanding of Chaos Theory as a mathematician.
Favorite song to bottle to? Anything by Lemon Jelly
Spirit spirit? Something mixed a bit tart or else matching my bubbly personality.
Shaken or Stirred? Shaken with passion.
Shark vs. Grizzly? With the documentaries I’ve recently seen, Shark. They’ve been using tornadoes to their advantage these days.
Dinosaurs or Unicorns? Dinosaurs eat unicorns.
Sarah Lee – distiller and Cleanliness Enforcer
Sarah comes from a super small, shrinking township in rural NE Lower MI, but came to Duluth by way of Ashland, WI. She can't seem to give up the Great Lakes – according to her, “it's really humbling to live in places where nature truly dictates how life happens.” Sarah has been working in craft beer for nine years and every community She’s ever lived in has a brewery (even her tiny hometown).
She came to Vikre because she “truly wanted to be working for a company with every potential and one that was looking to improve the industry and make positive changes for everyone in craft distilling.” More personally- she lives with her partner of nine years, their two ridiculous huskies, and old cat. She loves to play with her chickens and bees and to spend hours in her garden.
Favorite song to bottle to? I don't have a favorite song, but I do have a few favorite albums - I love to listen to Parachute, Something Corporate, or Jack's Mannequin. I'm a sucker for emo and piano/alternative rock...yeah super 90's of me...
Spirit spirit? My spirit spirit? I'm understanding this as the spirit that speaks to me, that feels like the thing that was meant to be; I have two answers: from our products: Øvrevann Aquavit and from another distillery: St. George’s Terroir (although I have a special place in my heart for Botanivore)
Shaken or Stirred? I like my cocktails shaken, something about bubbles and effervescence...
Shark vs. Grizzly? This one got me...are they fighting, are they in an aptitude test? They each win in their natural environments.
Dinosaurs or Unicorns? Unicorns! Because magical creatures are awesome and well, magical; and I like glitter.
Lindsay Love – Bartender
“Hello Humans, Lindsay here...just an optimistic realist (with the occasional foul mouth) from the backwoods of Wisconsin, who has a wanderlust that leaves me happily living vicariously through myself!” Lindsay calls Duluth home because “it's the only place I've left that excites me to come back to, yet comforts me like a warm sweater fresh out of the dryer.” Currently she’s building a house, learning stained glass, helping raise 2 little minions with a wonderful man, and loving every day she comes to work to sling hand crafted delicious cocktails, and she does it all while mainlining coffee...winning! She prefers her puns intentional, music is her soulmate, and she’s exceptionally humble...wink! No, but seriously, humble.
Favorite song to bottle to? Anything by Caravan Palace
Spirit spirit? Rum for this Pirate! (Vikre Spirit-Vodka...sorry, not sorry)
Shaken or Stirred? Shaken
Shark vs. Grizzly? Grizzly, he can run, swim, and climb trees!
Dinosaurs or Unicorns? Dinosaurs...Brontosaurus' Rule!
Jessica Liszewski - Bartender
Jessica grew up in a small Wisconsin town. After experimenting with city and rural farm living she found her way up to Duluth, and it has been her home for 7 years now. In that time she has developed an agate eagle eye and a penchant for Lake Superior swimming. She has also co-founded and directs an independent art gallery and has refined a mediocre, but still convincing, loon call.
Favorite song to bottle to? 80s-90s pop and Shoegaze
Spirit spirit? rye whiskey (spirit cocktail: The Sazerac)
Shaken or Stirred? stirred (dolphinitely!)
Shark vs. Grizzly? grolar bear (part grizzly bear-part polar bear)
Dinosaurs or Unicorns? unicorn (because, you know, magic! And the 1985 film Legend)
Sara Fuhs – Bartender and kitchen prep wizard
Fuhs was born and raised in Duluth. Her background is in education, which is probably why she can always school the rest of us in the kitchen. She has an unfair advantage in her ninja-like ability to create snack platters or cook up three syrups at a time because she is also the head of catering and the juggling of other tasks at Northern Waters Smokehaus. We don’t know if she can juggle other things like balls or clubs or things that are on fire. But probably she can. Fuhs has always been a big fan of books and dumplings and travel and wilderness. She loves the quiet of working in the kitchen but also the bustle of a busy bar, and she feels very lucky to have been adopted into the Vikre family and couldn't love this gin joint more.
Favorite song(s) to make tonic to? Psychedelic folk rock, rap, the new mixtape you are compiling
Spirit spirit? Campari
Shaken or Stirred? whichever the sweet bartender chooses
Shark vs. Grizzly? Is this battle on land or at sea? Are they even fighting?
Dinosaurs or Unicorns? Dinosaurs. Unless it's The Last Unicorn. Otherwise Dinosaurs, always.
Hally Sharrow - Bartender
Hally came in with the comet! Hailing from Superior. She has a Bachelor's of Science degree in Public Health and Psychology. After college she spent seasons studying community food systems and organic farming in New York and Kentucky. She is happy to be back in the great north woods and call this place home! Moving at full speed and full capacity feeds her.
Interests: holistic health, yoga, meditation, the Moon, music, art, traveling, tennis, cross country skiing, spending time with friends and family, wandering the woods with her dog Illah, vegetables, juicing, fermenting, cosmic encounters, living in the present moment.
Vikre is a passion project. Hally feels fortunate to work in such a real, open, and innovative environment with loved ones. The more time passes the more extraordinary this experience becomes!
Favorite song to bottle to? Hmm... So many! Fleetwood Mac, Haim, My Morning Jacket, Marvin Gaye, Neil Young and David Bowie are my go-to's
Spirit spirit? Sugarbush Whiskey - Young, simple, strong, sweet and complex!
Shaken or Stirred? Stirred - translucent and spirit forward!
Shark vs. Grizzly? Each animal would win in their respective environment.
Dinosaurs or nicorns? Unicorn! So much MAGIC!
Matt Mobely – Bartender
Matthew Mobley was born and raised in Duluth. After graduating from UMD with a degree in Jazz Studies, he has played extensively as a freelance musician. Matthew plays upright bass in any type of ensemble and enjoys most all types of music from Chopin to Steely Dan. He plays regularly with the bands Red Mountain, Coyote, and the traditional dixieland band the St. Louis River Rats. In his free time he enjoys biking, the beach, and making the perfect sazerac. You should talk to him, he is a very nice man!
Favorite song to bottle to? Bottle of Gin by The Magnetic Fields
Spirit spirit? Rye Whiskey
Shaken or stirred? Shaken
Shark vs. grizzly? No fighting please
Dinosaurs or Unicorns? Is there such a thing as a unisaur?
Ellen Vaagen – Bartender
Ellen Vaagen grew up on the windy plains near Fargo, ND. In her search for higher education and, well, hills and trees, she moved to Duluth, MN in 2007. Ellen holds a degree in Cultural Anthropology and Environmental Studies, which is being put to very good use as a bartender and sauce entrepreneur. Her various hobbies and interests include vegan cooking, eating, reading, drinking, writing, and did we mention eating? She is in the process of starting her own business, Vaagen's Vegan Sauce, which will retail vegan sauces as meal starters to aid people in their transitions to a plant-based diet. Ellen is thrilled to be a part of Team Vikre. Cheers!
Favorite song to bottle to? I'm so new I haven't done any bottling, but I imagine I'd enjoy listening to something by the Parliafunkadelicment Thang like I do all of the time.
Spirit spirit? I'm a bourbon gal through and through and enjoy sipping the finer names when I get the chance, but when it comes to weeknights at the bars, Jim Beam's my man.
Shaken or Stirred? Stirred because of its requirement in my favorite cocktail: The Manhattan.
Shark vs. Grizzly? Probably the grizzly because it has limbs and claws.
Dinosaurs or Unicorns? Unicorns because they are much more beautiful and are less likely to attack or eat me.
ESPEN VIKRE - DISTILLERY toddler
Espen is the head of the distillery’s cuteness division. He holds a Masters of Science in adorableness and is working on a PhD in being a darling. If anyone tries to call him anything along the lines of sweetie, sweetheart, buddy, or sillypants mcpherson, he will swiftly correct you (in an adorable little voice) and tell you, "actually, I am a worker man."
SQUID - DISTILLERY DOG
Squid considers herself head of distillery security, and spends her time monitoring smells and watching passersby through the window when at the distillery. In her spare time she investigates the smells on the various running trails in town and goes on patrol to rout any squirrel that dares to descend from a tree.