Imagine relaxing around a table with friends, each sipping a craft cocktail sharing scratch-made snacks. Now imagine the cocktails are created with spirits made in that same building. Sounds inviting, doesn’t it? Well, you’re in luck … Cardinal Spirits, a craft distillery in Bloomington, now offers food pairings with their innovative, artisanal cocktails—and it’s the only distillery in Indiana to do so.

Themenu at Cardinal Spirits is small but mighty, much like the venue’s kitchen where everything is made from scratch using local ingredients whenever possible. It’s very snack-heavy, and everything is made to be shared so you’ll leave feeling full, but not stuffed.

Appetizers and more

My favorite thing to do when I’m dining out is order several appetizers and share bites with everyone I’m with. I love getting a taste of everything a restaurant offers instead of just trying one thing. Cardinal Spirits’ food menu is meant for just that—sharing—and everything on their menu makes it easy to do so (if you’re willing to).

Want something more substantial than an appetizer? Try the spring-pea risotto and bread and butter. The risotto is creamy and filling without being too rich and the bread is made in-house so it’s as fresh as fresh can be. Even more amazing is their butter, cultured in-house and served in its own buttermilk.

Want some meat but don’t want to be stuffed? Try the rib eye nuggets. It’s everything you expect from a rib eye, but topped with a green chimichurri sauce giving it a pop of bright flavor. And since you won’t be stuffed to the seams, you can’t miss out on dessert. Try the panna cotta cloud—typically a custard-like dessert, but Cardinal Spirits makes theirs with a lighter, fluffier texture. The name fits perfectly! With every bite, it feels like you’re eating a piece of cloud. It’s sweet, light and airy, and the strawberry and rhubarb accompaniment bring a bit of tartness to the delightful dish.

When I visited Cardinal Spirits, I was dying to know which cocktail pairs best with each dish. But Cardinal Spirits wants to stray away from the somewhat dated approach of pairing food to certain drinks. Each dish tastes good on its own but doesn’t overshadow the flavor of their cocktails, and vice versa. Their summer cocktail menu features a lot of light, fizzy and refreshing drinks that go well with food.

Cardinal Spirits plans to change their food menu seasonally, if not more frequently. As of now, they serve food Tuesdays through Saturdays from 4 p.m. to an hour before close, which varies each day. See their websitefor more details. In the future, they’re aiming to serve food every day of the week. Brunch is a future possibility, too.

Cardinal Spirits | 922 S. Morton St., Bloomington |

Editor’s note: Since publishing this article, we have learned they are no longer offering the rib eye nuggets. However, they have added many new items to their lineup so rest assured no matter what you order your tastebuds will be delighted. Here are some examples: Heirloom tomato tart – farmers market tomatoes and basil nestled in housemade puff pastry ($6); Chicken over a heap of local sweet corn, mushrooms, onions and cilantro ($15); Sashimi – hamachi with watermelon, oranges, basil and Thai chili ($9).

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