Durham's got spirit - make that spirits. Not to be overshadowed by an exploding brewery scene, our craft distilleries, cideries, and meaderies are making a name for themselves in the beverage world. For the chic patron wanting to sip a classic gin and tonic, or the gluten-free traveler ready for a glass of seasonal mead or hard cider, here's where to find your next great craft beverage in the Bull City.
> Durham Distillery is leading a gin renaissance in the South. Led by scientist team Melissa and Lee Katrincic, the pair combines traditional gin making methods with modern-day chemistry to create spirits and liqueurs that are both classic and fresh. The beautifully bottled Conniption Gin is distilled in a custom-designed German copper pot for the ultimate crisp taste and clean flavor profile. The coffee, mocha, and chocolate flavors of Damn Fine Liqueurs utilize ingredients from local Triangle artisans Slingshot Coffee Company and Videri Chocolate Factory.
Tours & Tastings: 45-minute behind-the-scene tours are $10 per person and offered between 4-6 p.m. on Saturdays and some Fridays. The tours visit the back of the distillery, include an in-depth discussion on how the gins and liqueurs are made, and conclude with a tasting and a gift souvenir shot glass. Quick tours are Friday evenings from 6-9 p.m. and on Saturday from 2-4 p.m. These tours are $7, do not require a reservation, and include a tasting flight and souvenir shot glass.
Where to Buy & Where to Drink: Durham Distillery products are sold in ABC stores across North Carolina. Try a cocktail in many Durham bars and restaurants, including Dashi, Alley Twenty Six, and Counting House.
> Brothers Vilgalys brings a taste of the Baltic region to Durham with Krupnikas, a traditional Lithuanian Spice Honey Liqueur. It's sweetened with North Carolina wildflower honey with a spicy kick, and it's smooth enough to drink on its own or mixed in a cocktail. Last year the team at Brother Vilgalys released four new liqueurs: Zaphod (guava and mint), Beebop (rhubarb and rosemary), Beatnik (beets and sage), and Japperwock (coffee, chicory and eucalyptus).
Tours & Tastings: Tours with complimentary tastings are offered 4-7 p.m., Wednesday through Friday, and 2-5 p.m. on Saturdays, starting every hour.
Where to Buy & Where to Drink: The Brothers Vilgalys products are sold in ABC stores across North Carolina. Try a cocktail featuring Krupnikas in Durham bars and restaurants like Geer St. Garden, Piedmont Restaurant, and Motorco Music Hall.
> Two Doors Distilling is the brainchild of Tyler Huntington, the founder of Tyler's Restaurant and Taproom. The craft distillery will soon open in a historic tobacco warehouse in Durham, producing rum, whiskey, vodka, gin and, of course, moonshine. There's a rumor they're even considering producing absinthe and liqueurs. All products will be made from regionally sourced grains and ingredients, even some from their own farm.
> Barrister & Brewer is best known for Mystic Bourbon Liqueur, a blend of bourbon, wildflower honey, and spices. The distiller recently opened a new farm distillery on 22 acres, where they grow the wheat, corn, buckwheat, and other crops that are used to produce spirits. The Mystic team has plans to produce a single-barrel bourbon and other spirits in the future. The farm and its indoor event space are available for rental.
Tours & Tastings: You can visit the farm on Saturdays at 1, 3, and 5 p.m., as well as by appointment. Make your own barrel of bourbon from start to finish by participating in the Signle Barrel Experience.
Where to Buy & Where to Drink: You can find Mystic Bourbon Liqueur at local ABC stores or purchase Barrister & Brewer's spirits at the farm.
> Bull City Ciderworks crafts gluten-free hard ciders made with 100% apple juice and no high fructose corn syrup. Falling somewhere on the spectrum between wine and beer, the ciders incorporate flavors from honey, black tea, hops, ginger, tart cherries, bacon, candy corn and hibiscus to create unique ciders different from any other on the market. Try a cider from their core menu, like the Steep South, cold steeped for hours with black tea and honey, or a flavor from their seasonal menu like Orange You a Hippie, steeped with orange peel and hibiscus flowers.
> Honeygirl Meadery hand-crafts meads, wines made with honey and seasonal fruits, flowers, herbs. Made in small batches with all natural ingredients, the mission of the meadery is to let sippers ‘drink the field' and taste all the places the honeybees visited, all reflecting a specific time and place. Earlier this year, the Blueberry mead won a silver medal and the Hibiscus Lemonthyme mead won a bronze medal in the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition.
Tours & Tastings: The Tasting Room at Honeygirl Meadery is open Saturdays, from 1- 6 p.m, and free tours are given at 2, 3, and 4 p.m. Guests can taste the current line-up of meads for $5 and keep a souvenir Honeygirl Meadery glass. No reservations required.
Where to Buy & Where to Drink: Find Honeygirl Meadery on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon at the Durham Farmers' Market. You can also buy bottles at local stores Bull Craft Bottle Shop, King's Red & White, and The Glass Jug.