Not to be overshadowed by a flourishing 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, and has been voted one of the best gins in the world. 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 still 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. Try their spirits at Corpse Reviver, the adjoining cocktail bar owned by the Katrincics, at plenty of restaurants and bars in Durham, or visit their distillery for a tour.
Brothers Vilgalys brings a taste of the Baltic region to Durham with Krupnikas, a traditional Lithuanian spiced honey liqueur. Sweetened with North Carolina wildflower honey and invigorated with spices, it's smooth enough to drink on its own and strong enough hold its own when mixed in a cocktail. In 2015 Brothers Vilgalys added four liqueurs to their lineup: Zaphod (guava and mint), Beebop (rhubarb and rosemary), Beatnik (beets and sage), and Japperwock (coffee, chicory and eucalyptus). Find their liqueur in Durham or visit the distillery.
Mystic Farm and Distillery started out making small-batch, handmade Mystic Bourbon Liqueur by blending mature bourbon with wildflower honey and nine spices. Nearly a decade later, it's the first bourbon distillery in the Triangle since prohibition known for its award-winning, limited-release Broken Oak Bourbon. Mystic is a farm-to-flask distillery and is the world’s largest solar-powered bourbon distillery. Located on a 22-acre site, visitors can visit the farm and fields, tour the distillery, learn about the distilling process and taste their products.
Liberty & Plenty is the newest distillery in downtown Durham, joining the space adjacent to The Rickhouse. Like Durham Distillery, it includes an adjoining cocktail bar where patrons will soon be able to taste their Bronze Bull Spirits Bourbon and Slate Belt Vodka. Owner Tina Williford earned her expertise at Scotland's renowned Heriot-Watt University and joins the estimated one percent of female-owned distilleries in the US. The distillery has plans to produce rum, whiskey, gin, and flavored vodkas.
Bull City Ciderworks crafts gluten-free hard ciders made with 100 percent 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 Sweet Carolina infused with local honey for a taste of the South.
Honeygirl Meadery is a small urban meadery that celebrates nature and the work of honeybees by making small-batch meads (honey wines) with seasonal fruits, flowers, herbs and honey. Made in Durham NC, Honeygirl meads are hand-crafted libations made in small batches with all-natural ingredients.
Moon Dog Meadery is a co-op brewery that produces dry and semi-sweet mead, building on traditional techniques to produce seasonal flavors like mixed berry and orange vanilla. The bar and bottle shop carries a wide selection of NC-made craft beverages and hosts board game nights and comedy shows.
Beyond the distilleries, Durham’s craft cocktail scene booms with each new bar that opens. You can try a uniquely Durham gin and tonic at Alley Twenty Six with their delicious handmade tonic. Or, have your tarot cards read over a beverage at Arcana Bar & Lounge. Many other Durham establishments are ready for you to experience the talent and creativity of their bartenders and mixologists nightly.