Durham's got spirit — make that spirits.
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 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 is best known for its small-batch handmade Mystic Bourbon Liqueur that blends mature bourbon with wildflower honey and nine spices. 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.
Graybeard Distillery offers smooth libations distilled from non-genetically modified organisms rice in the form of Bedlam Vodka. They promise a smooth, "drinkable" quality to consumers, and it is the largest grain-to-glass distiller in North Carolina.
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.
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. Bar Brunello might only serve wine (with a small food menu, too), but not just any wine — they have the largest selection of orange wine in the world. Many other Durham establishments are ready for you to experience the talent and creativity of their bartenders and mixologists nightly.