Back in April, Durham kicked off their 150th anniversary celebration. Bars in town created special, original cocktails made from Conniption Gin and Navy Strength Conniption Gin which is produced in the Bull City at Durham Distillery. I had an assignment from another publication to drink my way through that list—in one night.
Beforehand, I visited the Durham Distillery to get an idea of what went into that gin I’d be swilling.
Founded in 2013 by Melissa Katrincic with her chemist husband and head distiller Lee, the multi-award-winning distillery turns out two types of gin, a light and fragrant cucumber vodka, their three Damn Fine Liqueurs (Damn Fine’s the name of them, and a pretty apt, if racy description), and three canned cocktails.
In a bright, open space is Gertrude, a gorgeous, shiny copper still that looks more steampunk than mountain moonshine. She sits in place of pride, next to a piece of scientific equipment that was originally invented to make medicine but is used by the distillery to infuse flavors, like the fresh, ripe cucumber essence in their vodka.
The coffee liqueur is made with Raleigh’s Slingshot coffee, the chocolate uses Videri chocolate, and the mocha is chock full of a heavenly combination of both. And, they are all delicious as is, in cocktails, or recipes. For an easy, yet decadent dessert for adults, pour the coffee liqueur over a couple scoops of chocolate sorbet.
Then there’s the canned cocktails. They started with two: Conniption Gin and tonic, and Cucumber Vodka and soda. Last week they launched their newest offering, Conniption Rosé Spritz; a light, bubbly drink that reminds me of the pink champagne we served at our wedding.
To celebrate, they had a launch party on the roof of Raleigh’s newest high-rise, One Glenwood South. There were many attractive and sophisticated people attending, and me. Everyone had chilled cans of the Rosé Spritz to sample, some Conniption Gin swag, and a spread put on by Wegman’s, a grocery chain that is beloved by its customers. The first of four NC Wegman’s will be opening in September, in Raleigh.
One of the items was gazpacho. Gazpacho is a cold veggie soup, which unfortunately is usually just V8 juice in a bowl. Wegman’s version, however, is delicious; fresh, bright, and refreshing with complex flavors. It was served in shot glasses and garnished with a drizzle of pumpkin oil and charred raw corn.
Chef Rob Santiago will be the executive chef of the new Raleigh location, and generously sent me the recipe, along with permission to share.
1 seedless cucumber, peeled, 1-inch dice (about 2 ½ cups)
1 red sweet pepper, cored, seeded, 1-inch dice
½ onion, peeled, 1-inch dice
3 cloves Food You Feel Good About Cleaned & Cut Peeled Garlic, minced
1 bottle (46 oz) Food You Feel Good About Vegetable Juice (In the absence of a Wegman’s can substitute V8)
3 tomatoes on-the-vine, cored, 1-inch dice
¼ cup Italian Classics Organic Red Wine Vinegar
¼ cup Wegmans Pure Olive Oil
Juice of 1 lime (about 2 Tbsp)
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded, (wear gloves when handling), chopped
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
½ tsp salt
Add cucumber, pepper, onion, garlic, vegetable juice, tomatoes, vinegar, olive oil, lime juice, pepper, cilantro, jalapeno, and salt to stockpot.
Puree with hand-held blender. Chill 2 hours and serve.
If you’d like to visit Gertrude, nerd out at their liquor laboratory, and maybe meet the hands and minds behind Conniption products, they offer tours at the Durham Distillery (711 Washington Street, Durham). Visit their website (durhamdistillery.com) for scheduling and availability. Post-tour, you can purchase bottles, cans, and swag. They’re also sold at some local ABC stores.
Thanks for your time.
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