Durham Distillery

Durham Distillery: Drinking Local with Gin, Vodka and Damn Fine Liqueurs

Time to get your craft cocktailing on.  I find myself on a constant mission to share fabulous ways to eat and drink with local products. To that end, every six weeks or so, I publish a round up of local North and South Carolina brands and products to keep you eating and drinking local.

These are all products I enjoy and brands I believe in.  Brands I think you will love, too!

In this local craft cocktail recipe post, I’m featuring Durham Distillery from Durham, North Carolina in our collective glass! 

Let me introduce you to each of the Durham Distillery products first; then I’ll share a few tasty recipes I know you’ll want to try.

Durham Distillery

But, first, let’s raise a glass and say, “Cheers!” to North Carolina’s Durham Distillery, recently named the # 1 Craft Gin distillery in the United States by USA TODAY. And, that’s not all – the awards keep on coming.  Also named the winner of Best Distillery and Best Local Liquor by Indy Week, for the past three years running, Durham Distillery is shaking things up in the world of craft cocktails.

Durham Distillery

It’s Always a Great Time to Have a Conniption

Durham Distillery’s Conniption Gin comes in two incarnations: American Dry Gin and Navy Strength. The American Dry is a sophisticated Southern answer to a typical Dry London gin. Still heavy with the flavor of juniper, the process for making Conniption also involves a marriage of botanical flavors that bring that classic juniper to a whole new level.

Durham Distillery’s Navy Strength Gin, like all Navy strength gins, is higher in alcohol than its American-style sibling.  But that’s not all, Conniption’s Navy Strength packs a most flavorful punch and, like its American cousin, has the awards to prove it.  The “Navy Strength” moniker comes from the British Royal Navy, a group serious about its gin and the level of alcohol it contains.

Both varieties of Conniption Gin make outstanding cocktails and are great for cooking as well. Substitute a third to a half cup of Conniption in any pork or chicken marinade calling for juniper berries in the sauce or marinade. Not only will you be pleased with the results but you’ll be able to Eat Local and Drink Local all in the same bite!

Additionally, gin it seems, is great for your arthritis. It may be a homespun homeopathic solution, but it works! My recipes for Conniption Gin marinated Stuffed Braised Pork Chops and a way to ease arthritis pain follows….

On the Sweeter Side: Durham Distillery’s Damn Fine Liqueurs

At holiday time, we tend to turn to liqueurs in holiday cocktails; and use them as an after dinner libation as well. These tall skinny bottles from the Durham Distillery Damn Fine Liqueur line, are indeed “Damn Fine” and make for great mixers , too!  In 2017, about this same time of year, I featured the Damn Fine Chocolate liqueur made with real chocolate from the chocolatiers at Videri in Raleigh NC; and the Damn Fine Coffee liqueur made with Slingshot Coffee, also based in Raleigh in my annual holiday Drink Local blog post.

Durham Distillery

This year, I am loving the Damn Fine Mocha blend as well.

If the Durham Distillery’s Chocolate and Coffee liqueurs were to have a baby, it would be this oh, so delicious Mocha liqueur. Its a damn fine blending of alcohol, cream, Videri chocolate and Slingshot Coffee. How have we lived without it?

Use the Coffee or Mocha liqueurs in your next White Russian – simply blend one part Durham Distillery’s Damn Fine Liqueur, one part Conniption Gin (the traditional recipe calls for Vodka, but the Conniption takes it up a notch) and one part local or organic heavy cream. For a thicker, frothier play on the cocktail, whip the cream to stiff peaks and then fold in into the alcohol. Pour over ice and enjoy!

When Dessert Calls for a Cocktail

Durham Distillery

Durham Distillery’s Damn Fine Chocolate Liqueur  has many possibilities as well, both in the glass and over just about any dessert.  Use it to add a kick to any chocolate truffle or rum ball recipe; or drizzle it over ice cream or a brownie ala mode.

For a fun frozen after-dinner cocktail make a blend equal parts of the mocha and coffee liqueurs with coffee ice cream and pour into stemmed glasses. Top with whipped cream and some crushed peppermint or crumbled brownie to really take it over the top.

Durham Distillery Cucumber Vodka 

For Vodka lovers, Durham Distillery’s Cold Distilled Cucumber flavored Vodka offers a light and refreshing alternative to the stronger taste of their signature Conniption Gin. For me, there is a certain cosmic karma between cucumbers and lemon.  I enjoy a pour of this cucumber vodka with a wedge or zest of lemon and a splash of soda. In the summer blend it with frozen raspberries and frozen lemonade for an adult summer cooler. For special holiday treat, and a great gift your friends will enjoy all year round, follow  the recipe at the end of this post for make-you-own limoncello. 

Canned Cocktails are the Next Great New Thing

As you are aware, purchases of alcohol in the state of North Carolina must go through and be approved by each individual ABC board. 
Well. I’ve found a great product that you are going to love; and now I need your help to get it into every county in the state. My friends at Durham Distillery in Durham NC, are walking the walk on the cutting edge of craft cocktailing with a fabulous new product, in an incredibly clever package. Behold, the all-local, Canned Cocktail!

Durham Distillery

You know I wouldn’t steer you wrong…these ready to drink cocktails are delicious! Just chill, pop and sip. The can holds two pours of standard-sized craft cocktails. Think of the possibilities. Easy-peasy bartending, tailgating without the mess, stocking stuffers, the list goes on and on!  You can drink them as they are – pour them over ice or, if you’re feeling creative, doctor them up with a splash of cranberry, OJ or tomato juice and some fun garnishes.

Each can holds enough for two cocktails made with premium Durham Distillery spirits. The Gin & Tonic is a mix of Conniption Gin and Durham Distillery’s made-in-house tonic; while the Vodka & Soda is a refreshing blend of Durham Distillery’s Cucumber Vodka and soda – No Preservations, No GMOs, No Gluten, and, while they are available in Durham NC and at the Distillery;  right now, sadly,  No Way for all of us in Charlotte and surrounds to purchase these wonderful cocktails in Mecklenburg County.

What can you do to help insure availability?

Go to your local ABC store and ask for them to order the product. The more requests, the more they will realize the need. Take this photo on your phone, so they will see that it is a real distilled product and not a wine-based drink that might sell in a grocery store. Meanwhile, I’m reaching out to the Mecklenburg County ABC Board with a request to order. I think, together, we’ll get it done; and I’ll be sure to keep you posted on the progress – I’m a woman on a mission!

And now on to the recipes….

Heidi’s Cucumber Vodka Limoncello

Durham Distillery

Recipe adapted by Charlotte Culinary Expert, Heidi Billotto

10 organic lemons

1 (750-ml) bottle Durham Distillery Cold Distilled Cucumber Infused Vodka

3 1/2 cups water

2 1/2 cups organic sugar

Peel lemons and place the peels in a large glass container with the vodka. Squeeze the pulp and use the juice for other recipes.

Steep for 4 days.

Make a sugar syrup by combining the sugar and water and cooking just until the sugar dissolves. Cool; then pour into the container with the vodka and the lemon  peel. Allow to stand for at least another 24 hours – the longer it stands the better. Strain the peel from the liquid. Toss the spent peelings; but keep the liquid – now Limoncello – in glass bottles or jars stored in the freezer for perfect results you will love with each and every sip!

Conniption Gin Elderberry Ginger Jam Martini

Durham Distillery

I don’t know about you, but as I stir and shake up craft cocktails for parties or friends, I love incorporating as much local product from the Carolinas as I can. In this delightful pink elixer, I’ve incorporated product from Norm’s Farm in Pittsboro NC,  one of the largest grower of the American Black Elderberry in the Southeastern United States. Norm’s Farm’s syrups are available in Charlotte in Whole Foods and you’ll find the jams and jellies at many locations around town including Orrmans Cheese Shop at 7th Street market in Uptown Charlotte; and in most locations of EarthFare and Fresh Market.

2-3 springs of fresh mint

2 oz. Norm’s Farms Elderberry Ginger syrup

1 oz. Norm’s Farms Elderberry Wellness Formula

A heavy-handed 2 ounce pour of Durham Distillery’s Conniption Gin

1 Tbsp. Norm’s Farms Elderberry Jam

Crushed Ice

Club soda

Fresh sprigs of mint for garnish

In a cocktail shaker (or a Mason jar with a tight fitting lid), begin by muddling the mint leaves to bring out their flavor.  Add the Elderberry ginger syrup, the Elderberry Wellness formula, Durham Distillery’s Conniption Gin and Elderberry Jam with several cubes of ice.

Put the lid on the shaker and shake vigorously, then shake some more to thoroughly blend and chill!

Strain the cocktail into a glass over ice. Top with a splash of club soda and garnish with a sprig of mint and a slice of candied ginger and enjoy!

Conniption Gin Braised & Stuffed Local Pork Chops

Durham Distillery

In Charlotte, one of my go-to’s for pasture raised pork is A Way of Life Farm, sold at the Charlotte Regional Farmers’ Market in Building A, every Saturday morning.  For this recipe, prepare the chops with a slit cut through to the bone to form a pocket.

4  local bone-in pork rib chops. 

For the marinade:

1 cup dry white wine

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 sprig rosemary

2 bay leaves

1 Tbsp. Herbs de Provence

1/2 cup Conniption Gin

For the stuffing:

1 cup chopped fresh flat leaf Italian parsley

2 Tbsp. Herbs de Provence

1 cup Local Italian Pork Sausage 

OuterBanks SeaSalt and Heidi’s Hot Pepper Blend*

2 local eggs

1 cup dry seasoned bread crumbs

2 Tbsp olive oil

2 cups local or organic stock

Marinate the chops for several hours, turning it occasionally. Remove chops from the marinade and pat it dry with paper towels. Reserve the remaining marinade.

Durham Distillery

While the chops are marinating, prepare the stuffing by Combining the stuffing ingredients and blending well.

Fill  the pocket you cut in each chop with an equal amount of the stuffing mix. Season the outside of each chop with Outer Banks Sea Salt and Heidi’s Hot Pepper Blend.

Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven. When the oil is hot and aromatic, sear the chops on both sides until nicely browned. Remove the chops and deglaze the pan with the reserved marinade.

Return the chops to the deglazed pan and add enough of the broth so that the liquid in the pan comes one-half of the way up the side of the meat. Cover the pot and place it in a 325 oven for about an hour.

Serve over mushroom risotto, potatoes, local grits or polenta

*A Recipe Tip from Heidi Billotto

“Heidi’s Hot Pepper Blend” is a flavorful mix of Black Lampong Peppercorns, Black Malabar Peppercorns, Pink Reunion Peppercorns and coriander seed. Grind everything together in a coffee grinder. For best results grind in small batches as needed. Clean your coffee grinder by grinding 2-3 tablespoons of coffee beans in the grinder once you have finished with the pepper. Toss those ground beans away. They will act has a filter and clean the pepper taste from the grinder. 

Heidi Billotto

Arthritis-Be-Gone with Golden Raisins in Conniption Gin

While I am not a  doctor or a nurse, and I don’t even play one on TV,  I do believe in trying homeopathic solutions for a problem before I turn to conventional medications. My husband Tom Billotto and I learned about gin-soaked raisins in an episode of The People’s Pharmacy, years ago and thought it was worth a try. Low and Behold, it works…. 

Durham Distillery

Simply fill a shallow bowl with golden raisins. Pour a dry gin, like Conniption American or Navy Strength over the raisins to cover completely. Cover the bowl with a paper towel and allow the raisins to stand at room temperature overnight or until they have soaked up all the gin. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator and eat 10 raisins every morning to help alleviate the pain of arthritis.

I’m not making any medical claims here for myself, or on behalf of Durham Distillery. All I can say is, it worked for the arthritis Tom has had in his fingers after years of professionally playing classical and acoustic guitar. 

If it doesn’t work for you, all is not lost and the soaking of the raisins will have not been in vain. Just use them in your next recipe for banana bread or bran muffins as a delicious addition that will pack a bit of a punch!

With Thanks to Durham Distillery… 

Durham Distillery

For crafting  all of these wonderful ways to Drink Local. And, for partnering with HeidiBillottoFood.com on this sponsored post.

Durham Distillery is owned by husband and wife team Melissa and Lee Katrincic and is located in Durham NC at 711 Washington Street. Hour long tours of the distillery require an online reservations and are offered on Saturdays and most Thursday & Friday evenings.    For more information and to make a reservation, visit the Durham Distillery website.


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