Drink Local Cocktails and Mocktails

Six – well, seven plus – sensational ways to Drink Local with cocktails and mocktails easy enough for any home bartender. All of them with made with water, juice, coffee, syrups and local spirits produced right here in North Carolina! Celebrate the season drinking local product all through the holidays and on into the New Year , too.

It’s always a pleasure to share what I do and what I write with a tease of a post on local television. Here is the link to a segment I taped with Mia Atkins via Zoom recently for WCNC’s Charlotte Today featuring everything you’ll find in today’s post. Give it a watch and then read on for all the delicious details.

First things First: Great Cocktails and Mocktails Starts with Great Ice

The larger your ice cubes, the faster your cocktails and mocktails will chill and the less they will dilute. Well worth buying a set of round or square oversized ice cube molds to keep filled in the freezer or have on hand when you bartending services are needed.

The best Cocktails and Mocktails start with Le Bleu Ultra Pure Water from Advance, NC

Ice starts with water which brings up to our first locally produced beverage of the post: Le Bleu Water. This bottled water is processed and bottled in Advance, North Carolina and is steam vapor distilled so its ultra pure with no minerals or chemicals. No minerals and no chemicals means your ice is “see-through” clear and harder than ice made with tap or home filtered waters.

With Le Bleu waters now you can edible flowers, herbs or fruit to your ice that can be clearly seen in your cocktails. This way the garnish is in your drink, not on it. And the drinker doesn’t have to do any work to enjoy the cocktail or mocktail. No squeezing or stirring required. Just serve and sip and enjoy.

Ultra Pure Water means Flavors Shine Through

I’ve known about Le Bleu water for some time, but I really learned more about it this year at the NC State Fair. Le Bleu had a booth in the GotToBeNC pavilion and they were kind enough to keep our chefs and chefs’ table participants at the cooking stage, where I was hosting back to back cooking demos, well hydrated.

What I also discovered at the fair and since, is that Le Bleu is wonderful when it comes to cooking. Everything you add to a dish has a flavor, including the water you use. Nothing worse than starting with tap or even a bottled or filtered water that tastes of salt, cholrine, chemicals or sulfur. Because Le Bleu Ultra Pure Waters hold no inorganic additives, the flavor is as crystal clear as the ice it makes.

Cook with Le Bleu, Too

It’s perfect for cooking local grains and veggies, making sauces and it’s a no brainer when it comes to brewing coffee and tea or making lemonade. And, your four-legged friends will love it, too! It’s a great way to start to set a table of all local NC fare, as we did at the “Chef’s Table” at the Got To Be NC cooking stage at the 2021 NC State Fair.

Le Bleu waters are available in single bottles of several sizes at local markets, grocery and farm stores. Or, even easier you can have it delivered to your home or office in 3 and 5 gallon containers and always have it on hand. Treat yourself, you’ll be glad you did. For more info call 1-800-854-4471 or visit LeBleu.com

Forget the Cranberries and Pomegranates, instead juice up Cocktails and Mocktails with North Carolina’s Mighty Muscadine

Muscadines and Scuppernongs are a real treat when they are in season and are North Carolina’s very own super food and antioxidant. The fruit, the seeds and the skin are all edible and superfruit good for you, too! When fresh grapes are out of season, enjoy them in pure juice form offered by Mighty Muscadine. This is juice is made from local NC muscadine grapes – not a concentrate or flavoring, but 100 percent juice with no added sugar. It’s sold in BPA free bottles which makes it even better. As you will see through out this post, Mighty Muscadine makes a great starter to any cocktail or mocktail recipe. This season give it a try in place of cranberry or pomegranate juice in all of your favorite recipes. You know I wouldn’t steer you wrong, trust me on this one.

With these great grapes you can really mean it when you raise your glass and say, “To Your Health”

With more health benefits that Goji Berries or Acai, muscadines can certainly be called the “King of the Superfruits.” You’ll love using this juice for all of your cocktailing and mocktailing adventures as it pairs well with all sorts of citrus and shines blended with vodka or gin. Warm it with spices as you would apple cider and you’ve got a hot toddy that really packs a punch.

You can also buy Mighty Muscadine in the form of an extract and really wonderful Health & Energy shot, that I absolutely love. And, the company offers the health benefits of NC muscadines in a line of skin care products, plant-based pea protein powders and grape seed supplements. I haven’t tried them all yet, but have on my list for the new year. Stay tuned for details. It all comes to you right out of Advance NC, at the home of Le Bleu Water.

For more information and all the where-to-buy details, visit MightyMuscadine.com or call 336-940-6620.

1000 Piers Gin from Hackney Distillery in  Washington NC

Next, it’s my pleasure to introduce you to another fabulous award-winning gin from North Carolina. 1000 Piers Gin is a London-Style gin from the Hackney Distillery in Washington NC.

The Hackney and 1000 Piers came onto my radar because the distillery is associated with the widely acclaimed Hackney Restaurant where you can find the talented Chef Jamie Davis at the helm. I know Jamie and have followed him on social media for some time – you should too. Find Jaime on Instagram at @CarolinaChef. He is doing amazing things and is a big supporter of local farms and producers. What’s not to love?

Drink Local with 1000 Piers at The Hackney and Across the State

This creative and crowd pleasing 1000 Piers Gin cocktail was crafted by Charlotte Mixologist David Schmidt and took People’s Choice honors in the 2021 NCRLA Chef Showdown competition

This year at the 2021 NCRLA Chef Showdown, 1000 Piers was crafted into a cocktail by the talented David Schmidt, the mixologist behind the bar at Fin & Fettle at the Canopy Hotel Southpark in Charlotte NC.

David regularly features 1000 Piers in his amazing cocktails. Go see him and get inspired. The cocktail pictured above was the duo’s entry in the competition and won them both People’s Choice Award Honors for 2021.

London Roots mean London-style Gin

In addition to tasting this crowd-pleasing cocktail at the 2021 NCRLA Chef Showdown, I was also pleased to meet Hackney Distillery and Restaurant owner Nick Sanders. Nick is from London so he knows his gin. While it can best be described as a London-style gin, 1000 Piers isn’t just about the juniper. It’s blended with other locally-sourced (yay!) botanicals which give it a fine smooth finish.

After the success of the original 1000 Piers, this fall the Hackney has just released a Blueberry version of the same. Currently it is only available at the distillery… sounds like it might be the perfect time to plan a visit.

In fact, Washington NC is one of the spots on my list for a three-day getaway in the coming year.I’m hoping it will be sooner than later! Can’t wait to taste all Jamie brings to the table; and then tour and taste at the Hackney Distillery while I am there. Both destinations promise to make for some terrifically tasty travel. You should plan to go to see them, as well.

For more on the Hackney Distillery and 1000 Piers Gin, visit, 1000piersgin.com For questions or to book a tour or tasting at the distillery, email: reservations@thehackneydistillery.com or call 252.623.2368

Next, Locally roasted Coffee takes the classic cocktails and mocktails up a notch

Meantime, I’m happy to enjoy the taste of 1000 Piers at home in Charlotte. For this post I offer you a delicious play on a classic – a Coffee laced G&T, made with Javesca Coffee Nitro cold brew and a splash of Alley Twenty Six Tonic Syrup blended into Le Bleu water to taste. A slice of orange adds the perfect finish. I must say, this one is delicious. If you don’t have the nitro cans then brew a fresh and delicious pot of Javesca coffee beans with Le Bleu water. Chill and use for cocktailing for the very best of flavors. To make a mocktail version of the same, omit the gin, go heavier on the Alley Twenty Six tonic syrup and add a couple of slices of orange, and serve over crushed ice.

The essence of orange is great in the class with the 1000 Piers Gin, as you will see in the next two recipes. Make coffee ice cubes or make Le Bleu ice cubes and stuff them with a wedge of orange, a slice of kiwi and a cherry for the Cosmos. The martini just needs ice for stirring, but the flavor of the ice matters here more than ever, so keep making your frozen cubes with Le Bleu..

Coffee Cosmos

2 1/2 ounces of 1000 Piers Gin

2 oz Alley Twenty Six orange syrup ( see details later in this post)

4 oz cold Javesca coffee ( details follow)

coffee ice cubes

Pour gin, syrup and coffee into a cocktail shaker over crushed ice. Cover, and shake until the outside of the shaker has frosted. Strain into a chilled glasses over a large coffee ice cube to serve.

Can’t talk about London-style gin without a recipe for a martini. This one from the Hackney Distillery website, again best laced with orange.

2 oz 1000 Piers Gin

Your favorite dry vermouth

a twist of orange

Rinse a chilled martini glass with dry vermouth and then pour it out. The vermouth merely coats the inside of the glass for a kiss of flavor. In a cocktail shaker, stir the 1000 Piers Gin with plenty of ice; then strain and pour into the vermouth laced glass, garnish with the orange twist.

Cocktails and Mocktails Call for Coffee

Javesca Coffee Roasters started in 2012 in Charlotte, NC by co-founder and director, Steven Bollinger. The company began with a dual commitment to first produce the highest quality specialty coffee; and secondly to feed communities who lack adequate resources both in the United States and around the world.

To that end, Javesca provides a fabulous coffee experience along with a passion. They share 10% of the company’s gross retail sales to feeding initiatives. I love this company’s drive and commitment to what they do so very well.

Through the roastery’s sister non-profit, Javesca Feeds, millions of meals have already been provided. Here is how you can be a part of it all.

Order Javesca online – through the end of January, use the code HEIDIB20 for 20% off your initial order. When you order Javesca online, the beans are roasted (ground, if you would like) and packaged to order. The result – absolutely the freshest roast coffee you can buy. Brew it with Le Bleu water and enjoy it to its fullest flavor.

#TellThemHeidiSentYou and help feed the hungry while you support this local brand – Heidi

Coffee and Rum

In addition to roasting a number of their own coffee’s, Steven and his team at Javesca have recently worked with my friends Caroline and Robbie Delaney at Muddy River Distillery in Belmont to make a Muddy River Rum Aged Coffee and a Muddy River Carolina Rum Coffee .

For the aged rum-infused coffee, green beans are aged in a used Muddy River Queen Charlotte Rum oak barrel for 4-8 weeks before roasting. The result is a delicious non-alcoholic combo of rum and coffee flavor. Get set to enjoy a smooth molasses, vanilla, and other rum notes accenting this freshly roasted nutty/chocolatey coffee. It’s a great way to start the day.

For the Muddy River Carolina Rum Coffee, Steven used a proprietary blend of coffee beans and a dark roast profile. This is the same coffee that goes into Muddy River’s new Coffee Rum – see details below.  

These beans, roasted and ready for brewing, are ONLY available for retail sale at the distillery in Belmont. So, hop in the car, it’s time to plan a little road trip to taste and tour and come home with coffee and rum for all your cocktail and mocktail needs.

Javesca Cold Brews Make for Easy Cocktails and Mocktails

If you are like me and like your coffee chilled, don’t miss the Javesca Nitro 4 pack and the Holiday Edition Nitro 4 Pack – these are available to order online from the roastery. Once you get the delivery, pop them in your fridge and keep ’em cold. This delicious cold brew offers over 70% less acidity than traditionally hot brewed coffee. The color is clear and light but the flavor is big. These cans are pressurized with pure nitrogen to give each pour a foamy finish – just shake the can first and then pour from high above the glass. It takes a bit of practice but in the end its as much fun to pour as it is to drink.

Anyway you pour it, Javesca coffee offers a delicious addition to craft cocktails and mocktails. This holiday season try it to “spike” homemade eggnog or to make an affogato with vanilla ice cream for a delightful drinkable dessert.

Muddy River Rum from Belmont NC   

This is the Carolina’s First Rum. I’ve written about Muddy River several times before and you can read more here.

Muddy River has the distinction of being the first Carolina distillery to specialize in rum.  The Queen Charlotte Aged Rum is perfect for sipping, and this time of year the spiced rum goes great with local sweet or sparkling apple cider or mulled muscadine juice.

As you are planning your neighborhood holiday cookie exchange or New Year’s Eve festivities, think rum balls and rich rum cake.

The big news for Muddy River this season is their newly released Coffee Rum made with a specially roasted Javesca Rum Aged Coffee. More on that in a minute…

The Award Winning Cocktails Continue

But, first… since we have been chatting about the NCRLA Chef Showdown, it’s worth mentioning that Muddy River took top honors as the Distillery of the Year in 2017 with a milk punch that featured the distillerys Queen Charlotte Rum, crafted by Charlotte Mixologist Amanda Britton. Britton’s talents garnered her the 2017 NCRLA Mixologist of the Year honors.

Muddy River Distillery Queen Charlotte Rum Milk Punch. This is a tricky cocktail to pull off, but mixologist Amanda Britton did just that and took home the first ever NCRLA Mixologist of the Year title.

The Queen Charlotte is Muddy River’s premium and aged rum; it’s fabulous, but that’s not all they offer at Muddy River. The line up at this NC distillery includes rums with fine tuned flavors you will love like coconut, spiced, and basil.

Blend the new Muddy River Coffee Rum made with Javesca beans with homemade eggnog or a dose of whipped cream for a glass of holiday cheer or a delicious after dinner drink.

The new Muddy River Coffee Rum is absolutely off the charts. Delicious over ice for sipping, to spike eggnog, with ice cream for a boozy affogato, or blended into something more – try it in place of bourbon or whiskey. It’s also my go to this year for holiday rum cake.

Blend it with real cherries and a slice of orange and a large clear Le Bleu ice cube, and you have a fabulous Coffee Rum Manhattan. Or, if you prefer something creamier, try this…

Chocolate Rum Latte by Muddy River Distillery

1.5 oz. Muddy River Coffee Carolina Rum

Hot Chocolate

Black Javesca Coffee Made with Le Bleu Ultra Pure Water

Local or organic Milk

Organic or local Whipped Cream

Combine the hot chocolate and hot coffee into a fun mug. Add the coffee rum, lighten the mixture if you would like with milk and top with whipped cream for a rich and creamy finish.

For more info on tours and tasting and all of the Muddy River Rum products, visit muddyriverdistillery.com

Award-Winning Sutler’s Gin from Sutler’s Spirit Company in Winston Salem NC

Next up, let’s get back to gin. This one a more botanical blend, distilled and bottled in small batches in Winston-Salem NC at Sutler’s Spirit Company. Sutler’s is the first legal distillery in Winston-Salem in 200 years!

And, I sense a theme here – this years’ winner of the 2021 NCRLA Distillery of the Year Award. The Mixologist that crafted the cocktail that made it so, Colleen Hughes, of Supperland and the  Tonidandel-Brown Restaurant Group in Charlotte, NC.

Here I am listening in as Colleen Hughes presented what was to be her Award-Wining Sutler’s Spirits cocktail to the NCRLA Chef Showdown Mixology judges in August 2021

Like all of the mixology winners over the years, Colleen took it to the next level and created a Sutler’s cocktail that took the drinker on a trip across the Old North State infusing flavors from the pine trees in the mountains to the salty ocean air at the Carolina coast. Local Charlotte area blackberries brought flavor and color and the Sutler’s Gin sealed the deal.

Colleen Hughes’ 2021 NCRLA Chef Showdown Award Winning Sutler’s Spirit Cocktail.

As Scot Sanborn of Sutler’s commented after the competition, “Colleen Rocks!”

Gin and Juice, Gin and Ginger

So does Sutler’s gin.

It’s got a much more interesting flavor than most vodka’s I know, so I now use it instead in cocktail recipes that call for vodka. It’s gin so the botanicals, of course, include juniper, but that classic “piney” taste is a bit more subtle. Sip and you will discover notes of citrus in the lemon and bitter orange and floral flavors of lavender and coriander. It’s delicious blended with the Mighty Muscadine juice to make all sorts of drinks like the Muscadine Madness recipe you’ll find below.

Then, add in some ginger and try it the two together for a gin and muscadine mule, made fizzy with a hot local ginger ale. As always I suggest you drink local, so try The Unknown Brewing Company’s Spicy Ginger Ale from Charlotte, Devil’s Foot Fuego Ginger Beer (non Alcoholic) from Asheville or Blenheims Hot Ginger Ale from South Carolina.

For a mocktail version of the same – use the Muscadine Juice and Ginger Beer or Hot Ginger Ale over a large ice cube and garnish with plenty of fruit.

Muscadine Madness

1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp. Alley Twenty Six strawberry syrup

1-2 oz Mighty Muscadine juice
2 ounces Sutler’s Gin

4 large mint leaves

In a shaker, shake lime juice, syrup, and gin with ice. Muddle mint in the glass. Fill glass with ice. Pour juice into glass. Pour Gin mix over and stir Serve with mint and a lime slice.

Holiday Cocktails and Mocktails should include a Grape Gluhwein, cold and spiked or hot and not

This is a classic German wine punch. Severed mulled with spices and citrus and served hot. You can make it into a cold cocktail by heating the muscadine juice with mulling spices. Let the mixture steep like tea, then strain and pour over ice with a shot of either of today’s featured gins. Garnish with lemon and orange.

Or serve it up hot as a mocktail punch.

You can do single serving or make it a fun hot brew that will please a crowd. Think hot apple cider with a grape driven spin.

For a spiked punch with more of kick use Muddy River Spice Rum to bring out the holiday spirit in your punchbowl of Gluhwein. If you don’t want all the spice, spike with your choice of the 1000 Piers or Sutler’s gin and a bit of orange for equally delicious results.

Mulled Muscadine Punch for Cocktails or Mocktails

As far as mulling spices go, I wouldn’t look any further than The Turmeric Zone, located in Morrisville, NC. I’ve told you about this NC based company’s award-winning Turmeric, Black Pepper, Cinnamon and Clove honey in this previous post. But did you know that this company also makes incredible little turmeric and spice cubes with black pepper and cinnamon. Drop 1 into warm milk and you have a truly superior version of Golden Milk. Add eggs and cream and a bit of vanilla to the mix and you can call it a Golden Eggnog, recipe below.

These little cubes are like a bouillon cube filled full of good-for-you fall spice flavor. Add one of these Turmeric Zone handmade Golden Drops to the Mighty Muscadine juice and stir to blend well and along with the Chai you’ll get a ton of spice. The addition of the Muddy River spiced rum helps you to double down on the flavor.

Make the mulled mix for cocktails and mocktails

The process is easy. Simply pour a large bottle of the Mighty Muscadine into a glass measuring cup and warm in the microwave or heat on your stove top. When its warm add 1-2 Golden drops and stir until the spice is melted into the juice. Meanwhile, make the Chai Tea to your desired strength. Combine the warm to the tea with the spiced juice in a punch bowl. Float slices of orange and lemon on the top. Spike or not as you would like and ladle into glass or pottery mugs.

I will tell you between the muscadines and the turmeric, the health benefits on this one are off the charts. Have leftovers? Keep in your fridge and reheat by the cupful in a saucepan or in your microwave.

Heidi’s Homemade Eggnog for Yummy Dessert Cocktails and Mocktails

You can spike the eggnog, too, with rum or gin or for a mocktail version, use the Javesca coffee brewed double strength. Here is my go to recipe… for a special treat, mix it up and chill it down and then freeze it in a home ice cream maker. Or freeze it in ice cube trays and use it to cream your iced coffee or enrich a glass of Muddy River Coffee Rum served “On the Rocks.”

4 cups local or organic whole milk

1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

12  local or organic egg yolks

 2 cups organic sugar

2 cups local or organic Heavy Cream

Heat the milk in a saucepan over lowest setting for 5 minutes or so, just until warm.

In a large bowl, combine egg yolks and sugar. Whisk together until the mix is light and fluffy and the sugar has dissolved into the eggs. Whisk hot milk mixture slowly into the eggs to temper the eggs ( that is to slowly bring them up to the temperature of the milk).

Pour the mixture back into saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thick. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Refrigerate until you are ready to serve. The recipe may be done up to this point up to a couple of days in advance. Just before serving, stir in rum ( or coffee) and heavy cream.

Garnish with a grind of fresh nutmeg.

For Golden Milk eggnog, add one of the Turmeric Zone’s Golden Drops while you are warming the milk.

Alley Twenty Six Simple Syrups make Cocktails and Mocktails Naturally Sweet

Serious about being a home bartender? Then, you want to stock a selection of simple syrups to sweeten and flavor your cocktails and mocktails.

Simple syrup isn’t hard to make – its just a blend of equal parts sugar and water. Boil the two down together till the mix takes on a syrupy consistency; but the process can be tricky. Particularly if you want to get a good balance of flavor; and want to keep the mix shelf stable when you start adding fruit and herbs.

But don’t worry. No complicated recipes to follow here, because I come with the good news that the team at Alley Twenty Six in Durham, NC has done the work for you. All you have to do is order online or go to the restaurant and shop their syrup shelves.

Joseph Gailes ( L.) and Shannon Healey head up the team at Alley Twenty Six in Durham NC. Joseph handles the marketing for the restaurant’s homemade syrups while Shannon is the long time owner and operator of this great Durham spot to eat and drink local.

Award-Winning Strawberry and Pomegranate Syrups

Alley Twenty Six is a great little restaurant and bar in Durham NC. The alley right next to the building is #26 and so the mystery behind the name of the restaurant. is no longer. The Alley Twenty-Six team has always made their own syrups for use behind the bar. Several years ago, they decided to bottle their much loved Tonic Syrup. Slowly other flavors worked their way into the line. Then, with the time afforded by the pandemic quarantine of 2020, the team worked hard to preserve the flavor of seasonal fruits and herbs to make a fabulous series of simple syrups.

Two of their seasonal syrups swept the beverage category for the 2021 NC Specialty Foods Association Awards.

Taking top honors this year, in second place, the Alley Twenty Six homemade grenadine or Pomegranate Syrup and in first place a seasonal favorite made from whole local fruit, the Alley Twenty Six Fresh Strawberry Syrup. Its a taste of spring in a bottle, the possibilities, from homemade sodas to salad dressings, cocktails and marinades, too, are endless. For more info, to buy syrups or to make reservations at Alley Twenty Six, visit them at alleytwentysix.com

Cocktails and Mocktails at Alley Twenty-Six

I was delighted to have Shannon and Joseph from Alley Twenty Six join me onstage last October as a part of the chef line up at the Got To Be NC stage at the NC State Fair. During their trio of cocktailing demos, they used their syrups to make several delicious Mocktails for our chefs’ table participants to sample and sip.

A mocktail is more than just a soda or sparkling water with a slice of fruit. As Shannon pointed out during his presentation, if you don’t want to imbibe, that doesn’t mean your beverage shouldn’t be just as special.

Use cool ice ( pun intended), and select a glass that goes with the spirit of the mocktail. Stir if you would like, but know that if you shake ingredients in a cocktail shaker you’ll get a creamier, foamier finish. Texture and mouth appeal matters.

Finally, use great garnishes; and think through the blend of sweet, spicy and sour flavors to get good balance. Need a few ideas? Try these lemon grass and chai tea sippers pictured here.

Or, a figgy version of a similar mocktail served in coup glass. Here a bruleed lemon floating on top adds a bit of a toasty finish.

Same attention to detail goes for the cocktails Shannon produces behind the bar at Alley Twenty-Six. I absolutely fell in love with this hot toddy I had at brunch while I was in town in October for the NC State Fair. Drinks here change with the season, but none dissappoint.

In the glass, the drink base is a made-in-house roasted persimmon simple syrup blended with locally crafted Conniption Gin from Durham Distillery. Slightly whipped cream floated on top for a dreamy finish. Go see them next time you are in Durham, and prepare yourself for a treat.

What will you be Cocktailing or Mocktailing?

Let me know what you are shaking and stirring up in the comments below. I always love to hear from you. All of the spirits mentioned in this article are available at North Carolina ABC stores and at each individual distillery. To check availability outside of North Carolina, visit the individual distillery website. Be sure to #TellThemHeidiSentYou


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