Enjoy These 4 Locally Inspired Cocktails at Your Next Summer Soirée

Enjoy These 4 Locally Inspired Cocktails at Your Next Summer Soirée

We asked some of the best cocktail makers to create a refreshing lineup of drinks using products from our top local craft beverage producers




6 oz. Alley Twenty Six tonic syrup
6 cups cubed watermelon, plus a few small pieces with rind attached for garnish
Durham Distillery’s Conniption Navy Strength gin, 1.5 oz. per serving

For the Watermelon Tonic

Blend together Alley Twenty Six tonic syrup with watermelon cubes. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer to avoid the finished drink separating. You can do this ahead of your guests’ arrival; simply place tonic mixture in fridge and stir when ready to serve.

For the Cocktail

Fill a tall, 14 oz. glass with ice, 3⁄4 full. Pour 4.5 oz. of watermelon tonic mixture, then top with 1.5 oz. Conniption Navy Strength gin. Gently stir, then top with more ice. Garnish with reserved watermelon and serve with a straw.

I wanted to create something that folks could do at home. This may be a little more involved for a daily drinker, but it’s a super easy summer crowd pleaser. Should be perfect for a hot day.

Shannon Healy, Alley Twenty Six head bartender



1.5 oz. pisco brandy
0.75 oz. Brothers Vilgalys Spirits’ Zaphod liqueur
0.5 oz. lime juice
0.5 oz. passion fruit puree
0.3 oz. honeydew syrup (1:2 ratio of honeydew juice and simple syrup)
2 dashes Crude Rizzo rosemary- grapefruit-peppercorn bitters

Shake ingredients together, strain, then serve in a coupe glass.

This is a cocktail meant for warm weather and contemplation. I was inspired by the Zaphod liqueur from Brothers Vilgalys Spirits. It’s a light, tropical and slightly herbaceous mixer that works well with so many neutral grain spirits.

Jennifer Salome, Counting House beverage manager



1.5 oz. Bull City Ciderworks’ Rhize Up ginger cider
1 oz. Yzaguirre’s Blanco Reserva vermouth
0.5 oz. Domaine De Canton ginger liqueur
3 dashes Regans’ orange bitters
Lemon peel for garnish

Combine cider, vermouth, liqueur and bitters in a large mixing glass filled with ice. Stir until glass is very cold, about 1 minute. Strain into a chilled Nick and Nora glass and garnish with a lemon twist.

I wanted to use ingredients that would complement the Bull City Ciderworks’ Rhize Up’s subtle ginger flavor and dry, crisp finish. The Domaine De Canton liqueur adds another layer of ginger flavor, while also serving as a sweetener. The vermouth contributes to the complexity of the cocktail’s depth of flavor, without overtaking the original product. To balance out the sweetness, I added Regans’ orange bitters, which also contributes a citrus aspect of the drink that is then fortified by the lemon peel.

Kevin Coe, The Durham Hotel head bartender



1 oz. Durham Distillery’s Conniption Navy Strength gin
0.75 oz. fresh lemon juice
0.5 oz. mead simple syrup (Bring equal parts Honeygirl Meadery’s orange blossom mead and sugar to a boil, reduce heat, stir and chill.)
Honeygirl Meadery’s orange blossom mead (about 1.5 oz. per glass)

Combine gin, lemon juice and simple syrup in a shaker with a full measure of ice. Quickly shake, and then strain mixture into a glass over crushed ice. Finish by filling the remainder of the glass with Honeygirl Meadery’s orange blossom mead, about 1.5 oz. Enjoy.

Honeygirl Meadery’s orange blossom mead has a wonderfully floral aroma and boasts a lightly honeyed viscosity. Its delicate nature steered me toward a riff on the French ’75, a classic cocktail consisting of gin, lemon, sugar and sparkling wine. I went for another outstanding local product, Durham Distillery’s Conniption Navy Strength gin, and blended it with fresh lemon juice, a quick mead simple syrup and Honeygirl Meadery’s orange blossom mead. The end result is a zippy, crisp refresher for a hot day. Cheers!

Daniel Sartain, Bar Virgile co-owner and operator

Photography by Briana Brough