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Good Beer Hunting

May 27, 2023

For years, spirits have taken up a larger share of alcohol consumption across the U.S. Almost exclusively stealing sales from beer, this trend has been boosted by increased interest in cocktails. Whether making them at home, buying them canned and ready to drink, or going out to a bar or restaurant, America’s cocktail culture is thriving as drinkers search for new flavor experiences. In this episode, we’re going to explore a few aspects of why.

Durham, North Carolina’s Kingfisher bar was among this year’s semi-finalists for a James Beard Award in the Outstanding Bar Program category. Considered one of the highest honors a food or drink-focused business can receive, the nomination came as a testament to the unique agricultural and gastronomic focus created by co-owners Michelle Vanderwalker and Sean Umstead. Along with a dedicated list of year-round cocktails built off southern fruit and vegetables, Kingfisher also experiments with the idea of time and place through special collections like its "Biome Series," a way to explore terroir through spirits through themes of different environments. A "Desert" cocktail includes yucca flower, a "Prairie" sunflower shoots and sunchokes, or "Marine" with its oyster shells and caviar.

But that’s the drinking part of what Kingfisher offers. As you’ll hear in the first part of our conversation, creating a sense of space at Kingfisher is pivotal to a drinking experience. Similar to how people may see drinking at a brewery taproom an immersive opportunity with beer, Michelle will walk us through why so much detail goes into building somewhere people want to drink cocktails and what that conveys when they sit down at the bar.

Spirits and cocktails are thriving all over the country and don’t show any loss in momentum. With Michelle and Sean, you’ll get a peek into why from their corner of the Southeast.