By Drew Jackson The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Are you up for a gin and tonic or a vodka-soda but in a can? One North Carolina couple sure hopes so as they tackle the "canned cocktail" market.
Cocktails seem more at home in stemware than aluminum, with the concoctions living outside the koozie-cuddled realm of canned drinks.
But what about beachside drinks? Durham Distillery thinks they've got just the thing: canned cocktails.
"We saw a real opportunity to make a canned cocktail that was the reputation of a cocktail you'd get at a bar, but in a can," said Melissa Katrincic in an interview.
Recently, she and her husband, Lee Katrincic, who co-owns the distillery, started canning wedding reception hall-of-famer, the gin and tonic, and nightclub standard, vodka and soda. They'll be sold in $15 four-packs in North Carolina's ABC stores.
The products join North Carolina's distilling scene, which is as hot as it's been since prohibition, with more local vodkas, gins, and whiskeys hitting the market every year.
There are other canned or bottled cocktails in existence, Melissa Katrincic acknowledged, naming the nuclear green Jose Cuervo margarita and the Malibu rum pina colada, among others, but said they wind up wincingly sweet.
It turns out there's a reason why the mass market canned cocktails could be improved. They're not made with actual liquor. Technically they're malt beverages, the same as beer, allowing them to be sold in grocery stores and bottle shops, according to North Carolina ABC regulations.
The G&T is made with Conniption American Dry Gin, a house-made tonic and citrus. The vodka and soda is made with the distillery's cucumber vodka and club soda.
Because they can contain gin and vodka, they can only be sold in ABC stores in North Carolina. Katrincic said Durham Distillery hoped to get an exception from ABC, but wasn't offered one.
The canned cocktails from Durham Distillery clock in at 8 percent ABV, about the same as a double IPA and nearly half that of the booziest stouts.
"Even with the proof being what it is, it can only be sold in ABC stores," Melissa Katrincic said. "We're trying to work with the ABC, but hoping moments like this can be triggers in the modernization of the ABC."
The first run of cocktails yielded about 5,000 cans each of the gin-and-tonic and vodka-and-soda. The next run, scheduled for October, plans to triple that.
Expect more variations in the future, most likely a Moscow mule made with gin instead of vodka and a house-made ginger beer. There's even been some thought paid to a Negroni, though that would either require a partnership with bitter liqueur maker Campari, or a proprietary creation. But don't bet against it.
"My husband bleeds Negronis," Katrincic said.