by Eric Ginsburg
Joe Parrish admits that half of the reason a new cocktail at the Honey Pot in downtown Winston-Salem might be his all-time favorite comes from watching bartender Calvin Peña make it.
It can’t hurt either that the drink — made with local Sutler’s Spirit gin, lime, local honey, an egg white, a little bit of Sunshine and Angostura mist — promotes a beverage company he co-founded.
It’s almost like witnessing a ritual, Parrish said, as Peña goes through the steps to assemble the drink. Aided by the character and ambiance of the restaurant, where items such as fried guinea breast or a Thai appetizer called duck laap populate the menu, sitting at the sleek rear bar is an essential part of the unique experience.
Starting Nov. 10, bartenders like Peña at several of the city’s hippest venues put specialty cocktails featuring local Sunshine on the menu. Though the idea began with Ashleigh Rainko, a senior account exec at the Variable who reps Sunshine, bartenders generated their own recipes, even picking the liquor involved.
Parrish’s favorite, the Winstonite (above), clocks in at a mere $7, and is one of two specialty cocktails put out by the Honey Pot for the cocktail month. The Porch Kitchen & Cantina, Single Brothers, the Tavern at Old Salem and Hoots also joined the ranks, and Rainko is reaching out to more bartenders to keep the spirit alive through the end of the year.
The Tavern is utilizing Sutler’s gin too, though to quite different ends for its Camel City-tini, available through Nov. 30 and featuring red mango, turbinado caramelized pineapple juice, spiced beet juice from Salem Gardens, Sunshine, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. The Porch, a wildly popular Tex-Mex restaurant, appropriately made use of tequila, strawberry and jalapeños, but it rotated off the menu on Sunday.
Hoots, the brewery and bar housed next to Sutler’s Spirit and the Porch in the West End, came up with the best name for its drink: the Flash Bomb. The bar’s contribution to the collective utilizes Sunshine as the primary ingredient, adding Carriage House apple bourbon and house apple soda.
Using the ginger berry drink in a cocktail makes sense not just because it’s a local creation, but also because its flavor naturally complements liquor. Ginger seems born for gin and whiskey, and is easily simpatico with tequila and vodka as well. And the presence of a fruity berry flavor can’t hurt.
The idea had already occurred to me in at-home experimentation with bourbon, and the Porch put out a different Sunshine + tequila concoction before Rainko pitched the month-long collaborative.
It wouldn’t be too difficult to emulate the Porch’s Spicy Strawberry Fields — which also includes simple syrup, lemon juice, a lime or lemon garnish and, of course, Sunshine — at home now that it isn’t for sale. Or just find the Good Day Sunshine — also featuring Sutler’s but this time alongside Domaine de Canton, lemon juice, rosemary simple syrup and pear puree — at Single Brothers.
The concept may eventually spread, Rainko said, likely stepping into Greensboro first, but Parrish and company wanted to start in the drink’s hometown.
“The reason why we like to do things like this,” he said, is that “we love that Winston is a city that’s be coming synonymous with making awesome things [and] I feel like we’re finally starting to make things that are really interesting.”
In a town that markets itself as the city of arts and innovation, it’s nice to see that creative spirit bleed into a communal endeavor, especially one that’s so easy to swallow.