Six months after the planned opening, Durham Distillery owners Melissa and Lee Katrincic are opening the doors of Corpse Reviver, their new cocktail bar and lounge concept. The upscale bar is located by the old train trestle at 715 Washington Street, in the same building as the distillery—and yes, it has a patio.
The opening comes as Governor Roy Cooper moves the state into Phase 3, which allows bars to open at a limited outdoor capacity—30 percent, or less than 100 people. As an extension of the distillery, Corpse Reviver was able to open back in May when Phase 2 permitted breweries and distilleries to open, but held off.
“We didn’t want to open Corpse Reviver inside or out until we had entered Phase 3 and our colleagues were also able to open,” co-founder and CEO Katrincic told the INDY. “We’re all part of one singular small business community here.”
The October 15 opening coincides with the distillery’s five-year anniversary.
Other bars downtown have slowly begun to reopen this week: Surf Club is back, with a plexiglass bar barrier in place. In the heart of downtown, Bar Brunello has returned with patio seating, while cocktail joint Kingfisher is continuing with their pop-up smash burger venture, QueenBurger.
The Katrincics—both former scientists—officially opened Durham Distillery in 2015. Since then, it has amassed national praise, including a USA Today roundup where it was listed as one of the 10 best craft distilleries in the country. The craft distillery is known for Conniption gin and also recently began distributing canned cocktails.
The plans for an adjoining cocktail bar were kicked into gear when the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 290 last summer, a law that eased restrictions on distilleries and allowed them to sell mixed-drinks on premises.
Then, in March, things took a turn. COVID-19 led to a nationwide shortage in disinfectants, and the Katrincics’s shifted to the hand sanitizer business.The high-proof alcohol, normally turned into high-end liquor, became hand sanitizer distributed for free among the Durham business community. During that time, the intended Spring opening of Corpse Reviver was also put on hold.
Lee Katrincic says that the intervening months have given them the chance to implement a number of precautionary measures, including a hospital-grade air filtration system. Reservations are required ahead of time, and there’s a strict accountability system in place for guests, who are required to take their temperature upon arriving at the bar and sign a contact-tracing waiver.
The bar will be open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings, as well as Sunday afternoons. The distillery’s Conniption American Dry and Conniption Navy Strength Gin are the menu’s stars, appearing in several drinks; martinis and signature cocktails will also be available on draft.
According to Washington Street lore, pine coffins were once sold out of the basement of the distillery. The macabre history of the space makes for a natural bar name: “Corpse Reviver” is also the name of a potent “hair of the dog” family of gin cocktails popularized in the 1930s that have been described as “strong enough to raise the dead.”
Or, as Melissa Katrincic puts it: “We’re serving drinks strong enough to revive your spirits.”
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