Raleigh’s latest Vodka
by Jessie Ammons
photographs by Madeline Gray
The older you get, the more you realize that moments are important,” says Cary Joshi, president of Social House vodka. He’s sitting in the downtown Raleigh headquarters of the new alcohol brand on a recent afternoon, overlooking City Plaza and reflecting on the moments that went into the creation of this vodka: the friends – Joshi, Raleigh restaurateur G Patel, and spirits industry veteran Mark Mullins – who decided to create spirits together; the months of work with food sensory and biochemical scientists at N.C. State to analyze dozens of different vodkas and concoct their own recipe; the transformation of an old power plant in Kinston into a distillery; the
offical launch in August. And now the partners have the moment where they watch it all pay off: Social House is already in Triangle ABC stores and in bars and restaurants statewide, which include local spots like the Angus Barn, The Haymaker, and Prestonwood Country Club in Cary.
The trio say they chose to make vodka because it is so versatile. “You can have vodka – responsibly – on almost any occasion at almost any time of day,” Joshi says, from Bloody Marys to nightcaps. Mullins describes vodka as the middle ground of spirits. “If you’re a tequila drinker or a bourbon drinker, and someone only has vodka, you’ll probably still have a vodka cocktail. But if you’re a vodka drinker and all someone has is bourbon, you might not drink it, the flavor profile might be too strong. To us, that makes vodka the most social spirit.”
Vodka’s very versatility, however, can get in the way of brand loyalty. So the team decided to create a meaningful signature flavor that relies on local ingredients. Social House is corn-based, which Mullins says gives it “a sweet, buttery, soft, subtle note” suitable to sipping on the rocks or mixing into cocktails. The corn comes from a farm in Eastern North Carolina near their Kinston distillery; the bottles are made in the U.S.; and the labels in Thomasville, North Carolina. “We’ve all chosen to make Raleigh our home,” Mullins says, “and it feels really good to support North Carolina.”
Given the vodka’s name, it’s no surprise the Social House team favors drink recipes suited to punch-bowl quantities, like the pear-and-ginger combination at right. “Going out for a craft cocktail is great … but it’s hard to replicate at home.” His advice for home mixologists is straightforward: “Keep it simple, make sure the ingredients are good, and share it with your friends.”
The Social Pearing
1 ½ ounces Social House vodka
2 ½ ounces pear nectar
1 ounce ginger simple syrup (recipe below)
½ ounce lemon juice, freshly squeezed
Candied ginger or pear slice, for garnish
For the ginger simple syrup:
¼ pound fresh ginger root, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and add ice. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Strain over a highball glass filled with ice, and garnish with a slice of pear or candied ginger.
To make the ginger simple syrup: Place ginger in a saucepan with sugar and water. Bring to a boil, then simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, until a syrup forms. Strain out the ginger and let cool before using.