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Naming Cocktails, Unusual Ingredients, and the South with Kingfisher’s Sean Umstead

Sean Umstead Kingfisher
Robert K. Oliver

Which new bourbon are we pumped about? What does it take to be a master journeyman? Where are we excited to travel to next? Each week, The Manual Podcast invites an expert, artisan, or craftsman for a roundtable discussion on what’s new, exciting, and unique in their trade.

For this week’s episode of The Manual Podcast, Sam and Greg sit down with Sean Umstead, the owner of the  Durham, North Carolina cocktail bar Kingfisher.

Since opening in July 2019, Kingfisher has received wide acclaim for its innovative cocktail program, which utilizes locally sourced ingredients to help build the cocktail list. Before digging into the cocktails, though, Greg gets Umstead to talk about how Kingfisher came to be — what it took to get to the point where he (and his wife/business partner) wanted to open their own space.

After explaining how Kingfisher came to be, Umstead digs into the cocktails themselves, from the very local nature of the drinks — Umstead works with local farmers to supply seasonal ingredients — to ingredients you may have seen in drinks before like fennel and less classic ingredients like black radish (don’t worry, he explains how it works).

Kingfisher Cocktail

Next, Umstead explains the process of creating and naming drinks. Does he go more traditional? Silly? A mix of both? Naming a cocktail isn’t an easy thing and Umstead breaks down his process for the act.

Finally, Umstead discusses the artwork they have at Kingfisher — namely, the ceramic drinkware that his business partner created for the bar. These, in addition to other art found or created for the bar, add a special feeling to the place (which is right off Main Street in Durham).

Would you be down for a black radish cocktail? Do you live in a small city with a great cocktail bar? We want to hear from you. If you ever have a question or comment for The Manual Podcast folks, give us a shout at — we’re always around! Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter so you can join the discussion. Don’t forget, too, to rate and review wherever you get your podcast.

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Sam Slaughter was the Food and Drink Editor for The Manual. Born and raised in New Jersey, he’s called the South home for…
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