On the morning of May 29, 2020, Chris and Shanelle Montana arrived to find the inside of Du Nord Craft Spirits’ warehouse gutted and burned. The first black-owned craft distillery in the country, Du Nord was one of many minority-owned businesses damaged by rioters in the weeks that followed George Floyd’s killing.
Distilling is a challenging business. With high startup costs and the challenge of competing with large commercial distilleries in a tightly regulated market, success as a craft distiller is uncertain at best. But as Chris and Shanelle assessed the damage, their focus was not on their own misfortune, but on the hardship faced by the community around them.
Within days they had transformed the charred building into a food bank. It did not take long for them to start providing food to South Minneapolis residents facing urgent food insecurity. And they didn’t stop there. The Montanas soon started the Du Nord Foundation, and through crowdsourcing they have raised nearly three-quarters of a million dollars to go toward rebuilding minority-owned businesses as well as continuing their effort to address food insecurity in Minneapolis.
Even in the face of personal setbacks, the Montanas were more concerned with helping others, and we think that…is the bee’s knees. They continue to face an uphill battle in rebuilding their distillery, so now more than ever is a crucial time to show support for businesses like Du Nord.
We think their Fitzgerald Gin stands out among their lineup of products and it plays a starring role in this month’s cocktail, the Bee’s Knees. Fitzgerald is something of a hybrid gin—showing off-balanced hints of juniper and citrus, like a traditional London-style dry gin, but also the appealing grain aromas and pot still character of a more old-fashioned gin.
Our variation on the classic Bee’s Knees cocktail accents Fitzgerald gin’s herbal character with a honey and tea syrup made from local Ames Farm honey and Earl Grey tea. The slight bitterness and bergamot flavor of Earl Grey tea lend a subtle extra dimension to this bright lemony cocktail while allowing the character of the gin to shine.
Bee’s Knees Variation
2 ounces Du Nord Fitzgerald Gin
¾ ounce Honey & Earl Grey Syrup*
¾ ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice
Add ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon peel.
*Recipe for Honey & Earl Grey Syrup:
Mix 1 cup Ames Farm honey with ⅓ cup of hot Earl Grey tea and stir until well blended. Allow to cool before use. This syrup can be stored for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.