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Craft a Kingfisher cocktail at home

How to make the “Mr. Sweet Potato” cocktail.

A booth inside Kingfisher cocktail bar.

Michelle designed Kingfisher’s interior.

Photo by Stacey Sprenz

At Durham cocktail bar Kingfisher, co-owners Sean Umstead and Michelle Vanderwalker find ways to reinvent their menu using local, seasonal ingredients. Often times, their drinks are a reflection of what’s arrived in their Community Supported Agriculture boxes. Think: A sweet potato-driven rum Manhattan.

The duo’s creativity has been recognized — Kingfisher is a 2023 James Beard Award semifinalist for Outstanding Bar.

Sean and Michelle took us behind the scenes to teach us how to make the “Mr. Sweet Potato” cocktail, created by Kingfisher bar manager Kacey Liebes. Here’s how you can craft this cocktail at home. Note: It takes two days to make — it’s worth it.


  • 2 ounces Evan Williams Bottled-In-Bond Bourbon
  • 1/2 ounce sweet potato syrup*
  • 1/4 ounce dry Bermutto (sake-based vermouth)

*For the sweet potato syrup

  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes
  • 1,200 grams simple syrup

First, make the syrup. This makes enough for ~60 cocktails.

1. Peel and slice the sweet potatoes.
2. Dehydrate the potatoes at 125° until completely dry (overnight, at least).
3. Vacuum seal 400 grams of the dehydrated sweet potato with the simple syrup. Pro tip: Do not use hot simple syrup.
4. Sous vide at exactly 148° for 24 hours. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent evaporation.
5. Strain.

Stir to combine the cocktail ingredients and strain over fresh ice.

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