Of Juniper Berries and Other Botanicals
Distillery owner Melissa Kacrincic '97 recently launched her third gin, made with butterfly pea flowers.
A physics major, Melissa Katrincic ’97 had early dreams of being an astronaut but pivoted to technical consulting after graduation,becoming the first woman to be hired for the Philadelphia office of Cambridge Technology Partners. A shift to digital advertising and a 2006 move to North Carolina led her to Burt’s Bees and a position as head of digital marketing. After taking an 18-month break following her second son’s birth and facing a layoff from the pharmaceutical firm she had joined, Katrincic pondered what to do next.
A New Direction
On a road trip, as my husband Lee was driving home, I remember looking at him and saying, “Why don’t we make gin?” We had a hobby of making cocktails at home, infusing vodkas or gins, and a home collection of different styles of gin.
It took us two years to get the first products off the line. Here was a physicist and a chemist thinking that they can make gin! But we figured it out. We thought a lot about what would differentiate us. We are the first distillery in the country to introduce cold rotary vacuum distillation, allowing us to distill ingredients that would otherwise be destroyed by the heat of distillation, like delicate botanicals. The formulas took
us about a year; Lee had his concentrations down to the gram, counting the drops out of pipettes.
Gin is a very unique spirit. There are so many opportunities to create different flavors. It’s not just the individual botanicals that go in, it’s what they do together through the distillation to the final product.
We opened our tasting room in 2015. I ran the day-to-day, including distillation, for the first three+ years because Lee had to hold onto his full-time job to keep our personal finances steady. In 2017 the Conniption Navy Strength Gin won double gold at the San Francisco International Spirits Competition and soon after Constellation Brands reached out to me. In 2019, they approved us as one of their next strategic investments, with the intention to grow Conniption Gin into a nationally recognized brand, and Lee joined the
There was a big cliff with COVID, but the community reall showed up, and we did curbside pickup and cocktail kits. We were one of the first in the country to make hand sanitizer, donating over 50% of what we produced.
The Gin Guild
We are now in 17 states, and
I just launched our third gin, Conniption Kinship, which is made with butterfly pea flowers after distillation. I’m really proud of this gin because it’s the first where I owned the recipe: the selection of botanicals, the distillation techniques, and the flavor profile.
In 2018, Lee and I were inducted into the Gin Guild in London. I am the only U.S. female gin distiller to be inducted. We had to hold juniper berries and take oaths. It felt great, reassuring that this is the right path for me.
We have an amazing, majority women, team. Only about 1% of distillers or distillery owners in the U.S. are women, so I’m proud of building an environment that is lifting up other women.
“Way to go!”
Bryn Mawr taught me not to be afraid to explore new topics for which I had no reference point and how to break down complex problems into iterative steps. And it gave me so much support; we had each other’s backs, and we believed we could do anything. I feel it still, how proud other Mawrters are when they hear what I’m doing—this genuine, authentic “way to go!”
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