It’s hard to believe that a few short years ago, it was illegal to make liquor in the District of Columbia. Now, with the opening of Farmers & Distillers this week, D.C. can boast of seven distilling operations within its borders. It’s enough to make an afternoon out of visiting them all and sampling their wares. OK, better make it two afternoons.
Below, we have prepared a quick guide to the outposts of the city’s new distilling renaissance.
Cotton & Reed
The scene: Across the street from Union Market, this weeks-old operation looks perfectly in keeping with its surroundings, all done up in cinder blocks and sheet metal.
What you should drink: The Djonata, with mustard-seed soda and white rum.
What you should take home: The spiced rum, made with 17 botanicals like gentian, ginger and bitter orange. If you're a gin drinker, this is the rum for you.
The scene: Certainly boasting the most enviable location of any local hooch-maker, this one occupies a series of former row houses at 14th and U. Make for the bar room on the 2nd floor, which looks like it could have been airlifted out of Charleston.
What you should drink: A carafe of punch and shot glasses, like the Grist, with fernet and grapefruit liqueur.
What you should take home: Checkerbark Gin, made with wild-harvested juniper berries, it’s got a bit more of that classic London wallop than most New World gins.
Farmers & Distillers
The scene: If you've been to either Founding Farmers or Farmers Fishers Bakers, this will feel familiar: a giant bar, a giant-er dining room and an ambitious cocktail list. They've been distilling their wares along with Copper Fox in Virginia so far, but starting this weekend, they'll fire up their stills on site.
What you should drink: Pisco Punch, made with their house pisco, crafted in Peru from their specs.
What you should take home: Founding Farmers Rye Whisky, made from local rye and barley, and a touch of apple and cherrywood smoke. With its pronounced pumpernickel nose and spicy finish, it’s a close approximation of the nearly defunct Maryland rye style.
Jos. A Magnus & Co.
The scene: Head up a set of stairs (above Atlas Brew Works, no less) and you’ll find the Murray Hill Club, an honest-to-goodness cocktail lounge -- complete with a copper-topped bar and leather club chairs -- nestled amid the distilling operation.
What you should drink: The menu changes constantly, but partner NIcole Hassoun produces her own line of tonics, so that’s never a bad place to start.
What you should take home: Vigilant Gin, an American-style dry with fresh domestic juniper, bergamot orange and pink peppercorns among its many botanicals.
New Columbia Distillers
The scene: As D.C.’s first distillery since Prohibition, they only do tours and tastings in their small warehouse space on Saturday afternoons.
What you should drink: Anything made with their gin and one of the three local Capitoline vermouths, also made on site.
What you should take home: The Capitoline Rosé, a perfectly unique sweet vermouth, which is equally good on its own with a splash of soda, or as the backbone of a Manhattan.
One Eight Distilling
The scene: The industrial tasting room and bar -- only open on Saturdays -- still maintains the feel of the mid-century warehouse it once was.
What you should drink: First, run through a gratis tasting of their clear spirits, vodka, gin and white whiskey, then check the board for the week’s $8 cocktail offerings.
What you should take home: Untitled Whiskey No. 3, a wheated bourbon finished in barrels that once held roasted Vigilante coffee beans.
The scene: In the new Hecht’s Warehouse development, this gorgeous corner bar faces New York Avenue on one side and the stills on the other.
What you should drink: One of a dozen drinks from a surprisingly ambitious bar program. I went for a bitter, bold Boulavardier with bourbon, Campari and vermouth.
What you should take home: Civic, their 100 percent corn, charcoal-finished vodka. As smooth and clean as you like.