8 D.C. Distilleries to Put You in Good Spirits

A few of the tasty cocktails served at the Ivy Room at Republic Restoratives
A few of the tasty cocktails served at the Ivy Room at Republic Restoratives | © Ted Eytan / Flickr
Summer Whitford

Spirits, whether you take yours neat, on the rocks, or in a cocktail, have always been part of the scene in D.C., and some might even go so far as to say that spirits help keep the wheels of Congress turning, but we’ll leave that to the pundits to decide. What is certain, however, is that the growing spirits industry in the DMV (what locals use to describe the tri-state area of the District, Maryland, and Virginia) makes it cooler and easier to drink what’s made in our own backyard, and it’s politically correct.

What’s weird is that despite the non-stop flow of booze that’s been the norm since America was founded, there weren’t any distilleries in the city for about 70 years, thanks to Prohibition. But all of that changed in 2013 when the Washington DC City Council passed a few laws that once again made it legal to distil spirits in the District of Columbia. And if you love cocktails, 2015 and 2016 kicked butt. Not just because cocktails took center stage and seasoned drinkers got the chance to throw back high caliber drinks, but because Washington, D.C.’s roster of local distilleries jumped to eight.

Here’s our guide to what’s available. Join us in raising a glass to 2017—who knows what’s in store.

1. Cotton & Reed

Bar, Market, American

Cotton & Reed Distillery
Copyright Farrah Skeiky
Two aerospace nerds walk into a bar, discover they both love cocktails made with fantastic spirits, and before you know it, they are best buds. This story may sound like one of those corny old jokes, but it’s proof that truth can be stranger than fiction. The guys in question are Jordan Cotton and Reed Walker, and they really did work as consultants for NASA, but they loved rum more, and that’s how they became proud owners of Cotton & Reed, D.C.’s first rum distillery and bar at Union Market. They, along with distiller Chas Jefferson, make a killer white and dry spiced rum and never stint on the quality of the wild yeasts and botanicals used to create their classy potables.

2. Farmers & Distillers

Restaurant, American

George Washington, a founding farmer
© Joye~ / Flickr
The U.S.’s Founding Father, George Washington, was America’s largest whiskey (he specialized in rye whiskey) distiller in his day and is the inspiration for Farmers & Distillers, D.C.’s newest distillery restaurant. Good ole George always thought of himself as a farmer first, which in a way makes him a founding farmer too, so he would probably be blown away by the scope of this new venture from the folks behind Farmers Fishers and Bakers. First, because it’s the restaurant group’s first foray into the distillery industry in D.C., and second, the sheer size of the place (more than 300 seats and a menu that includes dozens of food items) is a big gamble in a city with an insanely fickle dining public. Do what George would probably do and sample the range, which includes craft gin, rye, amaro, vodka, and their house-made clementine and aromatic bitters, which the bartenders use in more than 40 cocktails.

3. Jos. A. Magnus & Co

Bar, Cocktail Bar, American

Jos. A. Magnus Tasting Room Ivy City
©Ted Eytan/Flickr
Ivy City is an up-and-coming area in D.C. that’s a food and drink destination, complete with four distilleries that include New Columbia Distillers, One Eight Distilling, Republic Restoratives, and Jos. A. Magnus & Co., which also includes the Murray Hill cocktail bar. The distillery may be young, but it has an old soul and a powerful link to the past. Back in the 1800s, Joseph Magnus was a distiller from Cincinnati who moved to D.C., opened a distillery on the spot that is now the FBI Headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue, and did well until Prohibition sadly shuttered the distillery.

Approximately 100 years later, Magnus’s great-grandson, Jimmy Turner, found an original bottle of Magnus’s Murray Hill Club Bourbon buried in his mother’s closet, tasted it, and immediately knew what he was meant to do. Over the next seven years, he experimented with recipes and bourbons to duplicate the smooth, flavorful bourbon he tasted that day, and in 2015, he opened his distillery, named in honor of his ancestor. Today, the distillery produces limited cases of Joseph Magnus Bourbon and Jos. A. Magnus & Co. Vigilant Gin.

4. Republic Restoratives

Bar, Cocktail Bar, American

A few of the tasty cocktails served at the Ivy Room at Republic Restoratives
© Ted Eytan / Flickr
The opening of this new distillery and bar is more than just a fantastic addition to the local spirits industry; it’s also a historic first. Republic Restoratives is the nation’s only 100% women-owned distillery, and it’s also the largest crowd-funded distillery in the world. The founders, Pia Carusone and Rachel Gardner, raised over $119,500 on Indiegogo to fund their new venture, which includes the distillery and a tasting bar. The bar is expertly manned by David Strauss who uses Republic’s craft vodka and bourbon (read our article about Rodham Rye, their latest release) to make exceptional drinks while he charms every guest with his outgoing personality.

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