DC Distillery Boom: Exploring the Ivy City Distillery Crawl

We’re currently in the midst of a Washington, DC distillery explosion  and nowhere is it more prevalent than the three mile stretch of New York Avenue between 6th Street NW and the eastern edge of Ivy City. There are no less than six distillers operating along that corridor and they all, kindly, offer tours and tastings.

With that in mind, we decided to sit down and plot out an easy Ivy City Distillery Crawl (yes, yes, technically it starts 2-miles outside of Ivy City, but New York Avenue Distillery Crawl sounds so very pedestrian). This crawl will provide your mouth with the opportunity to sample rums, gins, bourbons, bitters, vodkas, and cocktails.

 

We’ve done our drunken best to post accurate times for tours and tastings, but do consider booking ahead when possible and checking websites for private events. Now, let’s go!

1. Farmers and Distillers

600 Massachusetts Ave NW
Tours and Tastings: See Restaurant Hours

We’re about to embark on a glorious and booze-filled adventure, so we need to start off with full stomachs. We’ve selected Farmers & Distillers as our first stop because the restaurant will whet our appetite for spirits while satisfying our need for a robust starting meal.

Farmers & Distillers is the most recent addition to the Farmers Restaurant Group family. The restaurant is the second restaurant/distillery concept in the city. District Distilling Co. (see the end of this list) beat FRG to the market by only a handful of months. The restaurant features a micro-batch distillery which produces a spirit line called Founding Spirits. Farmers and Distillers currently produce vodka and amaro at the location. The spirits are featured heavily on the restaurant’s cocktail menu, often alongside Founding Farmer’s rye whiskey or gin.

You could order a tasting of the spirits (and you’re encouraged to do so), but this is lunch, so we recommend sampling from the cocktail menu. Top choices:

Clementine Cooler: A pleasant daytime summer citrus sipper with Founding Spirits vodka infused with clementine as the base.

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Buck’s Classic Negroni: This classic cocktail is the perfect way to showcase both Founding Farmer’s gin and the Founding Spirits amaro.

How Jefferson Woulda Liked It: Founding Spirits production isn’t limited to the amaro and vodka. The distillery produces bitters on site including classic aromatic, blueberry, clementine, and others. This variation on an Old Fashioned showcases both the Founding Farmer Rye Whiskey and the Founding Spirits aromatic bitters.

Finished with lunch? Great! We have a 1.5-mile hike along New York Avenue before we get to our next stop, Cotton & Reed. You probably aren’t terribly drunk at this point, so you could try navigating public transit.  Take the red line from Gallery Place Station to the NoMa – Gallaudet U Station. From that stop take a right on Florida followed by a left on 5th. Alternatively, jump on the D4 toward Ivy City at K St. NW & 4th St. NW and get off at K St. NE & 4th St. NE. You’ll need to walk half a mile up 5th St. NE before reaching Cotton & Reed. Seriously, though, the walk will do you good. 

2. Cotton & Reed

1330 5th Street NE Tours: Saturdays and Sundays at 1 p.m., 2 p.m., and 3 p.m. Bar and Tasting Room: Wednesday – Friday: 4 p.m. – midnight Saturday and Sunday: noon to midnight

DC’s only exclusively rum distillery opened in November of last year and, while technically just outside of Ivy City, it now acts as a gateway into the Ivy City Distillery District (we totally made that up, but it’ll become a thing). Cotton & Reed currently has two rum offerings. The spiced dry rum is a combination of 17 botanicals plus hand-cut, toasted Brazilian amburana wood. The white rum is a blend of two distillates: a saison yeast and a pineapple yeast. They show off their rum through a cocktail program developed by Dram & Grain’s Lukas B. Smith. Smith created a well-balanced list of cocktails that let the rum do the majority of the talking.

If you haven’t yet, visit @cottonandreed because this shit is out of control A post shared by Sarah Koclar (@skoclar) on

 

Each tour offers a cocktail and a rum tasting flight.

One more small hike will lead us to the Ivy City Quadruple Threat of Distilleries. First on the list after a one-mile walk up New York Ave NE is One Eight Distilling.

3. One Eight Distilling

1135 Okie Street NE
Tours and Tastings: Saturdays 1 p.m. – 8 p.m. (last tour starts at 4:30 p.m.)

One Eight opened for business in 2014. That might seem young, but they’re technically the second oldest operating distillery in DC. They also have the most options for tasting. One Eight Distilling produces Rock Creek Rye, Rock Creek White, Ivy City Gin, District Made Vodka, and the “Untitled” series.

While all of the One Eight products are worth making this stop it’s the last one on the list that makes it a must. “Untitled” is where the One Eight team has the opportunity to play. You’ll often find small-batch spirits that are available exclusively at the distillery. For example, Untitled Whiskey No. 3 was produced by using bourbon barrels previously loaned to Vigilante Coffee roasters. According to One Eight, the end result was a “smoky whiskey with notes of bittersweet chocolate and roasted coffee.”

Enjoyed some seasonal cheers with family and friends @oneeightd in DC. Love that #rockcreekrye!

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Next on the list requires a short walk down Gallaudet Street to Fenwick Street where we find…

4. New Columbia Distillers

1832 Fenwick St. NE Tastings and Tours: Saturday 1-4 No RSVP Required

At five years old, New Columbia, which makes the iconic Green Hat line of gins, is the grandaddy of DC’s young distillery boom. They’re also the primary inspiration for writing this post. Green Hat has announced the Spring/Summer Seasonal Gin will be released on March 18. This unique gin features strong floral notes thanks to the use of cherry blossoms and rose hips. It’s a perfect compliment to tonic, but is easily sipped on the rocks. This is the quintessential DC gin in every possible way.

Gin case you missed it. #Latergram #NewColumbiaDistillers #DC #GreenHat #Ginthusiasts A post shared by BRADLEIGH CHANCE (@bradleighchance) on

 

Visitors shouldn’t miss Green Hat’s classic gin and the Navy strength.

Once you’ve had your fill of delicious gin we’ll head back up to New York Avenue.

5. Republic Restoratives

1369 New York Ave, NE
Tasting Room: Thursday, Friday 5 p.m. – 11 p.m. Saturday 12 p.m. – 11 p.m., Sunday 12 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Distillery Tours: Saturday 1 p.m., 3 p.m., 5 p.m. & Sunday 1 p.m., 3 p.m.

 Republic Restoratives are a women-owned and crowd-sourced distiller. They’ve only been kicking it in Ivy City since mid-2016 which makes this distillery the whippersnapper in Ivy City.  And, due to the necessity of maturation, they were only able to open with the CIVIC Vodka. Still, it’s a strong opening. The vodka is produced with corn sourced exclusively in the United States and it has a smooth finish thanks to charcoal-polished filtration.

They’re still waiting for the whiskey to mature, but in the meantime, they’ve released the alliterative Republic Restoratives’ Borough Bourbon. The bourbon was produced from a six-year Kentucky whiskey which Republic Restoratives matured in 20 French oak white wine barrels. According to a DCInno interview, they’re aiming to ambitiously release five spirits in 2017 (including an apple brandy, you heard it here second). 

Beautiful day behind the bar at my favorite place. @republicrestoratives

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Once you’ve tossed some tastes back we’ll make the final stop on the list.

6. Jos. A Magnus & Company Distillers

Tours and Tasting: Wednesday & Thursday 4 p.m. – 10 p.m., Friday 4 p.m. – midnight, Saturday noon – midnight, and Sunday 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Jos. A Magnus & Company is the second youngest distillery in Ivy City but also has the longest history. The name is taken from a Cincinnati distiller in the 1800s named Joseph A. Magnus who was forced to shut down during prohibition. *shakes an angry fist at prohibition* His grandson, Jimmy Turner, discovered an unopened bottle of his ancestor’s bourbon and with the help of whiskey experts, began the difficult task of reviving this spirit.

This seems like a good moment to state that unlike many of the embellished (and occasionally false) histories you’ll read on whiskey bottles this is a true and fascinating story of rediscovery and obsession (check out this Washington City Paper interview).  

When you arrive at Magnus you’ll want to go directly to the Murray Hill Club. Here you can sample the namesake bourbon, the Murray Hill Club blended bourbon whiskey, and the Vigilant Gin. This is also where you’ll find cocktails programmed and (usually) served by Nicole Hassoun (also of Chronic Tonic and formerly of Wisdom and Gin Joint).

 

That’s it! You survived! Wait, you’re not finished yet?  Okay, we admire your desire for spirited adventure. Let’s throw one more distilling option in the still, but you’re going to need to take public transit or a Lyft.

Bonus: District Distilling Co.

Tours and Tastings: Monday – Friday: 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday – Sunday: 12 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Technically you could slot District Distilling Co. in at the start of your tour because it’s nearly a straight shot on the yellow or green line to Farmers and Distillers. That’s up to you. The nice part about ending the tour here is you’ll bookend your tour with two distilleries that are also restaurants. Thumbs up to food while filling your blood with booze (and hydrating, you have been hydrating, right?)

District is currently serving up the Backroom Bourbon, Checkerbark Gin, Corridor Vodka, and Buzzard Point Rum. The gin and rum stand out as they both approach distilling with a twist. The white rum is distilled using a panela cane sugar which sparks an earthy, caramel undertone. The Checkerbark is the only DC distilled gin that takes its inspiration directly from the classic London-style. It’s definitely more juniper forward than the rest on this list.

Bonus, bonus: While you’re here why not take a seat at the bar for a taste of Don Ciccio & Figli‘s Cinque Apertivo? This DC distillery doesn’t officially make it onto our list simply due to location. They have a tasting room and bar in the distillery located at 6031 Kansas Ave., NW.  It’s only open on Saturdays 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. but is definitely worth the trip.

This post originally appeared on UpOut.com on March 10, 2017.

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