From Jane Alonso. Her passion for food and spirits leads her on frequent excursions into Borderstan’s land of bars and restaurants. Email her at jane[AT]borderstan.com.
Local Whiskey Begins to Get Top Billing
Could the DC area be considered the next bourbon trail one day in the future? A local movement to revive pre-Prohibition liquor production appears to be in its infancy stages. Local bartenders and marketers are taking notice.
First we had the establishment in 2009 of the first legal distillery in Loudoun County since before Prohibition — Catoctin Creek Distilling Company, located in Purcelville, Virginia. Around the same time, Mount Vernon Plantation opened its long-mothballed distillery to produce and bottle whiskey following George Washington’s own recipe.
And since last summer, DC itself now has its own distillery — New Columbia Distillery, which opened in a 3,500-square-foot warehouse in Northeast DC and now produces its first signature brand, Green Hat Gin, named after a local bootlegger.
Social networking services and club promoters are beginning to incorporate these spirits into their marketing pitches to local bar goers. For example, in January, Gilt City promoted an event at the Huxley featuring Rogue 24 mixologist Bryan Tetorakis using Catoctin Creek liquors as a base to teach participants about gin and whiskey and the art of creating balanced cocktails.
Tetorakis used the distillery’s gin (which, is, by the way, the best gin I have tried ever… sweet, aromatic, smooth. A far cry from your Dad’s Beefeater…) and crème de violette, simple syrup, egg white, and lemon ash to create a drink he called the “Beaureguard.”
He says that using local liquors in his cocktails is one way he can help highlight the revival of regional distilleries. “It is hard to make a bad cocktail with top-quality liquor like this,” he says. He insisted that participants at the Gilt City event try the liquor “neat” first before drinking it in the mixed cocktail so that they can get a true sense of the flavor of the spirit.
The DC area once had dozens of distilleries. Before Prohibition, distilling was a common practice — there were no laws regulating production and use of alcohol, so farmers and mill owners who had ready access to grains such as rye and corn commonly ran a still. Taverns also commonly had their own stills.
Perhaps DC’s long-established reputation for drinking (our city is ranked one of the booziest in the nation) will translate to production in the near future. Cheers!