The Christmas List: Local Liquor

Posted on Nov 29, 2016


The Christmas List: Local Liquor

As we write this post, people are wrestling one another in WalMart for the last item in stock of an unbelievable deal on the new XBox. That can only mean one thing: Christmas shopping season has officially begun. In light of that, we’ll be using this week’s posts to feature our holiday gift suggestions for the cocktail lover in your life.

There’s nothing hotter right now than local, craft spirits. The entire movement of (post-Prohibition) craft distilling is just a handful of years old right now, which is kind of perfect. It’s a new enough thing that it’s a novelty to the consumer, but it’s been going long enough that some really interesting stuff is starting to come out of the stills and barrels: practice makes perfect after all, and age makes whiskey.

Craft distilling brings us back to those hard to remember days before Amazon and ebay,  those days when things could be difficult to find. I fondly remember hunting through bookstores for a rare book, or poking through used record stores for that hidden gem. Sure, there’s something magical about doing a quick google search, finding whatever you want in a matter of seconds, and having it delivered to your door in two business days. I wouldn’t go back. But there’s a cost; we no longer experience the thrill of the hunt, the envy of our friends when we pull out the album all of us have known is out there but none of us have ever seen, or the satisfaction of being the one to drop the needle as everyone listens for the first time.

Well, in the world of craft spirits, a complicated mess of local liquor laws (Thanks, Prohibition. This time, unironically.), along with the limited volume of these small producers, returns us to that bygone era. Often, you can only get locally distilled liquor near to where it was made. That gives craft spirit drinkers the currently unusual experience of tasting something unique and rare.

This is an especially happy circumstance for the DC gift-giver, because we have an unusually vibrant craft distilling scene , with five local spirits-makers (these four, plus the newest one District Distilling) and one local liqueur maker. If you buy a bottle from one of these places for another District resident, they’ll applaud your local pride. If you’re going elsewhere for the holidays (as most of us seem to do) and carry one of these bottles with you–in your checked baggage only!–you’ll be bringing your sprits-loving friend or family member something they’ve never tasted, and couldn’t even get for themselves if they wanted to. That’s a rare thing nowadays.

Each of our local distillers makes a different set of spirits. They’re all great. Seriously, it’s impossible to go wrong. If we had to narrow down the selection, though, we’d say,

  • for vodka, get District Made Vodka from One Eight, because of its distinctive rye-heavy flavor;
  • for gin, make it New Columbia’s winter Green Hat, because it’s lovely, limited edition, and seasonally-flavored;
  • for whiskey, we’d suggest Republic Restoratives’ white-wine-barrel-finished Borough Bourbon, because it was released only a couple of weeks ago and so almost no one has had it;
  • for something extra special, we’d recommend Jos. A. Magnus’ Cigar Blend, a limited edition release that’s still in pre-sale but is coming out any day. At $149, it’s certainly a splurge, but we’ve tasted it and it has the magical power to transport your gift recipient into a deep, old leather armchair with a single sip.

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