July 24, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Ginning Up Good Cheers

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
New Columbia co-founder John Uselton said that while they’re both avid gin drinkers, he and Michael Lowe, pictured here, did not want to mimic any of their favorite pours. Instead, their handiwork encapsulates the bond of wheat and 12 carefully selected botanicals.

“Yes, it’s got a good bit of juniper in it  . . .  but it can include any kind of botanical in it. You’ve got a lot of freedom,” he suggested of the evolving art form.

The first production batch was ready to be bottled Oct. 1, their award-winning handiwork encapsulating the marriage of wheat grown in the Northern Neck of Virginia and a dozen carefully selected botanicals. The four core elements — juniper berries, coriander seed, celery seed and fennel seed — begin shaping the would-be alcohol from the first boil, while the remaining seasonings (sage leaf, orris root, Angelica root, cinnamon, lemon grass, grains of paradise and hand-shaved lemon and grapefruit peel) make a guest appearance only during the fourth and final distillation.

“It’s not just straight medicinal. There’s a lot more flavors happening in there,” one companion proclaimed after knocking back a few fingers of the current recipe.

That assessment is spot on.

Floral notes dominate the bouquet, though hints of citrus peek through the more time spent nosing the glass. A slow swish across the palate unlocks nuances of peppery spice, grassy botanicals, underlying citrus and soothing herbs. It’s pleasant enough for solo sipping (love the manly after burn) but was obviously created to breathe new life into familiar, and perhaps yet undiscovered, cocktails.

Uselton noted that while they’re both avid gin drinkers, he and Lowe did not want to mimic any of their favorite pours.

“If you want a really junipery gin or a really citrusy gin, which are kind of like the main branches, there’s a lot of producers out there that can make very good ones a lot cheaper than we can do it here in downtown D.C.,” he admitted.

For Lowe, staking out a new corner of the giniverse was both personally appealing and fiscally prudent.

“You’ve got to either make a vodka, gin or white whiskey  . . .  in order to pay the rent,” he said of the immediate return on investment favored by micro distilleries. “Because what makes spirits brown is spending years in the barrel.”

Lip Service

Lowe mapped out plans to begin courting the Virginia market in earnest once the calendar flips.

For now, they remain focused on keeping their most ardent fans — including neighboring retailers (Schneider’s of Capitol Hill, Hayden’s Liquor, Capitol Fine Wines, Harry’s Reserve) and dining/drinking establishments (Boundary Road, The Pug, Smith Commons, Star and Shamrock Tavern & Deli, Granville Moore’s, Art and Soul, 201 Bar) — connected to their craft spirit.

Area tastemakers appear only too happy to comply.

2Amys manager Debbie Johnson said Green Hat has inspired her to whip up all manner of curious libations, many of which have resonated with her most discerning patrons.

She had incorporated Green Hat into her just-retired “Fall Spritz,” a seasonal medley mixing gin, sparkling white wine and house-made lemon-rosemary simple syrup. (“Quite delicious for fall or really, anytime of year,” she suggested.) Johnson’s latest salute is the “Green Hat Trick,” combining gin, grapefruit juice, dry vermouth and a splash of tonic.

“It is currently on our drink specials board and is very popular,” she said.

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