The Rickey was made D.C.'s official cocktail in 2011, but at the time, District residents didn't have any local spirits with which to make the drink. That was until 2012, when Uselton and Michael Lowe decided to lease a warehouse in the Northeast Washington neighborhood of Ivy City and start up New Columbia Distillers. The company became the first distiller in D.C. in a century and put out its first batch of Green Hat gin in October. Uselton said the whole process was easy.
What's the reaction been?
Response has been really good. In the District, we're allowed to self-distribute. Basically, bars and restaurants and liquor stores have been excited about having a local option.
How did you come up with Green Hat's taste?
What we were after is, we tried probably 100 gins that were commercially available and figured out if you want really forwardy juniper or citrusy gins, there are a lot of them out there. We decided we wanted something with a more earthy quality. We used sage and celery seed, things that would give us a note you couldn't find in other gins.
Any plans to expand your distillery?
We have two seasonal gins coming out. One will be a spring/summer seasonal in April, with more citrus and floral notes. And then a winter gin to be released in November. We're also doing experiments with rye whiskey, putting them into small barrels to do experiments with. Then we're going to do full-size mashes and put them into full-size barrels and age them for at least four years.
What's the best way to enjoy Green Hat gin?
It works really well in something like a gin and tonic. But you've got to make a good Rickey if you're going to be in the District. It also works really well on its own or in a martini.
-- Andy Brownfield