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How to fill your bar cart with Washington’s best booze

A lineup of local spirits suitable for gifts or home bar use. (Photos by Bill O'Leary)

There's a good chance you're going to buy at least one bottle of booze in December. Your home bar probably needs to be restocked before you can host your annual ugly sweater party. And everyone has a friend, co-worker or cousin who'd really appreciate a thoughtfully chosen bottle of Scotch or bourbon as a holiday "thank you."

Not long ago, the default purchases might have been English gins, Jamaican rums or Kentucky bourbons. But these days, no matter what kind of cocktails you prefer - Manhattans, martinis, a glass of rye with a chunk of ice - you can stock your home bar cart with spirits made in the Washington area. More important, this isn't just hometown pride: Locally produced whiskeys and gins are garnering praise and winning competitions coast to coast.

Every distillery in our back yard has a tasting room where you can try a sample or two before buying a bottle, whether you're shopping for yourself or someone else. In the District, distilleries are also allowed to mix and sell cocktails, which might provide an idea of how to use your new purchase.

Rather than provide a list of distilleries to visit, we've created a shopping list that will allow you to make just about any drink this holiday season.

Prices listed are for purchase at distilleries. Prices will vary at area liquor stores.

Jump to: Gin | Vodka | Rum | Whiskey | Vermouth and Amaro

Gin: Green Hat by New Columbia Distillers
Price: $34.
Why you'll like it: When Green Hat opened in 2012, it was Washington's first distillery since Prohibition. Its first product was this herbaceous and peppery gin, which has notes of coriander, sage and fennel in addition to the expected juniper and citrus peel. While New Columbia has expanded its production to a line of seasonal and limited edition gins, such as Navy Strength, Green Hat remains the standard in bars across the city. It's great in a Rickey, D.C.'s homegrown cocktail.
Try before you buy: New Columbia's garage-like distillery lacks the fancy atmosphere of some of its neighbors in Ivy City, but the laidback vibe is part of its charm. Stop in on Saturday afternoon for tours, samples and a selection of $5 gin cocktails, which change every week.
New Columbia Distillers, 1832 Fenwick St. NE. 202-733-1710. Open Saturday.

Vodka: Civic by Republic Restoratives
Price: $29.
Why you'll like it: Republic Restoratives is the only woman-owned distillery in the District; founders Pia Carusone and Rachel Gardner previously worked in politics and policy. Their first product was Civic Vodka, a clean, smooth spirit that's become a fixture behind the bar at 2 Birds 1 Stone, Tail Up Goat and other well-regarded cocktail spots.
Try before you buy: Republic's sunny Ivy City showroom opened in May across from the Hecht Warehouse. Because drinking neat vodka isn't the biggest lure for customers, bartenders at its Ivy Room bar offer Civic in a variety of cocktails, from martinis to bloody marys, for $9 each. The best is a Moscow Mule, made with a spicy and pungent house ginger beer. Tours are offered Saturday (1, 3 and 5 p.m.) and Sunday (1 and 3 p.m.).
Republic Restoratives, 1369 New York Ave. NE. Open Thursday through Sunday.

White rum: Cotton & Reed
Price: $30.
Why you'll like it: The District's only rum-focused distillery has lofty goals: "We wanted to help change people's perception of what rum can be," co-founder Reed Walker says. That's obvious from the first sip of Cotton & Reed's products, which are far more nuanced and flavorful than the stuff you mix with Coke at a backyard cookout. The White Rum is citrusy and floral up front, and has an earthy spice in the finish. It's great in cocktails or sipped over ice.
Try before you buy: The tasting room, located half a block from Union Market, was designed as a showroom for the rums, which are featured in six or seven cocktails created by Lukas B. Smith, who made a name for himself as a mixologist at Dram & Grain and Daikaya. Smith whips up seasonal sodas, tonics and syrups that show off the best side of the rums, and bartenders are always ready to offer tasting notes and advice.
Cotton and Reed, 1330 Fifth St. NE. 202-544-2805. Open Wednesday through Sunday.


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