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.
Gin: Green Hat by New Columbia Distillers
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. greenhatgin.com. Open Saturday.
Vodka: Civic by Republic Restoratives
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. republicrestoratives.com. Open Thursday through Sunday.
White rum: Cotton & Reed
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. cottonandreed.com. Open Wednesday through Sunday.
Why you'll like it: Rum is a sailor's drink, and Lyon Distilling creates traditional rum in the picturesque Eastern Shore sailing town of St. Michaels. Its dark rum is made with blackstrap molasses and cane sugar juice, with some house-made caramel added for color and flavor. It's a sweet rum, heavy on caramel and some smoke, and very smooth for 90 proof. It works in a Dark and Stormy as well as in such tiki drinks as the Jungle Bird.
Try before you buy: The distillery and tasting room are located in St. Michaels' old mill building. Distiller Ben Lyon leads tours Saturday at 2 and 4 p.m.
Lyon Distilling, 605 S. Talbot St., St. Michaels, Md. 443-333-9181. lyondistilling.com. Open daily.
Why you'll like it: This has been quite a year for the Joseph A. Magnus bourbon, which won prestigious double gold medals at world spirits competitions in San Francisco and New York. This nine-year-old whiskey, sourced from Indiana's MGP Distilling, is aged for months in the Ivy City distillery in a mix of sherry and cognac barrels, and then blended. The resulting bourbon is rich and smooth, with notes of caramel and dark fruit and a slight nuttiness.
Try before you buy: Joseph A. Magnus's Murray Hill Club bar, named for an early 20th-century whiskey from the original Magnus distillery in Cincinnati, has free tastings and a full menu of craft cocktails showing off Magnus's various bourbons and its Vigilant Gin. Tours are offered on Saturday afternoons.
Joseph A. Magnus & Co., 2052 West Virginia Ave. NE. 202-450-3518. josephmagnus.com. Open Wednesday through Sunday.
Price: $44.99 (original).
Why you'll like it: Purcellville's Catoctin Creek makes three versions of its organic Roundstone Rye. The 80-proof original, a young (almost two-year-old) whiskey with lots of rye spice and caramel and woody notes, is a solid all-purpose rye for cocktails. The 92 proof ($52.79), released in 2014, takes the spice and sweetness up a level and is great neat or with ice. The cask strength ($89), is a must-try for serious whiskey aficionados; it's released in limited quantities twice per year. The latest version, which came out earlier this fall, is around 114 proof and finished in maple syrup barrels.
Try before you buy: The tasting room offers tours and guided tastings at the top of every hour. Options start at $5, which includes the "standard" spirits, and go to $10 for a "premium" tasting with brandy or high-end whiskey. Reservations are recommended.
Catoctin Creek Distillery, 120 W. Main St., Purcellville, Va. 540-751-8404. catoctincreekdistilling.com. Open Tuesday through
Why you'll like it: Please don't call this moonshine. Yes, it's a young, unaged white whiskey. But unlike the stuff you see on television shows about backwood bootleggers, this is high-quality whiskey that won't rot your guts. One Eight uses an all-rye mashbill (a mix of organic rye and malted Virginia rye) that gives the whiskey a notable hit of peppery spice. It works in cocktails - sub it for rye, or in a Salty Dog - but is smooth enough to sip over ice.
Try before you buy: One Eight's Ivy City distillery is open Saturdays for tours of its warehouse-size facility (hourly from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m., no reservations needed) and free tastings in a modern tasting room. Cocktails, which rotate weekly, are sold at the bar, along with glassware and T-shirts.
One Eight Distilling, 1135 Okie St. NE. 202-636-6638. oneeightdistilling.com. Open Saturday.
Why you'll like it: Most whiskey that comes out of this region is bourbon or rye. Not Wasmund's. Copper Fox founder Rick Wasmund learned the art of whisky making at Scotland's Bowmore distillery, and his single-malt whisky uses a unique process that involves hand-malting Virginia barley and smoking it with a combination of apple and cherry woods, instead of Scotch's traditional peat, before aging the whisky in used bourbon barrels. Though the label says "single malt," the flavors are more sticky fruit and smoky bonfire.
Try before you buy: Copper Fox's rustic distillery is open daily, and free tours are offered every half hour. A tasting costs $8.
Copper Fox Distillery, 9 River Lane, Sperryville, Va. 540-987-8554. copperfox.biz. Open daily.
Why you'll like it: Most cocktail fans stock two kinds of vermouth: sweet vermouth, which is used in Manhattans and Negronis, and dry vermouth, which is a key ingredient in a classic martini. But for something different, try Capitoline's Rosé Vermouth. The brainchild of Etto co-owner Peter Pastan and bar manager Kat Hamidi, Capitoline's Rosé shows off a light sweetness and notes of baking spice, making it equally suitable for a Manhattan or sipping on its own on the rocks.
Try before you buy: Capitoline doesn't have a distillery - its vermouths are made at New Columbia, the home of Green Hat Gin. Stop by during New Columbia's Saturday hours, when you can sample the rosé, white and dry vermouths. They are usually featured in one or two cocktails - along with Green Hat, naturally - at New Columbia's tasting bar.
New Columbia Distillers, 1832 Fenwick St. NE. 202-733-1710. capitolinevermouth.com. Open Saturday.
Why you'll like it: Owner Francesco Amodeo produces a full range of traditional Italian amaro and liqueurs, inspired by his family distillery on Italy's Amalfi Coast, which opened in 1883 and was destroyed by a 1980 earthquake. While his amaro have their own charms, it's the earthy Cinque, based on a 1929 recipe, that you'll reach for most often, especially if you enjoy bitter orange liqueurs, such as Aperol or Campari, on their own or in a Negroni.
Try before you buy: Don Ciccio & Figli is open to the public on Saturdays, when Amodeo leads tours and guided tastings in his industrial facility in upper Northwest Washington. The "Bar Sirenis" offers flights of amaro and individual cocktails, such as the D.C. Negroni, made with Green Hat Gin and Capitoline Vermouth. There are also bottled cocktails that can serve two to eight drinks.
Don Ciccio & Figli, 6031 Kansas Ave. NW. donciccioefigli.com. Open Saturday.