Ivy City, the long-neglected industrial neighborhood off New York Ave. in Northeast DC, is now home to several distilleries and a brewery. Inspired by Travis Mitchell’s DCist piece, Barred in DC recently gathered a bunch of friends and headed off for a boozy Saturday afternoon stroll/crawl.
How to Get There
To get to Ivy City, most people will take an Uber/Lyft (grabbing one from the NoMa or Rhode Island Metro stations will save you a few bucks). A couple of us took Capital Bikeshare to the station at NY Ave/Hecht St., a half mile, 10-minute walk away from our first distillery, while multiple Metrobus stops (D4 from Farragut West, D8 from Union Station, or E2 from Fort Totten) will get you within 1/3 mile. Taking Car2Go there is not a bad idea, but don’t drive your own car unless you’re lame or pregnant and not drinking.
The first stop of our tour, One Eight Distilling, is named after the provision in the U.S. Constitution that established D.C. as the nation’s capital (or as a cynic would say-established taxation without representation firmly in the Constitution). The large, bright, and well-branded Tasting Room is full of communal tables with a long bar on the right. Three tokens are handed out upon entry that can be traded in at the bar for a healthy pour of each of the 3 featured spirits – District Made Vodka, Rock Creek White Whiskey, and Ivy City Gin. There was no consensus favorite-but all worth trying (great labels!).
Three excellent cocktails were also offered ($7 each or all 3 for $20): There Will Be Blood (white whiskey, cardamom, sweet vermouth, blood orange juice), Kumquat Way (gin, kumquat syrup, lime juice, bitter lemon soda), and Citra-licious (vodka, grapefruit juice, dry vermouth, grapefruit juice, dry vermouth, ginger syrup and seltzer) along with assorted merchandise. We finished our time at One Eight with an informative tour from one owners in the substantial and organized 7,500-square foot production space in the back.
Next, we headed downhill a third of a mile through an alternatively industrial/desolate (boarded up buildings, including a majestic old school) and residential neighborhood (You might hear the walk referred to as “sketchy”-some might feel uncomfortable walking by themselves, but it’s safe). Seven minutes later, we were at the old guard of DC’s distilleries, New Columbia Distillers.
Makers of the now-ubiquitous Green Hat gin, New Columbia is a very different experience than the other distilleries we visited-less slick, a bit more cramped, and homier. After walking through the open garage door to access the 3,500 square foot warehouse space, we helped ourselves to tastings of the regular Green Hat as well as its stronger Navy Strength version (harkening back the British Navy’s liquor rations, which were strong enough to start a fire with gunpowder). Green Hat’s strong earthiness is not for everyone-though it does have many fans. Also available were white and rose varieties of Capitoline Vermouth, the fortified wine produced by Etto, the Italian/pizza spot on 14th Street, and bottled at New Columbia. We also sampled a few $5 cocktails served on the makeshift bar in the distillery (payment awkwardly made in the business office a few feet away)-the Moonage Daydream (gin, crème yvette, lemon), T.V.C.15 (a riff on the French 15 made with gin, the white Capitoline Vermouth, cynar, and O.J,) and a Gin Genie & Tonic (gin, grapefruit, and Fever Tree tonic). Frequent tours were also offered while we were there, while other volunteers happily affixed labels to bottles before shipment.
We then walked a quarter mile, about 5 minutes (warning-no sidewalk for a block or so), to our last distillery of the day, Jos. A. Magnus & Co. This second-floor distillery is adjacent to our final stop, Atlas Brew Works. We weren’t quite sure what to make of the distillery’s labyrinth-ish space; near the top of the stairs to the left was the Magnus Room, containing long tables as well as memorabilia from the original century-old distillery (from the Cincinnati area) . There, large batch, pre-made cocktails ($10-12) are served in a large, bright and airy room overlooking the Mount Olivet Cemetery across the street.
Since we were at a distillery to sample the spirits, not necessarily drink batch cocktails, we then made our way down the hallway to the distillery itself as well as the Murray Hill Club. This sleek (couches and dark colors) cocktail lounge looks out to the stills, and again, $12 cocktails were offered at the bar made by overworked but pleasant bartenders. When we went, the menu was Soviet-themed, created to celebrate a regular’s birthday the day before. The delicious cocktails were certainly creatively named and formulated (one made with strawberry ice cream), but we were a bit disappointed on the lack of spirit tastings (perhaps if we had gotten there during the tours it would have been different), since the whole point of going to a distillery is to taste the liquor. We gathered later that you could ask the bartender for a free taste, but seems a bit bizarre to not make that more obvious even if not free. The Murray Hill Club would certainly be a fine place to get some drinks (the crowd was a bit more dressed up than the other spots visited and there was at least one woman wearing a tiara and birthday sash).
After getting liquored up at three distilleries, we concluded the day after sunset downstairs next door at Atlas Brew Works. This brewery offers some of DC’s most widely-available popular beers. It was crowded when we got there but it was easy to post up at the bar (no seating makes it easier to order) and order as many 5oz. pours as possible. Here, $2 or $3 tastings of Ponzi American IPA, Pope Magic Belgian-style Blonde, and the La Saison des Fetes Holiday Saison, as well as the widely-available Rowdy Rye, District Common, and 1500 South Capitol Lager; for those of you who know what you like, pints are $6 or $7, and 64 oz. growler fills are $12 or $15.
Tours were still ongoing of Atlas when we arrived-the bar is just feet away from all the equipment. We instead enjoyed some cornhole/bags games out in the covered/outdoor garage area in the front.
Afterwards, we took a cheap Uber/Lyft down to H Street to grab dinner. We were able to get seated on short notice at Liberty Tree, an underrated great value spot on the street to close out our day of exploring. Highly recommended afternoon of day drinking, paced out to maximize enjoyment.