Farmers & Distillers Will Open in December With Vodka And Amaro

Farmers & Distillers' Jon Arroyo and Bob Vanlancker have been testing recipes at Copper Fox Distillery in Virginia. Photo courtesy Farmers & Distillers.

When Farmers & Distillers opens in Mount Vernon Triangle in December, it will feature two spirits that couldn’t seem more different: vodka and amaro.

Vodka is, of course, just savvy business sense for the $7 million, 300-seat restaurant, bar, and distillery from the folks behind Founding Farmers and Farmers Fishers Bakers. Compared to other more complex and aged spirits, it’s relatively easy to start producing quickly. Plus, it’s the key ingredient in the Cucumber Delight, a cocktail that the restaurant group sells about 90,000 of a year. The vodka will be made of of Virginia rye and barley plus wheat from the family farm of the president of the North Dakota Farmers Union, which owns the restaurants.

Amaro is more of a passion project for Distillery Director Jon Arroyo. The longtime beverage director for Farmers Restaurant Group is looking to make aperitifs and digestifs—liqueurs meant to both whet the palate before a meal and help with digestion—more of a norm. He says these types of drinks are ideal for a big, rich dinner, something for which Founding Farmers is known.

To get people hooked, Arroyo is looking to create a “gateway amaro” which will be called Arroyo’s Never Bitter Amaro. “It’s an amaro, it’s bitter,” he says, “but it’s not intended to knock you over the head and smack you in the gut.”

The recipe combines 22 different herbs and spices—including vanilla, orange peel, peppermint, saffron, star anise, and wormwood—and will be sweetened with a molasses honey. At least for the initial batch, the honey will come from an apiary at George Washington University.

These actually aren’t the first spirits from Farmers Restaurant Group. The company partners with Copper Fox Distillery in Virginia to create a single-malt gin and rye whiskey. Arroyo also teamed up with Macchu Pisco to produce its  Farm Blend Pisco. Those relationships will continue; in fact, Copper Fox owner Rick Wasmund has been a mentor and consultant who has lent his facility for the new distillery’s research and development.

When Founding Spirits Distillery (that’s the name of the distillery within Farmers & Distillers) is up and running, Arroyo is looking to develop an American dry gin and different whiskeys. He’s also interested in incorporating other local ingredients, like apples, and eventually producing vermouth.

The distillery will begin bottle sales by February 2017, when it will also launch tours and tastings. The goal is to eventually sell the products to outside restaurants and retailers.

Farmers & Distillers. 600 Massachusetts Ave. NW.

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.