Washington’s booming booze scene, like so much else in the city, is decidedly international—whether the distillers are travelers bringing flavors from afar or immigrants replicating sips of home.
1. Japan: American Shochu Company
Husband and wife Taka and Lynn Amano opened the only shochu distillery in America, to bring the flavor of Taka’s native Japan stateside. The clear, unfiltered spirit has hints of barley and is as versatile as vodka. $25.
2. France: Mt. Defiance Absinthe Supérieure
NASA rocket scientist turned distiller Peter Ahlf was inspired by 19th-century French absinthe recipes, made with homegrown herbs and lo-cal wormwoods as well as European anise seed and fennel. $31.99.
3. Scandinavia: New Columbia Distillers Ginavit
Distiller John Uselton’s gin/aquavit hybrid is designed for cool-weather drinking, melding American gin and Scandinavian aquavit botanicals (dill, caraway, anise), all aged in apple-brandy barrels. $42.
4. Jamaica: Cotton & Reed Allspice Dram
A staple for any tiki bar, Lukas B. Smith’s complex rum-based liqueur incorporates Jamaican allspice along-side cloves, peppercorns, and dry-fermented lime. $35.
5. Guyana: Thrasher’s White Rum
For his new rum distillery at the Wharf, veteran barman Todd Thrasher looked to Guyanese rums—generally richer and oakier—for this adaptable white variety. $28.
6. Laos: White Tiger Lao-Style Whiskey
After two decades in the US Army, Captain Itsara Ounnarath, a first-generation Lao American, retired to launch a distillery with a family moonshine recipe—adapted to American tastes as an oak-barrel-aged, rice-based whiskey. $42.
7. Mediterranean: Capitoline Rosé Vermouth
Taking cues from aromatized wines in Italy and Spain, this blush vermouth—bright with Seville oranges and redolent of baking spices and sage—is as good in a spritz as it is in a Manhattan. $31.99.
8. Italy: Don Ciccio & Figli Amaro delle Sirene
At his distillery and bar in Ivy City, Francesco Amodeo revives family recipes from his native Amalfi Coast—such as this smooth, herbaceous liqueur distilled with 30 botanicals and aged for a year in Italian red-wine barrels. $44.50.
This article appears in the December 2019 issue of Washingtonian.