This is the story about Green Hat Gin, a story that includes a dash of the American prohibition and the hypocrisy of politicians and – not to forget, the first distillery to open in DC since the 1920’s.
The American prohibition – a very short summary
Between 1920 and 1933 it was a ban on all production, import, transport, and sale of alcoholic beverages in the United States. As with most morally rooted government regulations, the prohibition caused a lot of unforeseen problems like a very high crime rate and economic downturn.
The American prohibition turned out to change the European bar scene in a very good way, but that’s another story.
New Columbia Distillers
New Columbia Distillers was the first distillery to open in Washington DC since prohibition. What is really astonishing is that they opened in October 2012. The distillery does a complete production from grain to bottle. I was surprised to see their lineup, as it was far more than was announced on their web page.
The company produces a number of vermouths and gins, as well as a bitter, and a number of syrups. For the purpose of this blog post, I’m going to focus on the gins.
When you take in to account that they start with the grain and end up with bottles of gin, the New Colombia Distillers is the most compact distillery I have visited. Located in a garage in the Ivy City district in northwest Washington, the place is packed with yeast tanks, stills, barrels, and – on Saturdays, people.
The story behind the name Green Hat Gin
The name Green Hat Gin has deep historical roots, it got its name from the most famous bootlegger in the United States. From 1920 to 1930, George Cassiday sold spirits to members of the United States Senate.
Between 1920 and 1925, he was making an average of 25 deliveries per day, transporting bottles to House and Senate offices in a large leather briefcase. He actually had an office in the basement. Capitol Police, who recognized Cassiday by his trademark green hat, allowed him access at all hours.
In 1925 Cassiday was arrested and banned from the Cannon building. The arrest was known as the green hat incident and created a lot of publicity. This turned out to be good for his business. From 1925 to 1930, he continued his bootlegging operation from another Senate building, this is today known as the Russel building.
In 1930, Cassiday was apprehended in the senators parking lot. Fittingly, he was carrying six bottles of gin during his arrest. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison. When released, he told Washington Post about his operation in great detail, resulting in a series of articles, and contributing to the downfall of the prohibition.
The Green Hat Gins
New Colombia Distillers makes six types of Green Hat Gin.
Green Hat Classic Gin
This is a gin with a classical juniper taste. What makes this gin different is the taste of coriander. The aftertaste is a bit citrusy with a touch of spice. This Green Hat Gin is perfect for classical cocktails like a Dry Martini.
Green Hat Navy Strength Gin
This is the more potent version of the Green Hat Classic gin. Personally, I loved the clear tastes in this gin. Due to the higher alcohol content, the more subtle tastes can be lost in this gin. However, you can make up for this by using it in a shaken Dry Martini. Here, the dilution will put forward more of the citrus character.
Green Hat Summer Gin
With cherry blossom as one of the main ingredients, this gin screams summer. This is a version of the classic Green Hat Gin with the addition of a flowery note bordering on strawberry. This gin is perfect for a Gin & Tonic with rosemary.
Green Hat Old Tom gin
Released in the summer of 2017, this is not your regular Old Tom gin. The sweetness normally found in Old Tom gins are replaced with lemon, oranges, and grapefruit. The gin has been resting in Pedro Ximenez Sherry barrels, giving it a nice color and a pleasant roundness.
Green Hat Aronia Gin
This is the Green hat version of a Sloe gin. Made from Aronia berries, the taste is very fruity and tangy. Again, this distillery has made their own twist on a gin.
Green Hat Ginavit (Winter gin)
Launched in 2013, this tastes like a mix of gin and aquavit. This is a really small batch product with a limited distribution.
As you may have guessed, this was not available for tasting. That was until we started talking with John Uselton, one of the owners. John loves to play around with spirits and the result is a gin with an aftertaste of clear aquavit.
I would love to try this in a cocktail meant to be made with aquavit.
The distillery tour
As mentioned, this was a very compact place, making the tour short but informative. The tour was conducted by John himself, something that gave an interesting insight into the philosophy behind each product.
We arrived early giving us a chance to see the place before it got packed with people. By the end of our tour, we had to queue up to get a second taste of our favorites. We ended up leaving the place with The Green Hat Classic gin and the Summer gin, as well as a bottle of the rose vermouth.
For more information about the Green Hat Gin, visit greenhatgin.com.