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Farmers & Distillers from the Founding Farmers family of restaurants opened this month with a lengthy and diverse food menu ranging from pizza and burgers to oysters and caviar. And the sweet potato spring rolls are proving an early house favorite. The drink program plays along with a robust 40 cocktails, built to showcase the restaurant group’s growing spirits lineup.
The cocktail list is organized by five spirit categories and each drink incorporates at least one spirit produced either in-house or with partner distilleries, including rye whiskey and gin made by Copper Fox Distillery; pisco made in collaboration with Macchu Pisco; and Founding Spirits vodka and amaro (a bitter herbal liqueur) made on site. Beverage director and distillery director Jon Arroyo set out to prominently feature the restaurant’s proprietary spirits because he says doing so “takes a lot of moxie.” Founding Spirits vodka officially launches today, while the amaro is expected to be available in January.
The amaro containing 21 botanicals is giving Arroyo the biggest headache. He calls it a “frustrating unknown” and is anxiously awaiting the end result of what’s still a work in progress.
The plan has been to age each batch for a minimum of six months in 10-gallon barrels. Each batch is a blend of two components, both of which are macerated with oak chips, with one being redistilled on a micro still to produce an amaro distillate which Arroyo says gives the product structure.
Through trial and error, Arroyo has gotten comfortable with Farmers & Distillers’ 50-gallon still named Caroline after the cult classic Neil Diamond song, “Sweet Caroline,” but he jokes that it wasn’t always so good, so good. “She was a bitch all summer long,” he says. “It’s a lot of hard work to tune that instrument.”
That said Founding Spirits is in a unique position compared to other craft distilleries. “One of the advantages we have here is that we already have a market, it’s us,” Arroyo says. By serving as their own customer, they’re able to take their time during production instead of taking shortcuts or doing things on the cheap out of a necessity to start moving product off the shelf.
Cocktails range from $12 to $14, with the exception of large format drinks dubbed “whimsical shared cocktails” that celebrate Arroyo’s affinity for all things tiki. They’ve already proven popular. “Sell one, sell a dozen,” Arroyo says, since patrons get a real sense of FOMO when giant golden pineapples arrive at other tables.
There’s also a line up of vodka and gin Martinis for imbibers that like to keep things simple. The “Bradford” is made with vodka shaken with vermouth while the “Burnt” is a stirred gin martini that subs in scotch for vermouth.
Other highlights include multiple takes on the negroni and pisco sour; the “Whitestar,” a riff on a popular Founding Farmers mainstay, now made with gin, rum, cold-pressed cucumber, mint, lime, and egg; the “Saratoga” with rye, amaro, cognac, and bitters; and an amaro daiquiri with amaro, rye, orgeat, and lime.
Only two cocktails were brought over from other Founding Farmers locations with tweaks. The rest are original to the new restaurant.
Founders & Distillers, 600 Massachusetts Ave. NW; (202) 464-3001; farmersanddistillers.com