Thrillist: These Ivy City Distilleries Are Leading DC’s Spirits Renaissance
“During Prohibition, bathtub gin and speakeasies weren’t the only ways Washington citizens flouted laws banning alcohol. Congressmen found another illicit method to procure liquor: a bootlegger known as The Man in the Green Hat. A dapper gentleman recognized by his emerald felt hat, George Cassiday would smuggle bottles of booze into House and Senate offices in a large leather briefcase throughout the ’20s.
Nearly a century later, when Michael Lowe and John Uselton set out to start the first distillery in Washington since the dry era, Cassiday and his trademark topper lent the perfect moniker — Green Hat Gin. In addition to gin being a quintessential cocktail spirit, it was also a pragmatic choice, because unlike whiskey, which needs to age for years, gin can go from grain to bottle in a few weeks. “It’s a fairly quick turnaround, which means, assuming you can sell the gin, you can pay the rent,” Lowe says.
After apprenticing at a distillery in Spokane, Washington, they began looking for a DC home for their operation — and landed in Ivy City, a historically black community located in Northeast Washington that is home to numerous warehouses. Though the neighborhood had been in decline since the 1970s, marked by the closing of the historic Alexander Crummel School, over the past 10 years it has drawn the attention of developers, with the opening of the Hecht Warehouse apartments, buzzy restaurants like The Tavern at Ivy City Smokehouse and Gravitas, and concert venues like City Winery.