Green Hat Gin

Story by Jen Cooper, Photos by Dave Cooper

In the Ivy City neighborhood of Washington, DC,  two men are making a gin whose popularity has quickly sky rocketed. The father and son-in-law team of Michael Lowe and John Uselton teamed up in 2011 to open New Columbia Distillers, DC’s first distillery since prohibition.

Michael was bored with retirement, “There’s only so much yoga one can do.” So the two men learned all they could about making top-quality spirits and began developing their recipe. If you’ve tasted New Columbia Distillers’ Green Hat Gin you know what makes it special. It’s a contemporary style gin with a floral nose and it’s super smooth.

While speaking to John and Michael you really get a sense of their dedication to their product, recipes, and methods. When it came time to develop the packaging they hired Design Army—one of the best design firms in the country—to design their brand. These guys take no shortcuts.

But if all of this wasn’t enough, what makes Green Hat Gin even more special is its namesake.

During the 1920s, Congress enacted prohibition, leaving the country dry and thirsty. While Congress went about their business making sure the rest of the country abstained from alcohol, a bootlegger named George Cassiday walked into their offices wearing a green hat. The hat was a signal for police to look the other way while he carried in a case full of booze.

The Man in the Green Hat made daily deliveries to the Hill. He was so popular among lawmakers, he was given an office in one of the congressional buildings to use as headquarters for his operation.

Eventually, political pressure mounted, as it does, and Cassiday was busted in 1930. His arrest lead to his penning a series of exposés in the Washington Post, which he wrote after spending his days in jail. I say “days” because he served his reduced sentence during daytime hours before heading home in the evening. Oh, the power of a little black book. Soon after the series was published, congress repealed prohibition.

The Man in the Green Hat made daily deliveries to the Hill. He was so popular among lawmakers, he was given an office in one of the congressional buildings to use as headquarters for his operation.


Now Michael and John have taken up where The Man in the Green Hat left off. Except they’re doing it all above board with a far superior product. Cassiday produced bathtub grade spirits. Green Hat Gin is produced in a custom made German still using locally sourced red winter wheat and organic botanicals.

Currently, Green Hat Gin produces three varieties: classic, spring/summer and fall. Each has a bouquet and flavor representative of the season. And all are made using a blend of no fewer than a dozen botanicals. They’re also aging their first batch of Rye Whiskey. Fans are anxiously awaiting that one.

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The distillery is open for sales Monday through Friday from 9 to 5, and tastings and tours on Saturdays from 1 until 4.  And if you want to go all in on the bootlegger’s life, call up a dozen of your friends and volunteer to bottle a batch of gin at the distillery while sipping G and Ts. If you don’t have that many friends, don’t worry, you can still sign up to help with bottling. Volunteers earn a discount.



Green Hat Distillery
Visit Michael and John in person at 1832 Fenwick St NE Washington DC 20002