Cocktail Field Trip – Jos. A. Magnus Distillery

A top-flight cocktail bar tucked into a fun distillery, Jos. A. Magnus and its Murray Hill Club is a perfect spot for a lazy Saturday.

Ambiance: ****

Decor: ****

Service: ****

Cocktails: ****1/2

Overall Rating: 4.25

It took eleven years of living in the DC area before I set foot in Ivy City, the sprawling industrial area in the Northeast.  The lure was the growing number of distilleries and breweries that are popping up in the area (you can read about my September visit to One Eight Distillery here) which is just a super exciting development.  Hearing about the newly-opened Jos. A. Magnus distillery and its attached lounge the Murray Hill Club, I decided to head over to see it myself.

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The distillery is bare bones and upon entering, you’ll probably get that “am I in the right place?” feeling, but keep going!  The lounge is small and has a very cool down home, Mid-Western vibe to it.  If you had told me I was in an upscale 1950s Cleveland pool hall, I would have believed you.  It also has one of the friendlier, pleasant, and capable bar staffs I’ve encountered.  The staff and the crowd were lively and fun and the music to superb – just an unexpected party experience in a tucked away area of NE DC!

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Oh, and the drinks.  I happened to visit during their celebration of the release of their new “Royal Seal” vodka, so it was Eastern European cocktails all the way.  The first was my favorite and one of the best cocktails I’ve had in recent months, the “Royal Smiten,” a mix of vodka, apricot, cinnamon, honey, cloves and red chilis. Just superb, the cinnamon and apricot tastes blend perfectly and the chili taste is even and provides just the perfect hint of spice.  The texture and taste of this mix are just top notch.  Next up was the “Tatanka” which features vodka infused with mace, coconut, almond, and fresh pressed apple juice.  This was a really unique and bitter taste, never had anything like it.  It comes across almost ginger-ish, even, relaxing, and with a nice coconut clip at the end.  Liked it.

Next up was the “Moel Pitney” another good one made of vodka, mead, and orange blossom bitters.  The drink was easy, smooth, and powerful– the taste up front is strong.  You get a chunk of delicious honeycomb with this drink which you can mix in or eat separately.  I would take a small bite then a sip of the drink – this combo worked great, a sweet little interruption to the hard-hitting alcohol.  I ended with “The Perfect” with vodka, dry and sweet vermouth, and pickled tomato garnish.  This was good with some heat from the pickled tomato.  Not overpowering, this drink provides a unique and well-balanced sensation of cool vodka and a peppery hue.

I also got complimentary tastes of Magnus’ vodka and gin, which were both solid.  After the drinks I did a little tour of the distilling area.  It’s short and sweet which is good — I’ve found some of these brewery/distillery tours run on a bit long.  Excited to visit again!

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