Welcome to founding spirits
Know Your Farmer. Know Your Distiller.™
The Founding Farmers and Farmers Fishers Bakers family has expanded, giving rise to our newest venture, a micro-batch distillery custom-built inside our newest restaurant, Farmers & Distillers. Founding Spirits is a rich and complex blend of our from-scratch, source-matters mission, inspired by: our American heritage, a handful of expert distillers from around the globe whom we now call friends, and the early underpinnings of science. This all may seem like a lot to meld down into one still, but the end result is our production of unique spirits you won’t want to miss.
Founding Spirits continues our collective mission to “unbundle the industrial supply chain.” We’re turning grains and water into alcohol for the same reason we bake our own bread and churn our own butter. It all amounts to “distilling” in our eyes. Our goal is to bring you closer to what our farmers are growing and to this great land we call home. We are using our hands and our culinary know-how to make everything we can from scratch, even our booze. At Founding Spirits, we are using Virginia and North Dakota grains from farmers we know, like Mark & Michelle Watne of Watne Farms and Billy Dawson of Bay’s Best Feed.
What started years ago as collaborations with Copper Fox Distillery, Macchu Pisco in Peru, and several wine makers to create our own proprietary beverages — including Rye Whisky, Gin, Pisco, our New York Vines White, and Virginia Vines Rosé — has now grown. Our inspiration also comes from our founding fathers and mothers, especially founding farmer and distiller George Washington. His spirit is present in all we do. As are the spirits of many alchemists or early scientists who were focused on medicinal elixirs but instead focused on medicinal elixirs and the vapors produced during their formation. These vapors were called “spirits” due to the comparison to the oft-held human belief that the spirit can be separated from the physical body. Our distillery is surrounded by the spirits of those who have inspired us on this fantastic journey. In each unique spirit we create, we think you can taste not only our family-farmed grains, but also the essence of American industriousness and innovation, from our early ancestors to our modern-day culinary wizards.
Join us behind the scenes for a tour and taste of our spirits! Founding Spirits distillery tours are available Saturday and Sunday by reservation only. Each tour accommodates up to eight guests and includes: spirit tastings, a cocktail, and a few delicious bites. Reservations for tours can be made here. Don’t forget to reserve a table afterwards at Farmers & Distillers. *Note: the distillery tour lasts approximately 60 minutes. Got a larger group or want to tour our distillery during the week? Please reach out to us here.
About the spirits
Founding Spirits Vodka
Made with the purest ingredients in the heart of DC by Jon Arroyo and his team, we distill our Vodka with the aristocrat of wheat, Dark Northern Spring, more commonly known as Hard Red Spring Wheat. Harvested on the Watne’s family farm in North Dakota, this specific grain is a trademark of excellence in the world of wheat due to its high-protein and high-quality. Mark, Michelle, and their family are fourth-generation wheat, corn, barley, and soybean farmers; while Mark also serves as president of North Dakota Farmers Union. In addition to the ND wheat, the two other key components, rye and barley, are harvested by Billy Dawson of Bay’s Best Feed in Heathsville, VA.
Find it in these cocktails & many others at Farmers & Distillers:
North Dakota Sour
Founding Spirits Vodka | Lime | Maraschino | FS grapefruit bitters
Founding Spirits Vodka | Lemon Twist | House larded olive
Founding Spirits Amaro
Throughout his travels to South America and Europe, Jon Arroyo fell in love with digestifs and aperitifs. He made it his mission to bring the magic of the before and after dinner drink home to the United States. While Amaro can have an intimidating reputation of being too bitter, Jon and his team set out on a journey to make an approachable spirit that everyone can enjoy. Our Amaro can only be described as delicious and “never bitter,” as the label suggests.
Find it in these cocktails at Farmers & Distillers:
Founding Spirits Amaro | Founding Farmers Rye Whisky | Orgeat | Lime
Founding Spirits Amaro | Founding Farmers Gin | Campari | Lemon | Orange
Founding Spirits American Whiskey
All great things take time. We’ve been working on our handcrafted, true American Whiskey since we began our distilling adventures in 2009. Pot stilled and barrel aged for at least 18 months at Copper Fox Distillery – using our good friend and farmer, the late Billy Dawson’s Virginia-grown corn, wheat, barley, and oats – we proof, blend, and bottle it in-house at Founding Spirits. Our unique, small batch blend has a rich, smooth, and earthy taste that can be enjoyed many ways. We think you will agree, it was well worth the wait.
Find it in these cocktails at Farmers & Distillers:
Traditional Mint Julep
Founding Spirits American Whiskey | Mint | Rum
"Never Bitter" Julep
Founding Spirits American Whiskey | Mint | "Never Bitter" Founding Spirits Amaro
Distillery Director Show bio +
Jon Arroyo started his career in the acting world and, like most actors, spent a lot of time working in restaurants, specifically, behind the bar. A decade of experience in the industry gave this Los Angeles native an appreciation for, as he puts it, “all things liquid.”
At Farmers Restaurant Group, Jon has been able to pursue his true passion: the art of the craft cocktail. He runs all bar & beverage programs, overseeing the development of our award-winning cocktails; from-scratch mixers to our house-made nonalcoholic sodas.
Always looking to up our bar service ante, Jon has worked hand in hand with Rick Wasmund, of Copper Fox Distillery in Sperryville, VA, on the development of Founding Farmers Rye Whisky and Gin, traveled to Macchu Pisco to create our Founding Farmers Pisco Blend, and toiled with the talented vintner teams at two different vineyards in order to bring guests our house line of wines, Virginia Vines and New York Vines.
Now, Jon is calling the shots at Farmers & Distillers. Developing unique spirits with his own recipes and blend of ingredients for our in-house distillery, Founding Spirits.
According to Jon, he finds inspiration through all of his experiences, and his ultimate goal is to provide fresh and interesting flavors that resonate with guests and deliver a positive experience.
Distillery Manager Show bio +
Originally from Ohio, Bob VanLancker has been instrumental in crafting many of the tasty cocktails across the Farmers Restaurant Group since 2011. Hired initially as a bartender, his mixology skills, management style, and desire to give every guest a “Wow, this is the best drink I’ve ever had!” experience quickly led him to to head bartender at Founding Farmers DC. Bob then helped open Farmers Fishers Bakers and has been a valuable consultant for VSAG, particularly in helping new restaurants develop their bar and beverage programs. When the plans for Founding Spirits were born, it was a no-brainer to bring Bob into the mix.
Over the past year, Bob has been apprenticing with Copper Fox Distillery, learning the ins and outs of running a distillery; from creating particular flavors to bottling, proofing, and labeling. For Founding Spirits, Bob will manage the the day-to-day operations of the distillery. He will work closely with Beverage Director, Jon Arroyo, in crafting their small-batch spirits, starting with Vodka and Amaro with big plans to move into Vermouths and American Whisky on the horizon.
A resident of DC, Bob is excited to take this next step in the hospitality industry, which has been his profession for the past 20+ years. Always passionate about enhancing the guest experience with great drinks, Bob can’t wait to roll out our Founding Spirits. “With this distillery, we are taking in-house spirits production to the next level,” says Bob. “We are going to blow people away with new and different flavors, a whole new taste experience.”