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Craft distillers spend years honing the flavor of their products - only to have bartenders obscure them with fruit juices, bitters and sodas.

Adam Chumas,

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Tom Douglas Bartenders Mix Cocktails Showcasing Local Spirits

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Craft distillers spend years honing the flavor of their products - only to have bartenders obscure them with fruit juices, bitters and sodas.

Adam Chumas, beverage director for Tom Douglas Restaurants, says he and his bartenders were cognizant of the need to "allow the spirits to shine" when designing cocktails for this Friday's "Washington Distillers Cocktail Party," featuring eight drinks made with local spirits.

"For instance, I'm dealing with Skip Rock vodka," Chumas says. "It's a potato vodka, and it's really unique. It tastes earthy; it has a terroir. I wanted to keep it simple, so I mixed it with sherry and sweet vermouth."

Brandon Gillespie, managing director for Oola Distillery, says he doesn't mind when drinkers use Oola's newly-released gin in their Bronxes and Pink Ladies: "Ultimately, what I want is the person drinking the beverage to enjoy what they like," he says. But he says Oola's gin is ideally paired with ice.

"We did suggest that's how it performs best," Gillespie says.

Oola sold out its first batch of gin in four days, and is on the cusp of selling out its second batch.

"We underestimated it," Gillespie says. "We thought the vodka would be the winner. But our gin is not as juniper-heavy as most, and I think that's why people have gravitated toward it."

Many of the spirits on Friday's program are brand new to the market. In addition to Oola and Skip Rock, the event roster includes beverages from Sound Spirits, Dry Fly Distilling, Pacific Distillery, Bainbridge Distillers, Fremont Mischief, BroVo Spirits and Scrappy's Bitters. Few of them have yet secured permanent positions behind Tom Douglas bars.

"We're currently trickling them into restaurants as we see good spots for them," says Chumas, who's organized staff trips to the various distilleries.

"I'm looking forward to having all these distilleries in the same room and giving my bartenders a chance to show off their skills," he adds.

Tickets to the party at Palace Ballroom are $40.

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