DC Distillery Republic Restoratives’ Simply Great Spirit(s)

As part of our Simple Ingredients Make Design Taste Good campaign, we’re highlighting those who practice a simple ingredients philosophy in life, work, or play.


Republic Restoratives, a women-owned small batch DC distillery and craft cocktail bar, stands for many things – community, authenticity, and friendship. Owners and childhood best friends Pia Carusone (above, left) and Rachel Gardner (above, right) opened their storefront in May 2016 and make a point to weave simplicity throughout their business. This translates into a simple distillation process, unpretentious bottle designs, cocktail recipes that don’t involve 12 ingredients, and transparent marketing. “We took the approach, in everything we do, that simple is better,” shares Carusone. “It’s who we are as people from culinary taste and design choices to how we run our business.”

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Republic Restoratives’ bar represents Gardner’s home and heritage. The wood hails from her New York farm, and her grandfather milled the shelving.

Republic Restoratives produces and bottles Civic Vodka, Borough Bourbon, and Rodham Rye, along with experimental products like apple brandy and bourbons aged in French barrels. Civic Vodka is making big waves for its plain flavor profile, and this is a good thing. The vodka recently became a 2017 American Craft Spirits Vodka and Grain Spirits bronze medalist.

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U.S. Code of Federal Regulations stipulates that bourbon whiskey must be aged in new oak barrels. Republic Restoratives finishes one of their bourbons in French white wine oak barrels, a distinguishing feature.

“What distinguishes our vodka? It’s a very simple product and meets the classic American palette for vodka – neutral in flavor or lack thereof. It embodies the government definition: odorless, colorless, and flavorless,” comments Carusone. “In all that absence lies the beauty of our vodka. It leaves your mouth feeling a little dry, a little sweet, and a little warm.”

Republic Restoratives customers know what they are tasting, smelling, and seeing in the distillery too. They see everything from what’s in the bottle to the behind-the-scenes equipment thanks to the glass-garage wall flanking the tasting room. “The transparency is intentional,” shares Carusone. “Most distilleries don’t want you to see inside.” Patrons also understand what’s in their cocktail due to simple ingredients and the meaning behind the distillery’s uncomplicated design choices. The bar wood reigns from Gardner’s farm in upstate New York, and her grandfather milled the lattice-like block shelves. Even their crowd-funding donors are on display with varying nods, including their names on the distillery’s walls and permanent, honorary bar stools.

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Republic Restoratives intentionally shows off their production space. It’s visible from the street and from the tasting room bar.

Republic Restoratives’ simple vibe doesn’t stop there. It extends to their team. World-renown barman David Surouss leads their bar program, further supporting Carusone’s and Gardner’s stance. “His whole existence is simplicity,” says Carusone. “No tricks. No flames. No smoke. Just a perfectly made but simply constructed cocktail.”

What’s not simple for Carusone and Gardner? The secrecy and unspoken sexism present in the liquor industry. Carusone and Gardner once felt intimidated by the whiskey world’s shrouded folklore and history. Instead of remaining timid, “We said, ‘Forget it’ with the antiquated past,” recounts Carusone. “We’re risky and make changes.”

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One of the distillery’s bartenders shakes up a perfect cocktail.

Carusone and Gardner continue to step forward over centuries of male-dominated distillery history and take charge in all aspects of their business, like with their perks- and equity-based Indiegogo campaigns. The first campaign is responsible for nearly $120,000 and their 2016 crowd funding reached a goal of $300,000. Another big jump? Leaving established careers – Carusone, former Chief of Staff, Congressman Giffords (D-AZ) and Gardner, an experienced minerals sustainability director – to pursue their spirited dreams. Simplicity defines Republic Restoratives. Bravery defines its founders.

Visit republicrestoratives.com to learn more about the community driven and largest crowd-funded distillery in the world.