House Spirits – Homemade Gin Kit

It was the summer of 2012, and Jack Hubbard and Joe Maiellano were having a few G&Ts in Maiellano’s Crystal City condo when the talk turned to opening their own distillery. “Usually, it’s a drunken idea that never goes anywhere,” Hubbard says.

Building a brick-and-mortar operation seemed out of the question for the 20-somethings, both of whom work as nonprofit fundraisers. That’s when they had their “lightbulb moment.”

“Maybe we couldn’t produce the final product,” says Maiellano. “But we could provide all the tools in a kit so people can make a flavorful gin at home.”

In short order, and with a startup investment of $10,000, the pair established a business plan, perfected a reci-pe, then sourced packaging materials, flask-style bottles, funnels, strainers and—most importantly—the juniper berries, herbs and spices necessary for a smooth gin. (One key ingredient, a bottle of vodka, is not provided in the kit.)

By early November, “The Homemade Gin Kit” was born. “Right in this apartment, with boxes up to the ceiling, we put together 250 kits and launched a website,” says Maiellano. “We figured if we could sell them by Father’s Day, in six months, we’d make a profit and be a success.”

That milestone came sooner than anticipated. First came bloggers hunting for holiday gifts, followed by a write-up in The New York Times. By New Year’s Day of 2013, they had shipped their product to 2,500 aspiring home mixologists. “We were at the perfect storm with all the craft cocktail places and people making their own tinctures and tonics,” says Maiellano, whose wife, Sarah, now handles social media and marketing for the venture. (Hubbard’s wife, Molly, does the accounting.) To date, they have sold more than 17,000 kits ($49.95 each).

For the sake of research, I followed the directions on the kit and brewed a pleasing, tawny-colored spirit. The process is simple: Put the herbs in a 750 ml bottle of vodka, give it a few shakes, and then wait 36 hours.

Both the kit and the resulting private-label bathtub gin make cool gifts.

The Homemade Gin Kit is available at: Covet, 5140 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, 703-247-9797, www.covetarlington.com; and at www.homemadegin.com