One of the leading regions for craft beer, Colorado is once again on the forefront of a movement — this time, it’s craft spirits. In this state of thirsty locavores and laws favorable to beverage makers, distillers of hand-crafted spirits are able to thrive.
Back in 2004, a volunteer firefighter, Jess Graber, and the owner of Flying Dog Brewery, George Stranahan, opened Colorado’s first micro-distillery: Stranahan’s. Their whiskey was immediately popular, and the company grew to the point that it was sold to liquor conglomerate Proximo Spirits in 2010. The success of Stranahan’s paved the way for others to set up shop in Colorado. You can now find some of America’s best whiskey, gin, absinthe and liqueurs in the mountainous Centennial State.
Along with the growing number of craft distilleries, a thriving cocktail bar culture is also on the rise in Colorado’s cities. Leading bartenders like Evan Faber, Kevin Burke, Michelle Baldwin, Sean Kenyon, and others constantly use local spirits in their new cocktail creations. The Colorado community of craft distillers, bartenders and enthusiastic consumers is evident and growing.
Dancing Pines Distillery
Located in Loveland, Colorado, right in the heart of ski country, Dancing Pines makes a spiced rum that will knock your socks off. Imagine yourself in a snug mountain cabin, sitting in front of a fire while snow silently falls outside. This is the perfect scenario for enjoying Dancing Pines' spirits. From their award-winning Brûlée Liqueur and Chai Liqueur to their aged and spiced rums, Dancing Pines will warm you inside and out. Read more »
Leopold Bros. Distillery
Todd Leopold might be one of the nicest guys in distilling, but his spirits speak for themselves. Todd and his whole family (brother, mom, dad) work at the distillery, where they make delicious fruit liqueurs (in flavors like Michigan Tart Cherry and Rocky Mountain Blackberry), along with their herbaceous and award-winning Absinthe Verte. And don't forget Leopold Bros. Small Batch Gin, which was chosen by the Wall Street Journal as their favorite American gin. Read more »
Peach Street Distillers
Located on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, Peach Street Distillers is surrounded by farms that produce some of Colorado's best produce. It's no coincidence either. Distiller Rory Donovan chose this location for the fruit. "The lion’s share of our peaches never see the inside of the cooler," he says. Their bourbon is made with local Olathe corn, their gin from hand-picked juniper berries, and their brandies from fruit grown just down the road. Read more »
At his Jack Rabbit Hill Biodynamic Farm in Hotchkiss, Colorado, owner Lance Hanson was inspired by Europe's "farm distillery model" to make spirits. "We look at ourselves first and foremost as a farming venture," Hanson tells us. All of Peak Spirits' products are certified organic. Their CapRock Organic Vodka is made from grapes grown on the Jack Rabbit farm. The Caprock organic gin is made with apples grown a mere five miles down the road. Read more »
Roundhouse Spirits is known for their gin, in particular their Imperial Barrel-Aged Gin. "Most people have never heard of such an animal. I like to describe it as 'Ginskey,'" laughs owner and distiller Ted Palmer. After aging, this gin still tastes like gin, but the barrel gives it a rich, mellow hint of cinnamon and really brings out the citrus flavors. We can expect more out-of-the-box thinking from Roundhouse in the future. Read more »