Top Shelf

The ultimate guide to Colorado’s exploding craft distillery scene.

February 2014




What’s In My Cup?
Colorado Bartenders Guild president Chad Michael George explains the six other ingredients you should know when ordering your next cocktail.

This class of bitter Italian liqueurs includes Campari and Averna and aids digestion. Traditionally, each amaro is made with a mix of herbs, flowers, bark, citrus peel, and spices. 

Most sherries are fortified wine made from grapes that are native to southwestern Spain. The ingredient is making a serious comeback in today’s craft cocktail world. 

Eau de vie 
A splash of eau de vie, a clear brandy distilled from fermented fruit juice, goes a long way in a cocktail thanks to its potent flavor and floral aroma. It’s also a great post-dinner drink on its own. 

An artisanal liqueur made from elderflower—a small, white bloom that grows in France—St- Germain brings bright, floral flavors to sparkling wine cocktails. 

This strong tonic comes from concentrated flavors created by infusing or distilling herbs, barks, roots, and spices. A few bars make their own, a legally dubious practice in some cases.

Also a fortified wine, vermouth is an aperitif that’s aromatized with herbs and spices. It can be dark and sweet—think Manhattans—or light and dry, such as in a martini.


Cocktail Trends: So Hot Right Now

1. Real Simple Not so long ago, bartenders and mixologists crammed a zillion ingredients into each cocktail. These days, the trend is toward more simple cocktails popular during the pre-Prohibition era. “A base, a cordial, a citrus, a sugar, and a bitter,” says Adam Hodak, co-owner of Green Russell. “Or, if you build a spirit-forward cocktail, most likely three ingredients.” That’s it. 

2. Beer Mixers While plenty of bars have long served beer cocktails, Hodak says bartenders are just starting to get a feel for the recipes. “There were a lot of beer cocktails that were awful,” Hodak says. “But people are starting to understand the complexity of malt, yeast, and hops.”  

3. The Rebirth of Rye (and Gin) As drinkers and bartenders have rediscovered old-school cocktails, they’ve also discovered the spirits originally used to make them. “Gin was the number-one-selling spirit until the 1950s,” says Colorado Distillers Guild president Rob Masters. And pre-Prohibition bartenders favored spicier rye in old fashioneds over its caramelly cousin, bourbon. 


Name Game
A sampling of some of our city's most creatively named cocktails. 

Unicorn Feather
Forest Room 5
Basil Hayden bourbon, bitters, ginger beer

867-5309 Ginny
Beast + Bottle 
Broker’s gin, Salers aperitif, lime juice, simple syrup, house-made orange bitters 

Six Demon Sling
Ace Eat Serve
Monkey Shoulder whisky, Daron Calvados, Amaro Montenegro, pineapple, grapefruit, lime, grenadine, Angostura bitters

Just Another Goat Rodeo
The Corner Office 
Milagro Silver tequila, Licor 43, blackberry, pepper, honey, lime

El Frito Bandito
Squeaky Bean
Sombra mezcal, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, orange, Angostura bitters

Lil’ Green Ghoul
Bitter Bar 
Coruba dark Jamaican rum, blue curaçao, orgeat syrup, chartreuse, lemon juice

—Main Illustration by David Plunket; Photographers: Jeff Nelson, Katy Steinfort; Courtesy photos: John Shors, Kristin Olson,Great Divide Brewering, Tovolo, Crate & Barrel, Alex Kotlik, Bed Bath and Beyon William Sonomo, Oxo, Capari istockphotos; icons: Jeff Parsons