On the one hand, you might wonder: Don’t we already have enough orange liqueurs? Cointreau. Grand Marnier. A wilderness of triple secs. But then, consider whiskey, and maybe begin whispering pretty names: Balvenie, Catoctin Creek, Four Roses…hours of incantation later, you’re still only at Karuizawa. Now you think: We need more orange liqueurs.
Well, there’s good news. The world of booze recently welcomed a new one, and it’s handmade in Longmont.
“Bartenders would say, ‘If this were for sale, I’d buy it,’” says D.J. Riemer, bar manager at Erie’s 24 Carrot Bistro, of his citrusy elixir. “So I started Grove Street.”
Riemer sells his orange elixir at bottle shops and restaurants across Boulder County, with plans to expand Grove Street Alchemy—named for the road where his parents still live, in Cumberland, Wisconsin—along the Front Range and beyond.
Riemer’s journey from small-town Beaver State resident to Front Range liqueur crafter meanders through academia—he has university degrees in literature and psychology and pursued an MS in psychology in Montana—before finding direction on the path that paid for all of that coursework: bartending. And while working in bars in Washington State, the self-described mountain man visited Colorado whenever he had the chance. More than three years ago, he decided to finally move to his favorite state, and found a gig at 24 Carrot Bistro. There, Riemer has wide latitude to experiment with bespoke cocktail ingredients, everything from caraway bitters to bacon-fat-washed bourbon to the orange liqueur that inspired Grove Street.
Why orange liqueur for Grove Street’s inaugural product? Riemer grew frustrated with the flaws he encountered in commercial iterations: some tasted too hot with alcohol, others were overwhelmed by clove, and so on. After a bit of concentrated taste-testing, he decided to craft a liqueur without those issues.
Which means extreme DIY. Riemer zests his own oranges, using a contraption designed by his mechanical engineer girlfriend; one batch takes an entire day of zesting. He captures the zest in a mesh bag, which steeps in an organic corn spirit for as long as two weeks. He tastes nearly every day to see how flavors are developing. When it’s ready, the liqueur is lightly filtered, sweetened with organic sugar, and kissed with aromatics, including orange blossom. Then Riemer adds purified water to the tanks of liqueur to bring the proof down to 80.
Bottling? Riemer. Packaging, marketing, selling, delivering to accounts, and carving out time for reporters in the middle of the afternoon? It’s all Riemer.
“We are huge fans of the liqueur, and of D.J.,” says Jason Ruff, beverage director at Santo, a New Mexico-inspired restaurant in Boulder owned by Top Chef winner Hosea Rosenberg. “It’s so fresh and lively, and it’s fairly high proof, which is something we appreciate.”
Santo, as well as Rosenberg’s first restaurant, Blackbelly, now use Grove Street in all of their margaritas, as well as a variety of other cocktails. The Santo bar staff even spikes whipped cream with it, which they use to top mugs of Mexican hot chocolate.
“It is hands-down my favorite orange liqueur on the market,” says Sarah Strasser of B Town Wine & Spirits in Boulder. “I’m always talking about it with customers.”
As Grove Street begins appearing on more bars and store shelves, Riemer is busy developing two more liqueurs: one involving Meyer lemon, fennel, and gentian, and the other combining coffee, hazelnut, and vanilla with Longmont’s Dry Land Distillers’ cactus spirit, an award-winning tipple made with mesquite-smoked prickly pear cactus.
“All of this work is a function of enriching the experience for the person drinking,” Riemer says. “It’s hospitality.”
Find it: Grove Street’s website lists where the liqueur can be found. Among the outlets: Hazel’s Beverage World, the Bitter Bar, and Verde in Boulder; Wyatt’s Wet Goods, Jefe’s, and West Side Tavern in Longmont; Community in Lafayette; and Total Beverage in Thornton.