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Colorado liquors
Colorado liquors. Photo by Riane Menardi Morrison
Eat and Drink

5280’s Holiday Booze-Buying Guide

From syrah-finished whiskey to gin infused with warm winter species, we have options for every casual sipper or mixologist in your orbit.

This holiday season, help your friends and family restock their home bars with bottles produced by talented makers across Colorado. From syrah-finished whiskey and gin infused with warm winter spices to a smooth, wine-liquor hybrid, we have options for every talented mixologist or casual sipper in your orbit. Here, our 23 favorite bottles of booze to gift in 2021.

Whiskey

Boulder Spirits Straight Bourbon

Boulder Spirits makes a mean whiskey, and it’s no surprise that the company’s straight bourbon was selected for the Lost Lantern fall 2021 collection of five whiskeys from rising independent distillers around the country. With a high-malt mash bill of 51 percent corn, 44 percent malted barley, and 5 percent rye, this smooth and approachable bourbon will satisfy connoisseurs and entice new enthusiasts. With hints of chocolate, butter, banana, maple syrup, and caramel, the bottle is a great gift for any collector. $45, boulder-spirits.com

Laws Four-Grain Straight Bourbon Whiskey

To celebrate its 130th anniversary this year, the Oxford Hotel teamed up with fellow Denver darling Laws Whiskey House to make a special-edition bourbon to commemorate the occasion. The bourbon was aged for more than seven years, resulting in a smooth and complex spirit with notes of wildflower honey, dried cherries, and cedar. The perfect present for a true locavore, this limited-edition whiskey is the best way to toast a Colorado gem in your own life. $130, purchase at ​​The Oxford

Mythology Distilling Syrah Finished Whiskey

The third edition of this limited-release, syrah-finished whiskey is worth tracking down at your local liquor store or the Mythology tasting room before it sells out for the year. The distillery sent its award-winning Hell Bear American Whiskey for a final rest in syrah wine barrels from Oregon winery Dominio IV for 10 months to produce a smooth, balanced whiskey with notes of chocolate, dark fruit (think: blackberry jam and cherries), and belly-warming mulled wine. $70, mythologydistillery.com

291 Barrel Proof Single Barrel Colorado Whiskey

Distillery 291 has been racking up accolades since it opened shop in Colorado Springs in 2011. Founder Michael Myers left his fashion photography career in New York following the attacks on September 11 to build a whiskey business—and his own copper still from old photogravure plates—in Colorado. For the friend who likes a strong pour, consider the 63.5 percent, barrel-proof version of 291’s single-barrel Colorado Whiskey, which can be mixed with water (or not) for a customized quaff. The whiskey is finished in toasted Aspen staves, which produces toasty, malty notes that linger on the palate. $108, distillery291.com

 

Rum

Montanya Exclusiva Rum

This female-owned, B Corp–certified distillery in Crested Butte has been wowing Coloradans with its original rums since 2008. The limited-release Exclusiva rum is aged for two and a half years in local whiskey barrels and finished in port wine and cabernet sauvignon barrels. At 40 percent ABV, it’s good neat or on the rocks—expect notes of cinnamon, red wine, honey, and vanilla before a dry, tannic finish. $50, montanyarum.com

CopperMuse Spiced Rum

This 80-proof spiced rum smells like the holidays in a bottle, with notes of nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, vanilla, and blood orange lending their charms to this sweet and snuggly sipper. Enjoy the spiced rum on its own or shake up a tiki cocktail or spiked eggnog. (We imagine this is what Santa’s sipping on his post-Christmas beach vacay.) Also, don’t miss this distillery’s refreshingly sweet (and 50 percent strong) amaretto, made with real almonds. $33, coppermuse.com

Denver Distillery Navy Strength Spiced Rum

Navy strength rum is traditionally bottled at 57 percent—the strength that was most desirable by sailors in the British Royal Navy in the 1600–1900s, which they would test by mixing with gunpowder to see if it would ignite (which it does at 57 percent and higher). While Denver Distillery’s Navy strength rum is one percentage point shy (sitting pretty at just 56 percent ABV) it’s surprisingly mellow when served neat, with notes of apple, cinnamon, allspice, and butterscotch. With a soft mouthfeel and pleasant sweetness, this rum evokes a clear, cloud-free day on the beach, offering a vacation in a glass to the lucky recipient. $32, denverdistillery.com

NoCo Navy Rum

This is the second Navy-strength item on our list, and for clocking in at 57 percent, this high-seas-inspired rum is also surprisingly smooth. On the nose, you’ll find stone fruit, vanilla, caramel, and a hint of the sea. Made with organic cane sugar, the rum delivers a subtle-but-rich sweetness with notes of molasses followed by a comforting, toasty finish. For the friend who loves rum, and other spirits, consider adding a bottle of NoCo’s saffron gin and housemade elderflower tonic syrup. $60, nocodistillery.com

Vodka

Woody Creek Vodka

While Woody Creek Distillers has a reputation for making great whiskey, the company also makes a beautiful vodka. Co-owned by actor William H. Macy and headquartered in the beautiful Roaring Fork River valley 15 miles east of Aspen (also where writer Hunter S. Thompson had a cabin), Woody Creek is nestled among greatness—and the vodka lives up to the hype. Made with locally harvested potatoes from Rio Grande county, the complex vodka is Colorado through and through, with a clean taste, a smooth finish, and notes of vanilla and pepper. $23, woodycreekdistillers.com

Breckenridge Distillery Espresso Vodka

Since espresso martinis are so hot right now, keep the good (nostalgic) times rolling with this timely addition to your coffee-loving friend’s liquor cabinet. Breckenridge Distillery infuses its signature vodka with local decaf espresso and maple syrup to create a dram that’s just the right amount of sweet with notes of vanilla, chocolate, and roasted coffee. Not only great shaken into an espresso martini, this vodka is also delicious mixed with eggnog. $27, breckenridgedistillery.com

The Family Jones Annika Jones vodka
The Family Jones Annika Jones vodka. Photo courtesy of The Family Jones

Family Jones Annika Jones

A bottle from the Family Jones is always a stunner, perfect for the photography- or design-lover who also happens to like a good vodka. Annika Jones is made with a mash bill of 60 percent hard winter wheat and 40 percent corn, bottled at a perfect 80-proof ABV. This full-bodied vodka is an exceptional foundation for a complex, spirit-forward cocktail, delivering a round body with floral and fruit notes and a crisp, clean finish of melon and pear. $30, thefamilyjones.co

Bear Creek Distillery Rye Vodka

For the one who loves non-conventional liquors, consider the 100 percent rye–based vodka from Bear Creek Distillery. An incredibly clean and smooth-sipping spirit, this award-winning bottle is formidable as a neat drink, and also elevates any cocktail. We like the Bear Creek–recommended Panda Bear: a blend of rye vodka, fresh red bell pepper juice, honey syrup, fresh lemon juice, and fresh basil leaves. $25, bearcreekdistillery.com

Gin

The Block Distilling Co. Winter Gin

This fast-growing RiNo distillery crafts a gin for every season, and each edition has its own character. To make the Block’s Winter Gin, the team ages its citrus-rich Autumn Gin in unused whiskey barrels for six and half months, where it picks up notes of brown sugar, honey, and vanilla. To make the ultimate impression, gift a membership to the 225 Club, which includes access to four quarterly releases of rare spirits (think: pink gin, rose liquor, and amaro); cocktail and bottle discounts; and other cool perks. $45 for the Winter Gin, $300 for the 225 Club, theblockdistillingco.com

Dry Land Distillers Native Colorado Gin

This creation is the only gin on our list that’s composed of 100 percent native Colorado botanicals, a labor of love for Nels Wroe, co-founder of Longmont-based Dry Land Distillers. Because the time of harvest and maturity of the plants used varies by batch, each edition yields slightly different flavors. We like the spirits’ soft mouthfeel and subtle hints of juniper berry, which shine in cocktails like the frothy Bees Knees or a simple gin and tonic. $24–42, drylanddistillers.com

Dry Land’s Colorado Native Gin. Photo by Brittni Bell

Leopold Bros. American Small Batch Gin

Denver-based Leopold Bros. has been crafting gin since 2001, making it one of the first malt distilleries to produce gin in the United States. Tart pomelos, sweet Valencia oranges, and fragrant spices like cardamom and coriander add balance to a foundation of potent juniper berries and peppery orris root in the company’s American Small Batch Gin. The outcome—a superb present for seasoned gins drinkers—is a bright, clean spirit that’s excellent for shaking in a martini, enjoying on ice, or enhancing a negroni. $30, leopoldbros.com

Jack Rabbit Hill CapRock Gin

While the artisans at Hotchkiss’s Jack Rabbit Hill Farm are known for making top-notch wines and ciders, they also developed one of Colorado’s best gins: CapRock. The organic spirit is made with Jonathan and Braeburn apples grown at nearby Ela Family Farms, winter wheat, and juniper from central Europe, resulting in extra-fruity, floral aromas and a rounder, richer, more complex mouthfeel that delights gin converts and skeptics alike. $25–35, jackrabbithill.com

Tequila, Mezcal, and More

State 38 Distillery Anejo Hacedor

Because the Hacedor line from State 38 is made in the U.S., the spirits can’t technically be called tequila—but we think they’re the next best thing. For the person in your life who adores both whiskey and tequila, pick up a bottle of the Golden distillery’s Anejo Hacedor, a concoction crafted with blue weber agave and Rocky Mountain water. A nine-month rest in used bourbon barrels gives the spirit pleasantly bold expressions of oak and vanilla. $55, state38.com

Doña Loca Tepeztate Mezcal

Chef Dana Rodriguez (Work & Class, Super Mega Bien) teamed up with partners Karen Ashworth-Macfarlane and Scott Kiere to birth Doña Loca, a line of organic mezcals created with 100 percent blue agave grown by family farmers in Jalisco, Mexico. ​​We love Doña Loca’s citrusy, gently smoky Espadín mezcal, but the Tepeztate mezcal is a standout for its herbaceous personality. Keep an eye out for the release of the killer line of tequilas, which will be available in 2022. $80–$140, donaloca.com

Doña Loca añejo tequila. Photo courtesy of Joni Schrantz

Dano’s Reposado Tequila

Steamboat Springs–headquartered Dano’s charged Hacienda de Reyes, a 181-year-old, family-owned distillery in Jalisco to craft its portfolio of blanco, reposado, añejo, and jalapeño-pineapple tequilas using mature blue agave that’s at least eight years old. The reposado has the aroma of gently toasted agave and finishes with hints of almond and vanilla. We recommend mixing the tequila in margaritas or drinking it straight up. $53, danostequila.com

Mile High Spirits Cuidado Tequila

Mile High Spirits may be known as a gathering place for booze-happy party goers by night, but the distillery also deserves serious cred for making tasty whiskey, vodka, and rum. Its blanco tequila—produced by Casa Maestri in Jalisco and bottled in Denver—is also a terrific (and affordable). With notes of pepper, citrus, and honey, it’s a fine foundation for batches of coin margaritas to liven up any festive gathering. $24, drinkmhs.com

Dano’s Tequila. Photo courtesy of Dano’s Tequila

Other Spirits

Atōst Bloom Aperitivi

A mixture of neutral grape spirits, botanicals, Chardonnay, and Colorado honey result in a 21 percent aperitivi that is less bitter and less sweet than popular aperitivi brands like Campari or Aperol. All of one-year-old Atōst’s four flagship offerings—Bloom, Citrus, Roots, and Woods—are worth a try, but the floral, strawberry-scented Bloom is a wonderful option for pouring over ice or tippling in a spritz with tonic and fresh lime or lemon. $35, atost.co

Atōst’s Bloom. Photo by Andrew Miller Bloom/Courtesy of Atōst

Peach Street Distillers Palisade Peach Brandy

Peach Street Distillers’ location near Palisade’s bounty of orchards give it easy access to some of Colorado’s sweetest stone fruits, which star in many of its spirits. In fact, every bottle of peach brandy features 26 pounds of locally sourced produce, giving it a juicy, luscious character that’s kissed with a whisper of toasted oak and honey. Buy it to mix in party drinks like the distillery’s take on a mule: Palisade Peach brandy, ginger beer, and fresh lime. $45, peachstreetdistillers.com

Deki Distillery Peppermint Schnapps

Peppermint schnapps is a timeless winter warmer, whether you’re filling a flask for the slopes or adding oomph to hot chocolate or a festive martini. Skip the DeKyuper this year, and stock up on bottles from Deki Distillery instead. Produced in small batches at Deki’s Lafayette facility and tasting room, the schnapps is a bold expression of tongue-tingling mint and menthol. $19, dekispirits.com

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