Local booze is a way of life in Colorado. From beer brewed with Western Slope hops to vodka distilled from Rocky Mountain potatoes, we’ve got plenty of field-to-glass options starring Centennial state ingredients. But rum, which is made with sugarcane from warm, tropical climes, has never been one of them. That is, until Rado Distilling opened up shop in Arvada in late May.

There’s a catch, however: Technically, Rado isn’t making rum. By legal definition, rum has to be made with sugarcane. Rado has found a local substitute in the form of sugar beets, all of which come from within 100 miles of Fort Morgan. “From a distillery standpoint, it’s rum,” president Devin Mills says. “We tell people it’s sugar beet rum, we just can’t put that on the label.”

That obstacle, combined with the tasting room’s off-the-beaten-path location in a gritty, industrial area, makes customer education a challenge for this young company. At a recent visit to the quiet tasting room, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The somewhat drab labeling on Rado’s three products—Colorado white, gold, and dark—simply read “Colorado beet spirit.” But director of sales Pat Ryan was happy to walk me through a flight of all three (he also offered a tour through the micro-distillery’s production area, which features hand-built copper stills).

I liked the Colorado dark a lot. Similar to a Jamaican dark rum, this tipple spends six weeks in oak barrels with molasses, giving it a slightly sweet, caramel-like profile. Surprisingly, though, I was most impressed by the Colorado white—a clear liquor that Ryan likened to a Bacardi-style, Puero Rican rum. I’ve never been a fan of sipping light rum straight (too much burn), but this product was incredibly smooth and nuanced—and a great value at just $20 a bottle. The tasting room also offers draft cocktails made with local Backyard Soda Co. syrups, as well as hand-mixed libations like the Colorado honey fizz (Colorado gold beet spirit, honey, lime, egg white, and sparkling water).

If you can’t make it out to the tasting room, consider picking up a bottle of Rado’s sugar beet spirit in lieu of rum for your next home mixology session (and then use it to mix up the Plimoth’s standout Hemingway Daiquiri recipe).

The Arvada Taproom is located at 5405 W. 56th Ave and open on Wednesday through Friday from 5 to 9 p.m., Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.. You can also find Rado products at Tipsy’s Liquor World, Cornerstar Wine & Liquor, the Denver Liquor Barn, and Ralston Square Liquors, among others.

Callie Sumlin
Callie Sumlin
Callie Sumlin is a writer living in Westminster, and has been covering food and sustainability in the Centennial State for more than five years.