Stranahan’s Snowflake Whiskey
200 S. Kalamath St., Denver. Call 303-296-7440 or visit stranahans.com.
Some say Denver’s changing. Some say it’s jumped the shark — that it’s not nothing more than a snarled string of traffic filled with pretentious snake people who are here for no other reason than to sip $7 lattes, clog I-70 and buoy area rents. That may be partially true, but there’s still something so delectably and classically Denver, and Colorado, about a throng of 1,000 people freezing in sub-zero temperatures to obtain a coveted, $99 bottle of booze. Latte-drinkers be damned, it’s the latter huddled masses that would make those early, mustachioed prospectors along the Platte River smile with pride. For the uninitiated, that line of frozen fiends arises the first week of December each year to obtain “snowflake,” a small batch whiskey aged in old wine, cognac and sherry barrels that Stranahan’s releases but once a year. Reportedly, it’s apocalyptic stuff. And it should be, given that hundreds of people camp out in a Denver alley in December for a taste. Always cagey about the annual availability of about 1,000 bottles, Stranahan’s is wont to announce the actual release date a few days beforehand on their Facebook and Twitter accounts. So, stay tuned, faithful imbibers, #snowflake2016 is almost nigh.
— Quincy Snowdon
Sanford la Rinconada Pinot Noir at Wine Experience Café and World Cellar
6240 S. Main St., #114, Aurora. Call 3030-690-1025 or visit wineexperiencecafe.com.
If you’re looking for the finest wines in Aurora, there is only one place to really consider: The Wine Experience Café in Southlands Mall. If it’s on owner Eldon Larson’s menu, it’s good. How do we know? Well, Larson has made wine his career and he knows vino like John Elway knows football (but not, necessarily, vino). And if you’re looking for the finest wine on Larson’s menu — and by extension, that means the finest wine in Aurora — you need to order up a bottle of the Sanford La Rinconada. This Southern California Pinot Noir will set you back $89 for a bottle, but rest assured, those four glasses you and a date pour will be worth all 8,900 pennies.
— Brandon Johansson
Leopold Bros. Absinthe Verte
5285 Joliet St., Denver. Call 303-307-1515 or visit leopoldbros.com
There’s some highly compelling reasons for drinking absinthe over the holidays, from the deep emerald, holiday color of the revered Green Fairy to the alleged hallucinatory effects of wormwood, a staple ingredient. And although it doesn’t actually make you hallucinate, Denver-based Leopold Bros. Absinthe Verte’s 65 percent alcohol by volume (130 proof) is high-octane enough to add plenty to the visual experience of those outdoor holiday light displays, and numbing enough to make all that lovely “family time” just a little more tolerable. Made with anise seed, fennel, grande wormwood and imported Chilean pisco — a grape brandy — Absinthe Verte packs a punch when served traditionally with chilled water and a sugar cube, as part of a standard Sazerac (with rye whiskey or cognac, and bitters), or in one of Leopold Brothers’ elementary, signature cocktails, like the Brunelle (with lemon juice and simple syrup) or Hemingway-inspired Death in the Afternoon (with champagne and simple syrup). Go ahead, sleepwalk your way to a happy holiday.
— Jeremy Johnson
Vanilla Bean Rum Pumpkin Porter cask brew at Copper Kettle Brewery
1338 S Valentia St, Ste 100, Denver. Call 720-443-2522 or visit copperkettledenver.com.
According to the fine folks at the Denver-based Copper Kettle Brewery, the Vanilla Bean Rum Pumpkin Porter cask brew is a high-gravity porter with vanilla bean and pumpkin spices, at about 7.2 percent alcohol by volume. And while it might seem they’re packing a lot of flavors (and punch) into one beer, you gotta trust they know what they’re doing: The family-owned Denver microbrewery has earned its cred with a gold-medal-winning Blond Ale in this year’s Great American Beer Festival, to go along with a gold medal in 2011 for its Mexican Chocolate Stout. Whatever your preferred flavor, Copper Kettle has a rotating tap list made right on the premise out of a 15-barrel system with a select few year-round styles. So if you’re undecided, spin a bottle and take a chance — Copper Kettle won’t disappoint.
— Rachel Sapin
House infusions at the Motherloaded Tavern
103 S. Main St., Breckenridge. Call 970-453-2572 or visit motherloadedtavern.com.
Though the unseasonably warm weather has caused a lot of doubt and anxiety for those addicted to snow sports, the white stuff will eventually fly and it will be time to head up to the mountains for those who ski or board. Downtown Breckenridge is a great spot to stop in any weather, with little hole-in-the-wall bars and restaurants all over town — a good thing considering how many people flock there in any given season. The Motherloaded Tavern is a stop for some warm comfort food on a frigid day, but the drinks are always a draw, including a docket of 19 house-made rotating infused vodkas, gins, rums and tequilas, including flavors like black cherry, orange, dill pickle, strawberry, blackberry and agave. Can’t choose just one? Don’t. Instead, try three 1-ounce tasters for a mere $12.
— Courtney Oakes
New Belgium’s Le Terroir Lips of Faith beer.
500 Lindon St., Fort Collins. Call 970-221-0524 or visit newbelgium.com
Plopping down north of $20 for a bottle of beer — even a 22-ounce bomber — can make even the least chintzy beer nerd cringe. But it’s not just “some beer.” This one’s dry-hopped. It’s a sour ale. It comes from one of the state’s most iconic breweries. And it’s part of an annual tradition, where those world-class beer makers get really creative, sparing no expense on ingredients and/or imagination. We’re talking, of course, about New Belgium’s Le Terroir dry-hopped sour ale. The beer is among the most popular — and priciest — in the brewery’s Lips of Faith line, and even at better than a dollar for each pungent, orange ounce, it’s a wise financial investment.
— Brandon Johansson
Coffee Vanilla Russian Imperial Stout
4 Noses Brewing Company 8855 W. 116th Circle Suite 4, Broomfield. Call 720-460-2797 or visit 4nosesbrewing.com.
The holidays are the best time to check out all of Colorado’s over-the-top stouts that our now-famous gastropubs and craft breweries are providing. This year, Four Noses Brewing out of Broomfield is offering a decadent, delightful selection of stouts. The company describes its Coffee Vanilla Russian Imperial Stout as “big and chewy with heavy flavors of dark chocolate, roasted barley and caramel.” They add that “dark and flavorful whole coffee beans and whole vanilla bean” added to the recipe later in the brewing process give this beer a delicious, unique flavor. Other stouts of note from this brewery are the El Jefe Cinnamon and the Raspberry Chocolate Cake stouts. Tours are informal, and the company says you can often just come in and ask for a taste. That sounds like an invitation to us.
-— Rachel Sapin
La Leyenda at The Broadmoor’s Penrose Room
1 Lake Ave. Suite A, Colorado Springs. Call 719-577-5773 or visit broadmoor.com.
When thinking of $88-worth of sweet, sweet booze, specters of kegs, towers of beer or a snifter teeming with something created before the invention of the internet float to mind. At the über-extravagant Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, that weighty amount will yield a solitary, lonely — but worthy — beverage. Widely reported to be the most expensive cocktail in Colorado, The Leyenda (Spanish for “legend”) just might be worth the schlep to Colorado Springs. (Maybe, but we’re not swearing off the bathtub hooch just yet.) For a total tab just $12 south of triple digit territory, the drink is comprised of Gran Centenario Leyenda, extra añejo tequila, Grand Marnier 100 and grilled pineapple. It sounds, how do you say, expensive. Regardless of the price tag, we think we know a certain lawyer from Colorado Springs who could benefit from one or two of these come Election Day. We’re not buying though — these reporter’s wages have us sticking to cans of Pabst and nippers of Jim Beam for the foreseeable — actually, let’s be real, forever.
— Quincy Snowdon
New Belgium’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ale
500 Lindon St., Fort Collins. Call 970-221-0524 or visit newbelgium.com.
‘Tis the season for too many calories, so why not eliminate a few by making dessert and drink one in the same? If, like us, you already can’t bear the thought of consuming tin after tin of holiday cookies, then consider a liquid diet consisting of New Belgium Brewing Company’s Ben-and-Jerry-inspired seasonal Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ale. A follow-up to last year’s Salted Caramel Brown-ie Ale, the “full-bodied blonde ale that uses chocolate chip cookies for inspiration” hit liquor store shelves this fall, but will be available for a limited time only. And while you catch a nice buzz from your desert beer, feel superior in the knowledge that you’re also helping keep cool: $50,000 in proceeds will go to Protect Our Winters, a nonprofit raising awareness about climate change. Talk about chill.
— Jeremy Johnson
Infused vodkas at Red Square Euro Bistro
1512 Larimer St., #38R, Denver. Call 303-595-8600 or redsquarebistro.com.
OK so things between us and the Russians aren’t so great right now. But thankfully we don’t have to risk a trip overseas to enjoy some of the best cuisine and drinks to come from that country. In fact, an easy trip (depending on the day) to Writers Square in Downtown Denver is all it takes. While waiting for some seared duck breast or a grilled rack of lamb, indulge in Red Bistro’s lengthy list of infused vodkas, available for $4.50 per shot or $30 in a carafe. Fruit infusions seem natural for vodka, so raspberry, black currant, strawberry, pineapple, grapefruit, orange, lemon and black cherry don’t stand out (other than being tasty), but the other ones certainly do. Garlic vodka? Check. Horseradish vodka? You bet. Beet? Da. Black and red pepper? Indeed. And don’t forget fig, mint, honey, anise and dill. Not feeling the infusions? Straight vodka from no fewer than 17 countries is on the menu.
— Courtney Oakes