Archetype's "New Fangled," served with smoked vodka, tea syrup, bitters and a jerky topping.

Review: Diabetics Doing Distilleries Around Denver

That title is pretty fucking witty, isn’t it? I’ve been just waiting for the opportune moment to let it fly.

And really, I could have held on to it for a lot longer because it seems like every week there’s a new distillery opening around here, but that just means I get to do a second (actually at this point, maybe even third) installment. Life is rough.

But, let’s talk about breweries for a second (I promise, it’s relevant). Have you noticed they’re sorta all the same — they’re filled with lots of bros with handlebar moustaches and/or well-groomed beards, who just left their job working for fill-in-the-blank tech company (or maybe they’ve been “working remotely” there all day). Some are clean, some are not, but in general they all offer a seat at a picnic table, a game of cornhole, and some loud company from whoever had one too many. There’s no food (or there’s some fried shit, maybe), and of course you can also order pizza or tacos from whatever food truck is perma-parked out front.

My apologies if you are super into breweries and are not a bro. I am 100% generalizing as well as stereotyping, and I will totally own that.  But, I hope we can at least agree that what breweries all truly have in common (and this is not generalizing) is the massive carb count. Despite the fact that I live in a professed brewery capitol state, it’s not my scene, and IMO is in no way #bolusworthy (I wish I could say I coined this hashtag, but it was donated for use by another T1D).

This makes the recent proliferation of distilleries excellent news for me. Cocktail snobs, unite!

There are several reasons I’ve really enjoyed my recent distillery visits:

  1. It seems that many places have really carefully put time and energy into curating a particular look and feel for their space, which has created a more holistic experience than just having a drink (like a local coffee shop with an edge – hah);
  2. I’ve found both the distillers (when I met them) and the bartenders to in general be super knowledgeable about their spirits and the flavors in their drinks and I’ve learned a considerable amount from chatting with them;
  3. On several occasions when I mentioned I was a member of the dead pancreas club, they proactively engaged in conversation with me, asking questions, making suggestions for good drink options, and in a couple of cases coming back with ideas for how to develop a particular flavor profile to replace a sugary ingredient. Like a good barista, many bartenders consider themselves artists – in weaving flavors together to create a new color of drink. This is all great news for us, because it pretty much opens up a world of possibility for what can be created. I’ve already gathered several new ideas from my visits and can’t wait to share them.

So without further ado and in no particular order, here is my review of four distilleries in or around the Denver area, with a couple of special shout-outs for some that showed up in extraordinary ways.

Mythology Distillery (LoHi, Denver)

Cocktail purchased: Your Grandfather’s Old Fashioned (whiskey)
Thoughts: Mythology was super busy when we arrived there, late afternoon, so I did not have an opportunity to engage with anyone working. I will say that when I tried to ask the bartender to come up with something lower sugar than the menu options they had available (because there wasn’t much available that was lower sugar), she was not enthused by my request and that’s how I ended up with an old fashioned. Le sigh. We did get a surprise visit by the owner toward the end (I think he was just making the rounds; they had opened very recently) but it was kind of too late by that point.
Overall: The space was beautiful, but I was disappointed by the service and my drink. Meh out of 5.

Archetype Distillery (South Broadway, Denver)

Archetype's "New Fangled," served with smoked vodka, tea syrup, bitters and a jerky topping.

Archetype’s “New Fangled,” served with smoked vodka, tea syrup, bitters and a jerky topping.

Cocktail purchased: New Fangled (smoked vodka)
Thoughts: Archetype is beautiful. It’s got a marbled counter that is lit from underneath, and everything was very swanky/clean/modern. We happened to be the only people there for almost our entire visit, and the bartender was super friendly and knowledgeable. I of course had to know how the hell you “smoke” vodka, so she described some of the process for infusing the flavor. My friend’s drink was served literally smoking via a little bit of dry ice (I tried to get a picture but missed my opportunity). Most of their drinks are served with special touches (my drink came with a piece of artistic-looking turkey jerky, for example).
Overall: Great location (perfect addition to the hipster south Broadway neighborhood), great service, good knowledge. Would have stayed longer but both of us were starving. 5 out of 5.

The Block Distillery (RiNo, Denver)

Cocktail purchased: Some kind of strawberry old fashioned (because we couldn’t drink anything off their menu and the bartender wasn’t feeling especially creative) (whiskey)
Thoughts: I suspect The Block didn’t show up the way they could have the day we were there. We happened to get a meh bartender who wasn’t really feeling up to the challenge of making something lower sugar, and shortly after we arrived it got SUPER crowded (and a tad frat-tastic, I might add). The acoustics were bad, so we shouted at each other a majority of the time and decided our best option was to leave.
Overall: It wasn’t bad, but nothing really remarkable. 3 out of 5.

Ironton Distillery (RiNo, Denver)

Some of the wall art at Ironton. I mean, who couldn't relate to a distillery with THIS on their wall??

Some of the wall art at Ironton. I mean, who couldn’t relate to a distillery with THIS on their wall??

Cocktail purchased: Minty Julep (bourbon)
Thoughts: I frankly could have stayed at Ironton all night. It was comfortable, well laid out, and the bartenders were friendly and knowledgeable, and had some great suggestions for low-sugar alternative ingredients. The designer had taken all my favorite things about Colorado (mountain theme, different woods and metals, industrial rustic, etc.) and woven furnishings and decorations throughout the space. There is an art gallery with rotating themes that is attached; you can purchase your drink and walk through at your leisure. They have a beautiful patio with a mountain view, which we were not able to enjoy due to the rain (wtf?) the night we visited. Our drinks were excellent. And they have several really interesting liqueurs to try; I tried the Cacao flavor, which was very chocolatey in a legit, not overwhelming or too-sweet way. I’ll likely go back and purchase some at some point and am already pondering what kind of fun drinks I can make with cacao (because hello, chocolate).
Overall: Easily one of my favorite places in Denver. I’ll become a regular. 6 out of 5.

Stay tuned for installment 2!

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