Although it may seem easy to shop for that cocktail- and beer-loving co-worker or father-in-law, why not go beyond the usual bottle of bottom-shelf bourbon this year and try something better, something made right here in the Centennial State? Whether the recipient lives in town or somewhere else, nothing says "Taste the Rockies" like spirits made with mountain water or drinks that highlight a local ingredient. These ten items have ties to the area through flavor, ingredients or craftsmanship.
Vapor Distillery Boulder Bourbon
Utilizing a copper still shipped from Scotland, this Boulder distillery has been churning out good spirits for a few years now. Boulder Bourbon is the company's signature bottle, and it's trademarked so you'll know that there's only one bourbon that bears the Boulder name. And it's not just a gimmick: The stuff tastes great, so when you give it as a gift, you're sharing a well-crafted bourbon straight from the foot of the Flatirons. Boulder Bourbon has a touch of fruitiness that makes it a little bit sweet, a hint of rye that makes it a little bit spicy, and an overall flavor that makes it totally delicious.
Longtucky Spirits Lusca Spiced Rum
There aren't too many Colorado rums out there, and this tipple is one of the newest you can find. Given that the distillery opened this past summer, you can bet most people on your "nice" list haven't heard of Lusca spiced rum, a spirit infused with black cardamom, vanilla, orange, mace, allspice and clove. The label is pretty cool, too. And, as with all Longtucky's spirits, it's made with local grains and snowmelt from Longs Peak. This will be a hard bottle to part with, but maybe you can talk your loved one into making you a scrumptious hot buttered rum — you know, just to take off the chill of winter.
Upslope Brewing Company Wild Christmas Ale
As part of its Lee Hill Series, Boulder-based Upslope Brewing is churning out an extra-special Christmas beer in 19.2-ounce cans (that's an imperial pint, in case you're not familiar with British measurements). Dubbed Wild Christmas Ale, the brew features black raspberries, Belgian candi syrup and an array of warming spices. And if that isn't enough, it's aged for ten months in a Leopold Bros. Maryland-style rye whiskey barrel and soured with the brewery's own house-mixed culture. In the glass, the beverage is deep, dark red, like mulled wine. The flavor proves bright and tart, with just enough funk to impress that beer nerd you bought it for.
Stranahan's Sherry Cask Single Malt Whiskey
At this point, anyone local knows Stranahan's American whiskey well enough (it's made with Rocky Mountain snowmelt and Colorado grain!), but you probably haven't had the latest bottle in the company's profile, the sherry cask whiskey. This spirit debuted in November and consists of good ol' Stranahan's finished in a barrel that once held Spanish sherry. The result is a dark, rich drink with a juicy fruitiness and smooth finish. Right now you can only get the sherry-cask whiskey at the distillery, which just makes it even more special.
Pickett's American Craft Ginger Beer
Add some spice to your cocktail game this holiday season by picking up a bottle of Jim, Bob and Matt Pickett's spicy ginger syrup. Better yet, get two bottles and give one to that heat-seeking friend or relative of yours who also likes to throw back a few quality beverages. Bottled in Brooklyn (though the company is partially operated from Denver since Matt Pickett lives and works here), the concentrate is all-natural, which means it's good for you (right?) as well as tasty. Mix it into a spicy soda or add a bar spoon of the stuff to a hot toddy for an added kick. Tell the object of your ginger affection to visit the company's website for recipes for both drinks and food.
Leopold Bros. Distillery Holiday Cocktail Creation Class
So your parents already possess every bottle of booze they need. Why not treat them this holiday season to a class to help hone their drink-slinging skills? On December 21, guests can head to the Leopold Bros. distillery and tasting room (5285 Joliet Street.) for a two-hour class all about making festive favorites. This might include instructions on how to create a cranberry gimlet, aspiced hot toddy, an Old Fashioned, holiday punch or a special tonic. At the very least, one of the those drinks (as well as small bites) will be served as an expert waxes on about the history of holiday drinks before the lesson. Check ahead to make sure the person receiving this great gift is free that day; otherwise, you would be wise to just get him or her a bottle from the distillery's vast portfolio.
Cocktail Punk Bitters
Small-batch bitters flavored with Colorado cherries, lavender and peaches — yes, please! This Boulder-based company blends an array of tasty cocktail accoutrements that is sure to satisfy any wannabe mixologist in your life. The best way to give a bitter gift to that sweet person is to go for the traveler set. Each pack comes with six half-ounce bottles of bitters, the perfect size to pocket on a plane, to take camping or just to experiment on friends (you included, hopefully). And it's a great way to try out all the nuances of bitters like Smoked Orange, mountain-tinged Alpino, anise-forward Pastiche and more.
Jones House Gin from the Family Jones Spirit House
With one sip of this herbal, bold and smooth gin you will know it's the right gift for the gin fanatic in your life. Chances are whoever that is hasn't had a chance to try this particular spirit, as the distillery (with its main operation in Loveland) just opened a bar and restaurant at 3245 Osage Street in Denver last month. The Osage Street location is the only place to get the gin right now, making the gift extra-special.
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Shirts on Tap
There aren't many boozy subscriptions out there, but this one is pretty cool. Each month the lucky recipient will get a specially designed T-shirt, a sticker, and a coupon all tied to a chosen local brewery. That coupon could be good for anything from a free pint to a buy-one-get-one-free deal or money off a tasting flight. Each month it's something different, and the shirt won't be available anywhere else. December's selection is Lost Highway Brewing, and past months have included Joyride Brewing, Platt Park Brewing Co. and Wonderland Brewing Co. Gift subscriptions run in one- and three-month increments.
Gift of the Future With Dry Land Distillers
Though you won't have much to actually give with this present other than a card stating what it is, you'll be helping this Longmont distillery achieve a goal and hyping the latest Colorado distillery project. Once the company is officially open, it will be serving spirits made with hyper-local ingredients like prickly pear and heirloom grain. Get the holiday gift pack and send someone coasters, a T-shirt, two Dry Land Distillers shot glasses, and a voucher for a bottle of the first batch of booze, two complimentary cocktails or a tasting flight in the soon-to-be-open tasting room. Plus the recipient will have the bragging rights for getting into something cool — even before it's cool.