What: Archetype Distillery
Where: 119 South Broadway
When: Open noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, noon to midnight Friday, 4 p.m. to midnight Saturday and 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday
For more info: Visit archetypedistillery.com
the historic building that houses the distillery: Webber Show, Denver’s fourth motion picture theater when it opened in 1916.
In the 1970s, the space notoriously became Kitty's South, a glorified porn shop that held court until 2007. Michael Chapyak opened the doors to Archetype Distillery in 2018, preserving parts of the original structure and tipping a hat to Kitty's history through cheeky cocktails such as the Kitty Galore (vodka, ginger beer, palm sugar and lime), which can be served for one or in an adorable cat vessel filled with enough of the boozy beverage for four. Order one at the long blue, black and silver bar, or grab a seat at one of the high-top tables in the front.
From every angle, it's possible to see the great copper still that makes the vodka and gin in which Archetype specializes; to tour the distillery, you need to book an experience, which starts at $25 and includes a walking tour and plenty of samples.
Archetype is Chapyak's first venture into the Denver spirit world. Before that, he was an occupational therapist who dabbled in mixology. Even if distilling wasn't his original path, Chapyak says it was in his blood. Raised in Westchester, New York, he is a third-generation American with Irish and Central European ancestors, and both sides made booze. Vodka was the family drink, and the Bloody Mary he makes at Archetype is the same recipe his father taught him to prepare when he was just seven years old.
After school, Chapyak left New York and ended up in Texas, where he learned not only about smoking meat but also how to love smoked spirits. From there, he went to New Mexico and then Pueblo, Grand Junction and Steamboat Springs before landing in Denver in 2015. Throughout his moves, Chapyak was doing occupational therapy professionally, but he knew that he wanted to find a way to stay in Colorado and work at something he truly enjoyed. Distilling felt right, so he studied it at Moonshine University in Louisville, Kentucky, and went to England to learn how to make gin before launching Archetype.
Things really get interesting with the slew of distillates that Chapyak has created, which include flavors like beef jerky, Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce, Palisade peach, ginger, orange, serrano pepper and more. These distillates go into cocktails and are used to make any kind of hard seltzer you're craving.
The drink program at Archetype takes classics and gives them a fun twist, using these distillates along with other unexpected touches, like infused ice. The New Fangled, for example, is a take on the Old Fashioned made with lapsang souchong tea, tea bitters, an agave ice cube, smoked vodka and a splash of beef jerky distillate, while the Valkyrie is a version of the Aviation cocktail made with gin, violet distillate, lemon juice, maraschino syrup and a cherry.
Everything is made in-house, and Chapyak has let his culinary imagination go wild...in the best way. Don't skip the homemade tonic, which is made with Palisade peaches and tastes so good on its own, you almost don't need the gin. You can get the tonic (as well as spirits and cocktails) to-go, too.