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Ask the Bartender: Meet Billie Keithley, Colorado Cocktail contestant

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Sean Kenyon knows how to pour out both drinks and advice. A third-generation bar man with almost 25 years behind the bar, he is a student of cocktail history, a United States Bartenders Guild-certified Spirits Professional and a BAR Ready graduate of the prestigious Beverage Alcohol Resource Program. You can find him behind the bar at Squeaky Bean -- and here every week, where he'll answer your questions. But right now, he wants to introduce you to our tenth Colorado Cocktail Contest contestant.

The Colorado Cocktail Project, with its mission to create the official Colorado Cocktail, has begun. Over the next few weeks, we will profile each of the bartenders and all of the Colorado distillers involved in the process -- and not only can you read about them here, but you can sample the contestants for yourself at any of the participating bars and restaurants, then vote for your favorites. We'll decide the ten finalists by June 15, and they'll pour out their hearts -- and drinks -- in a head-to-head competition on June 27 at the culmination of the Colorado Cocktail Project at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver.

Today, Billie Keithley of Cecilia's Martini Bar talks about Breckenridge, and why Colorado is the coolest state in the country.

Billie Keithley Cecilia's Martini Bar When and how did you start bartending?

When and how? In a galaxy far far away...and eleven years ago. I was running the F.O.H. for a restaurant in Breckenridge. The bartender for the service bar didn't show up that evening, so I jumped in. I got to play with so many cool colors,objects, textures and smells. I got excited!

What sparked your interest in mixology? A live demonstration from liquid chef god Francesco Lafranconi. Game over!

Tell us about your bar. Cecilia's is a cozy,classy, mountain martini cigar bar with a blend of a ski town/happenin' party bar/night spot.

Tell us about yourself. I'm a high-energy, playful workaholic who loves the Rockies (mountains and baseball), outdoor activities, playing my guitars, rockin' out with my band, creating new cocktails, a good cigar, making people happy and Star Wars.

What do you love about bartending?

Making people happy with a new creation.

What is your least favorite thing about bartending? When it's slow.

Favorite cocktail. Manhattan.

Favorite spirit.

Breckenridge Bourbon Whiskey!

Describe your cocktail and why it should be THE Colorado Cocktail. The Miner 59er! Breckenridge was founded in 1859. Breckenridge Bourbon Whiskey is handcrafted at 9,600 feet with snowmelt from the Rockies. Farmer's fruit, rancher's bacon, golden nuggets of turbinado sugar, all served up or on the rocks. Representing the hardworking folks who helped make Colorado our country's coolest state!

Miner 59er 2 oz. Breckenridge Bourbon Whiskey .5 oz. turbinado sugar syrup .5 oz. lime juice cantaloupe bacon

Squeeze lime into Boston shaker with turbinado sugar syrup, add ice, Breckenridge Bourbon Whiskey. Shake it like you mean it! Pour into martini glass or Collins on the rocks. Garnish with a bacon-wrapped melon ball.

Cheers, Colorado!

Have a question about the Colorado Cocktail Contest? E-mail bartender@westword.com.

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