Ask the bartender: Meet Tyler French, our first Colorado Cocktail contestant

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 first Colorado Cocktail Contest contestant.

The Colorado Cocktail Project, with its mission to create the official Colorado Cocktail, has begun. Over the next five 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.

Our first contestant: Tyler French of Row 14, who has some interesting things to say about his halfie, fucking up Bloody Marys and stolen socks...

Tyler French Row 14

When and how did you start bartending?

I started bartending back when Jonesy's was the Dish Bistro,as a Sunday brunch mimosa slinger. I was always bugging Leigh Jones to get behind one of her bars and she probably got tired of listening to it and figured, "How bad could this kid fuck up a bloody Mary?" What sparked your interest in mixology? One of my regulars at De la Cruz Bistro in Mesa, Arizona, actually got me started. He wasn't even in the bar industry, he was just a history buff and a cocktail lover. He made me a sling with fresh squeezed juice and put a cherry in it that wasn't neon pink. Gave me a halfie.

Tell us about your bar.

At Row 14, we have a really extensive wine program and the spirits are following suit. The restaurant has a winebar/bistro theme and definitely delivers. Not only do we have over forty wines by the glass, but we have some amazing talent behind the bar that will jump on the opportunity to make you an off-the-cuff, fresh cocktail or a classic.

Tell us about yourself. I'm a carpetbagging, unemployed gas station attendant. I have been traveling the country pouring drinks for all kinds of folks and looking for a place to set up some roots. Denver is in the lead.

What do you love about bartending? Sharing a story with a stranger.

What is your least favorite thing about bartending? "You don't have Jack-in-the-Fugs blueberry vanilla pound cake vodka?!?!?! I'll just have a water for now." And working weekends can suck. Favorite cocktail.

A Manhattan made with rye and Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth.

Favorite spirit. That decapitated woman who opens all my cupboards and takes off one of my socks when I'm asleep. I think her name's Marge. (I don't have one.)

Why should your cocktail be THE Colorado Cocktail? I think the first thing that comes to peoples' minds when they think of Colorado is beer. My goal was to make an amazing beer cocktail to be consumed on one of our frequent sunny days. Seasonal Colorado strawberries, fresh juice and the Kolsch from Steamworks make this drink perfect for patio sippin'. Also, I think the Leopold brothers are representing our state the best in the spirits market, so that's why I chose to use their gin and orange liqueur that balance out this drink really well.

Brother's Brew

1 1/2 oz. Leopold's Gin 1/4 oz. Leopold's American Orange Liqueur 3/4 oz lemon juice 3/4 oz simple syrup 2 large strawberries 9 mint leaves Steamworks Colorado Kolsch (or similar pilsner/light lager-style beer)

Strawberries are muddled into a mixing glass, then add 8 mint leaves and lightly press into the strawberries. Add simple syrup, lemon juice, American Orange Liqueur, Leopold's Gin. Shake over ice and strain into a small, empty beer glass. Add 2 ounces of Kolsch and garnish with thinly sliced strawberries and a slapped mint leaf. Have a question about the Colorado Cocktail Contest? E-mail bartender@westword.com.

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