Crown Town at Stranahan's Colorado Distillery
In Colorado, distilleries can only sell spirits on-site that they produce themselves. Therefore, at the cocktail lounge inside Stranahan’s Colorado Distillery, which opened in 2014, all the cocktails are whiskey cocktails. But the one-spirit challenge is met enthusiastically by Hayley Panas, who just refreshed the lounge’s Spring drink menu with a few of her own recipes. One of her latest, which she calls the Crown Town ($8), pairs Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey with pomegranate, lemon and bitters.
Here’s what she’s stirring to make a Crown Town:
2 ounces Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey
1 ounce pomegranate grenadine
.5 ounce lemon juice
1 dash Stranahan’s orange bitters
Panas combines the whiskey, grenadine, lemon juice and bitters in a mixing glass, adds ice and stirs, straining the ingredients into a cocktail glass.
The whiskey that Panas is pouring in the lounge is the 186th batch of Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey. Year to year, each batch displays subtly different flavors and aromas. Batch 186 reveals strong caramel notes, as well as hints of coffee and cinnamon.
“There’s nothing else exactly like Stranahan’s out there.” Panas says. “It’s sort of a hybrid between a Scotch and a bourbon. That’s one of the things I really like about it — I think you get the best of both worlds with this. You don’t get overwhelming smokiness of Scotch, but you also don’t get the overwhelming sweetness that you can get from some bourbons. I like that it falls in between the two.”
Stranahan’s, like Scotch, is made from 100-percent barley. Bourbon contains at least 51-percent corn, with further additions of rye and wheat. But after distillation, the whiskey is finished like a bourbon: it’s aged a minimum of two years in barrels made of new American oak that are charred on the inside.
Panas created a pomegranate syrup known as grenadine to complement the flavors of the whiskey and to add a sweet element to the drink. The syrup is made by dissolving sugar in heated pomegranate juice. “I just basically simmer it to make sure all the sugar is dissolved,” she says. “I want to make sure the sugar is fully integrated.”
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After adding lemon juice to balance the sweetness of the syrup, Panas drops in a few dashes of orange-flavored bitters. She makes the bitters herself, using a Stranahan’s whiskey as a base. “We add black walnut leaves, wild cherry bark and Mexican sarsaparilla root,” she says. After allowing the flavors of the botanicals to infuse into the whiskey for a few weeks, she strains them out and adds the peel of an orange. In a few more days, the orange bitters are ready.
Crown Town has only been on the newly released spring cocktail menu for two weeks. The menu changes about every three months. “So far, everyone’s really liking it,” Panas says. "Everybody likes the way it looks. I really like playing around with these drinks, because whiskey is the only thing we serve here, and so we have to try our hardest to make something new and different and creative.”
The cocktail lounge at Stranahan’s Colorado Distillery is open Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. “Those hours will hopefully be expanding in the future as we get busier as we start doing more tours,” Panas says. “We have talked about opening the lounge on Mondays, so maybe in the future that will happen.”