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Colorado Cocktail Project will leave you shaken, possibly stirred

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Café Society's obsession with the quest for a Colorado cocktail dates back to the day when Rich Grant of Visit Denver got a call from a reporter for a national magazine who was looking for the quintessential Colorado drink to include in a story about landmark libations. But while some towns are swimming in iconic beverages - New Orleans has both the Hurricane and the Sazerac, San Francisco has the Fogcutter as well as bragging rights to inventing the Irish Coffee - Denver has...beer. Plenty of it, of course, but beer just wasn't what that reporter was looking for.

Buy tickets, which are $40 per day, or $70 for the two-day package, here: Colorado Cocktail Project tickets. (Tickets are also available at select Whole Foods outlets.)

At the same time we were pouring our suggestions into Grant's ear - the Mile High Plunge, for example, which called for a shot of Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey in a pint of Coors Light - star-tender Sean Kenyon was chatting with a couple of bartender friends who'd come to Denver to conduct a seminar on New Orleans cocktails. Kenyon took them to a few iconic bars - including the Buckhorn Exchange and My Brother's Bar - and they were suitably impressed by Denver's saloon scene. But they, too, wondered about our signature drink.

After this weekend, though, both those bartenders and that reporter should have plenty to write home about. On Sunday, June 26, the Colorado Cocktail Project will fill the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver with a day of lectures on cocktails and their culture (accompanied by lots of food and lots and lots of drink); the next day, the ten finalists in the Colorado Cocktail Contest will put their drinks to the ultimate test.

And you can help determine what Colorado tastes like.

Bartenders across the state were asked to submit their idea of a Colorado cocktail -- ideally, one that contained Colorado products and could be made at any bar. Dozens of mixologists responded, with the following drinks:

Avenue Grill, Marnie Ward: "Tree Line"

Ash Street Speakeasy, Sinjin Eberle: "The Centennial Spirit" and "Sagey Peach Fizz"

The Blue Star (Colorado Springs), Nate Windham: "Colorado Julep"

Bombay Bistro, Justin Lavenue: "The Rocky Mountain Wildfire"

Cecilia's (Breckenridge), Billie Keithley: "Miner 59er"

Colt & Gray, Kevin Burke: "Colorado Daschund"

El Camino Community Tavern, Kyle West: "The Colorado Fruition"

Elliot's Martini Bar (Fort Collins), Raffi Jergerian: "Bramblin' on about Nothin"

Encore on Colfax, Alexandra Geppert: "Pins and Needles"

Encore on Colfax, Adam Dunbar: "The Centennial"

FreshCraft, Anthony Rogers: "The Leopold Lowdown"

Green Russell, Alexandra Parks: "Green Larimer Bees Knees"

Henry's Pub (Loveland), Elijah Wolfe Nugent: "Chai Manhattan"

Jonesy's EatBar, Amy Kempster: "The Green Heart"

Montanya Distillers (Silverton), Karen Hoskin: "The Animas Martini"

Montanya Distillers, Molly Morris: "The White Room"

Restaurant Kevin Taylor, Quenton Attwool, "Rocky Mountini"

Root Down, Mike Henderson: "Palisade Peach Smash"

Root Down, Ken Kodys: "Ranchero Verde"

Row 14, Tyler French: "Brothers Brew"

Salt Bistro, Evan Faber: "The Diamondback"

The Squeaky Bean, Johnny Ballen: "The Drinkable Molly Brown"

Steuben's Food Service, Randy Layman: "The 100 Years Cocktail"

Summit at The Broadmoor, Kirsten Schopen: "Fresh Fourteener"

Summit at The Broadmoor. Robert Leavey: "Pikes Peak Swizzle"

TAG, Joshua Smith: "300"

Terra Bistro at the Vail Mountain Lodge, Joel Rheaume: "Fleur de Rye"

TGI Friday's (Thornton), Bradley Kaplan: "The Colo'rita"

The West End Tavern, Caroline Johnson: "The Western Slope"

We'll announce the ten finalists here tomorrow morning, and the lecture lineup here later today.

In the meantime, you can find more info -- including how to buy tickets, which are $40 per day, or $70 for the two-day package -- here. (Tickets are also available at select Whole Foods outlets.)

The Colorado Cocktail Project is sponsored by the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, the Colorado Bartenders Guild, the Colorado Distillers Guild, Whole Foods and Westword.

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