The Colorado Cocktail Project, with its mission to create the official Colorado Cocktail, will celebrate this state's most liquid assets at the Museum of Contemporary Art on Sunday and Monday, June 26-27. We've already profiled many of the bartenders who've submitted recipes for the contest; the ten finalists will pour out their hearts -- and drinks -- in a head-to-head competition on June 27. The day before, Colorado distillers will be at the MCA to pour the products that inspired many of the drinks, while learned lecturers talk about cocktail culture.
But right now, meet Andy Causey of Downslope Distilling.
Andy Causey Downslope Distilling
Distilling since: March 4, 2009
How and when did you get into distilling?
There are three principals at Downslope; two of us came from a brewing tradition. Andy owned home-brew supply stores and taught brewing at Arapahoe Community College. Matt worked for Andy,. Mitch, on the other hand, engaged in a very unique training program. Several years ago he posed as a freelance journalist and interviewed pretty much every master distiller in Tennessee and Kentucky. He recorded all those interviews and combined the transcripts with research of published materials and Independent study. He started this process ten years ago and his dream is finally coming to fruition.
What products do you currently offer?
Vodka from Cane, Vodka from Grain, Pepper Vodka, White Rum, Gold Rum, Wine Barrel Aged Rum, Spiced Rum, Vanilla Rum and Double Diamond Whiskey.
What is your favorite spirit to make? Why?
My favorite child is... well, the whiskey. We have made so many interesting discoveries that make our whiskey unique to our climate, conditions and the ingredients we use. It is so exciting to taste the changes our barrel scheme creates in the product.
Any exciting things you are working on for the future?
Yes, we met a restaurateur from Holland who taught us a great deal about old styles of gin. Since then, we have done our own research and are in the process of making specialty releases of these styles that are less prominent in our age and place but very diverse and delicious. Our first release has formula approval but is in label development. It is an Ould Tom Gin...the missing link between Genever and British dry gin.
What is your outlook on the Colorado distilling scene? Where is it headed and why?
Perhaps my crystal bottle is optimistic, but I hope there are more and more passionate people making increasingly interesting and delicious products. There will be those getting into the business for a quick buck; I see them opening self-serve car washes instead.
What makes your product distinctly Colorado?
Whenever aging is done ambient, the scheme has to be adapted to the climate. I think we have done that to great effect.
Your still design seems to be a little different -- can you tell us what is up with the hookah?
The still was designed by Mitch and a guy named the Colonel in Arkansas. It is a steam powered "True potstill." The two diamond heads create a double reflux to capture maximum aromatic goodness.
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You seem to have a big selection of products. What seems to be getting the best reaction?
The Double Diamond Whiskey is going crazy; it is about 45 percent of our sales right now and climbing. The Wine Barrel Rum is steadily gaining traction and the White Rum has gotten great press and is starting to be the mojito rum of choice. The Vanilla Rum and Pepper Vodka are also coming into their own season, due to great and simple summer cocktails such as the Hot Dog: fresh pink grapefruit juice and Pepper Vodka with a chipotle sugar rim.
Thirsting to know more? You can buy tickets to the Colorado Cocktail project, 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.)