I’ve spent many summer seasons on brewery patios throughout metro Denver. And in the last few years, I've also tallied quite a few wineries. But as the local distilling movement continues to grow, I’ve been remiss about visiting the variety of fabulous distillers in my own back yard. So this week I sought out a little gem that’s so close to my house I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never been.
Rising Sun Distillery has been making spirits for about seven years. Dawn Nudell Richardson, the woman at the helm, is devoted to organic ingredients, as is the head distiller, Kim Cavallaro — also a badass lass. The two currently offer a number of carryout cocktail options that highlight their liquors and liqueurs. These include the Hacienda Maize, the Peach John Daly, a chile martini and a lavender hibiscus lemonade. Served in Mason jars and ready to go, these will only put you back $20 to $25 for three to five servings.
However, what really caught my eye are Rising Sun’s bevy of cocktail kits. These range from $44 to $115, and really help you tie one on with a crowd. Hard lemonade and Perfect Peach kits make great summer refreshers, and there are two Bloody Mary options (one with chile white whiskey, the other with vodka) for your brunch needs. But I’m a gin girl, so I opted for a lavender hibiscus cocktail kit, which includes a 750ml bottle of gin, a 375ml bottle of hibiscus liqueur and a four-pack of TopNote grapefruit soda, all for $77. Rising Sun even threw in a four-ounce bottle of homemade hand sanitizer.
Rising Sun is set back in a small office and warehouse strip near Mile High Stadium. It's a quiet and sunny place despite the surroundings, and like some of the brewery taprooms occupying similar quasi-industrial complexes I’ve visited, I find this endearing and inviting. At my appointed pickup time of 12:30 p.m. (the distillery closes at 5 p.m. at the moment), my package was ready and waiting; all I had to do was hold out for permissible weekday drinking hours.
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Silk Road, Rising Sun’s history-inspired gin, is aromatic and herb-forward — not the kind of gin you should expect to fade into the background (for that, you might choose the softer vodka). At 30 percent ABV, the lavender hibiscus liqueur doesn’t mess around, either, but has a honeyed floral taste that adds yet more complexity to the drink. The kit didn't include instructions, so I started with about two ounces of gin, a half-ounce or so of hibiscus liqueur, and three ounces of grapefruit soda (if you like it on the sweeter side, you could also add a dash of simple syrup). The summery cocktail became the highlight of my barbecue, and because I opted for the kit rather than the pre-made beverages, I even had leftover booze, making me the life of the party on a weekend camping trip.
As Rising Sun looks toward opening its tasting room this Friday, June 19, I hope you and your friends hop onto the Platte River Trail and make your socially distanced way to this little nook for some hot-weather refreshment. And if you're heading to the mountains later this summer, you'll soon be able to stop in Frisco, where Nudell Richardson is building a second Rising Sun. Just don’t forget the spiked hand sanitizer.
Rising Sun Distillery is open at 1330 Zuni Street for pick-up orders from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 4 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, and 2 to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Delivery is also available from 4 to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday. And starting this week, the tasting room will be open from 4 to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday. Visit the distillery's website for a list of spirits and cocktails and to place an order.