"The staff wanted to make a whiskey," explains Eric Dutton, bar manager at Vesta Dipping Grill. "It's what we drink."
Dutton discussed that very sentiment with Todd Leopold of Leopold Brothers, and a casual desire soon turned into a full-scale restaurant project: Leopold invited the staff down to the distillery to make its own special batch of whiskey.
After some consideration, the staff decided to make a spirit that would retain the sweetness of the Leopold's American Whiskey but also feature a spicier rye content. "We wanted to kick up the rye spice a little bit to get something fun to use in cocktails," Dutton explains.
The final recipe, he notes, was 55 percent corn, 21 percent rye, 5 percent chocolate rye and 19 percent multi-barley. That batch went into two barrels, one of which Vesta started serving at the restaurant after about five months of aging. Now, the bar is digging into the second barrel of the spirit, which aged for nine months.
"Ideally, we'd like it somewhere in the middle," says Dutton, who notes the restaurant will craft whiskey using the same recipe with Leopold's sometime again in the near future.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
To celebrate the second barrel of whiskey, Dutton also crafted a barrel-aged cocktail, dumping the necessary components of a Vieux Carre into a barrel and aging it for seven weeks.
The result? A brown, bitter and stirred cocktail that picks up the vanilla and almond notes of the barrel -- thereby smoothing out some of the edges of alcohol -- while simultaneously showing a robust spiciness and some tannen structure. In other words, it's both complex and delicious.
He'll start pouring that drink behind the bar in a couple of weeks, though he says it may be on an in-the-know sort of basis.