After nearly two decades working in Colorado’s hospitality industry, Kevin Burke has found plenty to appreciate in the local spirits scene. He found his niche working behind the bar in progressive Denver restaurants like Colt & Gray and Morin, where collaboration between the kitchen and the beverage team flourished. Today, he’s Director of Operations for The Culinary Creative, a group that operates acclaimed restaurants in Denver, Aspen, and New Orleans, and General Manager of BarDough. These days, if you catch him behind the bar, something has gone horribly wrong (or exactly right) – he’s most at home mentoring managers and the next generation of front-of-house professionals.
Below, Kevin shares three recipes that make the most of some of his favorite Colorado spirits, so you can shake, stir, and toast at home.
Many of the whiskies from Distillery291 are great for sipping (and making cocktails). Sometimes the barrel character can add astringency in sours, but the younger American whiskey with it’s fresh fruit character is a natural match for this new classic. Kevin prefers it with a full-flavored, unique honey.
¾ oz. honey syrup (see note)
2 oz. Distillery291 small batch American whiskey
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
Note: To make the honey syrup, dilute three parts honey in one part water.
In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine honey syrup, whiskey, and lemon juice, and shake well. Strain and serve over large-format ice cubes into a rocks glass.
Double Rum Pick-Me-Up
Small local distilleries are making rum better than ever. Montanya Distillers is an amazing female-owned distillery high up in the Rocky Mountains and is a certified B Corporation, balancing purpose and profits. Their rums manage to be full-bodied without feeling heavy, and the aged selections take on extra richness.
1 oz. banana-infused Montanya Platino rum (recipe follows)
½ oz. pistachio orgeat (recipe follows)
1 oz. cold brew coffee (recipe follows)
1 oz. Montanya Oro rum
Grated coffee bean for serving
For the banana-infused Montanya Platino rum: Combine 100 g. dehydrated bananas with 500 g. rum in a non-reactive container. Either infuse at room temperature for 24 hours or place in a 145-degree F water bath for 60 minutes. Strain mixture and refrigerate for 24 hours. Re-strain chilled rum through fine sieve to collect any solids. Refrigerate rum and use within 2 weeks.
For the pistachio orgeat: Combine 250 g. hulled pistachios and 500 g. hot water in a high-powered blender. Blend until smooth and place in a non-reactive container. Infuse at room temperature for 5 hours or place in a 130-degree F water bath for 60 minutes. Strain out any nut solids and weigh pistachio milk on a kitchen scale. Add water to correct mass to 500 g. Add 500 g. cane sugar and stir to dissolve. Refrigerate and use within 1 week.
Cold brew coffee: In a non-reactive container, combine 140 g. very coarse-ground coffee with 1 liter of cold water. Refrigerate for 24 hours. Strain coffee and bottle. Use within 1 week.
To make the cocktail, fill a 10-oz. collins glass halfway with crushed ice and combine all ingredients into the glass. Swizzle with a spoon to chill and dilute. Top with additional crushed ice and garnish with a grated coffee bean.
Boulder Spirits recently released their American Single Malt Whiskey in a bottled-in-bond edition at four years old and 100 proof. This hefty whiskey stands up in classic cocktails, with a luscious pot-stilled character that shines in stirred drinks. If you don’t have benedictine on hand, substitute another mild herbal liqueur such as yellow chartreuse, nonino, or drambuie.
2 oz. Boulder Spirits American Single Malt, bottled-in-bond
¾ oz. sweet vermouth (Kevin recommends Cocchi Vermouth de Torino)
¼ oz. benedictine
2-3 dashes angostura bitters
Combine ingredients in a mixing glass or tin, fill with cracked ice, and stir for 30 seconds to chill and dilute cocktail. Strain into chilled cocktail glass to serve.