COCKTAIL SAFARI

Three Drinks In: Denver, Colorado

Rob Dietrich, the master distiller behind cult favorite Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey, shares his favorite things to order in the Mile High City.

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Denver is synonymous with beer. From craft darlings to the massive Coors facility in nearby Golden—the largest brewery in the country—the Mile High City has a wealth of excellent brews.

But thanks to Rob Dietrich, it also has a supply of excellent whiskey. For the last 10 years, Dietrich has been distilling Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey, a single malt made right in the heart of Denver. Now, as master distiller, he’s in charge of the cult favorite, whose fans line up overnight in the snow to get a chance to buy the limited-edition Snowflake bottling.

A Colorado native, Dietrich is everything you might imagine of a mountain man-cum-whiskey distiller: He has an impressive set of sideburns, loves camping and hiking, and rebuilds vintage cars for fun, including a 1937 Dodge the distillery uses today. He also spent three years in the Army’s 10th Mountain Division, serving on two combat tours in Somalia as well as relief efforts in Haiti.

Though there are plenty of nice cocktail bars in Denver, Dietrich’s taste tends toward the simple: At the bar inside his own distillery, he orders Stranahan’s Diamond Peak—a blend of casks that offers distinctive flavors of dried fruit, chocolate, and coffee—on the rocks. “I like to joke that my favorite mixer is ice,” he says. But when he’s not enjoying a dram at the office, here’s what Dietrich likes to drink in his hometown.

The Perfect Storm at Fort Greene

Located just blocks away from his home in the Globeville neighborhood, Fort Greene is Dietrich’s local watering hole. Like any great neighborhood bar, it offers solid drinks along with live music, trivia nights, movie screenings, and more. On sweltering Denver days, Dietrich loves the spot’s The Perfect Storm, a twist on the Dark & Stormy made with The Kraken Spiced Rum and spicy ginger beer. “Super refreshing in the summer heat!” he says.

Yeti Imperial Stout at Great Divide Ballpark Brewery & Taproom

Great Divide is almost certainly the best-known of Denver’s many, many craft breweries, and you’ll often find Dietrich there occupying a barstool. Just blocks from Coors Field, home of the Rockies, the main brewery’s taproom offers 16 taps of Great Divide’s year-round favorites and special-edition seasonal beers. In the winter, Dietrich loves this rich and hoppy brew, which has many of the same rich, caramel notes as his whiskey, but, he warns, “it only takes one, as it packs a wallop. (In the summer, Dietrich prefers Hoss, an earthy and fruity rye lager.)

Blood Shot at Tooey’s Off Colfax

Tooey’s has all the hallmarks of a great dive bar: an unassuming setting, badass jukebox selection, free pool, and a crowd of both neighborhood locals and liquor industry folks, plus frequent live music and guest DJ sets. Dietrich is a regular, and his favorite drink to order here is the Blood Shot, which consists of essentially all the ingredients of a Bloody Mary except the tomato juice. (A friend of Dietrich who hates tomato juice came up with the idea.) It’s essentially a briny, spicy shot of vodka, which, if you’re familiar with the Pickleback, makes a lot of sense. Dietrich says to order it with an extra dash of Worcestershire sauce.

Check out our complete Three Drinks travel guide to cocktails