For a variety of reasons, I find myself back in Boulder after years of living on the east coast and for all intents and purposes, I consider myself a newcomer. Sure, I have my spots that say “home” to me, but living as an adult in the big small town I grew up in is a wholly different experience. Even so, a lot of it is familiar, and as such I am constantly on the lookout for the new, the untapped, a place that just might give me the feeling I’m back in Brooklyn even for a few hours. Who knows how long I will stay in Boulder, but while I’m here I might as well seek out that which I don’t know yet and make it my own.
A recent article in 5280, Colorado’s see-and-be-seen/scene magazine, profiled the Boulder Distillery, home of 303 Vodka and Whiskey, located on the east side of town, adjacent to a business park and a car dealership. Around when I read the article I recall feeling like I had spent one too many evenings in the recent past hanging out on the 1000 block of Pearl St. I needed a change of scenery.
The photo of the distillery in the article looks like the photographer used a “dark and stormy” lens if there ever was such a thing, and I, oh so predictably, was intrigued. “The Vootbeer”, 303’s version of a root beer float on crack, was the concoction of mention–vodka, rootbeer and whipped cream on ice. Hooked yet again. I called a friend who I am in the habit of getting mid-week drinks with and told her we are going to a distillery this week. She agreed without question. It’s why we are friends.
We drove up to an old, dusty green warehouse on the east side of Boulder where 303 Vodka occupies the end of the building. The garage door was open despite the cool fall air and the place resembles part auto shop, part speak easy, and part Elks lodge with a pinball machine twist. Tasting space on the left, open distillery on the right. It flows.
The folks at 303 have a heartwarming story. Steve Viezbeke, founder and Master Distiller at 303, discovered a family recipe for potato vodka in the lining of his deceased grandfather’s steamer trunk. The recipe dates back to the late 1800s, and with a bit of tinkering, Steve has managed to preserve his family history while infusing 303 area code holders and drinkers with a killer product.
Speaking of infusions, there were several unusual vodka varieties on “tap” the evening we visited: pickle, jalapeno strawberry, vanilla, and candy corn. Mary, the sweet bar tender, gave us tastings of each (enough to get my tipsy in about 5 minutes). Clearly, the moment I tasted the pickle I immediately wanted a Bloody Mary and so for that reason only I immediately had a favorite.
They fill bottles to order and no more since the infusions change so frequently.
The other thing on tap that night: the first presidential debate. While both the Vootbeer and Tomato Potato sounded utterly thirst quenching, I opted for simplicity in the form of a whiskey on the rocks. It was also the only thing strong enough to momentarily quell the uneasiness building around the political season. It was a touch sweet and had a slight smoky aftertaste but nothing overwhelming. Easy to sip and warming. The other best part: the staff encouraged us to order in chinese food and hang for awhile. We sat, we sipped, we slurped on noodles while a couple of other patrons came in and out of this unlikely but PERFECT venue to watch the debate.
Coincidentally, I write this post on the eve of Election Day. SO much stands to be lost or won on Tuesday and depending on the outcome, I might find myself back at 303 very soon. Whether we go red or blue, I consider this gem a small victory in my book of discoveries.
To visit or for more info: Boulder Distillery – home of 303 Vodka and Whiskey – 2500 47th St. – 303.442.1244 – www.303vodka.com