Colorado suds might get the lion’s share of attention when it comes to today’s adult libation scene — in this column and writ large — but those with a taste for other types of tipple know the Centennial State’s liquid boom has been a boon for more than beer.
A rising craft tide lifts all boats (or glasses, as the case may be), and locally the friendly flotilla includes a solid and growing number of hard liquor distillers. The southern Front Range is home to about a half-dozen spirits makers, including Lee Spirits, the gin-focused joint with a speakeasy-style tasting room on Boulder Street; Distillery 291, on South Tejon Street; and the Ivywild School-based Axe and the Oak, which recently took gold and “best in class” at the Whiskies of the World Competition. There’s also Cockpit Craft Distillery, 3 Hundred Days of Shine, Colorado Gold Distillery, and 1350 Distilling, which recently opened a downtown tasting room.
The newest entry in the Springs spirit brigade, Blackhat Distillery, opens its doors Friday on the city’s far east side.
“The local distillery scene has definitely taken off. But this is one of the oldest industries that exist in history,” said Montana Horsfall, director of Blackhat and a longtime local bartender who helped create the distillery’s cocktail menu.
Co-founder Matthew Bonno, of the Springs’ Boxing Brothers cidery, and partner Joe Koscove, of Koscove Metal, decided to make the move into liquor when they heard the owners of Blue Fish Distillery, founded in the Springs in 2016, were looking to sell.
“I really think it was the friendship, the partnership between Joe and Matt, that led to this, and also it was the perfect timing,” Horsfall said.
The rebrand comes with new spirits and a reenvisioned and remodeled interior at the retail plaza storefront near Peterson Air Force Base. “We have built, in my opinion — and maybe I’m biased — the most beautiful tasting room, with a copper-wrapped bar, a fireplace and couch. It’s a lounge, and also the most epic bar I have ever had the honor to work behind,” Horsfall said.
The name Blackhat channels the history and “classy feel” of the many famous figures who rocked memorable chapeaus and “changed the course of history.”
“Everything is surrounded by and is about the history of rebels, outlaws, statesmen, renegades, who wore black hats,” Horsfall said.
The homage to history is reflected in the spirits produced and the cocktail menu, which features classic pre-Prohibition-style recipes created from house-made agave spirits, aged and flavored rums, brandy and single malt whiskey.
“They’re all stand-alone products, but I have found cocktails I believe express the heart of that spirit very very well,” Horsfall said. “We’re taking history and paying homage to those that have come before, and making a drink I think would really make them proud.”
One of those drinks is an Old Fashioned made with brandy and house-made bitters, stirred not muddled.
“Everybody thinks an Old Fashioned has to be whiskey, but that’s not traditionally how they were made,” Horsfall said. “Blackhat cocktails and spirits tell a story … and we really like the concept that our guests get to come here and it feels like a place where they can tell their story, too.”