Small Batch Haven: Colorado’s Local Distilleries

Colorado has made its mark (a big one) in the beer market, but not far behind are hand-crafted rums, vodkas, whiskeys, gins and liqueurs that boast farm-fresh ingredients and crisp snow-melt water. Find out how you can savor the fruit of their work (sometimes literally!). 

By: Staff Writer
Updated: March 14, 2024

It’s similar to the chicken or the egg dilemma: Is it Colorado’s hunger for local ingredients and artisan products and an adventurous attitude that prompted this niche market? Or was it the quality-obsessed distillers that fostered the thirst for smooth spirits? Either way, Coloradans love what’s happening to the local spirits and have full-heartedly supported the small-batch movement.

Get the inside scoop from the head distillers themselves when you stop by one of the nearly 100 distilleries in Colorado or look for these brands before you shake, strain and garnish your next Colorado-inspired cocktail, and check out our Colorado distillery listings.

Leopold Bros 

Known for exquisite-tasting gin (without the harsh, piney aftertaste) and flavorful liqueurs, the Leopold brothers are downright serious about the art of crafting — and many of those in the know think they’re the smartest, most innovative distillers in the state.

Enjoy the Leopold Bros.’ inspired cocktails at their Denver tasting room, with recipes starring an impressive collection of award-winning spirits, including a 19th-century inspired Absinthe Verte. The brothers pay homage to Colorado with the fruity Rocky Mountain Peach Flavored Whiskey — a bartender’s dream liqueur with special notes of raisin and vanilla.

Montanya Rum

Crested Butte
The distillery scene is by and large a man’s world, but Karen Hoskin, founder of Montanya Rum, begs to differ given she pushed Colorado into the international rum market. The distillery sold to new owners, who were longtime employees, in 2023.

Rum you say? Although it seems like a stretch for Crested Butte’s cozy mountain town, rum has been around these parts for more than 120 years. Caribbean mariners brought it to Colorado during the Gold Rush for use as currency and water purification. Visit Montanya’s restored saloon with other après adventurous locals for a cocktail before dinner in town.

Stranahan’s Whiskey

Colorado’s beloved Stranahan’s had a dramatic beginning when firefighter Jess Graber responded to George Stranahan’s barn blaze. As the flames died down, their mutual love for “a good pour of fine whisky” lit up, and now Coloradans are saying “Cheers!” to this finely aged whiskey.

Tours are giving daily, and visitors enjoy whiskey-inspired fare at the adjoining restaurant. For a real good time, sign up for a bottling party or camp at Stranahan’s the night before a release of the enormously popular wine-barrel-aged Snowflake series each winter.


Just outside the Denver Tech Center, friends Mitch Ababte and Andy Causey are single-handedly running a mad-science laboratory at DownSlope Distilling in Centennial, producing some of the highest quality spirits in the region. The secret: Use the best ingredients in the world and distill them with nothing less than absolute perfection by carefully monitoring every step of the process. Case in point is the zesty New Mexican dried red chilies and Indonesian black pepper distilled Pepper Vodka that took much experimentation to perfect.  

The duo is so dedicated to high-quality spirits that they even teach their hard-earned knowledge at the Distillery School on site to spread the wealth of quality to the region’s other up and comers.

Syntax Spirits

Syntax Spirits’ female-led produc­tion team has an impressive array of advanced science degrees — a fact you’ll see reflected in their distilling precision. They insist on making all of their spirits using only Colorado grains (with the exception of rum) and purified Cache la Poudre River whitewater. Syntax’s own garden supplies several of the herbs and vegetables for use in their cocktails to boot.

Visit them at their location in the historic Greeley Elevator Building to try the veg-forward Beetnik, which has a loyal following and features Syntax vodka with a beet-dill shrub, fresh lime juice and a salt-and-pepper rim.

Sand Creek Distillery 

The eastern outpost of Hugo (population 786) may be tiny, but some mighty big flavors await those who make a stop here. The whiskey at Sand Creek Distillery is produced in micro-batches under the great care and attention that only a one-man operation can devote.

The tasting room is small and intimate, perfect for good conversation and whiskey sippin’. Or try the High Plains Golden Rum, which gets its unique flavor profile from Sand Creek's old whiskey barrels.

KJ Wood Distillery

Two words: mountain-view patio. Take your vodka, whis­key and gin tasting flight or your cocktail out to the deck of this exceptionally situated Ouray tasting room and enjoy views of what’s been called the “Switzerland of America.” Keep it simple with a gin and tonic that lets KJ’s piney Jinn Gin shine as brightly as those glorious views.

The philosophy behind KJ Wood’s spirits is to start with the best water possible — Rocky Mountain glacial runoff — and to add only fine ingredients such as local barley and blue corn.

Wood’s High Mountain Distillery 

An 1880-era German still (affectionately nicknamed Ashley), two brothers with a love of the outdoors and a setting in stunning Arkansas River-side Salida seem to be the key ingre­dients for exceptional Colorado whiskey and gin. Stop in Wood’s welcoming tasting room to see for yourself. But caution: As more than one guest has noted, you may go in a whiskey skeptic and come out a whiskey believer. Theirs is that good. 

Wood’s mixes up a mean Manhattan, featuring their Tenderfoot Whiskey, locally made Vino Salida Rosso Vermouth and Angostura bitters.

Other Distilleries Worth Checking Out

Rising Sun Distillery

This Denver-based distillery crafts adult beverages using grains from farms located within 300 miles of the distillery — meaning everything is organic. Rising Sun Distillery ferments grains individually and uses Colorado classics like Palisade peaches, Pueblo chiles and locally roasted coffee. 

Breckenridge Distillery

Known for its International Wine and Spirits Competition gold-medal-winning bourbon whisky, Breckenridge Distillery is the highest-altitude registered distillery in the world at 9,600 feet.

Peak Spirits

When traveling in the Hotchkiss and North Fork Valley region, call up Jack Rabbit Hill for a tour of their quaint organic and biodynamic farm-to-still operation.

Spring 44

It’s impossible to put into words how magnificent the Spring 44’s Honey Vodka tastes, so instead of trying, we suggest you give it a whirl yourself.

Peach Street Distillers

Next time you’re in Palisade touring wineries or snatching up juicy peaches, stop by Peach Street Distillers for a quick sip. Friends and artists Rory, Bill and Dave meticulously craft spirits with Palisade peaches and sweet corn from nearby Olathe.

State 38 Distilling

With a name that pays tribute to Colorado being the 38th state to join the union, it’s no surprise that State 38’s devotion to locally sourced products is voracious. Take their gin, which is distilled with handpicked Colorado juni­per berries.

Honey House Distillery

Honey House’s unique approach takes the sting out of bourbon, vodka and rum. Each spirit is infused with Colorado wildflower honey, a technique that has wowed seasoned spirit hounds and newcomers alike.

Axe and the Oak

Colorado Springs
When it comes to supporting local industry, Axe and the Oak walks the walk. The corn and rye for their bourbon whiskey is sourced exclusively from a local farm in Hugo, and their tasting room is actually a full-service bar located inside the Ivywild School, an old elementary school turned community food hall.

The Family Jones Spirit House

This elegant distillery-restaurant-bar combo is the place to spend a special evening. A dramatic space presided over by a gleam­ing copper still with plush navy banquets to lounge on, The Family Jones Spirit House is perfect for a night out.

Spirit Hound Distillers

Spirit Hound, nestled at the foothills of the Rockies, is onto something with their whiskey, gin, vodka, sambuca and moonshine, judging by their growing award list (including a 2018 double gold from The Fifty Best for their whiskey).

Copper Sky Distillery

A microdistillery and intimate tasting room that's made to feel like home, the newly minted Copper Sky Distillery specializes in handcrafted spirits, like easy-drinkin' whiskey, and cocktails, cocktails, cocktails!

Mythology Distillery

Set in Denver's trendy LoHi neighborhood, Mythology Distillery serves up a variety of spirits — including their delightfully balanced Forager's Gin, whose ingredients are harvested at the Denver Botanic Gardens.

The Colorado Spirits Trail

An excuse to explore Colorado’s mountainsides, plains, towns and cities, sipping the state’s best spirits and cocktails along the way? Don’t mind if I do. And you’re welcome to come along, too. The Colorado Spirits Trail is your cordial invitation to sample the state’s more than 50 craft breweries.

Want More? 

Explore every last drop of the Colorado Liquid Arts™ scene

Sip your way through Colorado's wine scene