From left to right, Scott Yeates, Mythology Distillery founder and president; Blake Burger, Denver Botanic Gardens horticulturist; and Scott Coburn, Mythology Distillery’s head distiller, photographed behind Lemon Verbena plants at the Denver Botanic Gardens Sept. 03, 2019. (Andy Cross, The Denver Post)
Two friends — one is a horticulturist, the other a distiller — go foraging for missing ingredients in a garden a mile above the sea. It’s here that they come across an abundance of lemon verbena. As their garden scissors snip, a bright citrus aroma perfumes the air. The herb, they agree, will pair perfectly with the juniper in their forthcoming craft spirit.
Let the artisan collaboration be-gin: The Denver Botanic Gardens and Mythology Distillery, a cocktail bar and distillery in the heart of the LoHi neighborhood, teamed up to produce a uniquely Colorado gin. It’s called The Forager, and the folkloric backstory of their search for the perfect ingredients will be told on the back of the bottle.
Blake Burger, a horticulturist at the Denver Botanic Gardens, and Scott Yeats, founder of Mythology Distillery, are longtime friends who first met while freshmen at Colorado State University. They recently came up with the idea to forage Denver’s bountiful garden — where more than a couple hundred varieties of herbs are growing — to create a botanical gin. They’re hoping it’s the first of many collaborations to come.
“We wanted to collaborate and show that you can use these plants that you may see in your garden for something as cool as distilling gin,” Burger said.
Mythology Distillery plans to make 3,000 bottles of the specialty gin, which was released Oct. 17, Yeats says. In all, they plucked about 2 pounds of chamomile and elderflower and 3 pounds of the lemon verbena from the garden’s grounds. The Forager bottle, which will feature an artistic scene from the Botanic Gardens on it, will cost around $35, and $3 from each bottle will be donated back to the gardens.
“For us, it’s all about making that local connection,” Yeats said. People come to the Botanic Gardens and enjoy the fragrant aromas of the herb gardens. “How can we bring that into a spirit or a cocktail?” he said.
That’s the task at hand now for Scott Coburn, head distiller at Mythology Distillery, who will be experimenting with the foraged finds to strike the perfect balance. The team needed to come up with a mix of ingredients that were both abundant enough in the gardens and that would play well with one another; the citrus notes of lemon verbena helping balance out the florals, Coburn explained.
“Gin is something that you can be extremely creative with,” Coburn said. “There are hundreds and thousands of botanicals you can choose that will alter your flavor just slightly.”
For The Forager, he wants to arrive at a gin that’s not too floral, or that comes across as “perfume-y” on the palate, Coburn said. Rather, he’s going for a softer expression; a more dry, balanced style of gin that allows the floral notes to layer in nicely with the juniper.
“I’m hoping it will be complex enough that it’s enjoyable to sip on ice or with a little bit of tonic,” Coburn said.
Coburn also wants the final product to be versatile enough to make its way into cocktails, since about 80% of The Forager bottles will be distributed to liquor stores, restaurants and bars. The remaining bottles will be available for purchase at Mythology Distillery and used in house cocktails.
Mythology boasts an award-winning roster of spirits, including an American whiskey, rye vodka and silver rum. The botanicals in its existing gin include juniper, coriander seed, orris root, grapefruit, star anise and sage.
Far from your grandfather’s G&T, the cocktail artisans at Mythology — led by bar manager Kelsie Berry — put inventive spins on their gin cocktails, including a gin fizz with lavender and a hazy gin and tonic that can be mixed with one of the house-made tonics (choose from floral, earthy or citrus). But there’s a party trick hiding out on the menu, too: The Violet Beauregarde (yup, that’s a “Willy Wonka” reference) is a gin-lemon-ginger cocktail with Butterfly pea flower ice, which, as it melts, changes the cocktail’s color into brilliant shades of blue and violet.
Next up? We’re waiting to see the “garden variety” of cocktails that Mythology rolls out with its collaborative gin.
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