On Friday, August 2nd, co-worker and friend, Lauren Tempera and I flew to Denver, Colorado, to attend one of the best parties I’ve been to all year. Because of my work with Martha Stewart’s American Made Movement, a personal love of artisans and makers, and passion for discovery through travel, I’m fascinated with “maker” communities. This summer, I’ve had a few opportunities (Greenville, SC!) to meet many people in such communities, and I’ve been incredibly grateful for the chance to speak with them and take a look inside their world.
Due to some grave miscalculations concerning exactly how long the flight NYC>DEN was, we arrived in Colorado famished. Lauren is an absolutely fantastic travel companion, and already had our first stop mapped out – Cherry Cricket. Well, it was ridiculously delicious, but soon put us in a kind of “best thing/worst thing” situation. The satisfying feeling filling up on crunchy onion rings, cold beer, and burgers after a long flight soon gave way to a fullness that should be only experienced once a year, after Thanksgiving. You could blame it on semi-starvation for opting for the peanut butter coated burger, or question my sanity, but if you hit up Cherry Cricket and don’t give one a try, you’re going to miss out on one of the best burgers Colorado has to offer.
The next morning, we made a quick stop at The Cherry Creek Fresh Market, where we had the pleasure of sampling a few of Red Campers awesome jams (absinthe orange deliciousness, yum), listening to some live music, and picking up a few things for the party later on.
The ride to Silver Plume (where the party was taking place) from Denver was filled with a looping chorus of “oohs and aahs” made by me and Lauren while driving through the gorgeous mountain roads. Silver Plume is arguably one of the neatest places I’ve ever been. The small town is a about an hour outside of Denver and is nestled into the beautiful landscape. The former silver mining camp is darkly romantic – there’s something that is incredibly captivating, majestic, spooky, and cozy all at once.
I can’t exactly remember the first time I heard about the Colorado Makers, but I’ve been obsessed, and pretty stalker-ish, about keeping up with what they’re doing ever since. A few months ago, I invited Amy Tremper of Stitch and Hammer, Shae Whitney of Dram Apothecary and Stephen Smith of Peak Spirits, to come onto our American Made Sirius XM Radio show, and talk a bit about their American Made Movement in Colorado, and their relationship together as makers. I was instantly impressed by the dedication to their crafts, skillmanship, and the growing entrepreneur community in the Colorado area, that is glued together by really genuine friendship.
Shea Whitney, a native to Colorado, is an herb alchemist, that forages the Colorado mountainside for the ingredients to concoct her handcrafted bitters at DRAM. Drawing upon MFK Fisher, the beautiful mountain wilderness, and a collegiate background in Food Science, Shae has really developed a special and beautiful line of bitters, including “Hair of the Dog”- a hangover combatant, along with others, like wild mountain sage and honey chamomile.
Amy Tremper is someone I admire very deeply. Her products are stunning and her presence (both online and in person) is magnetic. Stitch and Hammer really is Amy, which is so amazing to see in the small business world. There’s a connection you feel she has with each product she designs and crafts out of her Boulder CO. based studio. Her color palette is beautiful, and her leather goods and aprons are perfect displays of master craftsmanship.
The cocktails on the menu that evening were suburb. Stephen’s delicious CapRock Gin was to blame, along with Shae’s great bitters. Stephen Smith and I hit it off from the start – and how could we not? Stephen is charming, devilishly handsome, and hailing from Peak Spirits, where they are producing some seriously exquisite gin, vodka, and brandies. Jack Rabbit Hill Farm grows certified organic fruits for the distillery, and uses biodynamic farming techniques. Their CapRock Gin is spectacular – the name is referring to the live spring water used in the spirits, that is filtered by volcanic rock and collected 20 miles from the distillery. At Bread Bar, using her bitters, and excellent barmaid stills, Shae whipped us up drinks that were a perfect addition to the summer evening in the mountains. (Stay tuned for a recipe!)
Before I even had been, Bread Bar was my favorite bar. Home to many of the Colorado Makers, Bread Bar is owned and operated by Shae. The bar had it’s first maker party in May that I watched happen over social media. After many threats of visiting, they finally gave me a good excuse to meet them all in person, and invited me and Lauren to another Colorado Maker party. The space was of course stunning, thanks to Shae’s obvious good taste and Kimberly Hyde’s beautiful floral arrangements. Of course, the whole this was being captured on camera by Kathryn Bacalis.
Simply being at the bar was to watch in live action how these great people have come together to help and inspire each other. Shae mixed drinks behind the bar using her amazing bitters and booze from Peak Spirits, while wearing one of Stitch and Hammer’s beautiful aprons. Dinner was delicious, thanks again to all the hard work they all put into this great event. Kate and Josh of Western Daughters Butcher Shoppe provided some ridiculously good food – all of the meat is antibiotic and hormone free and from within 200 miles of Denver. I really couldn’t ask for anything more. But there was more, pie from The Long I.
Great food, awesome people, and lots of fun – I learned a new game called Nails, thanks to Corbin Clay of Azure Furniture. We don’t get opportunities to play games like that very often in our small New York City apartments.
The whole night was wonderful, spent with these lovely people all so passionate about what they’re doing. The setting was superb and a good time was had by all. I look forward to my next excuse to head west and see what this game changing maker scene is up to next.
Maeve Nicholson is a harpist, fiber artist and contributing editor at Martha Stewart Living. Follow her on instagram @maevemarienicholson.