Dine & Dash takeover: This week, in tandem with our summer guide, we venture to Denver’s graffiti mural-rich River North Art District (RiNo). We sample a classic, a newbie and a one-of-its-kind in Colorado. This is just a snapshot from a very happening area with options aplenty.
Proud to be one of a very limited number of U.S.-based sake producers, and the only in-state, nearly 3-year-old Colorado Sake Co. operates out of a stunningly gorgeous taproom that pops with cherry blossom-pink flowers, geometric murals and overhead origami creations made by patrons (including you if you desire).
Denver Sushi House runs eats in the front (for which we need to return) and we happen upon a pop-up sampling with Colorado Cocoa Pod bonbons, so we get a half flight of four sakes (usually $22, 5-ounces each) paired with four chocolates (usually $12) for only $20.
The chocolates, including a toasted coconut paired with blueberry hibiscus sake and Earl Grey lavender served with lychee nigori (scantly filtered sake), are excellent, and fun flavor contrasts to the rice wines, but I want to spend what words I have left focusing on our favorite sakes sampled. We order tasters of the other seven flavors to try them all.
The American Standard is your smooth, pure sake and base for most of the flavors, including sparkling cherry, cucumber lime (so fresh!) and jalapeño margarita, each true to natural ingredients. The nigori’s utilized too as a base, as in the brilliant horchata nigori, its milkiness picking up vanilla and cinnamon essences well — Mexico hugs Japan.
A pinot noir barrel-aged sake picks up the wine more than the oak, interestingly, layering red wine character into rice wine. But the one we bring home with us, the total standout, is the Green Machine, infused with cilantro, lime, serrano pepper and ginger.
It leads with a big, vegetal, green bell pepper nose, and a first sip speaks to the cilantro first, with the lime bitterness flashing for a moment before the ginger zing on the back of the tongue, then chile pepper burn on the throat. We’re over the moon, and the sushi chef, observing our glee, shares that it's his favorite Colorado Sake Co. style too.