Meet Marnie Ward, creator of the Tree Line and winner of the Colorado Cocktail Contest

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Mark Manger
Marnie Ward mixes her winning drinki at the Colorado Cocktail Contest.
What does Colorado taste like? Sunshine and cherries and whiskey, according to Marnie Ward, who created "Tree Line," the winner of the inaugural Colorado Cocktail Contest. "I love to go to the farmers' markets through the summer and find great fresh produce, grab something and make cocktails with it," says Ward, the bar manager at the Avenue Grill, where you can taste her creations.

Like everyone else who comes to Colorado, as Ward did eleven years ago, she also loves the weather. And all the outdoor activities you can enjoy year-round. And the people, especially those you run into all over town. Denver, she proclaims, "is the perfect little big town."

The perfect little big town that likes its cocktails, particularly Tree Line.

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Photos: Colorado Cocktail Project contest at MCA

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Photo: Mark Manger
Bartender Marnie Ward puts the finishing touches on the Tree Line, her cocktail that won last night's competition. See more photos from the Colorado Cocktail contest.
Congrats to Marnie Ward, bartender at Avenue Grill and maker of the Tree Line, which nabbed first place in the 2011 Colorado Cocktail Contest last night. Below are a few highlights from the shindig, which took place at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver. You can check out the full slide show here: Colorado Cocktail Project at MCA photos.

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Colorado Cocktail Contest wraps up tonight

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What does Colorado taste like? We'll finally know tonight, as the ten finalists in the Colorado Cocktail Contest pour out their creations at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, 1485 Delgany Street. The festivities run from 5 to 9 p.m. and admission is $40 (industry discounts are available); for more info, go to www.coloradococktailproject.com.

For information on dozens of culinary events around town, visit our online Food & Drink listings -- and if you have information for a culinary event you'd like included in our online calendar, send it to cafe@westword.com.

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Colorado Cocktail Project: Last call for libations and lectures

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The Colorado Cocktail Project, with its mission to create the official Colorado Cocktail, will celebrate this state's most liquid assets at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 1485 Delgany Street, on Sunday and Monday, June 26-27. Dozens of bartenders submitted entries in the Colorado Cocktail Contest; the ten finalists will pour out their hearts -- and their drinks -- in a head-to-head competition on June 27.

But first, Colorado's distillers will be strutting their stuff, pouring samples at the MCA Sunday afternoon while learned lecturers talk about cocktail culture. The MCA is famous for its "Mixed Taste" presentations, and there will be plenty of tasty talk at this rooftop event, which runs from 1 to 6 p.m.

Here's the Sunday lineup:

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Meet Lance Hanson of Peak Spirits

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The Colorado Cocktail Project, with its mission to create the official Colorado Cocktail, will celebrate this state's most liquid assets at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 1485 Delgany, on Sunday and Monday, June 26-27. We've already profiled many of the bartenders who've submitted recipes for the contest; the ten finalists will pour out their hearts -- and drinks -- in a head-to-head competition on June 27.

The day before, Colorado distillers will be at the MCA to pour the products that inspired many of the drinks, while learned lecturers talk about cocktail culture.

Meet Lance Hanson of Peak Spirits:

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Meet Andy Causey of Downslope Distilling

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The Colorado Cocktail Project, with its mission to create the official Colorado Cocktail, will celebrate this state's most liquid assets at the Museum of Contemporary Art on Sunday and Monday, June 26-27. We've already profiled many of the bartenders who've submitted recipes for the contest; the ten finalists will pour out their hearts -- and drinks -- in a head-to-head competition on June 27. The day before, Colorado distillers will be at the MCA to pour the products that inspired many of the drinks, while learned lecturers talk about cocktail culture.

But right now, meet Andy Causey of Downslope Distilling.

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Colorado Cocktail Project finalists: Test this state's most liquid assets Monday

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The Colorado Cocktail Project, with its mission to create the official Colorado Cocktail, will celebrate this state's most liquid assets at the Museum of Contemporary Art on Sunday and Monday, June 26-27. On Sunday, Colorado distillers will be at the MCA to pour their products, while learned lecturers talk about cocktail culture. We've already profiled many of the bartenders who submitted recipes for the contest; the ten finalists will pour out their hearts -- and drinks -- in a head-to-head competition on June 27.

And those finalists (and the bars where you can taste their drinks) are:

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Ask the bartender: Meet Kristian Naslund of Dancing Pines Distillery

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The Colorado Cocktail Project, with its mission to create the official Colorado Cocktail, will celebrate this state's most liquid assets at the Museum of Contemporary Art on Sunday and Monday, June 26-27. We've already profiled many of the bartenders who've submitted recipes for the contest; the ten finalists will pour out their hearts -- and drinks -- in a head-to-head competition on June 27. The day before, Colorado distillers will be at the MCA to pour the products that inspired many of the drinks, while learned lecturers talk about cocktail culture.

You can buy tickets, which are $40 per day, or $70 for the two-day package, here: Colorado Cocktail Project tickets. (Tickets are also available at select Whole Foods outlets.)

But right now, meet Kristian Naslund, distiller with Dancing Pines Distillery:

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Ask the bartender: Meet Karen Hoskin of Montanya Distillers

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Sean Kenyon knows how to pour out both drinks and advice. A third-generation bar man with almost 25 years behind the bar, he is a student of cocktail history, a United States Bartenders Guild-certified Spirits Professional and a BAR Ready graduate of the prestigious Beverage Alcohol Resource Program. You can find him here most weeks, where he'll answer your questions. But right now, he wants to introduce you to one of the distillers featured in the Colorado Cocktail Contest.

We've already profiled many of the bartenders competing in the Colorado Cocktail Project, with its mission of creating the official Colorado Cocktail. Now we're profiling the Colorado distillers whose spirits will be featured June 26-27 at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver.

Meet Karen Hoskin, president and co-founder of Montanya Distillers:

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Colorado Cocktail Project will leave you shaken, possibly stirred

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Café Society's obsession with the quest for a Colorado cocktail dates back to the day when Rich Grant of Visit Denver got a call from a reporter for a national magazine who was looking for the quintessential Colorado drink to include in a story about landmark libations. But while some towns are swimming in iconic beverages - New Orleans has both the Hurricane and the Sazerac, San Francisco has the Fogcutter as well as bragging rights to inventing the Irish Coffee - Denver has...beer. Plenty of it, of course, but beer just wasn't what that reporter was looking for.

Buy tickets, which are $40 per day, or $70 for the two-day package, here: Colorado Cocktail Project tickets. (Tickets are also available at select Whole Foods outlets.)

At the same time we were pouring our suggestions into Grant's ear - the Mile High Plunge, for example, which called for a shot of Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey in a pint of Coors Light - star-tender Sean Kenyon was chatting with a couple of bartender friends who'd come to Denver to conduct a seminar on New Orleans cocktails. Kenyon took them to a few iconic bars - including the Buckhorn Exchange and My Brother's Bar - and they were suitably impressed by Denver's saloon scene. But they, too, wondered about our signature drink.

After this weekend, though, both those bartenders and that reporter should have plenty to write home about. On Sunday, June 26, the Colorado Cocktail Project will fill the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver with a day of lectures on cocktails and their culture (accompanied by lots of food and lots and lots of drink); the next day, the ten finalists in the Colorado Cocktail Contest will put their drinks to the ultimate test.

And you can help determine what Colorado tastes like.


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