Archetype Distillery Brings Art Deco Glam (and gin) to Baker Neighborhood
By Katie Coakley
Denver’s evolving. The past few years have seen record numbers of new residents and countless restaurants, bars, breweries and other businesses throw open their doors. But it’s less common for century-old buildings to get new life, especially one whose past is so … colorful.
Last February, Archetype Distillery opened the doors at 119 S. Broadway in Denver. Serving gin and vodka as well as house-made distillates, these artisans are delivering new life, one drink at a time, in a building that started as a silent movie house, The Webber Show, in 1917. The Webber was a popular destination for movie-goers, especially because it was the first theater in the city with air-conditioning. However, the crowds had changed by the late 1970s. The building was home to Kitty’s South, a video porn palace that closed its doors in 2007.
Fast forward to present day, where the building gleams with new vibrancy. The new owners refurbished and enhanced the façade to resemble the original 1917 Webber theater design, said Michael Chapyak, Archetype’s president and master distiller. The original walls, marquee and tower elements on the roof bring back the art deco feel from its heyday. The interior is open and spacious; exposed brick walls provide a nice contrast to the sleek, illuminated marble bar. A lofted second floor is the perfect space for private parties and there’s also a gallery space on the first floor that is available for boozy business meetings or other gatherings.
But the spirits are the star of this swanky space. Chapyak is distilling gin and vodka on-site in Vendome copper stills because that’s what he likes to drink.
“There are literally thousands of people trying for the whiskey market, so more power to them,” Chapyak said. “I didn’t want to ‘fake the funk’ on something that isn’t my thing.”
Unlike other outfits, though, Chapyak isn’t using potatoes or grains as a base for his tipples — he’s using grapes.
“I decided on grapes as a base product because of the smoother profile, less intense burn and stand-alone quality,” Chapyak explained. “I wanted something that could be enjoyed on its own and in cocktails.”
Using grapes as a base might bring to mind grappa, the Italian digestif. Chapyak explained that while grappa is made from the “leftovers” of wine — the skins, seeds and stems, Archetype’s gin and vodka is made from the juice and fruit of the grapes. The result is, indeed, smoother and extremely enjoyable to sip. The gin recipe is also more mellow than other juniper-forward options. It was designed to have a rounder, less in-your-face flavor profile. In addition to these original spirits, Chapyak is also serving smoked versions, which will most likely make their way into bottles soon.
House-made is the name of the game in the tasting room. In addition to crafting distillates in flavors ranging from mint and lavender to dill and Worcestershire, the artisans at Archetype are also making tonic in-house.
“We make our distillates to enhance our cocktail program and overall flavor profile choices,” Chapyak said. “They can be added to more complex cocktails or enjoyed as an option in our flight menu and traditional drinks. The clarified and concentrated flavors in pure spirit form give our drinks the elevated sensory experience we strive for.”
Belly up to the bar for an Archetype Tonic & Lime or a Colfax, the bar’s version of a dirty martini made with olive distillate. Bring your crew to share a Kitty Galore, a nod in both name and drinking vessel to the building’s former tenant.
In a neighborhood that’s seen its fair share of history, Archetype Distillery is blending
old-school glamour with forward-thinking flavors. Step into the tasting room and be transported into a bold new world — you’ll be glad you came.
Katie Coakley is a Denver-based freelance writer who focuses on craft beer and spirits, travel and outdoor adventures — the best stories combine all three. You can see her work at katiecoakley.com.