We just want to hang out and drink together,” says Kelly Dressman, brand manager at Dry Land Distillers in Longmont.
Dressman refers to the sense of camaraderie that flows between the sisterhood of employees that help operate breweries and distilleries throughout the county and surroundings, from bar staff to brand managers and beyond.
That booze-borne friendship is what gave Dressman the reins for the Distilling Dames, Dry Land Distillers’ all-women cocktail and spirits club.
“All the members of the Dames definitely have an interest in what we do and how we do it. They love the informational piece,” Dressman says. “But it’s amazing to see all of the different friendships blossom.”
Originally founded by Jenna Poppenhagen, a Longmont server and bartender looking for educational opportunities for herself and other women with a passion for spirits and distillation, the Dames predates the opening of Dry Land’s original location. The group would visit a variety of local distillers, learning about their unique offerings and techniques, all while enjoying a libation or two.
The Dames have grown in the past five years, from just a few people to more than thirty active members and a couple dozen more on the email list. Dressman said that the ranks swelled during the pandemic, with more women feeling restless and eager to socialize. The Dames did virtual meetings during the shutdowns, she explains, offering cocktail kits they could make at home during the sessions.
Monthly meetings vary in subject, from making bitters and simple syrups to cocktail classes. The most recent meeting was focused on tasting Dry Land’s signature spirit, a mesquite-smoked cactus spirit similar to mezcal. The timing was fortuitous, Dressman says.
“It’s not often that we have blanco, reposado and anejo available in the tasting room,” she explains. “So we got to talk all about cactus and the dive into the varieties of mezcal and the geographic designations.”
Dressman’s enthusiasm for cocktails and spirits is palpable in conversation, but don’t call her pretentious or a snob.
“I like to use the term discerning,” she says with a laugh. “People say I’m a snob, I tell them I’m just discerning with my vices.”
Jokes aside, Dressman and the Dames want to make a space for curious enthusiasts to explore a side of the bar not often seen. When Dry Land moved into its current space, owner Nels Wroe gave the Dames a personal tour before the tasting room opened.
Other meetings have involved bottling, barreling and weighing in on the spirit cuts coming off the still itself. Dressman hopes to get a mash day on the schedule for the Dames, so that they can get first hand experience with the beginning of the distillation process.
Keeping with Dry Land’s ethos of locally sourced and environmentally conscious process and product, Dames meetings have also focused on produce straight from the garden. The occasional cocktail developed in a Dames meeting can wind up on Dry Land’s cocktail menu, like the Lilac Blush from this past spring.
“We stick more to Dry Land’s roots and get things fresh from the ground,” she explains. “A lot of that carries through into the Dames.”
Annual membership with the Dames runs $149 per person, which includes a cocktail each meeting, a T-shirt and a small bottle of Dry Land’s spirits. Dressman and the Dames try to keep variety in the meetings, but offerings like bitters and cocktail classes often see an annual return.
“At this point we’ve done a lot of different things and we try not to recycle them, but there’s a lot of demand from new members for things they’ve missed,” Dressman says. “If you’re doing something like making bitters, it’s OK to do it again. Our members can develop new varieties for their cocktails.”
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