Distilling started as a hobby for Rawley Gunnels and Johnathan Tilley, co-founders of DV8, a distillery and queer nightclub located in Boulder, Colorado. “We built this still out of a keg and a bunch of copper piping. Just very much a hands-on home engineering project. As we got into it, we were all surprised by the quality that we could produce,” Gunnels said.
DV8 distills vodka, gin, a single-barrel whiskey and a five-grain bourbon. Rice takes a leading role in each one. They use whole grain rice in their distillation process, which gives the liquors an unusual but tasty character.
“No one thinks of the U.S. and says rice, so we knew that there was really no one else doing it,” said Gunnels. “It’s an atypical grain, but what I really like about it is the flavor. It’s sweet and luscious, and it’s unlike any other vodka.”
The business partners met during college at Naropa University, quickly becoming, as Gunnels states, “hetero life partners.” While both men identify as bisexual, their connection remains that of best friends and business partners. They opened DV8 on Halloween in 2014.
The business partners also created a community around the business, transforming what might have been a staid and unremarkable tasting room into a queer gathering space. Their original bar was only 300 square feet, but it didn’t take long for the alternative and queer community to find them. (Their motto on their website proclaiming “Friends, Freaks and Lusty Libations” might have had something to do with it too.)
Local producers and DJs began to approach the business with ideas. Gunnels said, “It was such a funny little scene. Fifty people showing up in this tiny little space, dancing and getting down. It’s very cozy, you meet everybody. The feeling was more like a house party. So, we started really leaning into that.”
Now, they’re looking to translate the feeling of their bar into a bottle of vodka and have come up with DV8 Sparkle, launching in April 2023 with a plan of being on the shelves for June in time for Pride Month.
This fruit punch infused spirit will be pink with sparkly edible mica flecks suspended through the bottle. As Gunnels told Beyondish: “It’s not a subtle thing. It’s pink. It’s glitter, it’s unicorns and it’s screaming at you. You can’t miss it.”
The Pride Cocktail
1 Pineapple, peeled and chopped
3 850ml bottles vodka
3 oz lemonade
1/2 oz cranberry juice
1.) Mix pineapple and vodka. Allow to sit for a week. Strain and discard the pineapple.
2.) Mix 3 oz of the pineapple-infused vodka with the lemonade and cranberry juice. Serve with a lime wedge over ice.
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