Amy Hadden Marsh
Post Independent Contributor
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

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March 15, 2013
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Sophisticated sipping on tap for St. Paddy's Day bash

So, a leprechaun walks into the Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts, steps up to the barre, and orders a vodka ...

Actually, that's not quite the right story. GSCA's winter fundraiser, disguised as a party, is happening downstairs at the Ramada Inn on Saturday, which is St. Paddy's Day eve.

And that leprechaun may be surprised by what some of the vodka is made from. But he's certain to have a good time.

"The Ramada Inn is going all out for us," said Gayle Mortell, GSCA executive director. Patrons will be treated to a vodka tasting, featuring Tito's Handmade Vodka from Austin, Texas, and other high-end brands. "We'll have live music, hot hors d'oeuvres, and comedy from April Clark," said Mortell. Party-goers can also take the elevator home; Ramada Inn has special room rates for those attending the fundraiser.

Mortell is no stranger to this kind of party. "We have a big culinary arts festival every year, featuring 16 restaurants, wine and microbrews," she explained. For the past five years, Scotch whiskey and bagpipes have been the stars of the center's winter fundraiser. But this year's party is all about vodka, foot-stompin' music and comedy. "It's more sophisticated," opined Mortell.

Comic April Clark, a local favorite, has packed Carbondale's PAC3 as host of the April Clark Show. In an email (she's resting her voice this week in preparation for the Big Night), Clark wrote, "The vodka tasting sounded like a great mixer with comedy. Where else is the crowd going to be open to losing a little inhibition without regret?"

Clark will perform around 8 p.m. after patrons are warmed up by a few sips of some of the best vodka money can buy. "I would say vodka is the one spirit that does not scare me," she wrote. "It's like Casper in the spirits world." As opposed to, say, tequila. "People tipsy on tequila can do things that would scare the Amityville Horror resident ghosts. You thought bleeding walls were bad. Try taking the dude who ate the worm to a White Castle at three in the morning without getting arrested."

Clark added that GSCA "sees the art in everything, from the culinary to the comedic."

And that includes Tito's Handmade Vodka. "The way they make this vodka is very artistic," said Mortell. She compares it to a fine French cognac. "It's smooth," she said. "It's really smooth."

"[Tito's Handmade Vodka] is distilled six times in copper pot stills," said Danny Garipay, Tito's Colorado marketing director. And, it's made from - wait for it - corn.

Tito Beveridge, owner of the distillery, started making vodka in 1995, explained Garipay, out of a shack on land that he bought with his life savings and borrowed funds. "It's an all-American story in a bottle," Garipay added. "He cut up paper grocery bags for labels and glued them to the bottles with Elmer's glue." Now, claims Garipay, Tito's Handmade Vodka is No. 1 in the Lone Star State.

Garipay will be on hand Saturday night to talk about the distillation process and the history of Tito's Handmade Vodka while patrons compare it to other popular brands.

"You taste vodka like you taste wine," explained Van Sea, award-winning director of sales and marketing at the Ramada Inn. "It's not about downing shots."

Sea hails from Lawrenceburg, Ky., home of Wild Turkey bourbon distilleries. "Vodka is like a good moonshine," he said. "It's more about the fermentation and distilling process."

Saturday's party will also include local artisan breads to cleanse the palates of party-goers between sips. Infused vodka drinks will be served, with such exotic flavors as peach and ginger, lemon and jalapeno, and dried cherry. The Ramada will also provide a cash bar and nonalcoholic beverages.

Christina Brusig, GSCA's assistant director, said the winter fundraiser typically brings in up to $5,000 for the Center and expects this year's party to be even more successful. "We could only have 90 people [at the center] due to the fire code, but because we're having it at the Ramada this year, we're expecting 150 patrons." Tickets are $25 in advance and $35 at the door.

Party proceeds will go first and foremost to GSCA educational arts programming and classes. Brusig added that GSCA would also like to resume offering scholarships. "All fundraisers help us help the community get involved in the arts,' she said.

Brusig advised party-goers to dress up in their favorite St. Patrick's Day wear. "But most importantly, show up with a smile," she said. And bring that wayward leprechaun along if you see him.

Festivities begin at 6 p.m. at the Ramada Inn with music by Eddie Joe Walsh. Vodka tasting begins at 7 p.m. Advance tickets are available at the Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts at 601 E. Sixth St., glenwoodarts.org, or by calling 945-2414.


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The Post Independent Updated Mar 15, 2013 01:29AM Published Mar 15, 2013 01:27AM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.