Inspiration for cocktail invention can come from anywhere. Sometimes it’s an homage to a piece of literature, like James Bond’s Vesper. The classic Adonis cocktail was inspired by a Broadway play of the same name, while Star Wars has inspired numerous drinks. On the other side of the spectrum, bartenders have been influenced by their home football teams: Bryan Dayton, the beverage director and co-owner of Denver’s Brider and Boulder’s Oak at Fourteenth, developed this slightly spicy tequila drink in homage to both Denver and its football team. An unconventionally layered drink, the Broncos Sunset evokes the twilight sky over Colorado, as well as the team’s uniforms. “Denver is known for these amazing orange-hued sunsets, so I wanted to incorporate that into this cocktail,” Dayton says. “Obviously, the orange and blue is also a nod to the Broncos jersey.”
Liquor floats are not an uncommon way to finish a drink, including those made to honor football teams, like the Autumn Wind for the Raiders. However, in order to get the image of a sunset into a glass, Dayton flips the formula upside down, starting with a sunken layer of blue curaçao to mimic the thin ribbon of blue sky beneath the red-orange sunset of tequila and Italian amari. Because of this, it’s important to pour the drink slowly and carefully into the crushed ice, so it settles easily on top.
The bulk of the drink is a heady mixture of tequila, spicy Ancho Reyes liqueur, two kinds of Italian bittersweet liqueur and two kinds of citrus juice. Dayton uses Suerte tequila, which is made in Mexico but locally owned. “In terms of the ingredients, I wanted to stick to local Colorado, so I used Suerte tequila, which is based here in Boulder,” he says. “We also love spicy food here, so I added the Ancho Reyes for some heat.”
Along with the spicy liqueur and tequila, Dayon mixes in equal parts Aperol and Campari, the legendary pair of Italian bittersweet liqueurs. Along with their complex flavors, the amari add a crimson hue to the drink. Mixed with orange and lemon juice, they mellow to a vivid orange. Simple syrup balances the tartness of the Broncos Sunset, but it’s best to allow the blue curaçao to slowly incorporate, adding its own sweetness and citrus notes to the drink.
Of course, the Broncos Sunset is best enjoyed while watching the team play on a big-screen television, especially at dusk in Colorado, but there’s no bad time to enjoy this unconventional tequila drink.
- 1/2 ounce blue curaçao
- 1 ounce Suerte silver tequila
- 1/2 ounce Ancho Reyes chile liqueur
- 1/4 ounce Aperol
- 1/4 ounce Campari
- 3/4 ounce orange juice, freshly squeezed
- 1/4 ounce lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 1/4 ounce simple syrup
- Garnish: blood orange slice
Add the blue curaçao to the bottom of a rocks glass and top with crushed ice.
Add the silver tequila, Ancho Reyes liqueur, Aperol, Campari, orange juice, lemon juice and simple syrup into a shaker filled with ice and shake until well-chilled.
Strain into the glass over the crushed ice (adding more if necessary), and garnish with a blood orange slice.