Montana's first-ever festival of distillers will serve cocktails made in Montana at the Rialto on Saturday.
"It's such a fun time for all of us to come together under one roof and present what we do," said Mary Pat Harris, co-owner of the Bozeman Spirits Distillery. Bozeman Spirits and Harris are part of the Montana Distillers Guild, a coalition of distilleries around Montana. The guild is behind the festival, which will feature 12 Montana distilleries from as far away as Whitefish.
"For all of us, forming a guild and organizing an event of this size is a first," Harris said. She added that the guild planned to make the festival an annual event, similar to the Montana Brewer beer festivals, but with much stronger drinks. Each of the 12 distilleries will present one to two of its spirits in the form of mini-cocktails.
"It's important that we work together," Harris said of the guild. "It's also important that we collaborate with liquor stores and tavern owners as a liquor coalition."
The festival offers two levels of tickets: General admission, which costs $ 30 for eight drinks, and VIP tickets, which cost $ 50 and come with perks. VIP ticket holders can enter the Rialto at 2:30 pm, one hour earlier than GA ticket holders, and benefit from unlimited drinking tickets. Those who have VIP tickets also have the opportunity to participate in a Montana Whiskey 101 class.
"We will detail some of the whiskeys made here in Montana, as well as their grains and their farms," said Harris. But VIP ticket holders will not be the only ones who can learn from the festival. "When you taste the cocktails, you can talk to these distillers and know where these grains come from [what is their origin], what is the basic grain of this vodka, this whiskey or this gin."
Harris said the tickets are limited to 250 participants, she and the rest of the guild are waiting for the event to be complete.
"This is a really great group of community members, very tasty libations and hors-d'oeuvre to savor," she said.
Montana's inaugural festival of distillers takes place on Saturday between 2:30 pm and 6 pm at the Rialto Theater in downtown Bozeman. Tickets are available at the event and on the website of the Montana Distillers Guild, montanadistillers.org.