Brian Rossi, who is the owner of Palenque Cocina y Agaveria in Littleton and Back Roads Importing (which focuses on boutique mezcal producers), is passionate about agave. In addition to being a brand ambassador for Tequila Fortaleza, Rossi is also an encyclopedia of handcrafted tequilas and mezcals from small producers in Mexico. In 2015, Rossi opened Palenque, Denver’s first tasting room devoted to mezcal, on South Broadway.
Rossi moved Palenque to Littleton shortly before the pandemic, and he quickly understood its survival was dependent on his ability to innovate. The idea for a retail store devoted to difficult-to-find agave spirits was born. “Fortaleza came out with a winter blend and a Lot 100 (all agaves from Los Altos, which is a very unique blanco) that aficionados were searching for. We saw people on Facebook forums searching for these bottles and we saw an opportunity to draw them into Palenque,” Rossi says. “Through my relationships, we were able to procure allocations and [get] people into the restaurant. We already had an inventory of great mezcals, tequilas, and wines, and we set up a retail store within an afternoon.”
Tequila and mezcal devotees can taste and shop for reserve and small-batch boutique spirits, liqueurs, and wines from Mexico at the eatery. Much of Palenque’s inventory can’t be found elsewhere in Colorado, and Rossi has seen an increase in traffic from folks living outside of Littleton. “If I were to make a suggestion to a restaurant attempting to create a retail outlet, it’s to find your niche,” Rossi says. “If you’re a whiskey/bourbon spot, find those rare Japanese whiskies; find things that people can’t find anywhere else. Create a reason for guests to travel outside of their own neighborhood to get something special.”
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