Early last year, as pandemic lockdowns began and happy hour became an at-home ritual, Kyle and Cindy Pressman found themselves at odds over their beverage of choice. Kyle preferred whiskey, while Cindy preferred wine. The Denver-based couple, who previously worked in fashion retail (Cindy) and sports sales and marketing (Kyle), found common ground with aperitifs, such as Italian amaros and Spanish sherries. When they realized the category was thin on American brands, they decided to create their own: Atōst.
“We were inspired by the history and tradition of the European aperitif,” Cindy says. “America has shifted drinking into something that’s not looked at as positive; we wanted to bring back the tradition and history.”
Atōst launched in November 2020, offering three flavors via a direct-to-consumer platform: Roots is earthy, with notes of ginger, lemon, and anise; Bloom is floral, with rose, hibiscus, and strawberry flavors; and Citrus is fruit-forward, tasting of lemon, orange, and vanilla. Those expressions resonated with customers, so the Pressmans followed up with a pair of limited releases: the citrus- and lavender-laced Spring, and Woods, which spends time in bourbon barrels from the Denver distillery Laws Whiskey House. (Woods has since been brought back on a permanent basis.) This summer, they’re set to put out another limited offering, Peaches & Honey, which is inspired by Colorado’s favorite stone fruit, the Palisade peach.
Kyle developed the recipes himself, doing comparison tastings of 25 existing aperitifs and digestifs, and extracting more than 65 ingredients to analyze their aroma, taste, and color.
“Everything we created was centered around the mission to pour it over ice and enjoy without the need to mix a complicated cocktail,” he explains, although he adds that Atōst can be taken with a splash of sparkling water or incorporated into mixed drinks.
In addition to creating the aperitifs, the Pressmans have opened a brick-and-mortar lounge in the Denver suburb of Golden. Similar to Atōst’s products, the 17-person-capacity space evokes a transatlantic vibe. “When you’re walking in Europe, there are all these small spaces,” Kyle says. “We designed the lounge to mimic that type of intimate bar.”