Lately, it feels like you can’t enter a restaurant in Denver without finding an intricate craft cocktail list. But while plenty of places boast mixologists and fine, locally sourced spirits, these five venues really know how to throw down when it comes to the perfect drink. From using house-made granitas that spruce up a tipple to serving drinks underground, there are plenty of places to get a great cocktail in the Mile High city.
Stoic & Genuine
Graced with a mural of orange-colored tentacles by artist Lui Ferreyra, glass baubles and lights that look like fishing lures, Stoic & Genuine in the refurbished Union Station is a hip place to be whether you go for the raw bar or the drinks. Both will treat you right and each comes with menu items topped with the restaurant’s house-made granitas. While flavors such as grapefruit-Campari and cucumber-tarragon go great on oysters, it is when they’re mixed in cocktails that the frozen treats really shine. The drink list changes with the season, but granita-infused tipples that have graced past pages include Esteban’s Revenge (an Exotico blanco tequila and watermelon granita mixture) and Napoleon Dynamite (cherry granita, pineapple, Napoleon Armagnac, Myers’ dark rum, house vanilla and orgeat syrup). They also have stellar non-frozen cocktails, like the Foxy Shazaam, which is composed of house-made citrus vodka, crème de violette and lemon.
Beast + Bottle
Jon Feuersanger, the 23-year-old bar manager of this nose-to-tail eatery has created an ever-changing cocktail menu that sings with amazing, well-balanced concoctions. “I am inspired by the ingredients we get from the local purveyors and the flavors coming from that particular ingredient,” he said, adding that he works closely with chef and owner Paul C. Reilly to find out what’s coming out on the food menu and plan his beverages accordingly. “For me, the most rewarding thing as a bartender is creating a cocktail for a guest that, when they take that first sip, their face lights up in that indescribable way.” And your eyes will surely light up as you sample pun-friendly drinks like Your Own Pear-sonal Jesus, made with violet, Wilderness vodka, pear liqueur and pear bitters; and the Oh, Whoa, Whoa, Campari’s Rye-in, a watermelon-, Campari-, mint tincture- and whiskey-doused tipple that speaks of lazy summer days.
Williams & Graham
Most seasoned drinkers will point you to this cocktail bar to sip on some of the best tipples in the state, and they aren’t wrong. In fact, at the 2015 Spirited Awards in New Orleans, the spot was named “Best American Cocktail Bar.” The menu features over a dozen unique drinks created by bar man and co-owner Sean Kenyon. Options have included the regal-sounding Mayan Queen, a rum drink made with strawberries and Cynar liqueur; or the lighter Bootsy Collins, which utilizes local Woody Creek vodka, Bittermens Amère Nouvelle, pomegranate, cardamom, lemon and soda. Also make sure to check out a whiskey selection that covers everything from Colorado rye to Japanese whiskey. When you look at the spirit menu, you’ll notice some handy suggestions on cocktails made with that particular booze.
As part of the celebrated Colt & Gray restaurant by chef Nelson Perkins, the speakeasy-style Ste. Ellie doesn’t disappoint. Located in the basement of its sister venue, this drinking hole proves laid back and fun while still churning out amazing drinks. Part of the underground lair’s intricate menu features old-school cocktails like the Sazerac, Moscow Mule, French 75 and Paloma. The other side touches on the genius of bar manager Kevin Burke by showcasing concoctions like Spruce Willis, which consists of Peach Street barrel-aged gin, St. George pear brandy and Dolin Blanc. Also look for Blame It On the Aperol, a beverage made with Peychaud’s bitters, Aperol, Mellow Corn whiskey, lemon and hazelnut syrup. Pair a couple drams with their dry-aged beef tartare, deviled eggs and a plate of hot gougères, and call it a good night.
Owned by Steve Redzikowski, who also runs Oak at fourteenth in Boulder, this contemporary American restaurant has garnered many accolades for its cuisine. But the drinks program, overseen by co-owner Bryan Dayton, is praise worthy as well. Dayton is a certified sommelier who’s been mixing cocktails for over 15 years. His skill is easily seen in the glass. Order the Alpenglow, made with Bols genever, Nardini grappa, orange and honey; or try the Monk’s Garden, a winner showcasing herb-infused Death’s Door gin, green chartreuse, lime and lavender. To find this den of delicious drinks, head to The Source, an epicurean marketplace built in an 1880’s foundry in Denver’s River North District.