The Denver cocktail scene is growing bigger by the day. With that growth comes a lot of talent behind the bar, and all that talent needs a place to unwind. So we asked some of Denver’s best bartenders to share their favorite spots to drink when off the clock.
Annemarie Sagoi, Williams and Graham
“Since my career has focused around cocktails for awhile, I usually like to go to small neighborhood bars that are relaxed and fun (a good juke box is always a plus) in my free time. If I’m not at Occidental on my days off, I am likely at PS Lounge, Matchbox, or anywhere with a foosball table. A neat pour of whiskey or a glass of wine always hit the spot.”
Katsumi Yuso Ruiz, Curio
“I love our neighbor the Yacht Club inside The Source. MClain & Mary have, in my opinion, the best palates in town. Their drinks are always balanced, pretty, and boozy, plus I love spreading the hood love.
I also go super old school to the Buckhorn Exchange, especially now that the weather is turning. They have the most laid back bar in town. Where else can you drink in a place that feels like your grandma’s house and your favorite cabin. Prices on scotch are the best in town, and you can’t beat their happy hour. I also love their bean soup!”
Adam Hodak, Green Russell
“As a Baker resident, I like to stay close to home when I go out to bars. My favorite South Broadway bar has to be Sputnik. I have been going there for over a decade now. I definitely prefer to sip on some Chartreuse or fernet and have draft beer. It is well lit, as in dark, and a proper place to relax and converse. The other bar I like to go to on South Broadway is Historians. However, it is very specific to a clear night and prior to sundown on the roof top—it’s one of the best views of the mountains in my neck of the woods. Also, as a beer drinker, they have plenty of taps to enjoy.”
Alex Flower, Wayward Denver
“Great bars like Ste. Ellie and Star Bar are my favorite haunts. I go to Ste. Ellie for the proper tiki-inspired mug and cocktail, with a great selection of whiskey at our disposal. Star Bar because it has one of the more amazing beer menus in town, with bartenders who can make you a great cocktail, as well.”
Jake Rose, Hudson Hill
“Usually, if I’m going out after work, I end up at Occidental. They’ve got solid cocktails if you need one, but I’m usually a beer and a shot guy at the end of the day. They’ve got some really cool people working over there, as well. If it’s a cocktail I’m craving, I’m heading to Union Lodge No. 1. Jason Patz and crew are always making it happen down there. Order off the list or ask them to make you something to suit your tastes. You can’t go wrong.”
Jon Feuersanger, Beast + Bottle, Coperta
“I like to eat and drink at Mercantile. They have a killer wine menu and the food and service is unparalleled.
After a shift at Coperta, I duck over to the Horseshoe (lovingly referred to as ‘the show’). It’s a quintessential neighborhood spot with fun bartenders and great music, and it just so happens to be about 10 paces from Coperta. I’ll drink a Modelo in a bottle and an Estrella tequila. It’s especially great when they have live music.
If I have just wrapped a shift at Beast + Bottle, I might head to Thin Man. The bar has a crazy grappa selection, loud vibe, great lighting, and it’s always bustling. Thin Man also has the perfect back patio.”
Nathan Maston, Poka Lola Social Club
“Denver has a lot of great bars, some brand new places and some that have been neighborhood gems for years. Beast + Bottle, although a restaurant/bar has always been my go-to spot. Not only for drinks, but also because it’s one of the best date spots in Denver. Their bar team always has something new, and you can never go wrong with letting the bartender choose your poison for the night.
As far as ‘true bar’ bars, I find myself at Ste. Ellie a lot, drinking anything with rum. Their atmosphere is on-point for anyone looking to get away from the hustle of the downtown life.”
Chris Burmeister, Citizen Rail
“For cocktails, I like Ste. Ellie and Wayward. They are right over the bridge from us here at Union Station. It’s typically low key on the nights I have time to go in, the drinks are always solid, and the service and bartenders are friendly and engaging. Anywhere with good ice and a cocktail, that is my go-to. Wayward has an awesome spirit-forward cocktail with Toki and Becherovka, that is super solid, simple, and straightforward.
For beer, I like Our Mutual Friend Brewing. There is always a fun crowd, the beer is great, and the patio usually has seating at anytime. If I’m feeling like wine or sherry, I’ll head up to El Five or somewhere in the surrounding LoHi area. Everyone has vast wine lists, and you can usually find what you may or may not be looking for within a few blocks.”
Alex Osborne, Acorn
“My favorite bar would probably have to be Occidental in the Highlands. The atmosphere is always lively, the bartenders are super knowledgeable, and you can get anything—from a great beer to a perfectly executed classic cocktail. I tend to order Bartender’s Medicine, which is equal parts mezcal and Cynar.
Also, I think that Bar Dough is perfect for an aperitif cocktail, and Rino Yacht Club for some of Denver’s most unique and playfully-named cocktails. Rino Yacht Club also has some of the best bartenders in Denver, and McLain Hedges is just brilliant! No matter which of my favorite bars I’m at, I always love ordering a Mezcal Last Word—it’s a beautiful balance of smoky and tart, so it hits all of your flavor senses!”
Heather J Haas, Rino Yacht Club
“I usually hit up Union Lodge No. 1 when I want to just kick back and enjoy a good ol’ Ramos Gin Fizz and see familiar faces behind the stick. When I want to feel inspired, I roll over to Mercantile, see my good friend Alex Jump, belly up to the bar and get myself a bartender’s choice. She’s always got the wheels spinning. She definitely is one to watch, not just in Denver but in the U.S.”
Daryl Pryor, B&GC
“I’m pretty sure it goes without saying at this point that Williams and Graham will always show you a good time in Denver. When you’re looking to loosen your tie a bit, going next door to The Occidental to enjoy a beer, some tater tots, and loud punk rock is guaranteed to put me in a great mood. Sean Kenyon and his crew don’t do things wrong.
Mercantile Dining & Provision in Union Station is where I head for one of my favorite whiskey collections in the city, and I can usually back a dram up with a proper cup of coffee from their barista team. It tends to put your pins back under you after a long night.
Union Lodge No. 1 makes the best Ramos Gin Fizz in the city. Great team, great drinks and great hospitality. And a truly enviable menu. That thing is pretty.
Whatever Stuart Jensen has in a frozen drink machine at Curio in Denver Central Market, you should definitely have in front of you. And a brown ale/calvados boilermaker? Talk dirty to me…
Ste. Ellie is where I turn for many things. Sometimes it’s the perfect Daiquiri and a lesson on rum (or anything else) from Kevin Burke. Sometimes it’s a beer, shot, and a cheeseburger, served with a side of smirking wit from Minetta Gould. Sometimes it’s somewhere in the middle, but it’s always there.
It’s a running line with me that if you can’t find me behind the bar at B&GC, you can probably find me at Star Bar. As well, you’ll probably find a healthy portion of Denver’s hospitality scene there. It’s our home away from home, the kind of place where you can expect to be greeted with a barrage of hugs, a ridiculous beer selection, an unexpectedly impressive back bar, and all the karaoke you need to soothe your soul. The back patio on Thursday night is a goddamn highlight reel of some of the best this city has to offer (offering up their best behavior, of course).”
Alex Linney, Guard and Grace
“After a busy night at Guard and Grace, I head to Union Lodge No. 1. It has a great speakeasy feel without trying too hard. My go-to order is a Corpse Reviver #2, but I’ve also never been disappointed ordering a Bartender’s Choice. They know what they’re doing!
Another after work go-to are the Amaro– and Fernet-flavored soft serves at Bar Fausto. Booze-infused desserts and frozen cocktails are really trendy, but I recently had a smoked pineapple and Branca Menté concoction that was the perfect way to finish the night.”