It’s no secret that people have been moving to Denver in droves over the last eight years. With so many new residents, the city has turned into quite the food and beverage scene. Check out these must-see bars if you’re visiting the city for the weekend, passing through for an afternoon on your way to ski, or if you’re a cranky long-time resident endlessly yelling into the abyss that the rent is too damn high.
Retrograde: Enter through the ice cream shop
Retrograde / Photo Courtesy of Retrograde
Retrograde is tucked away behind Frozen Matter in Uptown. You’ll enter through the freezer door to a tiny, dark, 50-seat space with a horseshoe bar in the center. Their cocktail list is flavor-focused, so instead of listing out what spirit is in each drink they focus on what you’ll taste. This prevents common spirit aversions and allows bar guests to expand their palette. Allergic to something? No problem. Just let their staff know and you’ll be all set. Their knowledgeable and creative bartenders can also make any classics and offer a bartender’s choice; pick a spirit and they’ll come up with something unique just for you.
Beast + Bottle: Splurge on the chef pairing dinner
Sage It Ain’t So Cocktail / Photo Courtesy of Beast + Bottle
For the best dinner and drinks in town, have a leisurely meal with Beast +Bottle’s chef’s pairing dinner. Don’t skimp on the drinks and go for the optional wine pairings as well. You may even find a cocktail included in the pairing depending on the sommelier’s fancy that evening. This tiny restaurant in Uptown is known for their brunch and eclectic wine list. They focus on responsibly sourced food which carries over into their beverages as well. A must-try if you’re feeling fancy, and well worth the splurge as the hospitality at Beast + Bottle is unmatched.
Fort Greene: Antique store meets Midwestern dive bar
Fort Greene / Photo Courtesy of Fort Greene
This Globeville gem looks like a small old warehouse from the outside. The only sign that it might be a bar is the old Budweiser sign on the outside. Once you’re inside, it’s antique store meets Midwestern dive bar. Fort Greene’s cocktail list is delicious, they have great happy hour specials, are dog-friendly, and often have live music happening in their back room. Check out the Night Queen made with Bulleit Rye, peach bitters, ginger, and lemon.
Star Bar: Industry Dive Bar
Star Bar sign / Photo Courtesy of Star Bar
With no nonsense bartenders and a stocked back bar, the interior of Star Bar is like your older brother’s best friend’s basement when you were in high school. Frequent live music as well as regular karaoke nights, plus Star Bar’s proximity to Coors Field, make it a hot spot for summer shenanigans. They have a great back patio and during the annual Great American Beer Festival it’s where all the brewers hang out after the fest is done for the day. They frequently have unique beers on draft, especially around the GABF. Star Bar is a great place for late night libations and an easygoing vibe.
Tooey’s Off Colfax: Dive bar with killer cocktails
Tooey’s Off Colfax / Photo Courtesy of Tooey’s Off Colfax
With an extensive whiskey list and an ever-changing list of seasonal cocktails, Tooey’s is a diamond in the rough in Capitol Hill. There’s truly something for every budget at this bar. From $5 specials of PBR & Jim Beam to exclusive pours of rare whiskeys, Tooey’s has it. Their bartenders also craft fantastic cocktail lists for those who prefer a craft cocktail experience. The Fightin’ Side of Me is a particularly notable cocktail. Made with Old Grand Dad 114 and Green Chartreuse, it’s dangerous in the best way possible. Tooey’s is a place to go no matter your mood. It’s surprisingly big, has a great patio, and is next door to The Irish Snug and Kinga’s Lounge. If you visit all three, you’ve hit what locals call “the trifecta.”
Cocktail at Union Lodge No. 1: Pre-Prohibition Cocktails
Cocktail at Union Lodge No. 1 / Photo Courtesy of Cocktail at Union Lodge No. 1
This unique cocktail bar in Downtown Denver churns out turn-of-the-century cocktails for the modern palette. Union Lodge No. 1 is a tribute to late 1800’s cocktail bars, and features recipes from that time. Their passionate bartenders have carefully created a transformative cocktail list that is out of this world. Try the Red White and Blue Blazer. It tastes like hot apple pie, fresh from the oven. The drink takes several minutes to make–and due to its flaming nature usually quiets the bar and brings out the iPhone photographers. Sit back and watch the show!
Denver continues to grow in population and popularity everyday with no end in sight. These bars are just a small sample of the excellence that can be found in the Mile High City.