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Denver's Top Bartenders Uncovered, Part Two

Denver's Top Bartenders, Second Installment
Denver's Top Bartenders, Second Installment
Photography by Jennifer Olson

Day three of Cocktail Week and the second installment celebrating those who make our fancy drinks possible, the bartenders, brings another group of five, three men and two women who helm successful bar and cocktail programs in Denver. The five featured here today come from varied walks of life and possess knowledge and expertise that puts them at the top of their profession. Just as their fellow bartenders yesterday, these five allowed Eater to pry and ask a few questions meant to give you a better understanding of who they are. They dished on all from first bar jobs to trends they hate and the worst cocktails they have ever made.

kevinburkeCWS.pngKevin Burke

Birthdate: December 20
Behind the bar at: Colt & Gray
First Bar Job: Barback at a midtown dining room during college. I juiced lemons, faced bottles, put away beer and wine. Same thing I do today.
Favorite Spirit: Brandies lately - Cognac or Armagnac. There is silly business coming from Germain Robin or the eau-de-vie from Caprock, the peach is nuts and the pear is bananas (maybe it's the other way around).
Worst Cocktail You Ever Made: So many... we've all polished many turds in our day and have made drinks that don't make sense, but if they brought the guest joy, then who am I to judge?
Biggest Bartending Accomplishment: as a bartender - I unclogged a floor drain before it flooded behind the bar. Saved my shoes. Victory was had. Shots all around. As a mixologist- we featured a cocktail whose proceeds went to a charity that helped send a group to Japan after the earthquake.
Bartending trend you are sick of: One trend we have seen in our community is the creation of brand mixologists and consultants for big liquor companies. Big money is paid to post their swoosh all over a cocktail menu. I wish we were more open about who is getting paid to push a product or just how in the pocket some of us can be to the big distributors. One of my fundamental beliefs is that I am going to be an advocate for the guests sitting at my bar. My job is to get them what they want and what they find delicious. If I'm being paid by a liquor company to push their drug on people then my heart and wallet is in the wrong place.
One thing your guests should know about you: I can do a time step.

BrianSmithCWS.pngBrian Smith

Birthdate: April 22

Behind the bar at: Colt & Gray

First Bar Job: The Hunt Club at the Sorrento Hotel in Seattle.

Favorite Spirit: I'm really into Amaro right now....where have I heard that before?

Worst Cocktail You Ever Made: Manny's Pale Ale and Diet Coke, or a Tequila Sunrise with olives, neither was my choice.  Still trying to wrap my head around those two.

Biggest Bartending Accomplishment: learning how to tie a bow tie.

Bartending trend you are sick of: bow ties.

One thing guests should know about you: I am not left-handed.

AnikaZappeCWS.pngAnika Zappe

Birthdate:  August 6

Behind the bar at:  Punchbowl Social and Le Grand Bistro and Oyster Bar.

First Bar Job: The PS Lounge

Favorite Spirit: Cachaca 

Worst Cocktail You Ever Made: recently I grabbed a bottle of brown sugar simple syrup that had accidentally been married with olive juice. Worst mojito ever. 

Biggest Bartending Accomplishment:  Mentoring other Denver bartenders through opening several places and my work with the Colorado bartenders guild. We have a great community. 

Bartending trend you are sick of:  Handlebar mustaches. More of a bartender trend. 

One thing guests should know about you: I'm very into "homesteading." I have a big garden, seven chickens and my husband keeps bees.

AlexParksCWS.pngAlexandra Parks

Birthdate: August 26

Behind the bar at: OAK at Fourteenth

First Bar Job: Big Bowl

Favorite Spirit: it has to be the first I fell in love with, whiskey.

Worst Cocktail You Ever Made: Countless - on the road to making good ones. There were a number of times at Green Russell when we'd experiment and toss it because it wasn't good - at all.

Biggest Bartending Accomplishment: I was just recently given the chance to help Bryan Dayton run OAK's bar program. I am honored.

Bartending trend you are sick of: Not smiling. Hospitality means you smile. If you don't like making good money for helping people have a good time then find another job. If you take your job so seriously you can't smile, then that's just sad.

One thing guests should know about you: I'd do almost anything. Almost.

AdamHodakCWS.pngAdam Hodak

Birthdate: May 28

Behind the bar at: mainly Green Russell, Osteria Marco

First Bar Job: McMurray's Irish Pub

Favorite Spirit: love is unconditional and so is my love for them all.

Worst Cocktail You Ever Made: a fresh strawberry juice gin thing that tasted as my girlfriend put zima...embarrassing.

Biggest Bartending Accomplishment: opening not one but two bars with Frank Bonanno.

Bartending trend you are sick of: A. People using the word mixology B. Anyone who muddled a cherry into a drink calling themselves a mixologist yet can't explain the difference between rye and bourbon.

One thing guests should know about you: I am not acting, I truly love my job.

· Eater Cocktails Take Over The City [EDen]
· Bryan Dayton of Oak at Fourteenth On Trends And Light Alcohol Cocktails [EDen]

Green Russell

1422 Larimer Street, , CO 80202 (303) 893-6505 Visit Website


1400 Pearl Street, , CO 80302 (303) 444-3622 Visit Website