If on your way to catch a flight through Concourse C of the Denver International Airport you stop at RootDown DIA, you may very well run into bartender Mike Henderson — even if it is 7 a.m. on a Monday. The airport sister restaurant to the popular LoHi eatery owned by Justin Cucci brings not only its global cuisine to travelers, but also great cocktails and an A-team bar staff. Henderson, one of Denver's most acclaimed bartenders and the beverage director for Root Down and Linger, spends most of his time there now—upwards of 40 hours a week— making sure that the thoughtful bar program he created is being executed properly.
The Root Down DIA bar program features 22 Colorado beers on draft- everything from Coors Light to the Funkwerks' Tropic King Saison, Avery's White Rascal, and Left Hand's Milk Stout Nitro Stout. There nearly 20 wine options by the glass, including keg wine from keg wine from Jack Rabbit Hill in Hotchkiss, the Austrian Höple Grüner Veltliner, and the Bibi Graetz, "Super Tuscan", Sangiovese, among others. There are half bottles, full bottles, bottles of bubbly, all in white, red, and pink.
The ten craft cocktails feature local artisanal vodkas, gins, rums and whiskeys. Yes, the Pepper Blossom - Root Down's best-selling cocktail, a mix of vodka, St-Germain, citrus, jalapeno and Thai basil – is on the menu, and so are the popular Beet Down and Coconut Fizz. The Mexican Suitcase, South by Southwest, and the Brazilian Clipper are inspired by the jet-setting location of the bar.
Along with Henderson behind the bar is Ky Belk, former head barman at Elway's Cherry Creek. Belk left Elway's in March after a nine-year stint there and has been working with the crew at Linger, Justin Cucci's other restaurant, all summer. "It was time for a change of pace and a change of scenery," said Belk. "We're bringing a top-notch craft cocktail program to DIA, plus the food is outrageous. Justin Cucci has designed an incredible space," he added.
Longtime RootDown bartenders Chine Ikwuakor and Marcus Williams, as well as Dave Lemery formerly of Row 14 have also joined the airport team, alongside a cast of industry vets and fresh faces.
Mike Henderson at RootDown DIA [Photo: Adam Larkey]