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Forget Me Not in Cherry Creek.
Eric Donzella

25 Essential Denver Bars

For cocktails, beer, wine, atmosphere, and more

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Forget Me Not in Cherry Creek.
| Eric Donzella

A drinking town from the moment its government was established in a saloon, the Mile High City has grown up as a world-renowned destination for beer and spirits — and today, even its way with wine programs is worth noting. But the spirit of the Wild West lives on in the sheer wonderful weirdness of local bar culture. Here are 25 spots that distill Denver’s drinking scene down to its essence, from an old-school dive that hands out roses to female patrons to a wellness-focused lounge that infuses its potions with crystal essences.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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The Arvada Tavern

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An old-fashioned phone booth transports patrons of Arvada’s oldest haunt — dating back to 1933 — to the upstairs Bernard Ballroom, where the cocktails speak to the history of the venue: Sidecars, Vieux Carrés, lavender-infused Greyhounds. Back downstairs, Tuesday nights are tiki-themed. The owners run two other, equally noteworthy bars: Union Lodge No. 1 downtown and The Tatarian in Berkeley.

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Fort Greene

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This hip little bar has single-handedly made Globeville a destination. Hosting DJ sets and art shows, pop-up markets and food vendors, themed parties, and even yoga classes, it feels like a second home to its regulars, complete with quaint-meets-quirky parlor-room decor; a cozy patio; and, of course, kicky cocktails like the Full Cry with sotol, Port, oolong syrup, and lemon.

Mirrored antique backbar
The backbar at Fort Greene.
Fort Greene Bar

The Family Jones Spirit House

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This gorgeous combination distillery, tasting room, and kitchen won Eater’s 2018 Denver Bar of the Year award, and it continues to impress as it showcases its house spirits every which way — in flights; collaborative bottlings such as the Ella Jones Sherry Rested Bourbon; and cocktails like the Sippin’ Easy with melon-infused vodka, habanero, cilantro, cucumber, lemon, and a sumac-salt rim. Even the snacks go beyond the ordinary: Think curried red-lentil dip with lavash crackers, coconut–sunflower seed crumble, and pineapple-rum vinaigrette or smoked chicken salad topped with chicken chicharrones.

Four snifters with different spirits and garnishes
A spirits flight at The Family Jones.
Adam Larkey

Lady Jane

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Jake Soffes owns two other notable Denver watering holes — Cap Hill’s Hudson Hill and LoDo’s The Wild, both of which double as all-day coffee shops — but Lady Jane stands out for its postcard-perfect ambiance a la 1960s-era Palm Springs. The cocktails are equally striking, combining seasonal ingredients in intriguing ways: The vodka- and shochu-based Water Under the Bridge, for instance, is flavored with snap peas and mint beneath a float of Prosecco, while the Next in Line mixes rye with blackberry liqueur, barbecue-spiced tincture, molasses, and lemon.

Miami Art Deco–inspired bar interior
The interior of Lady Jane in LoHi.
Ryan Dearth

Williams & Graham

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Behind a bookcase on a LoHi corner sits an internationally acclaimed cocktail bar. The intimate, dim-lit space features large booths, but the best seats in the house line the grand wooden bar itself, where the crackerjack staff asks get-to-know-you questions before recommending a concoction made with any of hundreds of spirits lining the shelves, both classic and rare, along with all sorts of handmade bitters, syrups, and tinctures. Small plates like fried sunchokes with truffled aioli and roasted bone marrow with bacon jam and ciabatta round out the famously bespoke experience. Meanwhile, just around the corner, sibling venue the Occidental offers a far grittier vibe but equally crafty drinks.

People seated at a dark bar
The impressive bar at Williams & Graham.

Noble Riot

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Grape geeks unite at this alleyway RiNo retreat, where the extensive selection is rife with natural, organic, and/or Biodynamic small-production finds, each cooler than the last: Slovenian red piquette or Colorado pét-nat Riesling? A Pignoletto-based skin-contact white from Emilia-Romagna or a Grignolino rosé from Mexico’s Valle de Guadalupe? How about a Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo–style Sangiovese from Texas, of all places, or a Shiraz–Sauvignon Blanc blend from Australia’s Margaret River? The list literally goes on and on, and the staff is well-versed in it all.

Wine bar with communal table and curved shelving
Noble Riot awaits in a RiNo alleyway.
Courtesy of Noble Riot

Honey Elixir Bar

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Just a few steps away from Noble Riot, this cozy, homespun lounge welcomes all for a mindful drinking experience, with or without booze. Alcohol-free potions like the cacao-based Chocolit are infused with crystal and flower essences, while the low-ABV variations on jun (fermented black tea) contain all sorts of adaptogenic botanicals; even the regular cocktails radiate the promise of health, laced with the namesake honey and herbal liqueurs.

Cocktail featuring gin, saffron liqueur, aquafaba, vanilla-bean honey, and bee pollen
A seasonal cocktail at Honey Elixir featuring gin, saffron liqueur, aquafaba, vanilla-bean honey, and bee pollen.
Ruth Tobias

Pon Pon

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One of the coolest little hideaways in RiNo, Pon Pon thrives on garage-sale energy, lined with old couches, tchotchkes in every nook and cranny, and a massive vinyl collection. A blackboard behind the tiny bar lists beers and wines, while the small cocktail menu is adorned with quotes like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you.”

Small bar in an artsy red room
The tiny bar at Pon Pon.
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Room for Milly

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With a vintage aesthetic that evokes a cross between some eccentric turn-of-the-century artist’s parlor and an overseas getaway for golden-age movie stars, this LoHi slice of glamour serves up cocktails in keeping with its considerable style. Kick-off the evening with the Douglas, combining gin and Fino Sherry with salted thyme honey; move on to a Delta Royale with tequila, lavender vermouth, and wild-strawberry and aloe liqueurs; cap it all off with a snifter of brandy.

Cocktail made with coconut-washed rhum agricole and pandan cordial against colorful backdrop
Room for Milly’s My Dearest Pike, made with coconut-washed rhum agricole and pandan cordial.
Ruth Tobias

Death & Co Denver

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The posh lobby of The Ramble Hotel is home to what opened in 2018 as the first outpost of one of New York’s best-known bars, where the gorgeously illustrated cocktail list displays the staff’s intricate craft: A Window Seat with rye, peach, pineapple, egg white, lemon, and dill here, a Camouflage featuring Cognac, Amontillado Sherry, chamomile, orange bitters, and seltzer there. A small but smart selection of snacks completes the experience (don’t sleep on the drunken cookies).

Three cocktails on a table in a hotel lobby
Drinks in the Death & Co. lobby bar.
Elliot Clark

Goed Zuur

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In the heart of Five Points, this handsome taproom, all beautiful woodwork and copper accents, has garnered national buzz as a showcase for sour and wild ales. Its list of offerings both domestic and imported, on tap and in bottle, goes on for pages, rife with rarities from the likes of Belgium’s Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen and Colorado’s own Casey Brewing & Blending. And the kitchen’s output is equally special: An order of chèvre cheesecake with corn and pickled plums or confit rabbit leg with savory custard and arugula in burnt-orange vinaigrette has a way of spoiling a person for wings and poppers.

Specialty glass of beer against a brick wall
Goed Zuur specializes in sour and wild ales.
Goed Zuur

Sunday Vinyl

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When it comes to consummate wine service, there’s arguably no more famous name in the entire state of Colorado than the Frasca Hospitality Group, so the top-tier bottle list presented by the staff at its Union Station lounge is no surprise. What may come as a surprise, however, is the playlist: As the name suggests, Sunday Vinyl pairs its pours with tunes from a collection of albums as vast as its cellar, covering every musical genre from jazz to hip hop to yacht rock. Snacks likewise vary from the easygoing (deviled eggs) to the elegant (lobster toast).

Busy wine bar scene
In the middle of the action at Sunday Vinyl.
Mike Thurk

Run For The Roses

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Subterranean, swanky, and splurge-worthy: That’s Steven Waters’ throwback sanctuary beneath Dairy Block in a nutshell. Seasonal cocktails show forethought and flair — the Behave Yourself practically glows with absinthe, melon liqueur, Cointreau, and lemon, while the Jet Pilot reimagines the espresso martini with Batavia arrack. But the lengthy list of classics is not to be denied: The reserve section in particular features drinks whose prices reflect the rare, decades-old spirits that go into them, like the Albertine made with 1960s Cointreau, cherry brandy and liqueur, and Chartreuse V.E.P. Yellow.

Art Deco–style bar below ground level
Run for the Roses is located beneath Dairy Block.
Ryan Dearth

Pony Up

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The portrait of an imperial bulldog at the entrance lets first-timers know they can expect the unexpected at this LoDo go-to — and the bar crew proves it, serving up concoctions like the My Magical Pony with tequila, mango, pineapple, black pepper, and butterfly-pea tea and shots of whiskey with roast-beef jus chasers. (The latter come courtesy of the kitchen, which specializes in French dips, of all things.) Late-night deals on Champagne underscore the anything-goes spirit of the place.

The entrance to Pony Up.
The entrance to Pony Up.
Jonathan Phillips

The Cruise Room

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Modeled after a lounge on the Queen Mary, this LoDo icon in the Oxford Hotel opened the day after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933 and still looks every bit the Art Deco haunt it did then. It drinks that way too: Classic cocktails are the way to go here, from Gimlets to Sazeracs.

Art Deco bar with crimson glow
The Cruise Room is a mood.
The Cruise Room

Brass Tacks

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While this LoDo hangout plays up its location in a historic building with a retro vibe — old brick, pressed tin, neon, purported ghost sightings, and all — it’s thoroughly modern in one respect: the bar program. At its heart are cocktails as inventive as their names are whimsical, such as the Dirty French (vodka, Suze, elderflower liqueur, sparkling wine, pickled green tomato) and the Rock Salt & Nails (gin, vermouth, Manzanilla Sherry, celery root, chamomile). But there’s also funky beer and wine aplenty, as well as fine snacks like chicken chicharrones with house hot sauce and corn beignets with chile-lime yogurt.

Long barroom with yellow booths and quirky accents
Inside Brass Tacks.
Lucy Beaugard

The Thin Man

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It seems low-key from the outside, but this dim-lit City Park West hangout next door to St. Mark’s Coffee House is a rollicking time, with decor that has to be seen to be believed and a signature array of infused spirits in flavors like jalapeño-tomato and apple pie.

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Middleman

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A loftlike atmosphere sets the home-away-from-home tone at this East Colfax favorite, but its undercurrent of eccentricity keeps regulars on their toes. That goes for both drinks like The Unit — gin, Aperol, Dimmi, and basil-orange shrub with black pepper — and the food courtesy of Misfit Snackbar, where chef Bo Porytko might serve up haddock-stuffed “fish-and-chips wontons” with corn tartar sauce and Worcestershire gastrique one day, hot chicken rillettes with homemade ranch the next. Unusual Boilermakers make for great nightcaps.

Barroom with sofas and a mural of foliage
Local art is a feature of Middleman’s decor.
Ryan Dearth

PS Lounge

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In the treasure trove of old dive bars that is East Colfax, the PS Lounge is a major gem — kitsch-filled, cash-only, and totally laid-back. Established by Pete Siahamis 40 years ago, it’s beloved for bestowing free Alabama Slammers on every patron who enters along with roses for the ladies. A jukebox and a pool table seal the deal.

Exterior of an old dive bar on East Colfax
The PS Lounge sits next door to Enzo’s End Pizzeria for a complete night out.
Mile High Happy Hour

Charlie Brown's Bar & Grill

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If walls could talk. Housed in a historic former hotel, this Cap Hill pub is rumored to have been a Prohibition-era den of iniquity; it was most definitely a Beat-era hangout for Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady, and such famous guests as Tony Bennett and Bill Murray have gathered round its piano for the singalongs it still hosts today. Both in the memorabilia-filled lounge and out on the covered patio, the generous pours come cheap, while the steak dinners are worth ordering for the baked potato alone.

Island bar topped with antique bric-a-brac
Behind the bar at Charlie Brown’s, a piano awaits for singalongs.
Ruth Tobias

Vesper Lounge

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While its speakeasy-inspired LoDo sibling Green Russell warrants mention for special nights out, this Cap Hill tavern is an everyday affair — and an effortlessly charming one at that. There’s no standing on ceremony here: The drinks are straightforward and priced to flow, while the eats are designed to soak them up, including fried shrimp and sloppy joes.

Greek burger with a cocktail against a backdrop of votive candles
Pita wraps and burgers absorb the alcohol at Vesper Lounge.
Scottie Davison Photography

Forget Me Not

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In the nightlife desert of Cherry Creek, the Culinary Creative group has built a blooming oasis out of a former florist’s shop. A hopping patio set beneath a mural of the namesake blossom fronts the airy yet intimate space, where the bar crew turns out cocktails that themselves burst with flowers, fruits, and herbs; DJs enhance the mood some nights, while oysters, caviar, and a dreamy lobster roll help get guests into the groove on others.

Rum cocktail with guava and lime on marble bartop
The Satine with rum, guava, and lime at Forget Me Not.
Ruth Tobias

Adam Hodak and Alex Lerman are among the handful of bartenders who helped shape Denver’s craft cocktail scene over the past decade-plus; now they’re running this Baker newcomer. Spare but for the profusion of flowers painted on one wall, the space ensures the focus remains where it belongs: on the drinks and the conversation surrounding them, be it a salted, nitro-charged espresso martini or the Campari- and Aperol-based, basil-infused Rome with a View.

Cocktail made with avocado-infused mezcal, Manzanilla Sherry, watermelon, celery, aloe, lime, and black pepper
The El Camino with avocado-infused mezcal, Manzanilla Sherry, watermelon, celery, aloe, lime, and black pepper at the L.
Ruth Tobias

Bamboo walls and colored lights strung up in fishing nets, totem carvings and murals of seaside villages, hanging boats, and blowfish sculptures: This South Broadway tiki bar whisks its guests off to a tropical paradise the instant they set foot inside — and it keeps them there with a roster of cocktails served in coconuts or flaming punchbowls, decorated with flowers or umbrellas or feather-topped toothpicks. While classics like Zombies and Singapore Slings are always an option, seasonal originals warrant a spin: Take the Old Fashioned combining rum and bourbon with coconut and espresso liqueurs or the frozen Missionary’s Downfall featuring two rums, peach, cucumber, aloe, almond, pineapple, cinnamon, and mint (whew).

Three Painkiller cocktails before a bamboo backdrop
Painkillers at Adrift.
Harrison Warters Photography

Palenque Cocina Y Agaveria

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Though there’s nothing wrong with coming here for tacos and margs, this Littleton joint is much more than a Mexican restaurant: It’s a two-story shrine to agave spirits, housing a collection of not just tequila and mezcal but also bacanora, sotol, raicilla, and still other distillates that’s unmatched in metro Denver. Most are offered by the 1.5-ounce pour for sampling, savoring, and learning about the wide variety of agave species and styles of production; flights showcase a different region each month, from Michoacán to Durango, accompanied by detailed tasting notes.

Mezcal-horchata cocktail alongside a mezcal flight
Palenque’s Coctel de Horchata and a weekly changing mezcal flight.
Ruth Tobias

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The Arvada Tavern

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An old-fashioned phone booth transports patrons of Arvada’s oldest haunt — dating back to 1933 — to the upstairs Bernard Ballroom, where the cocktails speak to the history of the venue: Sidecars, Vieux Carrés, lavender-infused Greyhounds. Back downstairs, Tuesday nights are tiki-themed. The owners run two other, equally noteworthy bars: Union Lodge No. 1 downtown and The Tatarian in Berkeley.

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Fort Greene

Mirrored antique backbar
The backbar at Fort Greene.
Fort Greene Bar

This hip little bar has single-handedly made Globeville a destination. Hosting DJ sets and art shows, pop-up markets and food vendors, themed parties, and even yoga classes, it feels like a second home to its regulars, complete with quaint-meets-quirky parlor-room decor; a cozy patio; and, of course, kicky cocktails like the Full Cry with sotol, Port, oolong syrup, and lemon.

Mirrored antique backbar
The backbar at Fort Greene.
Fort Greene Bar

The Family Jones Spirit House

Four snifters with different spirits and garnishes
A spirits flight at The Family Jones.
Adam Larkey

This gorgeous combination distillery, tasting room, and kitchen won Eater’s 2018 Denver Bar of the Year award, and it continues to impress as it showcases its house spirits every which way — in flights; collaborative bottlings such as the Ella Jones Sherry Rested Bourbon; and cocktails like the Sippin’ Easy with melon-infused vodka, habanero, cilantro, cucumber, lemon, and a sumac-salt rim. Even the snacks go beyond the ordinary: Think curried red-lentil dip with lavash crackers, coconut–sunflower seed crumble, and pineapple-rum vinaigrette or smoked chicken salad topped with chicken chicharrones.

Four snifters with different spirits and garnishes
A spirits flight at The Family Jones.
Adam Larkey

Lady Jane

Miami Art Deco–inspired bar interior
The interior of Lady Jane in LoHi.
Ryan Dearth

Jake Soffes owns two other notable Denver watering holes — Cap Hill’s Hudson Hill and LoDo’s The Wild, both of which double as all-day coffee shops — but Lady Jane stands out for its postcard-perfect ambiance a la 1960s-era Palm Springs. The cocktails are equally striking, combining seasonal ingredients in intriguing ways: The vodka- and shochu-based Water Under the Bridge, for instance, is flavored with snap peas and mint beneath a float of Prosecco, while the Next in Line mixes rye with blackberry liqueur, barbecue-spiced tincture, molasses, and lemon.

Miami Art Deco–inspired bar interior
The interior of Lady Jane in LoHi.
Ryan Dearth

Williams & Graham

People seated at a dark bar
The impressive bar at Williams & Graham.

Behind a bookcase on a LoHi corner sits an internationally acclaimed cocktail bar. The intimate, dim-lit space features large booths, but the best seats in the house line the grand wooden bar itself, where the crackerjack staff asks get-to-know-you questions before recommending a concoction made with any of hundreds of spirits lining the shelves, both classic and rare, along with all sorts of handmade bitters, syrups, and tinctures. Small plates like fried sunchokes with truffled aioli and roasted bone marrow with bacon jam and ciabatta round out the famously bespoke experience. Meanwhile, just around the corner, sibling venue the Occidental offers a far grittier vibe but equally crafty drinks.

People seated at a dark bar
The impressive bar at Williams & Graham.

Noble Riot

Wine bar with communal table and curved shelving
Noble Riot awaits in a RiNo alleyway.
Courtesy of Noble Riot

Grape geeks unite at this alleyway RiNo retreat, where the extensive selection is rife with natural, organic, and/or Biodynamic small-production finds, each cooler than the last: Slovenian red piquette or Colorado pét-nat Riesling? A Pignoletto-based skin-contact white from Emilia-Romagna or a Grignolino rosé from Mexico’s Valle de Guadalupe? How about a Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo–style Sangiovese from Texas, of all places, or a Shiraz–Sauvignon Blanc blend from Australia’s Margaret River? The list literally goes on and on, and the staff is well-versed in it all.

Wine bar with communal table and curved shelving
Noble Riot awaits in a RiNo alleyway.
Courtesy of Noble Riot

Honey Elixir Bar

Cocktail featuring gin, saffron liqueur, aquafaba, vanilla-bean honey, and bee pollen
A seasonal cocktail at Honey Elixir featuring gin, saffron liqueur, aquafaba, vanilla-bean honey, and bee pollen.
Ruth Tobias

Just a few steps away from Noble Riot, this cozy, homespun lounge welcomes all for a mindful drinking experience, with or without booze. Alcohol-free potions like the cacao-based Chocolit are infused with crystal and flower essences, while the low-ABV variations on jun (fermented black tea) contain all sorts of adaptogenic botanicals; even the regular cocktails radiate the promise of health, laced with the namesake honey and herbal liqueurs.

Cocktail featuring gin, saffron liqueur, aquafaba, vanilla-bean honey, and bee pollen
A seasonal cocktail at Honey Elixir featuring gin, saffron liqueur, aquafaba, vanilla-bean honey, and bee pollen.
Ruth Tobias

Pon Pon

Small bar in an artsy red room
The tiny bar at Pon Pon.
Pinterest

One of the coolest little hideaways in RiNo, Pon Pon thrives on garage-sale energy, lined with old couches, tchotchkes in every nook and cranny, and a massive vinyl collection. A blackboard behind the tiny bar lists beers and wines, while the small cocktail menu is adorned with quotes like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you.”

Small bar in an artsy red room
The tiny bar at Pon Pon.
Pinterest

Room for Milly