New York City -- one of the most captivating cocktail capitals of the country -- gets no love from Esquire magazine in its recently published list of the top seventeen bars in America. But, guess what? Two Denver bars -- Ship Tavern and Williams & Graham -- grace the roster, which is becoming a frequent occurrence for Williams & Graham, the Highland speakeasy that's snapping up bestowals and accolades faster than Justin Bieber in his Ferrari.
"It seems like the hits just keep on coming," admits Sean Kenyon, who co-owns the swishy cocktail pad with partner Todd Colehour. In case you haven't heard, Williams & Graham is currently under consideration for Best American Bar of the Year by Tales of the Cocktail; Kenyon is nominated for Best American Bartender of the Year.
See also: - Williams & Graham, Sean Kenyon finalists for Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards - Barman Sean Kenyon's response to Jenn Wohletz's cocktail grievances - Ten favorite cocktails (with recipes!) from ten favorite Denver bartenders
"Our staff works their asses off every day to make people happy and to make them an excellent cocktail -- in that order, and, as always, we really appreciate the notice," says Kenyon.
Author and cocktail historian David Wondrich, who penned the Esquire story, was recently in Denver for the Repeal Day celebration back in December of last year, and according to Kenyon, Wondrich made Williams & Graham his home base for imbibing. "We piled him with a mix of genuine hospitality and copious amounts of booze," cracks Kenyon. "It was an honor to have him in Denver, and as our guest for a few days," he adds.
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But the dynamic duo didn't spend all of their blurred nights at Kenyon's boozy bar temple. Kenyon exposed him to other bars, too, including the Ship Tavern, the historic watering hole in the Brown Palace. "Mr. Wondrich and I spent some quality time at the Ship Tavern, a place that he'd visited a few times before -- and a place where we may have been happily over-served," confesses Kenyon. They went to Shelby's, too, where Kenyon reveals that they "were pretty drunk but well-behaved," despite the fact that "our bartender made fun of us while continuing to serve us whiskey."
Shelby's, a humble bar downtown that pours astutely assertive drinks made without fanfare by a staff that pays little to no adherence to things like bourbon infused with bacon didn't make the list, but it's still one of our favorite dive bars in town. And no doubt Kenyon and his sidekick stumbled out with shit-eating grins, just like the rest of us.
In any case, it's another conquer for Williams & Graham, which also nabbed Nightclub & Bar Media Group's Cocktail Bar of the Year, a James Beard Foundation nomination in the Outstanding Bar Program category and a nod in Food & Wine magazine, which declared the speakeasy one of the Top 10 New Bars in the country.
Given all the love, it looks like global cocktail domination is just a drink away.