What was your first cocktail? I recently found myself at Centro Latin Kitchen & Refreshment Palace, the place where I had my first-ever drink. Er, first legal drink, that is. With a tasty mezcal cocktail in front of me, and a light crowd of happy-hour Banana Republic professionals around me, I thought about what had happened over my 21 rounds of booze.
When I started writing "Coming of Age With 21 Drinks," I not only hoped to chronicle a time in Denver when the cocktail and bartending movements were in full swing -- I hoped to learn more about cocktail culture itself. Luckily, there's no shortage of education in this town, from the bar that's setting the standard for drinks in Denver to the bar that's sticking to the standard set back when today's movers and shakers were in short pants.
See also: My final nightcap at Williams & Graham
If you go out for a drink in Denver, you might be served four ounces of cold gin that the bartender tries to convince you is a martini -- that's what happened when I ventured into The Cruise Room, the bar I visited for my first entry. But for the most part, I've found that bartenders in this town -- the word "mixologist" is so 2012 -- are interested in challenging, engaging and educating their customers.
That drink at Centro was good--muddled grapefruit topped with mezcal, Cocchi Americano and Aperol. But at $12, it was pretty pricey for such a frivolous drink. Is this the new status quo? High-class craft cocktails for the upper crust, cheap beers and well drinks for the rest of us?
I certainly hope not, because this town's bartenders and bars are putting forth a thrilling vision for the future of mile-high booze, one that includes local ingredients, inventive preparations and the hard work of hundreds of service industry professionals. In Denver especially, our cocktail culture should be fair and democratic.
So I put the question to you: What should the cocktail scene look like in another year? In another 21 years? And what do you want our fearless booze reporters to cover next? Let us know -- and to quote that great lush, F. Scott Fitzgerald, "Here's to alcohol, the rose-colored glasses of life."
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