Summer Drinkin', Had Me a Blast
As comedian Steven Wright once said, "24 hours in a day...24 beers in a case...coincidence?" I think not. There are thirteen weeks of summer left -- and thirteen perfect drinks to get you through them. Coincidence? I think not. Here's to a liquid tour of Denver!
Kick off the summer drinking season in style at hipster hangout Zengo (1610 Little Raven Street, 720-904-0965). The cocktail menu is full of fun flavors, but my first choice is the Mojito Cuzco, $10, made with Bacardi, Midori and lime juice, and served muddled on the rocks with a chunk of cucumber. Patrons can either chill out in Zengo's posh lounge or sip in style on its 75-seat patio overlooking Riverfront Park. Zengo means "give and take" in Japanese; I say it means "pour me another."
Minturn Mountain Margarita
Why head for the mountains when the mountains will come to you? Since February, longtime fans of the strong drinks poured by Vail Valley's Minturn Saloon have avoided the curvy uphill drive by heading to the Broadway outpost (846 Broadway, 303-831-4034) for a Minturn Mountain Margarita. Made with Agave Gold tequila, Triple Sec, lime juice, sweet-and-sour mix and a secret ingredient, and served on the rocks with salt, these frothy margs sell for $4.50 regularly or for a mere $2.50 during the saloon's daily happy hour from 3:30 to 6 p.m. Plus, you can enjoy the colorful mountain sunset from the rooftop patio.
If you really want to get into the sauce, hit Lola (1469 South Pearl Street, 720-570-8686), where the bartenders pour a wide variety of Latino cocktails -- and pour them stiff. The refreshing Caipirinha, $6, is made with cachaca, a Brazilian spirit distilled from sugarcane, fresh lime and sugar, and served muddled and over ice. Caipirinha might be tough to say (it roughly translates to "little peasant girl" in Portuguese), but it's definitely not tough to swallow. And neither are Lola's varied selection of margaritas, sangria or flights of tequila.
With a huge garage door open to always-bustling 17th Avenue, the Thin Man (2015 East 17th; 303-320-7814) exudes a relaxed yet metropolitan vibe. And the friendly barkeeps keep you sipping in style with their succulent fruit martinis, $7, made from glass jugs full of fruit-infused vodkas -- including pineapple, mango, kiwi, lemon and orange. "They make a great martini served up, or they're fabulous on the rocks with a shot of 7-Up," says Thin Man bartender Stephanie Bechen. That's advice we can follow.
Long Island Iced Tea
Summer just wouldn't be complete without spending an afternoon sitting on the patio at the Paramount Cafe (519 16th Street, 303-893-2000), making fun of tourists on the 16th Street Mall. Downing a few Long Island Iced Teas will help to fuel your laughter. Made with everything but the kitchen sink -- gin, tequila, rum, vodka, Triple Sec, sweet-and-sour and a splash of Coke -- the Paramount serves its version of this potent brew in a tall 22-ounce glass for only $2.50 during the 4 to 7 p.m. happy hour. But please don't forget: People from Nebraska have feelings, too.
Pabst Blue Ribbon
On a sweltering summer afternoon, nothing tastes better than an ice-cold can of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. My favorite place to swill PBR is on the patio at the Spot Bar and Grill (98 South Pennsylvania Street, 303-733-1299), a West Wash Park institution famous for its laid-back atmosphere and doggie decor. This neighborhood hangout serves PBRs for $1.75 during its daily 3 to 7 p.m. happy hour. At that price, who cares that the "blue ribbon" label was an afterthought added by the Pabst marketing department in 1895?
Why hike a rugged Colorado fourteener when you can attack the wilds of Colfax? At the Irish Snug (1201 East Colfax Avenue, 303-839-1394), your sobriety will take a hit from the Snakebite -- a potent mixture of Harp and Strongbow cider that sells for $4 for a sixteen-ounce glass and $4.50 for a twenty-ounce serving. With a street-side patio that offers prime views of untamed species in their natural habitat, an evening at the Snug is truly an urban adventure.
As a neighborhood, South Broadway keeps getting hotter and hotter. Good thing the Hornet's Broadway Cooler cocktail, $5, is there to frost things over. Made with Captain Morgan's Parrot Bay Rum, Bacardi Limon, soda water, 7-Up and fresh-squeezed lemon juice, the Cooler is one of the Hornet's eleven delicious summer drinks. With daily drink discounts, a 4 to 7 p.m. happy hour and live jazz on Thursdays, the Hornet (76 Broadway, 303-777-7676) can take the sting out of that midsummer slump.
If you like Pia Coladas and getting caught in the rain, hit Croc's Mexican Grill (1630 Market Street, 303-436-1144). Its frozen version of this classic pineapple-and-coconut-rum punch goes for only $4 on Mondays and daily from 4 to 6 p.m., and then again from 10 p.m. to closing. With DJ Dan Clark spinning hip-hop and house Thursday through Saturday nights, Croc's dark dance floor is just the exotic locale to meet a lovely lady who likes making love at midnight, in the dunes of the cape. Don't we all?
After a brief hiatus, Racines (650 Sherman Street, 303-595-0418) is back and better than ever. And it's getting this town hoppin' with the frozen Grasshopper cocktail, $6.25. Racines makes this alcoholic smoothie, a summer favorite in my family, with green Crme de Menthe, white Crme de Cacao and a scoop of vanilla-bean ice cream. If you're looking for something lighter, try the fruity Apricot Cosmopolitan, $6.
Heat rises, so beat the swelter by heading underground for a pitcher of sangria at Lime, a below-the-shops cantina in Larimer Square (1424 Larimer Street, 303-893-5463). Just $5 a glass or $19.50 a pitcher, this traditional Spanish party punch made of wine and fresh fruit juices is definitely a knockout. And if that's not enough, every meal here starts with a complimentary Lime Salut -- a shot of house tequila served in half a lime. With hip DJs spinning until the wee hours, this mod hot spot is an ideal place to chill.
Beachside drinking isn't possible in the Mile High City, but you can still head to Hemingway's Key West Grille (1052 South Gaylord Street, 303-722-7456) for a green Midoritini, a melon martini made with vodka, Midori and Triple Sec. It might not have sand, but Hemingway's sure has the weathered-seaside-shack atmosphere down -- and after a few $6 Midoritinis, you probably won't notice there's no ocean. But for that pungent seaside smell, order a plate of fresh oysters, only fifty cents during the 3 to 7 p.m. happy hour Monday through Friday.
Watch out for stumbling drunks at the Falling Rock Tap House (1919 Blake Street, 303-293-8338). With more than 75 beers on tap -- from Colorado microbrews to European imports -- there are lots of suds to choose from. My personal favorite is Hoegaarden White, a Belgian wheat beer, but if you're a local microbrew fan, stick to Easy Street Wheat or Sunshine Wheat. "We definitely do see a loyalty to Colorado beers," says Falling Rock co-owner Steve Black. "The nice thing about coming here is you can taste how Colorado beers compare to beers from around the world."