Can't afford a trip to Mexico this year? No problem. Aztec Sol is the next best thing to being there -- and an evening at this bar is so cheap you'll be able to drown your sorrows often. The brainchild of Jose Lara, whose family makes tequila back in the old country, Aztec Sol serves a grande selection of 200-plus tequilas, including wood-aged brands and boutique breeds, that will make you swear off Cuervo for good. Extra points for the authentic atmosphere -- love the cement floors -- and street-vendor-style food, including two kinds of "pork lining" tacos.


Mezcal
Danielle Lirette
Fine-dining restaurants and wine bars have sommeliers -- the in-house experts and professional drinkers paid to know more than their customers about all things grape-ish. And while the character of sommeliers has changed somewhat in recent years (going from crepe-soled and tuxedoed experts on the elder vintages to young turks prouder of their cellar's boutique bottles than some dusty old Lafite), so has the job. There are now whiskey experts, Scotch specialists and, at Mezcal, Pablo, the master of tequilas. With a sommelier's expansive knowledge and the passion of a true believer, Pablo keeps tabs (and copious notes) on the bar's sixty-some varieties of tequila. He can discuss soil composition and Mexican microclimatology like the most effete wine snob, tell you which villages produce which bottles and, in some cases, which families in those villages are in charge of the distilling, bottling and labeling. Mezcal may not have the broadest or the deepest tequila and mescal list -- but it has the best tequila ambassador in Pablo.

Fine-dining restaurants and wine bars have sommeliers -- the in-house experts and professional drinkers paid to know more than their customers about all things grape-ish. And while the character of sommeliers has changed somewhat in recent years (going from crepe-soled and tuxedoed experts on the elder vintages to young turks prouder of their cellar's boutique bottles than some dusty old Lafite), so has the job. There are now whiskey experts, Scotch specialists and, at Mezcal, Pablo, the master of tequilas. With a sommelier's expansive knowledge and the passion of a true believer, Pablo keeps tabs (and copious notes) on the bar's sixty-some varieties of tequila. He can discuss soil composition and Mexican microclimatology like the most effete wine snob, tell you which villages produce which bottles and, in some cases, which families in those villages are in charge of the distilling, bottling and labeling. Mezcal may not have the broadest or the deepest tequila and mescal list -- but it has the best tequila ambassador in Pablo.


Cuba Cuba Cafe & Bar
One of our proudest possessions is a smeared napkin that survived a very long night at Monarck. In a space that once held a crunchy coffeehouse, Francois Safieddine put the smoothest of upscale clubs, whose specialty cocktails include the mojito. While the mojito has become so ubiquitous in recent years that there's bound to be a Mojitos R Us store opening any day, Monarck does mojitos right. And we have scientific proof, tallied on a napkin as a cranky member of our crew went through Monarck's half-dozen-strong -- emphasis on strong -- mojito list and emerged with a great love for everyone in the land. There's magic in these mojitos...but might we suggest you limit yourself to no more than you can count on one hand?

One of our proudest possessions is a smeared napkin that survived a very long night at Monarck. In a space that once held a crunchy coffeehouse, Francois Safieddine put the smoothest of upscale clubs, whose specialty cocktails include the mojito. While the mojito has become so ubiquitous in recent years that there's bound to be a Mojitos R Us store opening any day, Monarck does mojitos right. And we have scientific proof, tallied on a napkin as a cranky member of our crew went through Monarck's half-dozen-strong -- emphasis on strong -- mojito list and emerged with a great love for everyone in the land. There's magic in these mojitos...but might we suggest you limit yourself to no more than you can count on one hand?


In honor of its 25th birthday last year, Morton's made the best even better: It came up with a cure for the common cold. By pouring its already splendid martinis into stainless-steel martini glasses, Morton's guaranteed that martini-lovers would be shaken, if not stirred. But the vessel surrounding your drink isn't the only surrounding that's important when you're drinking a martini (and frankly, Morton's martinis taste just fine out of regular glasses, too). You need an understanding bartender who'll stuff olives with blue cheese at the drop of a cocktail napkin. You need a clubby, comfortable bar to enjoy the drink in. And you need to know that just outside that bar, a dining room is ready to serve you one of the best steaks in town.

In honor of its 25th birthday last year, Morton's made the best even better: It came up with a cure for the common cold. By pouring its already splendid martinis into stainless-steel martini glasses, Morton's guaranteed that martini-lovers would be shaken, if not stirred. But the vessel surrounding your drink isn't the only surrounding that's important when you're drinking a martini (and frankly, Morton's martinis taste just fine out of regular glasses, too). You need an understanding bartender who'll stuff olives with blue cheese at the drop of a cocktail napkin. You need a clubby, comfortable bar to enjoy the drink in. And you need to know that just outside that bar, a dining room is ready to serve you one of the best steaks in town.


Paris on the Platte has long reigned as one of the city's funkiest and most popular coffee shops. Now there's even more reason to like it: Platte's owners recently expanded their empire by converting the shop's adjoining bookstore into a classy, understated wine bar. With a well-chosen list of whites, reds and rosés, as well as a menu of grape-enhancing cheese and fruit plates, Paris Wine Bar feels like the grown-up version of its caffeinated sibling -- stylish, understated and totally free of pretension. The staff is happy to talk vintage, whether you're a novice or an enthusiast, and the bar's tasting flights are a great, inexpensive way to begin searching for that one perfect bottle. Remember, Denver, we'll always have Paris.

Paris on the Platte has long reigned as one of the city's funkiest and most popular coffee shops. Now there's even more reason to like it: Platte's owners recently expanded their empire by converting the shop's adjoining bookstore into a classy, understated wine bar. With a well-chosen list of whites, reds and rosés, as well as a menu of grape-enhancing cheese and fruit plates, Paris Wine Bar feels like the grown-up version of its caffeinated sibling -- stylish, understated and totally free of pretension. The staff is happy to talk vintage, whether you're a novice or an enthusiast, and the bar's tasting flights are a great, inexpensive way to begin searching for that one perfect bottle. Remember, Denver, we'll always have Paris.

When it comes to a great wine list, there's just no beating the selection at Adega. Not as long as the restaurant keeps stocking bottles like its '98 Haut-Brion white Bordeaux, and those Spanish pinots, and those killer German and Austrian whites, and that bottle of '93 Leroy Clos de La Roche, and that roster of Latours and Mouton-Rothschilds that's surprising not because of the high end of $1,400 for a bottle of '53 Mouton, but because of how many of those classic Bordeaux come in under $300.

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