Best Mocktail 2017 | Departure | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Mark Antonation

If, for whatever reason, you have decided to skip the alcohol but still desire a stiff drink, consider the expertly crafted Darjeeling Old Fashioned mocktail at Departure, a sleek new spot in Cherry Creek. Created by beverage director Brandon Wise, the basis of this drink is darjeeling tea brewed strong and spiked with turbinado sugar syrup, bitters and fresh lemon. Though the flavor leans more toward iced tea than bourbon, you won't be disappointed by the notes of floral fruits and bright citrus. As a bonus, it looks just like the classic cocktail, so no one will ever know you've decided to stay sober during happy hour.

First things first: The Way Back is not just a cocktail bar. Coming here and failing to try something from the menu of innovative dishes, all prepared in a food-truck kitchen, is to miss out on at least half of what this establishment has to offer. But you'll be forgiven if you didn't know that, because the food, formidable as it is, has been overshadowed by the Way Back's bar — a very glorious bar. Built with the same seasonal ethos as the kitchen, steeled by the bartending chops of the owners and staff, and dashed with considerable whimsy, the cocktail list veers wildly through smart variations on classics, utterly unusual concoctions and drinks that are just plain fun (frozen banana daiquiri, anyone?). Don't see anything you like? The bar will tailor a drink just for you, an enticing prospect when you're in the hands of this capable crew. And if you're not a spirits hound, the wine list is nothing to sneeze at, either.

Readers' Choice: Nocturne

Evan Semón

Grab a bar stool at the Englewood Grand and you'll immediately think we put this bare-bones but still inviting watering hole in the wrong category. "There's no way this place is new," you'll think. But after only a year in business, the Grand has made itself at home in downtown Englewood. You'll find no long-winded menus, no fussy small plates, no chemist's closet of beakers and dropper bottles to confound you. Owners Phil and Erika Zierke have built just a bar — a great bar — that welcomes all comers from the neighborhood and beyond. Phil (he's the one in the leather cowboy hat) can certainly impress with something shaken or stirred, or you can stick with a few locally made brews, a whiskey neat or a simple mixed drink — the kind that doesn't have a name. If you need anything else to keep you entertained, stick around for occasional bands, some guest grub or even a pillow fight.

Resolute Brewing Company Facebook

It's not easy for new breweries to get noticed in metro Denver — not when there are already 200 of them and more opening every month. So when a brewery does stand out, especially in the suburbs, it's worth taking note. Resolute Brewing had a buzz going even before it opened last July, but the place has lived up to the hype. Founded by a group of Columbine High grads, including head brewer Zac Rissmiller, Resolute boasts a semi-circular bar — meaning the bartenders can pour your beer faster — as well as a fifteen-barrel brewing system and a chill flagstone patio with a walkway down to the food-truck parking area. The menu includes a wide range of beers, many of them lower-alcohol styles, including the crowd-pleasing hefewiezen, a session IPA and a hoppy pilsner. But there are plenty of other styles, too, like Wee Heavy, a dopplebock and a robust porter. And you should be seeing more of these beers around soon: Resolute just signed on with a distributor in March.

Readers' Choice: Briar Common Brewery + Eatery

Founded in 2014 by Tommy Bibliowicz and his family, 4 Noses has steadily grown over the past two years, building both its beer selection and its reputation. In 2016, the brewery's Pump Action Imperial Pumpkin Ale swept the two most prestigious beer competitions, winning gold at the World Beer Cup and the Great American Beer Festival. But pumpkin beers are just the beginning. What the brewery has really become known for are its IPAs, including 'Bout Damn Time, a canned flagship that is one of the most delicious representations of the style in Colorado, and .44 Magnum Double IPA. 4 Noses also started an Ad Hoc series of creative and experimental beers, and turns out other solid cans, like Laika Boss Russian Imperial Stout, and draft-only one-offs served in the lovely, cozy taproom. Thanks to those four noses, the brewery's profile will continue to get higher in 2017.

Courtesy Little Machine Beer Facebook

Robots make some people nervous, but not at Little Machine Beer, where their faces decorate the tap handles and their images run throughout the brewery. In fact, Little Machine has one of the most laid-back, friendliest atmospheres around — in addition to great beer across a wide range of styles. Part of that is the result of the tone set by owners Mike Dunkly, Brett Williams and Ben Chenard, but it's also because of the unique circular bar (made from a single honey locust tree), a centerpiece that allows twenty to thirty people to sit around and face one another. Comfy chairs and couches, a patio and big garage doors complete the vibe.

Miles Chrisinger

Declaration Brewing, which renamed its taproom Preamble by Declaration last year, has one of the most spacious and well-thought-out drinking areas in Denver, complete with games, TVs and a snowboard theme. Two enormous garage doors open up onto a large, relaxing oasis of a gated side patio, filled with well-shaded tables, potted flowers, a ping-pong table, a spacious grassy area for cornhole and other lawn games, backyard lights, and a pad set aside just for food trucks. There's also a grand mural of Uncle Sam, who wants YOU to drink beer here. The casual outdoor area is basically the picture that would be next to the encyclopedia entry for "brewery patio in Denver," if there were such an entry.

When you order a Bierstadt Lagerhaus lager inside the Rackhouse Pub, which serves as its taproom, you're not just getting delicious liquid: You're getting an experience. The flagship here is the Slow-Pour Pils, which is served in a very specific seventeen-ounce glass and topped, after at least five minutes of pouring, with a creamy head that resembles the top of a fluffy cupcake. But the pils isn't alone: Although Bierstadt doesn't make a lot of beers, each one is carefully crafted and carefully presented, each in its own glassware, from a sold Helles mug to a tall, thin and dainty Baltic porter glass. And the glassware doesn't end there. Any bar or restaurant that wants to serve Bierstadt beer also has to use the glasses. That's dedication.

Courtesy of Uturn BBQ

In retrospect, the idea to open a brewery with a drive-thru window for beer and food is so genius, it's amazing that no one had thought of it before. Last year, the Trapp family, who run a Boulder restaurant construction company, took over an old Burger King in Lafayette and turned it into a restaurant, with a patio, that serves the Trapps' favorite food: barbecue. But they didn't stop there. They also retrofitted that drive-thru so that you can get single cans or a whole six-pack of their beers when you pick up your burnt ends or brisket to go. U-Turn makes two styles, a dark and a light, both of which pair well with the food. As the Trapp motto goes: Keeping It Simple.

Hunter Stevens

Just about every boozy brunch joint in this town offers some kind of bottomless-mimosa deal, and most follow this basic formula: Mix a little cheap sparkling wine and a strong pour of OJ, repeat several times, and three hours later, you need to nap until tomorrow. Second Home may very well get you to that outcome, but there are a couple of reasons to opt for this $14 all-you-can-drink deal over others. One, the restaurant serves a quartet of juices and doesn't require you stick to one, which means you can stray from the typical orange into cranberry, pineapple or grapefruit (or mix of a couple of these, like pineapple and orange). Two, the restaurant lets you designate your own ratio of sparkling to juice, which overcomes our biggest complaint about most bottomless mimosas: too much OJ, not enough wine. Fill 'er up to the top, please, and then give us a splash of juice. You get your money's worth quickly that way. And three, if you need that nap, you can book a room upstairs in the JW Marriott that houses Second Home.

Readers' Choice: The Lobby

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