Danielle Lirette

Under owner Ron Robinson, this longtime north Denver eatery — once owned by the Smaldones, a famous Mob family, then by the Wynkoop Group, a family of a different sort — has become a neighborhood hangout, a go-to spot for people who want a satisfying Italian meal in an intimate spot that hints of history and decades of red sauce. But on Sunday mornings, Gaetano's has an offer you really can't refuse: the town's best Bloody Mary bar. Three different tomato blends are offered for the base — a house mix heavy with Italian seasonings, a Clamato version and one with V8 — which can be spiced up further with your choice from dozens of hot sauces and seasoning mixes, not to mention infused, spicy vodka. Adorn your drink with plenty of pickled vegetables, cheese, shrimp, jerky and maple-edged bacon, and you've got your morning meal in a glass.

Readers' Choice: Esters Neighborhood Pub

Bar Helix owner Kendra Anderson, aka Swirl Girl Denver, has been educating the Mile High on the magic of food-and-wine pairings — and unsung wine varietals — on social media for years. But with Bar Helix, she's taking education to an experiential level. The sultry spot combines a high-echelon wine list with a top-notch cocktail program and drinking munchies that whimsically match highbrow to lowbrow flourishes — Pop Tarts with foie gras, for instance, and Pringles with caviar. Through her menu, Anderson touts a few pet causes: "soulmate" pairings of food and drink, Negronis, Champagne and wines from unusual regions. The quirky mix makes Bar Helix an easy stop for any drinker, and an exhilarating one for those looking to expand their palates and horizons.

Readers' Choice: The Brutal Poodle

Scott Lentz

The Lakeview Lounge is one of the few classic dives left in metro Denver. After getting its start as a dairy, then a drive-in, the building turned into a saloon in 1957, and through the years (and several name changes — it became the Lakeview in 1975), generations of elbows have made their marks in the worn linoleum on the bar; signs behind the bartender promise cheap drinks and no children after 7 p.m. There's no formal entertainment beyond a pinball machine and a classic jukebox, but twice a year the Lakeview is the site of a unique ritual: On the last day of Daylight Saving Time in November, and again on the first day of Daylight Saving Time in March, you can come in when the bar opens at 7 a.m., grab a drink, and consume it while you watch the sun pop through the distant Denver skyline to the east and reflect off the cranes that mark the construction now under way on West Colfax Avenue. But so far, that boom hasn't touched the Lakeview, a watering hole in the very best sense.

Readers' Choice: Don's Club Tavern

What is a cocktail? Union Lodge No. 1 answers the question by stirring up drinks inspired by bartenders of the nineteenth century, before the art of mixing drinks was killed by Prohibition. Showmanship, knowledge and skill are all evident as this downtown bar's crew re-creates some of the classics, modernizes others and builds new libations based on traditional ingredients and techniques. Watch as a blue flame is juggled between two mugs to make a Red, White and Blue Blazer, or enjoy a rising column of foam as it defies gravity atop your Ramos Gin Fizz. Ultimately, though, a cocktail is a catalyst for socializing, and Union Lodge proves just the right spot for a gathering of friends or an intimate evening at the bar.

Readers' Choice: Williams & Graham

We've long lauded the Adelitas house margarita, proof positive that owner Brian Rossi is tequila- and mezcal-obsessed. But last year Rossi changed his house margarita formula dramatically, extending his high standards for tequila production to all the ingredients behind his bar. As a result, Adelitas ditched the processed sugar and agave syrup, which meant that the house marg and all of the other margaritas and cocktails served at Adelitas and sibling mezcal bar Palenque were fundamentally reimagined. The current iteration of the house marg at Adelitas blends Arette tequila blanco, a house simple syrup made from beet sugar and oranges, and an organic orange liqueur from Fruitlab into a beautiful drink, with the ideal sweet-tart balance to highlight the delicate Arette.

Readers' Choice: Adelitas Cocina y Cantina

Danielle Lirette

Even with all of its breweries, Denver needed a place that was cultured but unpretentious, intellectual but neighborhood-focused, nerdy but not condescending, something...cerebral. Oh, and with fantastic beer. That's what it got with Cerebral Brewing, a mellow spot just off Colfax Avenue that is making some of Denver's best beer and presenting it in a fun, relaxed taproom. From its hop-bombs to its luscious stouts and sophisticated saisons, Cerebral has a menu that has been gathering national accolades from magazines, fellow breweries and craft-beer fans. But Cerebral and head brewer Sean Buchan are probably best known for their hazy, hoppy offerings. Although that style of beer is trendy right now, it was Cerebral's style from the get-go, when the brewery opened back in 2015. The flagship IPA, Rare Trait, is a luscious, tropical showpiece with very little bitterness and plenty of balance.

Readers' Choice: 105 West Brewing

Danielle Lirette

With more than seventy breweries in Denver alone, competition is getting tough, so any new kids on the block need to go big when they open — or go home. And big is just where Jordan Fink and Chad Moore went when they opened Woods Boss in August 2017. The spacious taproom is centered around three massive slabs of redwood; two make up a stunning 21-foot-long bar, while the third, beautifully finished and sided by couches, serves as a long communal table. But the decor isn't the only thing that sets Woods Boss apart. From the beginning, the brewery has been serving a wide variety of high-quality brews that range from such classics as an amber, a porter and a brown to more creative styles, like a Belgian tripel, a New England-style IPA and a sour.

Readers' Choice: Denver Beer Co. Arvada

Brandon Marshall

Take one part industrial chic and toss in a few ounces of hipster cool, a few ounces of your British uncle's library and carefully planned nonchalance, and you've got the design style of Our Mutual Friend, which was founded in 2012 and is now one of the oldest breweries in RiNo. But Our Mutual Friend doesn't rely on its reputation; it pays attention to little things, too, like the planter pots on the bar and the lights hanging outdoors that make you feel like summer will never end. Our Mutual Friend not only brings the beer — it won two Great American Beer Festival awards in three years — but an ideal, comfortable atmosphere for enjoying its brews.

Strange Craft Beer Company and Wit's End Brewing — which opened in 2010 and 2011, respectively — pioneered the taproom explosion that has taken place over the past eight years, and Strange owner Tim Myers and Wit's End owner Scott Witsoe, two of the nicest guys in the industry, have been friends ever since. So it made sense that when Witsoe decided to step away from his own space last October, he'd move his business in with Strange. Now the dynamic duo hopes that the co-taproom will offer small breweries a new model to emulate in a very competitive industry, and they'll have twice as many good beers to do it with.

Danielle Lirette

When it comes to house parties, there are mellow kickbacks that all blend together and the ragers that make for unforgettable stories. Brewery parties divide much the same way, and Ratio knows how to do both right. The gorgeously decorated brewery oozes a vital, electric vibe, even on a slow day...but there aren't many of those. In a rare quiet time, Ratio is a good spot to gather with friends. But the brewery also hosts concerts, comedy and beer parties, like the Cool Beans Beer and Coffee Fest and the Genius Wizard Release, which give a new meaning to the term "beer bash." Careful planning, a smart staff and great beer make Ratio's events can't-miss dates on your craft-beer calendar.

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