Leopold Bros.

Although being nominated for a James Beard Award two years running already speaks highly of Leopold Bros., it's the careful creation of its products that's behind the Denver distillery's consistent excellence. No matter what kind of booze you crave, there's something for everyone, from gin to whiskey to fruit spirits. Brothers Scott and Todd Leopold even make an absinthe, an alpine liqueur and an aperitivo, and they use local ingredients for many of their products. For over a decade, Leopold Bros. has continued to elevate the Colorado spirits scene, and we can't wait to taste what the future brings.

Readers' Choice: Mythology Distillery

The Block Distilling Co.
Maria Levitov Photography

When brothers Kraig and Kameron Weaver opened the Block Distilling Co. with co-owner Michelle Flake at the end of 2017, the focus was on bringing seasonal gins and a three-grain vodka to the market. Each small batch gets handmade right in the industrial-meets-artsy RiNo space, and while the lineup is small so far, it's growing. Aside from gin and vodka, Block also plans to release a vermouth-style spirit made with grape skins from the neighboring Infinite Monkey Theorem. As warmer weather approaches, think about trying the Summer Gin, a citrus-forward tipple perfect for hot days and lounging by the pool.

The Family Jones
Danielle Lirette

Denver has an abundance (maybe even a surplus) of great tasting rooms, but the folks behind the Family Jones Spirit House really have gone above and beyond. Not only is the hard liquor all made in house, but each modifier also gets created right there. In fact, the distillery and tasting room act as a lab, and master distiller Rob Masters and bar manager Jason Randall are always coming up with new and innovative tipples. Think crawfish liqueur for a Bloody Mary, bright lemongrass distillate, cooling eucalyptus and a whole slew of other things. All of this gets integrated into cocktails on the menu, or you can sample the straight booze (gin, vodka, rum, whiskey) just as you would in a normal tasting room.

Lady Jane
Mark Antonation

Lady Jane makes the second casual cocktail bar for owner Jake Soffes after Hudson Hill, which debuted in 2016. And like Hudson Hill, this LoHi bar raises the bar on cocktail quality, even if the ambience is laid-back and low-key, coming in somewhere between tropical yacht club and '70s fern bar. We've long since lost the skill to separate millennial irony from earnest intentions, but the palm trees, gilt-edged barware and hunter-green furnishing feel distinctly like a wink at Tom Selleck, Christopher Cross album covers and swinger culture. And you know what? We love it. It's far easier to settle in among the throw pillows and enjoy a drink while music crackles from the turntable (of course) than to consider that it may all be just a joke played on anyone over 45.

Readers' Choice: Ironton Distillery and Crafthouse

The Castle Bar and Grill
Mark Antonation

At the Castle, a classic watering hole in Littleton, you won't have any trouble seeing eye to eye with your bartender. The big horseshoe-shaped bar is sunken, so when you grab a seat (a comfy captain's chair) you'll be on the level with the friendly staffer pouring good, stiff drinks. If you're smart, you'll use them to wash down one of the best burgers in town, offered in a great two-for-one deal on Tuesdays.

PMG

Many wine bars are built for casual conversation and snacking with friends, with the wine seeming almost like an afterthought. "Approachable" seems to be the most common buzzword, and wine lists are built so that they don't appear intimidating or formidable. But if you're really going for the wine and not the conversation or charcuterie board, you want to learn, grow and be surprised by selections. PMG's owner, Emily Gold, has assembled a collection of labels by the glass and bottle that will keep your curiosity piqued through many visits. You don't have to be an earnest aficionado or sommelier in training to enjoy the place; Gold and her staff are there to help guide you to your next favorite glass of wine. Old World is definitely the emphasis; you'll find few California wines here. A visit to PMG is a chance to explore the French, Italian and German countryside without ever leaving Boulder.

Readers' Choice: Postino

Spuntino
Danielle Lirette

Chef Cindhura Reddy and her husband, Elliot Strathmann, have assembled all the right ingredients for the best night out, whether a first date, special occasion or drop-in meal with neighbors. There's always just the right bottle or glass for any moment, and since this is an Italian eatery, nearly every wine follows suit. Choose from recognizable proseccos, sangioveses, pinot grigios and rosés, or let Strathmann guide you through a selection of rare Italian varietals from tiny family producers. Of course, a wine list can only accomplish so much unless there's great food to match; Reddy's hand-rolled pastas, complex sauces and reliance on local ingredients (don't miss the goat from El Regalo Ranch) bring out the best in every sip.

Readers' Choice: Max's Wine Dive

Punch Bowl Social

There are plenty of good reasons for bar patrons not to drink alcohol, and yet boozeless beverages are in short supply at most watering holes. Staying sober in the company of drunken revelers shouldn't require limiting yourself to whatever's available on the soda gun, nor should intriguing flavor combinations and fancy glassware have to result in a hangover. Punch Bowl Social is clearly of the same mind: The bar here pours sophisticated mocktails brimming with exotic mix-ins like cardamom, fresh sage and aquafaba mixed with sparkling water and housemade flavor syrups. Who says being responsible has to be boring?

Los Chingones

One word springs to mind when considering chef/restaurateur Troy Guard's Los Chingones squadron of taquerias: "Fiesta!" And a fiesta isn't complete without free-flowing margaritas made with quality tequila and fresh lime. The Los Marg at all four outposts is a glass of liquid sunshine made with blanco tequila and the Chingones house sour mix (you'll often see lime after lime being squeezed to make the mix). For a typical Troy Guard infusion of childhood memories, go with a T & T, a margarita with a dose of orange soda and a Tang rim. Better still, order by the carafe!

loschingonesmexican.com

Readers' Choice: Adelitas Cocina y Cantina

Uchi
Danielle Lirette

Rare is the happy hour in Denver that goes beyond a short list of carbohydrate-forward drinking snacks, and rarer still is a generous offering like that at Uchi, which allows you a fairly comprehensive taste of the restaurant's menu — enough to actually dine off of, if you're so inclined — at a cut-rate price. During the Texas transplant's happy hour, which runs daily from 5 to 6:30 p.m., you can graze your way through a well-edited collection of makimono, nigiri and chef tastings, including hits like the bright hama chili built with yellowtail and citrus, and foie gras-stuffed onigiri. Pair your feast with a reduced-price glass of sake, beer or wine, and finish with a discounted frozen candy bar, a crunchy, gooey chocolate confection that should always be the capstone to a meal here.

Readers' Choice: Ironton Distillery and Crafthouse

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