Best House Margarita 2022 | La Fogata | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Mark Antonation

The original location of La Fogata was opened by Danette Calhoun on East Evans Avenue back in 1990; a second spot was added in the Denver Tech Center in 2004. Both eateries are staples in their neighborhoods, and regulars are greeted warmly by longtime staff — and the house margarita. Made with a secret blend of juices that give it a pink hue and a more mellow lime flavor than most, this marg is everything a great margarita should be: strong, sippable and the perfect pairing for burritos, Mexican hamburgers and chiles rellenos.

Ironton Distillery

Ironton was what this neighborhood along the South Platte was named in the 1800s, and over a century later, Kallyn Peterson and Robbie Adams kept the moniker for their distillery, opening in the space previously owned by Ironton Studios, a founding member of the RiNo Art District. The distillery does Colorado proud both with its strong array of spirits such as vodka, rum, aquavit, gin and whiskey, and the great tasting room where you can try them. With a 10,000-square-foot outdoor space (dog-friendly for canines on leashes) and an art-filled indoor area, it's an ideal place to sit back with a Scandinavian Sex Monkey (barrel-aged aquavit, orange liqueur, turmeric shrub and orange) or a Huntin' Wabbits (rye, carrot juice, apple juice, herbal bitters and sage). And don't just come for the booze and art — though both are reason enough to visit: Ironton Distillery also sells wood-fired pizzas, charcuterie and seasonal salads by Angel's Share Pizza Kitchen.

When co-owner Paul Tamburello (the man behind the Little Man ice cream shops and plenty more) brought the Family Jones to LoHi in 2017, it was with the idea of creating a stunning space where guests could try the distillery's locally made spirits. And those are stunning, too: Master distiller Rob Masters has created Annika Jones vodka, Juniper Jones gin, Mo Jones rum and Atticus Jones rye, but he hasn't stopped there. He's always working on new spirits, such as the recently released Earl Grey Juniper Jones and Ella Jones bourbon, as well as concocting collaborations with breweries and other institutions around town. All of the liquor is made using local purveyors — grain from the Whiskey Sisters, malted grain from Root Shoot Malting and potatoes from Jones Family Organics — and Masters also creates the mixers used in the bar's unique cocktail program. As a result, this is one family you definitely want to join.

The Unfound Door

What started as a home hobby turned into an award-winning business for Daniel and Talia Haykin, who officially opened Haykin Family Cider in February 2018. Unlike at most cideries, apples here are treated much like grapes in winemaking, with a focus on highlighting single, heirloom varietals with names like Redlove, Dabinett and Porter's Perfection — several of which are grown locally. The sparkling beverages are available in liquor stores as well as the cidery's tasting room, where they're poured from Champagne-like bottles.

Noble Riot

At Noble Riot, you can sip really good vino and learn about it at the same time. For $69 a month, Noble's Flight Club is a great way to do both, as sommelier Troy Bowen or co-owner Scott Mattson lead guests in monthly wine tastings, dinners and special winemaker highlights. Of course, you can just pop in for a glass of pet nat or elegant rosé, too, no reservation needed — and if you don't know what to order, the skilled staff will guide you. Finally, you'd be hard-pressed to find another place that offers crispy fried chicken to pair with that glass of sparkling Le Monde Ribolla or light and airy gruner veltliner.

Cerveceria Colorado

Cheese and chocolate are always great, but if you want to take your beer pairings to another level, Cerveceria Colorado has you covered. This taproom offshoot of Denver Beer Co. has served up everything from pan dulce pastries, churros and empanadas to tamales, salsas and guacamole. The staff has even paired beer with, yes, bugs. While that might have been a tough one to stomach, the other food pairings work well with brews like an horchata blonde ale, a chipotle pepper amber and a churro stout, all inspired by Mexican ingredients and often made in collaboration with Mexican breweries.

Jonathan Shikes

There have always been bars that cater to the early-morning crowd. Some of us need a drink after working an overnight shift, some like to watch the sun rise with a beer, and some of us, well, some of us just drink too much. Breweries, on the other hand, tend to open late, especially during the week, when 3 or 4 p.m. can be the norm. But not FlyteCo Brewing. Nope, this West Highland spot runs a coffee shop on site, which means its staff is up early and ready to open the draft lines, too. And that means you can stop in for a beer as early as 7 a.m., seven days a week. Ski Plane Stout pairs especially well with the dew at dawn.

Best Place to Hunker Down During a Snowstorm

Bull & Bush Brewery

Evan Semón

When the snow starts dumping and you simply can't drive home (or just don't want to), with any luck you're stuck at Bull & Bush. The brewpub has become part of the bedrock of Denver, and nowhere feels more warm and secure in the cold. Eyes strong enough to peer through the dim lighting will see barflies, families, lovers and old friends sharing stories and pints over dishes fit for a midshipman, some of which have been on the menu since Bull & Bush opened in 1971. Prime rib, Sunday night suppers and Iowa breaded pork tenderloin sandwiches keep the place comfortably stuck in the past, right where we want it — but the beer lineup, which was full of fine Belgian imports and craft brews decades before juicy IPAs took over Colorado, has always been ahead of the game. Fight for a seat by the fireplace, peruse the extensive list of Scotch, and get cozy. Even if the weather clears up, you're going to be here for a while.

Jade Mountain Brewery & Tea House takes its inspiration from Asian ingredients, with a hint of Mexican flair. But owner Sean Guerrero doesn't discriminate against anyone — or any beer style. Which is why, in less than a year since the brewery opened, he's collaborated with at least a dozen other breweries, from old classics like the Wynkoop to experimental upstarts like Black Project and everything in between. He's also brought in cuisine for pairings that you won't find anywhere else, like Vietnamese flan, moon cakes and Korean cupcakes. Look for Guerrero to continue collaborating in 2022, gathering knowledge and spreading a little of his own.
Odell Brewing/Facebook

Rooftop patios are a rare treat; there's nothing quite like them. Not only do they let you soak up the sunshine, but they provide a physical manifestation for the sweet escape we're all looking for during an afternoon or weekend drinking session. Odell Brewing's newest Denver taproom — which opened in 2021 in a refurbished historic building — has a particularly special rooftop patio, with quintessentially Denver views of Sloan's Lake, tons of space, and a delicious variety of beers that are brewed beneath your feet. Enjoy the perspective.

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