It takes all kinds of bars to satisfy Denver's thirst for all things boozy. Some people are content with a gritty dive bar with few choices but lots of familiar faces, while others want serious bartenders who mix serious drinks. Whether you like bright and sunny or dark and stylish, this year's new watering holes gave you plenty of choices. Here are the ten best bars to open in 2015 in Denver, in chronological order of opening date.
10) Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
2907 Huron Street
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is part of the Tavern Hospitality Group, known more for swooping into already established neighborhoods with a familiar and comfortable brand. But this one's a little different. First, its Prospect Park environs make it feel like a bit of a secret spot, somewhere you can take your suburban buddies to impress them with your knowledge of every nook and cranny of Denver's neighborhoods. Second, the bar feels a little more upscale than typical sports bars — so leave the cargo shorts at home and don't be afraid of some of the smart menu offerings. And, of course, extra points are awarded for an establishment that's ballsy enough to call itself WTF.
1330 27th Street
Nocturne is certainly more than a bar; a constantly evolving menu meant to pair with live jazz keeps the reservation list full in the dining room, and the kitchen has recently added larger entrees from new executive chef Greg Weadick (who started as sous chef when Nocturne opened last spring) to supplement the tasting menus. But an excellent cocktail program, including spot-on classics (like perfect martinis poured at half-price during happy hour), bolsters a creative wine list from co-owner/sommelier Scott Mattson. A seat at the swank bar with a five-piece band or a torch-song crooner in the background pulls you out of the present and sets you down in a different era — when jazz was a major part of the neighborhood vibe.
8) Union Lodge No. 1
1543 Champa Street
Cocktail-mixing is a form of entertainment at Union Lodge, which opened in a compact space on Champa Street last summer. Choose from a big book of pre-Prohibition libations or just ask for something you like, and the bartenders will do their best to make you happy. While bowties and vests may come across as hipster, the Union crew isn't pretentious or aloof. Instead, they take their drinks seriously but love to talk booze — or any other subject that comes up. For an added dose of drama, order the Red, White and Blue Blazer and watch as your barman throws fire from mug to mug before serving up a hot and potent drink.
7) Brik on York
2223 East Colfax Avenue
Live music, wood-fired pizza and a wine passport that allows guests to travel through the world's great grape-growing regions are part of what makes Brik a top-notch wine bar. But it's the low-key and friendly neighborhood vibe nurtured by owner Travis Gee that makes the place special. Whether you drop in for happy hour or grab a seat at the bar for a late night of sipping, you'll feel like part of a community where regular customers include artists (whose work you may see on the walls), local residents and Colfax denizens. A full liquor license means you don't have to stick to wine, but get Gee started in a conversation about his international wine travels and you'll soon be talked into something special — and reasonably priced. And high-tech serving equipment means that the bar occasionally dips into special selections by the glass without giving you the sticker-shock of investing in a whole bottle.
6) Bar Fausto
3126 Larimer Street
The cocktails at Bar Fausto don't have clever names; instead, they're numbered for easy ordering. Yes, you'll find obscure European and American spirits listed among the ingredients, but somehow everything stays low-key and relaxed, where beverages don't come with a minutes-long lecture on craftsmanship. Owners Koan Goedman and Jonathan Power (from Huckleberry Roasters and the Populist, respectively) know what makes the neighborhood tick, so Fausto is equal parts fashionable, DIY and gritty. And while there's not a full kitchen, chef Jared Brant pulls off a stellar list of small plates, bruschettas and ficelle (think skinny French bread) sandwiches to accompany the spirits.
Keep reading for five more of the ten best new bars to open in 2015.