owner Kendra Anderson just celebrated the wine and cocktail establishment's first year in business at 3440 Larimer Street, which gave her a chance to breathe a quick sigh of relief and reflect on what kind of establishment Bar Helix is becoming. As a result, she decided to play to Bar Helix's strength: the Negroni.
"I'm putting my foot down; we're a Negroni bar," she states.
In case you've missed the recent surge in popularity of the Italian cocktail, a classic Negroni is a blend of equal parts gin, sweet vermouth and Campari, the ruby red liqueur that gives the drink its distinct appearance and slightly bitter flavor. The drink menu at Bar Helix has always offered several variations, but this is the first time Anderson has put together a menu of twelve "greatest hits" — just in time for the holidays.
The Negroni bottle service setup at Bar Helix.
Bar manager Victoria Errio explains that from now on, Bar Helix will always have a dozen variations on the Negroni, with about four of those changing seasonally and the remainder becoming year-round regulars. So you'll be able to get traditional versions made as you might find the drink in Italy: the Bar Helix signature Negroni, with Barr Hill Tom Cat Gin, Montanaro 6PM Aperitivo and Carpano Antica; or a Boulevardier or Embarcadero, two variations found in most classically trained bartenders' repertoires (the former is made with rye and the latter with bourbon).
From there, things get a little wild, but the drinks are always designed with intention rather than random experimentation. The Brokedown Palace, for example, is the result of wanting to build a "broken Negroni" (or Negroni Sbagliato, as it's called in Italy) with sparkling wine instead of gin. To keep the grape theme going, Errio uses only grape-based spirits to complete the drink: Cappellitti Aperitivo (a milder counterpart to Campari) and Casa Mariol Vermut accompany the effervescent Casa de Valor cava.
There's even a Negroni cannoli on the dessert menu.
A range of Negroni variations, including the Negroni Experience (front), which lets you sample two small cocktails.
If some of those booze brands sound a little esoteric or intimidating, Helix staffers are more than happy to guide you to the perfect drink based on your flavor preferences. They also want you to try all twelve versions so that you can pick your favorite. To help you do that, Anderson is offering a "Twelve Negronis of Christmas" punch card. If you order all twelve Negronis before December 31, you'll earn a holiday-themed gift package and a $25 gift card, and you'll also be entered to win a $200 gift card to the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. If twelve full-sized cocktails is too boozy for the next thirty days, you can also work your way through the list with the bar's Negroni Experience — two baby-sized cocktails for $14 — and receive a smaller reward. And if you want to impress your friends, order the Negroni bottle service, which includes enough drinks for four people served in a cut-crystal decanter for $40 (which saves about $8 over ordering drinks individually).
Of course, Bar Helix is still dedicated to wine; Anderson is a sommelier, and wine is her first love. But a range of other cocktails (almost all of them containing some form of fortified or herbed wine, whether vermouths or bitters) and a tight list of beers offers something for everyone. There's even Miller High Life bottle service, since Anderson was able to land a few limited-edition 750ml bottles of "the champagne of beers," here served on ice in a retro Miller ice bucket for $15.
Bar Helix is open from Wednesday through Sunday starting at 4 p.m. Sunday nights are new for the bar, and Anderson is offering service-industry discounts as well as a #SmokeoutSunday menu that pairs mezcal and Scotch flights with smokier offerings from the food menu. Don't miss the caviar Caesar salad with smoked tomatoes!