Although you’ll find Coloradans hoisting pints on patios in every season, frigid evenings often find us in search of low lights, warm surroundings and cozy, intimate environments conducive to, well, heating up those long winter nights. “Cozy” can be hard to pin down: Sometimes it’s sexy, sometimes it’s as comforting as Grandma’s cluttered ski condo. But when the fire crackles and the whiskey (or maybe the person next to you) whispers in your ear, you’ll know you’ve found it. And at these ten spots — five in the mountains, five back in Denver — you will definitely feel it.
In the Mountains
Alpenglow with your aperitif? It’s laid out before you at this Telluride favorite, which overlooks the entire canyon from 10,551 feet. Catch the gondola up to San Sophia Station in time for sunset, which simultaneously warms the bar and steals your breath. Allred’s offers a world-class selection of wines, carefully crafted cocktails, and a stellar bar menu featuring crispy truffle fries and wild-mushroom arancini. It’s closed in shoulder season, but when it’s open, there’s live music every night. 565 Mountain Village Boulevard, Telluride, 970-728-7474, tellurideskiresort.com/events-activities/dining/allreds-restaurant.
Cozy perfection can be found in the most unexpected places, and in this case, it’s on Main Street in the tiny old mining town of Silver Plume, which is probably not haunted, but definitely looks like it might be. Inside the former bakery, which dates from the 1800s, lucky visitors will escape Interstate 70 and enter a world of unique cocktails, such as the Baby Doe Tabor, made with vodka, sage jam, citrus and soda. Bread Bar is a weekend-only treat, open from 4 to 10 p.m. on Fridays and 2 to 10 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. It’s also popular for weddings and private events, so call ahead before swinging off the interstate. 1010 Main Street, Silver Plume, 720-772-7323, breadbarsp.com.
This old mining cabin on the edge of Crested Butte’s main drag is almost universally beloved for an outstanding selection of creative cocktails like the Beetnik, with beet-infused vodka, ginger and lemon. Small-plate standouts include mac and cheese, housemade pretzels and pickled eggs. Vintage furniture, board games and funky decor make this a cozy mountain gem. The approachable and friendly staff will make you feel like a local and have you returning again and again. Note: 21+ only. 309 3rd Street, Crested Butte, 970-349-6338, thedogwoodcb.wordpress.com.
If you don’t mind drinking with fundies (trust, hedge or equity; trust us, they’ve got one), this lush and secluded lounge in Vail’s renowned Sonnenalp Hotel hits all the cozy high notes, with leather recliners, an over-the-top collection of cognac, live music by standards singers in high season, and hot buttered rum. While the roaring fireplace may actually be fueled by all the cash you’re burning, the ambience is enough to keep you warm and happy for many après hours. 20 Vail Road, Vail, 970-479-5429, sonnenalp.com.
Rocky Mountain Underground
Dogs, skis and booze under one roof? That’s Colorado cozy, for sure, and that (plus chill and friendly service) keeps ’em coming back to the Rocky Mountain Underground in Breckenridge. Rent a board or buy a beanie, then sample from the extensive selection of largely local taps or treat yourself to a pickleback — RMU is known for it — or other cocktail prepared by one of the laid-back and welcoming bartenders. 114 South Main Street, Breckenridge, 970-771-2121, rmuoutdoors.com.
Back in Denver
This underground speakeasy flies under the radar, but there’s no hiding the sexy. Half the fun is pretending to be not quite sure where you’re going as you initiate newcomers to the dim and swanky cocktail temple in the basement of the Halcyon, a hotel in Cherry Creek. Go for the Sazerac, or have your mixologist create something just for you. The small but curated menu of snacks includes a spectacular chocolate mousse. Be sure to wash your hands — if only to check out the restroom’s risqué wallpaper. 249 Columbine Street, 720-925-8598, bandgcdenver.com.
In different hands, this RiNo hotspot could be too cool for school, with its glitter-meets-graffiti decor and its swagger-y vibe. But owner Kendra Anderson and her staff ensure that everyone feels welcome at this playful party, where Miller High Life (the “champagne of beers”) is offered with high-end Champagne, and caviar is piled high atop Pringles. Slide up to the ornately tiled bar or cuddle up in a plush banquette, cozy in the knowledge that it’s your party now. 3440 Larimer Street, 720-449-8587, insidethehelix.com.
Bull & Bush Brewery
The logo is childish, but don’t let that put you off this Glendale institution. Modeled and named after a 1645 British pub, the tavern exudes coziness, from the leather love seats flanking the wood-burning fireplace to the warm light reflecting from the copper-topped bar. In addition to its own brews, there’s a rotating selection of guest taps (Pliny, anyone?) and a vast array of whiskeys from around the globe. Children are as welcome here as the neighborhood old-timers who’ve been coming since 1971 for fish and chips, prime rib and friendly service. 4700 Cherry Creek Drive South, Glendale, 303-759-0333, bullandbush.com.
My Brother’s Bar
This unmarked corner of Platte Street is a legend for a reason, and when you walk in for the first time, you feel right at home. Wood-heavy and weathered, the space has been home to a bar since 1871, and under various owners and names has lured a motley assortment of patrons, including Beat icon Neal Cassady, who still has an open tab here. Snag a stool at the bar before ordering a dress-your-own burger (we recommend the JCB), and don’t bother looking for the TV — there isn’t one. Instead, strike up a conversation with the person next to you or the bartender, who’ll always make time for a chat. 2376 15th Street, 303-455-9991, mybrothersbar.com.
Fans of Boulder’s much-lauded Frasca need no introduction to this award-winning Union Station gem. Tourists and total strangers may wander into the sleek space for the outstanding food and inviting fireplace, but they’ll return for the gracious hospitality that has every guest feeling like an honored friend. Don’t miss happy hour, where $6 spritzes and $3-and-up nibbles make it one of the best deals in Denver. 1889 16th Street, 720-605-1889, tavernettadenver.com.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.