Cheers! The winner of the 2008 Holiday Cocktail Competition

'Tis a pleasure to drink in Colorado.

On Saturday morning, I awoke with visions of sugerplums -- and whipped cream, and gingerbread, and chocolate sprinkles -- still dancing in my head. Just a few hours earlier, I'd sampled the last of sixteen entrees in the 2008 Holiday Cocktail Competition.

I was a judge -- a very sweet gig -- and had spent the better part of the previous week careening around town with fellow judges, stopping at bar after bar, restaurant after restaurant, testing this town's most liquid assets.

Although most of the cocktails were tasty, even tastier was the talk with local bartenders and restaurateurs.

At Jonesy's, for example, we learned that Denver's first "gastropub" had just gotten a new chef (Matt Brown), but was losing bartender (and musician) Anika Zappe. The Hemi Cuda stalwart was moving on to a post as mixologist at Root Down, the restaurant that officially opens tonight at 1600 West 33rd Avenue.

At Osteria Marco, we discovered that a crockpot at the end of the bar held hot mulled wine. It wasn't in the competition, but we tried a cup, and then continued sipping through an entire roster of new cocktails -- sharing them with our new friends at the the end of the bar.

Steuben's, we found, had a new cocktail list, too -- just in time for the 75th anniversary of the end of Prohibition. And it also had the cocktail that turned out to be the winner of the cocktail competition: Figgy's Manhattan, made with fig-infused Stranahan's.

Always drink Colorado!

There was more talk, of course, lots more, that will spill out on this blog over the next few weeks. But in the meantime, you can find the entire roster of cocktail entrees on EatDenver, the website of the Denver Independent Network of Restaurants, which hosted the competition. -- Patricia Calhoun

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