The growing diversity of Denver's bar scene may be eclipsing even its restaurants. The city's cocktail game has never been better, and a whole new band of specialists have added taprooms where drinkers can take deep dives into ciders, spirits and other enticing beverages from around the world. Here are our picks for the ten best new bars in Denver, in alphabetical order.
American Bonded2706 Larimer Street
Three of Denver's bar elite teamed up to open American Bonded this spring. Sean Kenyon of Williams & Graham; Kevin Burke, formerly of Ste. Ellie and Colt & Gray; and Justin Anthony of Matchbox combined their talents and sensibilities to add a welcoming and inexpensive option to Larimer Street. While Kenyon and Burke have previously soared in the stratosphere of craft cocktails, here they stay grounded in the classics while presenting a wide range of American whiskeys. Anthony's populist leanings at Matchbox get a slight bump, but not at the expense of still feeling overwrought or exclusive. americanbonded.com
Big Trouble (Inside Zeppelin Station)3501 Wazee Street
How do you know when you're in Big Trouble? Just ascend the sweeping wooden staircase until you see a sign that reads "You're in Big Trouble." This mezzanine-level bar is Kiss + Ride's more upscale counterpart, boasting an Asian-alley theme and some almost futuristic drink options. The highball, for example, is served from a Suntory Japanese whisky tower that dispenses perfectly chilled sparking water and whisky over a chunky, rectangular ice cube that's so clear it all but vanishes once submerged. Neon signs and a DJ booth render a vibe somewhere between a 1980s HBO soft-core flick and a vibrant Tokyo street corner at night. zeppelinstation.com/big-trouble
Booz Hall2845 Walnut Street
Booz Hall is the first of its kind: a collection of several tasting rooms for Colorado wine and spirits producers under one roof. The opening lineup comprises Jackrabbit Hill Winery, 3 Hundred Days of Shine, Rising Sun Distillery, Woods High Mountain Distillery and State 38 Distillery, all offering samples of their wares, plus mixed drinks and special pours hard to come by elsewhere in the city. Taste your way through the delights of Colorado's boozy variety — from Hotchkiss to Salida, Golden to Monument — without ever leaving the building.
Dead Battery Club2420 17th Street
Dead Battery Club straddles the line between everyman and elegant in a long, narrow space that asks you to unplug and unwind. Although the DBC — operated by the same team that brought Carbon Cafe & Bar and Habit Doughnut Dispensary to Platte Street — is an all-day cafe, cocktail seekers will want to hit happy hour, when the joint fills with office workers, service-industry folks and neighbors for a casual and lively time. deadbatterydenver.com
Death & Co.1280 25th Street
Surround yourself in the opulence and luxury of the Ramble Hotel while sipping a cleverly crafted cocktail at the bar or in a cushy lounge seat at Death & Co, which was founded in New York City and planted its second flag in Denver in May. Choose from a drinks menu that starts with "Fresh and Lively" and moves through "Light and Playful" and "Elegant and Timeless" before landing on "Rich and Comforting," just like the bar itself. deathandcompany.com
Dos Luces1236 South Broadway
It's not hard to be the best chicha and pulque bar in Denver — when you're the only chicha and pulque bar in Denver. But Dos Luces does more than just specialize in the Peruvian corn beer (chicha) and the Mexican agave drink (pulque); it makes both fermented beverages in unique, modern and thirst-quenching styles. The pre-Colombian flavors of chocolate, chiles and coffee can be found in seasonal specials, and tropical hints of lime, clove and cinnamon are also present. But all of those just enhance the base flavors of corn and maguey, which don't taste like any beer you've ever had. The taproom itself is open and airy, inviting long conversations over earthenware pitchers filled with the lightly carbonated offerings. dosluces.com
Haykin Family Cider12001 East 33rd Avenue, Aurora
This hidden cider house doesn't win points for its grand decor or hip location; it's just a simple tasting room open Thursday through Sunday in an industrial part of Aurora. You're not going to see and be seen, but you'll experience some of the most wonderful expressions of Colorado apples to make it into glass and bottle. Haykin produces single-variety ciders from apples picked, pressed and fermented in season, allowing the distinct flavor of each apple to shine through. Crisp, clean, complex flavors make Haykin the Champagne of ciders. We're not the only ones who have fallen in love with the tiny cidery; at this year's Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition (the Oscars of cider), Haykin took home multiple medals, including gold for its Akane and Sansa varieties. haykinfamilycider.com
Lady Jane2021 West 32nd Avenue
Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. But at least the fern bars and private clubs of the ’70s and ’80s were done up in style, making a little (or a lot of) historical pilfering perfect for a new generation of LoHi bar-goers. Forest green, burnished gold, palm trees and cherry wood finishes can all be found at Lady Jane, the second Denver bar for Jake Soffes, who also runs Hudson Hill. Thumb through the leather-bound cocktail roster in what feels like a set piece from Charlie's Angels, by way of West Egg. ladyjanedenver.com
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Middleman3401 East Colfax Avenue
Middleman snuck into an inconspicuous place on East Colfax Avenue around the middle of the year, doing what many bars do these days — decorating the walls with street art, mixing creative cocktails with clever names, combining a hint of hipster with working-class sensibilities. But Middleman did it without the hype or self-promotion, making it an ultimately unpretentious stop for a burger or chile cheese fries (or even a corn dog) to go with your boilermaker — which, by the way, comes in eight different shot-and-beer combos. middlemanbar.com
Pony Up1808 Blake Street
Here's what's to love about Sheamus Feeley and Angela Neri's new LoDo bar: ponies, French bulldogs, French dip sandwiches, sly references to The Outsiders. But even without the pop culture and pups (including an imposing portrait of Neri's own dog done up as French royalty), the cocktails and champagne are big enough draws. That and a roster of sandwiches that serve as an excellent base for just one more drink. "Thank you for a real good time," reads the neon sign on the back wall of the bar, in a nod to the Grateful Dead. No, Pony Up, thank you. ponyupdenver.com