Bars

Drink Here: A Toast to the 100 Denver Bars We Can’t Live Without

An Old Fashioned at American Bonded.
An Old Fashioned at American Bonded. Molly Martin
Just in time for Thanksgiving Eve, the biggest drinking day of the year, we're pouring out some essential reading for you.

After twenty months of a pandemic, most people can agree on one thing: They could use a drink. Thankfully, the bars that made it through one of the toughest times ever for the hospitality industry are there for us: pouring cold beers to offer comfort, serving up classic cocktails with brightly colored garnishes to distract us — at least while we sip — and welcoming us back to bar stools all over the city. Finally. Because even the best homemade drink doesn’t compare with the experience of striking up a conversation with a bartender who’s sharing stories of the week’s shenanigans.

A few days before the first indoor dining shutdown was ordered on March 17, 2020, I went to the Stadium Inn for a late-night vodka tonic after a grocery shopping trip where I saw empty shelves and a gnawed-on chicken wing bone sitting atop a case of Corona beer — a sure sign that bad things were coming, I thought. I didn't know it at the time, but that would be my last drink consumed on a bar stool for over six months.

I also didn't know that when I boarded a bus with Westword editor Patricia Calhoun and several other local food writers in May 2020 for a socially-distanced tour of restaurants and bars offering cocktails to-go, I'd be accepting a job as Westword's new food and drink editor one year later. As we were driven around the city from one empty establishment to another, meeting with owners and staffers who were desperately trying to innovate and hang on while still welcoming our group with smiles and booze, all I wanted to do was settle down in a booth inside for a few more rounds.


Even when indoor dining returned shortly after that tour, many bars remained closed — and if they were open, bar seating was still not permitted under the City of Denver's guidelines. It wasn't until early October 2020 that I finally sat bar-side again, at the now-shuttered Brass Tacks. Other former favorites are gone now, too, like famed craft-beer bar Falling Rock, Five Point's Rita's Law, and the dive-y Welcome Inn, which is now River.

But despite the losses, there's a lot to cheers in Denver these days. Old favorites like Pete's Satire Lounge have returned in fine form, and the drinking scene is once again growing with new additions like low-key neighborhood spot TrashHawk Tavern and floral-inspired cocktail destination Forget Me Not.

Denver’s a drinking town, built on beer and filled to the brim with beloved dives, craft-cocktail havens and everything in between. We go to bars to escape, to celebrate with friends and to make friends with strangers. And so once again, we’re celebrating the saloons of the city with “Drink Here," our homage to the 100 local bars we can’t live without, where the booze flows as freely as the conversation and the blurry nights become the best memories.

Read the full list.


Cheers!
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Molly Martin is the Westword Food & Drink editor. She’s been writing about the dining scene in Denver since 2013, and was eating her way around the city long before that. She enjoys long walks to the nearest burrito joint and nights spent sipping cocktails on Colfax.
Contact: Molly Martin