Stanley Marketplace, 2501 Dallas Street, Aurora
Open 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday
For more info:
The sunset views at Sky Bar.
What we saw:
There's an elevator near Sweet Cow inside Stanley Marketplace
that leads to a small, little-known spot on the third level. But it will soon become much better known, as Sky Bar. "This concept was created over a year ago with the space being really just unused. It was just an open overlook," says Brandi Shigley, who co-owns Sky Bar with her "partner in life and crime," architect Patrick McMichael, and Skye Barker Maa, who also owns Factory Fashion
and Neighborhood Music and Theatre
in the food hall.
The three have transformed the bare-bones space into a cozy, adults-only cocktail bar with retro, aviation-related touches throughout — a fitting choice, considering Stanley Marketplace was once a facility where aircraft parts were manufactured.
You begin the experience by checking in at a desk outside the elevator to get the okay to board. You emerge three stories up into an intimate space where every seat is first-class, from the bar-facing stools where you can watch cocktails being crafted to large, comfortable chairs in a lounge area to a row of spots along the windows that offer fresh air when the weather is warm and a view of the skyline — and sunset, if you time your visit right.
What surprised us:
The Tokyo cocktail is garnished with furikake.
The impressive cocktails. But when you learn who's behind them, the quality is far less surprising. They're the creation of Jellybone, the team made up of Mary Allison Wright and McLain Hedges — co-founders of RiNo Yacht Club
and two of the city's top booze pros — and Iain Griffiths, co-founder of a popular traveling pop-up called Trash Tiki
"The idea with the menu is to offer the familiar, but also something weird and wonderful at the same time," Griffiths explains. The cocktail options are divided into two sections, beginning with lounge classics. "It's those drinks that people think about when they think of flying and being in the airport," he adds.
Which, yes, include a Bloody Mary, though you won't find any canned tomato juice here. Sky Bar's Bloody is made with a consommé-type tomato preparation and Ayuuk, a spirit from a Danish company called Empirical that was founded by the former head of research and development for Noma. "It's a deeply rich and smoky spirit base that is beyond categorization," Griffiths says.
Other takes on classic cocktails include a martini made with another Empirical spirit, The Plum, I Suppose, and a Manhattan that includes absinthe and an uncommon base of George Dickel Rye, Johnny Walker Black, Cocchi Torino and Pear Eau de Vie.
The Hawaii cocktail at Sky Bar tastes like vacation.
The second cocktail section is "Daring Escapes" and includes five libations named for travel destinations, like the Hawaii, a take on the classic Blue Hawaiian cocktail that's typically made with Blue Curaçao. But Sky Bar serves a clarified milk punch, based on a technique in which the acid in the cocktail is used to split out the fats. In this case, coconut milk is mixed with vodka, rum, pineapple, a citrus liquor and lime, along with the spirulina that gives the drink its pale-blue hue. The resulting Hawaii is fruity and tropical while still light and not overly sweet. There's also the Acapulco, the Peru, the furikake-garnished Tokyo, and the Paris, which is served with a Biscoff cookie (the only snack available, really — though there are plenty of places to grab a bite on the main floor of the food hall).
The wine list, created by Wright, is concise by design. "When you look at how to narrow a wine list down from every option in the world, working with a theme will help. ... I immediately wanted to do something surrounding altitude," she explains. "By and large, they are from very cool, very remote or specific high-altitude spots. ... It gives us a chance to showcase varietals that people have never encountered before while still having flavors and textures that people are familiar with."
The white available by the glass, for example, is a Prié Blanc, which Wright describes as "a beautiful bridge between a fresher-style Chardonnay and a not overly grassy Sauvignon Blanc."
"We wanted something that, when people fancy a date night, they can come and enjoy it then," Griffith says, "but also, there is a never-ending supply of traffic of people [at Stanley Marketplace] that just want to pop in and have a drink as well. And so we wanted to make sure we had something for everybody...provided they are 21 and over."
The sky's the limit!