Starbucks has been adding wine and beer to its roster of coffee drinks at select locations across the country since 2010, including several cafes in the Denver area this year. But the company ran into problems last week in Utah, when that state's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control board declined to rule on requests for liquor licenses at five Starbucks locations. Apparently, the board couldn't decide if Starbucks coffee shops are restaurants or not, so punted the decision to the Utah legislature, which does not convene until January.
Those of us in Colorado who like to take the edge off our caffeine with a little alcohol don't have to put up with quite so many antiquated regulations. Not only can we stop for a glass of merlot at a growing number of Starbucks, we have plenty of other options when it comes to sipping suds or quaffing cocktails in coffeehouse settings. In fact, our options are plentiful enough that it may be tough to choose — so we've made your search a little easier. Here are the ten best boozy coffee shops in Denver, in alphabetical order.
10) Amante Coffee
1612 17th Street
Amante baristas and bartenders build on an Italian theme at the LoDo cafe with the standard array of espresso drinks made with imported Italian coffee and several variations on the Negroni. There's also a selection of Italian wines and house cocktails made with grappa, limoncello and other Mediterranean spirits. And for a coffee/liquor blend, don't forget the shottino, a favorite of Alpine cycling enthusiasts. There are also three Boulder Amante cafes for fueling up for a bike ride into the foothills or a marathon study session before final exams week.
9) Black Eye Coffee
820 Sherman Street
The original Black Eye in LoHi is a great place to grab a cup of single-origin, pour-over brew from some of the country's best small-batch roasters. The new Capitol Hill cafe offers the same great coffee options, plus an elegant bar with bottles hidden behind mirrored panels. The bar staff puts as much care and craftsmanship into house cocktails as it does into pouring the perfect cup of joe, and since the place is open from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m., it's a great roost for early birds and night owls alike.
8) The Bluegrass Coffee & Bourbon Lounge
7415 Grandview Avenue, Arvada
Olde Town Arvada will soon be getting a light-rail stop on the new gold line — and the Bluegrass is ready. The Kentucky-themed cafe opened this past summer in a historic building that was once a toy store. Soon it will welcome RTD commuters grabbing coffee and breakfast sandwiches in the morning and stopping on the way home for bourbon, pizza and a little music. With a solid selection of American whiskeys and a few local beers on tap, the Bluegrass is already a great place to ease the transition from waking up with caffeine to unwinding with something a little stronger.
7) Carbon Beverage Cafe
1553 Platte Street
When Paris on the Platte closed last January after nearly thirty years on Platte Street, the neighborhood lost an iconic wine and coffee bar that had served generations of Denver's disaffected youth. But a hip new kid moved in at the end of summer with a pop-culture motif and high-tech systems that offer coffee, beer, wine and cocktails with enough variety to please aficionados of all of the above. Batched cocktails can be customized with additional flavors; hot and cold coffee drinks range from classic cappuccinos to new-fangled cold brews that can also be punched up to your liking. Remnants of the original coffeehouse can still be found in the back rooms, inviting lingering over drinks, work or study well into the night.
6) Coffee at the Point
710 East 26th Avenue
Coffee at the Point opened in Five Points at the end of 2010 and soon afterward began serving Colorado wines to bolster its menu of Novo coffee drinks. The menu has since branched out to include top-notch California vintners as well as a short but well-curated selection of Belgian, American and English beers. Breakfast burritos, hot sandwiches and gelato draw a neighborhood contingent morning, noon and night.
955 Lincoln Street
Drip has been brewing rich coffee in the Beauvallon building on Lincoln Street since 2012, but just added liquor this fall. The warm, cozy cafe has just the right touch of elegance to lend it the ambiance of an old-world conservatory without seeming stuffy. The food is mostly of the grab-and-go (or grab-and-stay) variety, making Drip a prime spot for neighbors to pop in and catch up. Adult beverages include a few beers and wines along with a a small collection of spirits chosen for their affinity for coffee: amaretto, Irish whiskey, Frangelico and Kahlua.
4) Highlands Cork & Coffee
3701 West 32nd Avenue
The Cork, as it is known to regulars, is more than just a coffeehouse. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in the quaint 1907 bungalow where wine has been part of the program since the beginning. A full liquor license was added four years ago, making the Cork's 4 to 7 p.m. happy hour a fine time to swing by for a cocktail or a fresh jolt of java.
3) Hooked on Colfax
3213 East Colfax Avenue
Malissa and Scott Spero converted a Brazilian bookstore on East Colfax into a fun, funky coffeehouse and then doubled the space in 2012, adding more food and booze to broaden the customer base. There's a little something for everyone in terms of atmosphere, from the dim basement space to bright window seating with views of Colfax. Although 10 p.m. is an early closing time for this part of town, you can get your fill from dawn to dusk before moving on to late-night haunts.
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2) Novo Coffee
3617 West 32nd Avenue
Novo is the new caffeine kid on the block in Highland Square, offering the Denver roaster's best brews in a number of formats for connoisseurs and java junkies. Colorado craft beers and Western Slope wines round out the beverage selection so West Highland residents can have a go-to spot to start or finish the day. And Novo's two other locations — on East Sixth Avenue and downtown — also serve beer and wine.
1201 East 13th Avenue
This Bend, Oregon, transplant came to town in 2013 with micro-lot beans roasted in the Pacific Northwest and craft microbrews on tap. Although it's a relative newcomer, Thump fits right in with Capitol Hill vibe — beards, beans and beers.