Happy Hour

The Ten Best Happy Hours for Summer Drinking and Dining

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5. Nocturne  
1330 27th St
303-295-3333

Nocturne is realized in such a classy way that it begs you to rise to the occasion. And classy doesn't have to mean expensive here, with a pre-show happy hour that sets the stage for a chill evening. Settle in early before a summer concert  from 5 to 7 p.m. on the weekend and 6 to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, with an encore happy hour from 11 p.m. to midnight. Sip a glass of the daily rosé ($7), the perfect wine pairing for sunsets and warm evenings. Seven-buck martinis are crafted with care by Nocturne's indefatigable staff, as are $4 muffaletta sliders piled with ham, pancetta, capicola and giardiniera. The housemade slider fillings complement each other in a junior version of what would be a masterful grinder. Two-for-one oysters ($1.75 each) are given royal presentation and treatment with a beautiful mignonette. No matter which season you drop by Nocturne, you're sure to be greeted with good jazz and the perfect vibes.

4. Ophelia's Electric Soapbox
1215 20th Street
303-993-8023

Conscientious summer club-goers and concert-watchers already have Ophelia's marked in their little black books. But arriving before the show is worth the early start for the steamy snacks and drinks behind the bar at happy hour. As winking and wicked as their surroundings, lusty ingredients like blood orange, Campari, and truffle duxelle make up the menus, which are served from 4 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Rich, truffled mushroom flatbread ($6) is a four-quadrant snack for any time of night, and you should not escape without a bowl of Belgian mussels a-bubbling in a saison-curry broth ($7). Pay tribute to Ophelia's history with a prosecco-based Diamond Lil's ($5) or the grapefruit-scented Airedale ($5). It'll bring a blush to your cheeks and cool you down just as concert season heats up.
3. Root Down
1600 W 33rd Ave
303-993-4200

Just judging by the constant crowd at this full-service food station on Denver's north side, the changing seasons have little effect on Root Down's popularity. But the warm months do grant expanded access to the lovely patio and a new happy-hour menu that reflects the growing season. Offered Monday through Friday at the bar from 4 to 6 p.m., it's an exemplar of diverse, mostly plant-based and gluten-free small plates like green garlic chickpea fries ($5), served with tarragon-spiced romesco and garnished with rhubarb syrup and kale. Lamb sliders ($5) are worth the Lincoln for the flavor of Longs Peak Lamb and the harissa aioli atop them. There's passion poured into the $5 drinks as well, as you can taste in a sparkling Boulevardier based on bourbon and enlivened with vermouth, Aperol and sparkling wine. Or perhaps the Blaquiri: cachaça and lime, darkened with activated charcoal. It's detoxifying but a little sinful, just like the upcoming evenings at Root Down.

2. Solitaire
3927 W 32nd Ave
303-477-4732

The space that housed neighborhood standard Highland's Garden Cafe from 1994 on has been transformed into one that skews modern, even sexy, with a menu to match. Yet the Victorian charm of the place and the famous garden surrounding it have been preserved, and Solitaire promises to continue the seasonal and local focus of its predecessor. The generous happy hours here, lasting all day and night Tuesday through Thursday and 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, are perfect for summer evenings. On the serene garden patio, fresh flowers and green trees are paired with light and heavy plates like uni "shooters" ($7) dressed up like a Moscow mule, with sake ponzu and wasabi caviar. Mozzarella in carroza ($8) is a sinful snack: a pan-fried sandwich with salami and a dusting of pecorino. With entree-worthy entries such as braised oxtail and marmalade ($8), spicy, special house cocktails for $7 and well-presented wines for $5, everything is perfectly calibrated for a sunny garden party.

1. The Squeaky Bean Farm + Table
1500 Wynkoop Street, Suite 101
303-623-2665

It's not just the sun's glare and the fresh air that make for ideal summer dining. The Squeaky Bean has seasonality in its bones, bringing in the bumper crop from its Bean Acres farm for dazzling entrees and a Best of Denver-award-winning happy hour. It's served from 4 to 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. to close, and although the bar menu can change without warning, you're sure to find dressed-up veggies like crispy cauliflower ($7) refreshed with mint and pickled shallots. Meat gets its due in the complex Szechuan-style chicken wings ($6) and the all-American burger special ($15) complete with special sauce, fries and a 7 Up. The justly lauded cocktail program shows up with $5 classic cocktails, like the Tombstone, with ginger beer and whiskey from the Bean's barrel of Knob Creek.  

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Chris Utterback
Contact: Chris Utterback