Booze

A Dozen Denver Bars for Every Type of Holiday Drinker

Miracle on Little Raven is an immersive Christmas-themed pop-up bar with tasty holiday cocktails.
Miracle on Little Raven is an immersive Christmas-themed pop-up bar with tasty holiday cocktails. Danielle Lirette
Gird your loins and steel your livers: The most wonderful time of the year is upon us, bringing with it the attendant consumerism, family drama and, of course, drinking. No doubt you'll be making a few runs to your local liquor store for supplies, but this festive season is also a good time to find safe haven — or cause for celebration — in Denver's bars. And for that, we have a few recommendations, whether you're searching for a hideout from feisty relatives, need a salve after a stressful shopping trip or are caught in transit to some other city entirely.

click to enlarge Miracle on Little Raven is an immersive Christmas-themed pop-up bar with tasty holiday cocktails. - DANIELLE LIRETTE
Miracle on Little Raven is an immersive Christmas-themed pop-up bar with tasty holiday cocktails.
Danielle Lirette
For the Christmas enthusiast: Miracle on Little Raven at Wayward
1610 Little Raven Street
720-449-8300

If you're the person who starts playing Christmas music in October and trims the tree the second the Thanksgiving leftovers have been put away, Miracle on Little Raven is your holiday bar. Billed as an "immersive Christmas-themed cocktail bar pop-up," this limited-time green-and-red-bedecked speakeasy, whose entrance is inside of Wayward, doles out festively named cocktails, tricked-out egg nog, hot mulled wine, and a pair of shots: Nice (rum, peppermint and chocolate) and Naughty (bourbon and cinnamon).

click to enlarge TRVE BREWING
TRVE Brewing
For the Grinch: TRVE Brewing
227 Broadway
303-351-1021

TRVE isn't inherently anti-Christmas, but this brewery, which has long catered to metalheads in its music selection, is a good antidote to they syrupy carols emanating from speakers all over town. As a bonus, TRVE shines in experimental fermentation techniques and mixed-culture sours — pours that seem especially tasty during the winter months.

COURTESY OF RETROGRADE
Courtesy of Retrograde
For those looking to escape the relatives: Retrograde
530 East 19th Avenue
720-600-6358

Yes, you could skip into your friendly neighborhood dive bar to escape the frenzy of your visiting relatives, but you could also head to a hidden bar, one your family would have a hard time finding, even if they walked right past it. Retrograde is one such example, located behind a freezer door inside Uptown's Frozen Matter ice cream shop. Other possibilities include RiNo's Millers & Rossi (with an art gallery as a front), or the alleyway tasting room for Golden Moon Distillery out in Golden.

click to enlarge A drink at the bar at B&GC is a welcome respite from the shopping crowds. - MARK ANTONATION
A drink at the bar at B&GC is a welcome respite from the shopping crowds.
Mark Antonation
For the Cherry Creek shopper: B&GC
245 Columbine Street
720-925-8598

Just dealing with the parking garage at Cherry Creek Mall is enough to drive us to drink — so a real respite is our play here. Head to the alley behind the Halcyon Hotel, where you'll find the entrance to B&GC. A quick descent through the building's unfinished hallways delivers you into a dark, soothing lair, where you can settle into a banquette with a well-executed cocktail. Whiskey takes the edge off, we find. Just note that you'll need a reservation; make it by calling 720-925-8598 after 3 p.m. on the day you're planning to stop by. Too much work? The Bull & Bush Brewery, a low-key brewpub with live jazz on Sunday night, is a short drive away.


click to enlarge LONE TREE BREWING VIA FACEBOOK
Lone Tree Brewing via Facebook
For the Park Meadows shopper: Lone Tree Brewing
8222 Park Meadows Drive, Littleton
303-792-5822

Like most suburban shopping centers, Park Meadows is surrounded mostly by chains. While those will certainly do the trick in a pinch, if you're after something a little more inspiring, you might follow up your trip to the mall with a stop at Lone Tree Brewing, where you can put back a Mexican lager, a peach pale ale, a coconut brown or something seasonal. A rotating roster of food trucks supplies this brewery with eats, and every Thursday night brings trivia.

click to enlarge The Bitter Bar is a Boulder mainstay, and it gets better with age. - THE BITTER BAR VIA FACEBOOK
The Bitter Bar is a Boulder mainstay, and it gets better with age.
The Bitter Bar via Facebook
For the Flatirons or Boulder shopper: The Bitter Bar
835 Walnut Street, Boulder
303-442-3050

Holiday shopping should come with a treat for you, and if you're up north, no better treat than a trip to the Bitter Bar, a Boulder cocktail institution that continues to get better with age. Proprietor James Lee and his staff function as a well-oiled machine, turning out stellar cocktails in a comfortable space that should erase the worries of even the most anxiety-ridden family Santa. There's not a single bad drink at this bar, but if you're a Manhattan enthusiast (or even Manhattan-curious), don't miss your chance to sip this one: Lee has exacting specifications for his iteration of this classic, and it truly is the best we've ever had, by a margin.


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Laura Shunk was Westword's restaurant critic from 2010 to 2012; she's also been food editor at the Village Voice and a dining columnist in Beijing. Her toughest assignment had her drinking ten martinis and eating ten Caesar salads over the course of 48 hours. She still drinks martinis, but remains lukewarm on Caesar salads.
Contact: Laura Shunk