That's the emotional sentiment of Sean Kenyon, whose Denver speakeasy, Williams & Graham, just waltzed away the 2013 title of Cocktail Bar of the Year, a prestigious award bestowed on the cocktail cocoon by Nightclub & Bar Media Group, a bar, nightclub and lounge enterprise overseen by president Jon Taffer, who manages the Nightclub & Bar Convention and Trade Show, publishes Nightclub & Bar magazine and is co-executive producer of Spike TV's Bar Rescue.
See also: - Food & Wine magazine names Williams & Graham one of the Top 10 Best New Bars in the U.S. - Foodography and a first look: Williams & Graham - David Bumgardner, exec chef of Williams & Graham, on moving your ass
The Awards program ballyhoos excellence in bar and nightclub concept development, operations, promotion, innovation and success, according to its website, and more than 450 entries were submitted in 26 categories, including best cocktail bar. The nominees were reviewed by a panel of judges, including nightlife and beverage professionals, hospitality journalists, writers, owners and consultants, and the judges ranked their favorite entries first, second and third for each category, and the winners of each category were chosen based on a standard mathematical calculation.
Kenyon, who admits he and the staff at Williams & Graham "had more than one celebratory shot last night," doesn't take all the credit. "I'm truly blessed by a staff of true believers -- believers in our philosophy of hospitality above all else." The rest of it, he says, is "secondary."
It's certainly not the first time that Williams & Graham has been recognized for its superb cocktail program -- and the hospitality that comes along with it. The Highland speakeasy is a 2013 James Beard Award semi-finalist in the Outstanding Bar Program category; in September of last year, Food & Wine magazine named it one of the Ten Best New Bars in the United States; and it was also our Best of Denver pick for Best New Bar in 2012.
But Kenyon, who also pens an occasional bar piece for Westword's Cafe Society blog, doesn't take those accolades -- and there have been plenty more since then -- for granted. "I'm overwhelmed by all of the honors that we've gotten, but we don't define ourselves by the awards we win -- or are nominated for. We define ourselves by the people we make happy every day."
And that includes David Bumgardner, too, the executive chef of Williams & Graham, whose lovely board of foodstuffs has always made me just as giddy as the cocktails.
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"We're all in this business to make people happy, and any award belongs to the staff," stresses Kenyon. "I'm just lucky enough to be surrounded by such great talent and passion."