At Denver’s newest batch of cocktail bars, spring is an Earl Grey gin with lemon, bergamot, elderflower and egg white. Or it’s a smoky Espadin with Green Chartreuse, Zucca and pineapple. It could be a combination thereof — mezcal, pisco, orange, vanilla and egg. Or a London Dry gin with Americano, white peony, Suze, cucumber and Absinthe.
Yes, the cocktail bar is back just as restrictions in Denver have lifted once again and last call moves past midnight for the first time in months. (It’s now 1 a.m. under Level Yellow and 2 a.m. at Level Blue.) Here are the newest spots to raise a pretty glass in a still prettier setting — and cheers to the warmer days ahead.
Forget Me Not
In Cherry Creek, this former flower shop is now a floral-inspired bar with plush seats and sunlight pouring in through the windows. Nicole Lebedevitch is behind the cocktail menu, which features plenty of sparkling and lower-alcohol options, as well as fancy pitchers full of spritzes to share on the roomy patio.
The draw: A destination that’s fresh and not forced — also, locally owned — in Cherry Creek North.
The food: Tinned fish ($23-$28) and small plates — crab toast ($19), crudité ($14) — from the chefs behind Bar Dough, Mister Oso, Morin and Señor Bear.
The drink: Start with an Alpine: Hendrick’s gin, dry vermouth, manzanilla sherry and Amaro Nonino ($14).
The move: Go with a friend or group for people-watching in the afternoon.
227 Clayton St., 720-259-5369, forgetmenotdenver.com
This new Union Station neighborhood haunt is just what we’ve come to expect from the teams behind Hudson Hill (Capitol Hill) and Lady Jane (Lower Highland). Tucked away on Wynkoop Street, The Wild is a sleek and plant-filled space that transitions from coffee and pastries during the day to cocktails and snacks by night. So you can post up with your laptop for work and then wrap up with a glass of wine at 5 o’clock.
The draw: This is an easy spot to lose track of time right in the middle of downtown.
The food: Reunion Bread provides the morning baked goods ($4-$6), but a menu of cheese, charcuterie, breads and spreads ($5-$15) takes over for the evening shift.
The drink: Start with a Culinaria, with blanco tequila, celery, ginger and lemon ($12).
The move: Take a date and order a bottle from the thoughtful wine list (try a chilled red or a funky orange).
1660 Wynkoop, thewilddenver.com
Technically, this is a restaurant. But the vibe we’re getting from this new Wash Park hangout is bar through and through. Still, you can pick your own adventure with a sprawling setup that includes two dining rooms, two patios, a lounge area and a wrap-around bar at the center of it all. Perdida is the latest from the owners of Park Burger, Homegrown Tap & Dough, Birdcall and Park & Co, so you know it’s a good time. Case in point: Throughout the night, you’ll notice the music change tempo and get a little louder, an intentional choice meant to give the space a nightclub-esque vibe, according to co-owner Peter Newlin.
“I hope every table toward the end of the night wants to be ready to dance,” he said.
The draw: This is a vacation of a space on South Gaylord Street; come to get away.
The food: Coastal Mexican, so think aguachile ($18), adobo striped bass ($28) and fish tacos ($16).
The drink: Tequila-and-mezcal everything, but start with the Sunrise featuring both, plus chile liqueur, orange, lime, spiced hibiscus and worm salt ($13).
The move: Patio seats are first-come, first-served, but try for a lounge seat during happy hour and make your way through the $7 margarita list.
1066 S. Gaylord St., 303-529-1365, perdidakitchen.com
Last but not least is this transformation of a former pet shop on Broadway, right in the heart of Denver’s original music and bar scene. But the owners of the L wanted it to maintain a counter-culture feel while also serving really good cocktails and catering to a changing neighborhood — a tall order, indeed. Adam Hodak is a longtime Baker resident and former partner in Denver drinking institutions Vesper Lounge and the Green Russell. His new business partner, Alex Lerman, is a Denver native who worked with Hodak before moving to New York and training at Nomad and Saxon + Parole. They’re back together now to give us their version of Broadway nightlife in 2021.
The draw: These are serious cocktails — priced as low as $10 — inside a neighborhood bar that also serves $3 beers and shots.
The food: Neighboring Danger Zone Calzones can provide sustenance, or you’re allowed to order from other restaurants nearby (try Postino and Karma).
The drink: Start off in Rome with a View: basil-infused blanc vermouth, Aperol, Campari, lemon and soda water ($10).
The move: Go late and when there’s music on the menu. (Hodak is planning small shows and DJ sets once those indulgences are allowed again.)
46 N. Broadway, 720-940-8715, theldenver.com
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