The Best Bars in Denver Are Dives, Cocktail Lounges, and Pirate Themed

From classic dives to swanky cocktail lounges, this is where you should be drinking in the Mile High.

Courtesy of Wonderyard
Courtesy of Wonderyard

Denver may be world famous for its breweries, but its drinking scene runs way, way deeper than that. Whether you’re into secret cocktail lounges, classic dives that have been slinging cheap beer for decades, or even phallic pirate themed tiki bars (who are we to judge?), the Mile High City you covered. Here are the 15 best watering holes around town, in case you’re feeling thirsty.

Yacht Club | Photo by Shawn Campbell

Just how cool is Yacht Club? You can get a fancy schmancy cocktail made with liqueurs you can’t pronounce, or you can get a Jack and Coke with a hot dog for $9. Your choice. This is the ultimate high-low mash-up, where spirits nerds can argue over parsnip rye and whether malt vinegar belongs in a cocktail, all in the most divey/hip little Cole watering hole that doubles as a natural wine bar.

This LoDo tiki destination is like two bars in one because, well, it is two bars in one. First, there’s the phallic pirate themed Hell or High Water (yes, really), and then there’s the mezzanine level Honor Farm, which is more haunted/spooky focused. Yes, they’re unconventional—as is their satanic bird-themed The Electric Cure bar in Edgewater—but if you can unclutch your pearls long enough to order a drink, you’ll know why these bars have such a following. Case in point: My Morning Bollywood, a unique combo of curry leaf and fenugreek infused tequila, mango, chutney, lime, and rose water.

Courtesy of Reynard Social

All it takes is an elevator ride to the sixth floor of the Thompson Denver hotel to get to some of the best views in town. The space is huge, which means views of the city, the mountains, and the stadium from the wrap-around windows. Of course you’ll want something to sip on while you take in the killer views, and the cocktail list here is fun and unique. From the passion fruit and orgeat-filled Put a Ring on It to the guava, squid ink, and rum-tastic Seven Barrels, there’s always something new to try.

The Dew Drop Inn is like a classed-up dive bar—it has all the come-as-you-are comfort you crave, just gussied up a little. In terms of drinks, this translates to fancy-ish, but still well-priced, cocktails, as well as an all-day beer and a shot deal for $8. The food, though, is decidedly un-divey, with a sophisticated menu that features big bowls of mussels, karaage chicken, and fried veggie cakes. Time your visit right for the daily happy hour until 6 pm (and there’s a separate happy hour Thursday–Saturday from 10 pm to close) when well drinks are $7 and those fancy-ish cocktails fly for just $9.

Cherry Creek
Forget Me Not’s bright, airy vibe and top-notch cocktails have made it one of Denver’s favorite bars—we heard the Colorado Avalanche even celebrated their big win by sipping massive drinks out of Lord Stanley’s cup here. While the drinks are definitely the draw—from the large format cocktails for sharing to the upscale mocktails to the creative glassware and garnishes that elevate the expansive cocktail menu—the space is one of the city’s spiffiest and the food (a hot dog shares space with caviar service) is fun too.

Courtesy of Lady Jane

Too often in bars, a sophisticated vibe means dark and speakeasy-y. Not so at Jake Soffes’s bars. Capitol Hill’s Hudson Hill, Union Station’s The Wild, and the chicest of them all, LoHi’s Lady Jane, are bright, relaxed, and cool. They’re spots at which you want to sit and stay awhile, as much for the welcoming atmosphere as for the interesting drinks. Because you deserve to sip mezcal, pomegranate, and clarified goat milk in style, gosh darn it. The N/A crowd feels comfortable here, too, as the non-alcoholic creations are just as complex and gulpable.

South Broadway
It’s safe to say that pretty much everyone could use a tropical getaway right about now. But you don’t have to go anywhere near the airport to get a taste of vacation life. At this South Broadway tiki bar, the island vibes are immaculate. From tropical classics like mai tais and the macadamia nut chi-chi to original creations served out of giant turtles, they’ve got photo-ready cocktails covered. Plus you can also order up bites like Spam musubi and Volcano fries for sharing. All that’s missing is the ocean breeze, but at least you can pretend to be by the sea on their spacious back patio.

Descriptions for Room for Milly almost always start with the decor, and for good reason. The eclectic artwork, velvet banquettes, and kaleidoscope of colors are downright stunning. But after you snap a few pics of the Lindsay Crowles-designed wallpaper, you’ll find that the drinks are just as noteworthy. Sophisticated cocktails take you everywhere from the tropics to 1920s Paris, like the beachy coconut washed rum, spiced pandan cordial, and tiki bitters My Dearest Pike and the salon-worthy sparkling rosė, vodka, grapefruit, and rosewater The SS City of Paris.

Death & Co.
Courtesy of Death & Co.

It was big news when one of the world’s most famous bars moved into Denver in spring 2018, making it just their second location. Six years and one pandemic later, the hullabaloo has died down and what we’re left with is a stunning space in which to drink some of the city’s tastiest and most imaginative cocktails. While the pages-deep drink menu is fun to explore, don’t skip the almost equally good food menu.

Denver’s gotten some great wine bars in recent years—see La Bouche, Attimo Wine, Sunday Vinyl, and Bigsby’s Folly—but Noble Riot is one of the best. Beyond the quirky, lesser-known bottles, the sommelier-owned Riot teaches you all about the juice at Wine School and boasts a fried chicken-filled food menu. Ask the crew about their spirit grapes, because this crew has put a lot of thought into their spirit grapes.

Alamo Placita
Perhaps the quintessential dive bar, Don’s has been fueling Denver’s bad decisions for more than 75 years. They’ve got cheap drinks (depending on the day, $4 gets you pickle shots and/or Fireballs), a smoking patio, a cast of regular day drinkers, a welcoming vibe, a vending machine full of everything from condoms to White Castle, and a Skee-Ball machine. So yeah, you can see why this has been a Denver classic for going on eight decades.

Denver’s OG speakeasy feels just as clandestinely cool today as when it changed the game more than a decade ago. You still enter through a bookshelf, and you can still count on the cocktails to be among the stiffest and most creative in town. Traditionalists and control freaks need not worry, though; their 500-plus-bottle strong spirit library means classics are always in reach. It also means you’re pretty much guaranteed to find something new to try if you’re up for boozy adventure.

Courtesy of The Tatarian

You can’t go wrong with any of the cocktail-obsessed lounges from this group, which also runs the Arvada Tavern, Union Lodge No. 1, and the new La Foret. But oddly enough, it’s the tree-themed Tennyson Street bar that is our favorite of the bunch. Tatarian woos with its mid-century chic vibe, its emphasis on roots and herbs, and, of course, some of the best drinks in town. If the lengthy menu is overwhelming, ask the bartenders to whip up one of their favorites. You almost certainly won’t be disappointed.

Pony Up is the neighborhood bar that every neighborhood wants, nay deserves, to have. Besides a great mix of drinks that spans cheap beer to fancy-ish cocktails, the food menu is an ode to the French Dip. They have six versions of the underrated sandwich, including a Vietnamese inspired garlic pork dip that gets dunked into pho broth and a Chicago style with giardiniera. Pony Up attracts such a crowd that they recently debuted a West Colfax sibling, Side Pony.

When a bar’s inspiration is “The Secret Garden” meets “The Great Gatsby,” you know it’s going to be something special. Wonderyard is all whimsical glam, from the Jazz age interior to the open-air patio featuring giant pink teacup tables and seating inside gilded birdcages. The drinks are equally playful, like the cotton candy-topped pink lemonade vodka Le Cloud and the passionfruit, lychee, and tequila-filled Queen of Hearts, served out of a giant glass shopping bag. While they have a pretty standard beer and wine menu, this is the place to go for Instagram and TikTok-worthy cocktails and photo opps.

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Allyson Reedy is a Thrillist contributor.