The Absolute Best Bars in Denver Right Now
From classic dives to swanky cocktail lounges, this is where you should be drinking in the Mile High.
Yes, there’s a lot of hype over Denver’s beer scene, but how bout those bars? If there’s any question as to the diversity of Denver’s watering holes, consider that in the last couple months alone we’ve added a vegan death bar, a swanky speakeasy with hourly burlesque entertainment, and a boozy shave ice destination. So yeah, we’ve got some range. Here, 22 of Denver’s best bars, from listening lounges to tiki temples to classic dives.
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 $8. Your choice. This is the ultimate high-low mash-up, and it gets even better when you hit the Snowballs section of their drink menu. The boozy shave ice options include combos like Vergano Americano with pickled blueberries and sherry with candied orange. Cool, both literally and figuratively.
If you were just pondering why Denver doesn’t have a goth dive bar/vegan eatery, well, ponder no more. The Crypt opened in January, filling the hole in our city’s vegan death bar scene. There’s a moody vibe, cheap cans and bottles, plus vegan poutine and eggplant Reubens (and burgers for the non-vegans). This isn’t the place for fancy cocktails, but if you want a can of PBR and a shot for $7, this is the death bar for you.
Cherry Creek’s Clayton St. has become quite the cocktail destination, what with Forget Me Not and now Five Nines shaking things up side-by-side. Five Nines is especially sexy and ambitious, full of velvet booths, dim lights, and, oh yeah, scantily clad pole dancers shimmying across the stage every hour, on the hour. But don’t let the entertainment distract you from the drinks. The large cocktail menu, created by vets from American Bonded and Poka Lola, is just as seductive as the dancers.
Perhaps the best description of Bezel is that it’s the kind of place that has its own specialty ice program. So yeah, you could order a beer or a shot, but then you’d be missing out on the sophisticated cocktails and specialty ice, and do you really want to waste all that lavish frozen water? Just off the 16th Street Mall inside the Sheraton Denver Downtown, Bezel is glamorous, with prices to match. (Some cocktails are in the $20s.) Go when you’re feeling extra.
Esp Hifi - Cafe & Bar
The music is the focus at ESP HiFI, Denver’s first listening cafe and bar, which is why the drinks are kept hush-hush. (Read: no ice cubes clanking in metal shakers.) The classic, quiet cocktails and natural wines complement the music, which comes from a 500-deep-and-counting vinyl collection curated and spun by your musical host. The 35-seat minimalist room is so cozy you might want to move in.
The Red Barber
Everyone loves a good rooftop bar, and The Red Barber, perched above the Catbird Hotel, delivers on vertiginous appeal. With nearly 360-degree city and mountain views, plenty of space, and an indoor/outdoor bar mixing up seasonal cocktails, there are plenty of reasons to head up. While it goes full-on barbecue party vibe during summer’s hot nights, The Red Barber keeps you warm via heat lamps and tents through chillier temps too.
La Bouche is the Parisian-Denverite love child we all need. Part chic French glamour, but also part relaxed Coloradan sensibility, the new wine bar features a carefully selected wine list, offering the best of the US and France. Hungry? Pair your sips with cheese brule, a financier, or quiche.
There’s a lot going on at Ghost Donkey, the spin-off of the now-defunct New York tequila and mezcal bar. Imbibe magazine’s Cocktail Bar of the Year 2020 opened our Denver outpost last spring, bringing its frisky energy, bright lights, and eponymous donkey with it. The neon explosion of a space whips up original cocktails like the huitlacoche infused margarita and mole spiced negroni. And there are nachos. Lots of nachos.
Too often in bars, a sophisticated vibe means dark and speakeasy-y. Not so at Jake Soffes’s bars. Capitol Hill’s Hudson Hill, LoHi’s Lady Jane, and now the newest, Union Station’s The Wild, 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. The Wild’s cocktail menu is divided into Light/Refreshing, Coffee/Tea, Boozy/Spirit Forward, and Classics, and you’ll find surprises in each section. Amp yourself up with a Middle State coffee drink to fuel your sipping.
Forget Me Not
Forget Me Not has only been open for about a year, but its bright, airy vibe and top-notch cocktails quickly made it a Denver favorite. 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 gussy up 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.
Another 2021 addition to Denver’s bar scene, the industry vet owners of The L, Adam Hodak and Alex Lerman, took over the space of a former pet food store on Broadway and transformed it into a cocktail destination with neighborhood bar vibes. This place is not only for cocktail snobs, but if you are one, you won’t be disappointed. And while there’s no food on the menu, you can order from their neighboring Full Afterburner Calzones for all the drinking sustenance needed to go ahead and order one more cocktail.
Named for the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897, which legally defined American Whiskey and ensured its quality, you can be sure to find a damn good Old Fashioned here (and for only $6 during happy hour) along with a lineup of top notch craft cocktails with a variety of spirits, best enjoyed on their rooftop patio.
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 like the lychee seventy-five, 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.
Room For Milly
From the team behind Queens Eleven and Blue Sparrow, this bar on Platte Street opened in late February 2020, right before you-know-what shut it right back down. But despite less than ideal timing, it’s just the lush escape we need right now. Based on a fictional character, Milly Parker, whose flapper-era adventures inspired the decadent decor, menu, and vibe, Room for Milly captures the energy of another time and place—one where the cocktails are fun, the seats are covered in velvet, and you’ve (finally) got an excuse to dress up a little for a night out.
Death & Co
It was big news when one of the world’s most famous bars moved into Denver in spring 2018. A few 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 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.
Not to be confused with the other Roxy in town, this is the second iteration of an Encinitas, California-based concept. If you’re missing live music (and who isn’t), this is a great spot to get a fix, no tickets required. From jazz and rock to indie and experimental acts, they’ve got it all on the schedule so you can enjoy the classic drinks and a show combo. And when we say drinks, what we really mean are expertly made classic cocktails that let their simple ingredients shine. While the space has a tiny kitchen, they manage to pump out a pretty robust list of eats that range from snacks like extra crispy truffle fries, to full on meals like the pan seared salmon.
This cash only Colfax classic is a Denver dive must-visit. Screw ambiance. You're here for the strong drinks (plus the free shot and rose for ladies), the jukebox that's likely had the same selection for the past 20 years, and the strangers who will soon become friends... if only for the night.
The Cruise Room
Bask in the red glow of this old-school Denver legend that's officially been open since the day after the repeal of Prohibition. With sleek, art deco decor, and killer martinis, Cruise Room in the Oxford Hotel can’t help but make you feel classy whilst you sip the night away. The bar itself was modeled after a bar on the Queen Mary and takes the shape of a wine bottle. It’s a hotspot, especially since it’s been the longest continually open bar in Denver.
Don's Club Tavern
With a rotating cast of characters, this local favorite is by all definitions a dive. Let’s hit the checklist: cheap drinks ($4 daily specials), entertainment (Buck Hunter), and the unique ability to emulate a home you actually didn’t grow up in but feel effortlessly comfortable in nevertheless. Don's biggest downfall is that it masquerades as a Chiefs bar on Sundays, but we can forgive that based on their vending machine selection alone. It's stocked with the only food you'll find here: a random and ever-changing assortment of everything from frozen White Castle burgers (there's a microwave) to Spam.
From the outside, this spot has dive written all over it (read: a large, nondescript Budweiser sign). But you won’t find any Buds on the menu. What you will find is a small menu of balanced cocktails including one of the best Old Fashioneds in town, a schedule of unique events, food truck pop-ups and yoga sessions, and quirky decor.
My Brother's Bar
Walking into this bar, it’s easy to picture Jack Kerouac or Neal Cassady bantering away in a corner while sipping strong whiskey cocktails. And indeed, they did. This is Denver’s oldest bar, and it remains today what it’s always been: a dependable, low-key place to enjoy a cold drink and hot burger.
Williams & Graham
Probably the only bar on this list that you enter through a bookshelf, Williams & Graham set the standard for Denver cocktails bars when it opened a decade ago. Just as important today, the dark speakeasy is the place to go for a good, stiff drink. Choose from a menu of classics or staff creations, marvel at the 500 spirit strong library of bottles, and settle in for a while. There are 500 bottles after all.