Where to Drink in Denver Right Now
You could use a drink.
You look like you could use a drink, and we know just where to send you. Denver’s bar scene is back to bustling, which is good news for anyone with a hankering for a pro-made cocktail. Fresh on the circuit is an over-the-top tequila import, a laid-back beauty from a local bar vet, and a hot spot in the new McGregor Square development. But we’ve also got old favorites, from classic dives to swanky lounges to a tiki tavern. Here, 21 of the best bars in Denver to belly up to.
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 this past 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. (When was the last time you had an Air Mail?) Amp yourself up with a Middle State coffee drink to fuel your sipping.
The Rally Bar
McGregor Square has quickly established itself as the place to be in the Ballpark neighborhood, and its The Rally Bar has established itself as, well, the place to be within the place to be. If that’s all a little too meta, don’t worry, just focus on the craft beer, beautiful cocktails, and a food menu that includes mini corn dogs and pretzel crusted scotch eggs.
Forget Me Not
In March, one year after the pandemic made going out to a bar for a drink something we all suddenly stopped doing, this new chic cocktail bar from the Culinary Creative Group (who also own Senor Bear, Bar Dough, and more) opened its doors and reminded us all why we really liked going out to a bar. Exhibit A: Their large format cocktails decked out with colorful garnishes and served in glass goblet with a punch bowl spout—yes, you will need to share with friends. Pair any of the craft cocktails with the upscale snacks like cheese and meat boards, razor clams, or go big with their caviar service, ‘cause after the year we’ve all had, you deserve a splurge.
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. And right now, their guest kitchen is Open, which is serving a lineup of sandwiches each created by a top Denver chef with $1 from each sandwich sold being donated to Project Angel Heart.
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, coconut shrimp, and pu pu platters 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 reopened and is 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. (Hello, watermelon tacos and braised pork croquettes!)
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.
Mustard colored booths, a classic tin paneled ceiling, and a bingo board that lets you know when your order is ready all work together to give this spot personality without going overboard with kitsch. It’s unique, but comfortable. You can grab a cocktail or opt for a Montucky Cold Snack. And while the space definitely has cocktail bar vibes, there is plenty on offer in the food department to keep everyone in your party fully satiated and ready for round two of drinks.
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.
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 ($3 wells), 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.
The Family Jones
Crushed blue velvet, sleek lines, and soft touches from nature combine in this gorgeous space that makes you feel more elegant just by walking inside. But this spot’s got more than just good looks. Their house-made spirits come to life in a selection of cocktails that highlight the nuances of each like the Ella Black Manhattan with their bourbon made from 100% Colorado grown grains and house-made amaro. You can also take home the experience with their Automatic Jones line up of ready-to-pour cocktails—pro-level martinis anytime, just add ice.
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.
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.